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Nelle Davy on The Arduous Task of Getting Published

When I was asked to write this piece, I wondered what I was going to say.

I could talk about why I started writing (poverty stricken childhood, abusive parents, amazing English teacher); or what inspired me to write the book (ancient Roman politics), or even what it was like being a thoroughly English author writing a thoroughly American novel.

But I decided I wanted to tell the truth about how arduous and rewarding the publishing process can be, because not only am I a writer, but I also work in the publishing industry, and I realize that for many it’s a veiled world.

I remember the pride I felt upon typing the last words of my novel. I had finished a book. But then began the agony of trying to get an agent. Even though I worked in a literary agency, there was no guarantee. I submitted my manuscript to those I had worked with, hoping against hope they would take me on. There were nos and “no response is a nos” and near misses from those who liked it but couldn’t see the market. I wound myself up like a wire spring, doubting myself. I considered giving up and becoming a social worker. My husband told me I had officially lost it.

I was about to toss in the towel when the emailed arrived. An agent actually liked my book. She loved it. She wanted to meet me. I got drunk and woke up at 2am with a fish and chip wrapper on my face. I had made it!

But then came the rejection from publishers. Working in publishing, I see so many great books fall by the wayside; publishing is full of hurdles that most first-time authors do not overcome, but it’s different when the book is yours. Your book is your baby; it is deeply personal, and the rejection cuts deep.

‘You just need someone to love it.’ I have said that so often to authors. But when I needed that reassurance the most, I forgot it. Luckily for me --- four months after my agent started submitting to publishers and eighteen months after sending it out to agents in the first place --- I found that one person who loved my baby.

When I received the email saying my book had been acquired, I was in bed with a 103 degree fever. My husband skipped around the bedroom. I curled up and fell asleep.

Being published was my greatest dream. It was the one thing I wanted out of life. Trying to get published was the most painful experience I have put myself through, but it was so worth it.

The day I got the finished copy of my book, I sat stunned on my couch. My husband gave me a kiss, opened the cover and began to read.

My words. They were my words.