The Loneliness of the Long Distance Author

After twenty-five years writing the same novel you would be forgiven if you began to wonder if the book would ever be published. In my case, after each draft, rejection followed rejection. Agents and publishers, it seemed, queued up to say no, but I was too determined, bloody-minded and stupid to give up. I KNEW the book would be published. I never had a single doubt. Certainty was my middle name (actually, my middle name is David, but then the sentence wouldn’t make sense).

And so, when the small English publisher, Elsewhen Press, offered me a contract, I was shocked, mainly because I assumed I would live the rest of my days KNOWING the book would be published. What would I do if I could not work on a new draft of the novel every couple of years? I might have to – OMG! – write another book! Isn’t that what published authors do?

The problem was that I had not really planned on being published, even though I KNEW I would be, so I didn’t have a stack of old manuscripts in my bottom drawer. Actually, I don’t have a bottom drawer. I have one of those modern desks without drawers, designed to make an office look tidy. Of course, without drawers, the surface is covered in papers and stationery and is more untidy than it should be. But I digress.

Word quickly got around that my novel would be published – mainly because I told everyone I know – and after asking me what it was about, they asked, “what are you working on now?” I told them it was a secret, which was true as even I didn’t know.

My published novel is a rollicking action adventure, time travel, speculative historical romance tale about convicts, honour, duty and revenge. At only one novel every twenty-five years, I figured I should pack in as many genres and themes as I could. The book is set almost entirely in Sydney and is very Australian and yet no local agent or publisher expressed the slightest interest, while a wonderful, small and very enthusiastic English company loved it and signed me up within a month of receiving the first five page sample of my writing.

The novel came out worldwide in eBook and then in paperback, but again, Australian book distributors fell over themselves to avoid taking the book on. I am Elsewhen’s sole Australian author, so they do not have a track record here, despite a portfolio of very good novels. I placed copies of the book into the first three bookshops I approached, mainly for vanity purposes (I got a great photo of my novel on a shelf next to one of John Grisham’s), but logistics make self-distribution a, well, logistical nightmare. I can’t get publicity. Local newspapers ignore my pleas, major newspapers are not interested in reviewing books from small publishers – particularly overseas companies – and the Sydney Writers’ Festival doesn’t appear to have much room for low profile, Sydney genre writers with foreign publishers, although they are currently looking at a copy of my book, bless ‘em.

I can’t complain about sales. They are ticking along everywhere else in the world – I had a very nice email from a reader in Fargo, North Dakota last week – but outside of my immediate circle I remain unknown here in the city and country where the book is set. The characters in my novel are strangers in a strange land and I know how they feel.

But I have thought of a way to secure an Australian publisher and distributor and of receiving publicity and support from the local media. In fact, the novel I am now writing – yes, no longer a secret – should ensure all of this happens. It’s set in England.


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