People are often curious to know how HADES happened. It was not, in any way, a straightforward journey from page to print, and therefore like all perilous journeys, its path was full of lessons and surprises. The first and most critical lesson I learned from trying to get HADES into print was not to go around trumpeting my success until contracts were exchanged and money in my hand. And even then, I wouldn’t advise it. Wait until the book is in your hands. That’s the only certainty you have in this game.
The first time I read those magnificent words, ‘Yes, I would like to publish you,’ they were in an email not from my current publisher, Random House Australia, but from HADES’s original publisher in the UK. I will not name this publisher, because I’m not sure it’s really fair. I was so angry and blinded at the time, that I didn’t ask for all the details in what occurred in my first publishing deal. There might very well have been legitimate reasons for what happened happening. I hold no resentment, and I wish this tiny publisher all the best in the future. The indie publishing game is often a dire and thankless one, and what happened I’m sure is a familiar story to people who deal with these ambitious little companies.
Basically, I was on my fifth novel with no success in the publishing game. This was around 2011. A one-man publisher in the UK offered to publish me in print and in digital form in both Australia and the UK. I told everyone I knew. I told people I didn’t know. I was in tears with excitement all the time. I was planning my book launch from the first day. I printed out my acceptance email and framed it. I was drunk with visions of opening a package and finally holding my first words in print.
The year and a half long wait to see myself published flew by. We were editing the manuscript together over email. I became quite close to my publisher and regularly chatted with him on Facebook chat about family dramas, both his and mine, books and authors we loved. I fended off contant interrogation from confused friends over when my book would be published as it was again and again pushed back. These things take time, I would say. He’s one man doing an entire company’s job. I knew my publisher had a busy work and family life outside of his publishing hobby.
I was willing to wait as long as it took.
After waiting six months for our cover designer to emerge from the mist into which she apparently descended, (with me resisting the urge to simply have my graphic designer step-mother do the job over a weekend), my publisher emailed to tell me he didn’t have the money to put me in print anymore. He’d overspent on a local literary festival. He could still publish me in eBook form.
It’s hard to describe how this felt. I was ‘crushed’, yes, but it was a private hurt, a thing so devastating I didn’t dare seek comfort from anyone on it. It happened at exactly the wrong time. I’d just separated from my husband in the most awful and heartbreaking way a relationship can come to an end; suddenly, inexplicably, shockingly. At the time, I was sleeping on my parents’ living room floor. My cat was traumatised. I was so mad. White-hot mad. The only reason I hadn’t published myself in eBook form a year and a half earlier was because I wanted to see the book on paper. I wanted, at least once, to hold my book in my hands. I withdrew from the relationship with my publisher. I hadn’t been contracted, and my publisher accepted my, rather coldly worded, withdrawal.
It sounds silly now, but I was actually deeply humiliated by the failure of this little book deal. I guess deep down inside, after the first couple of push-backs of the publication date, I was in doubt that the book would be published. The publisher had only put one book out in print before. But friends were introducing me to other people as an ‘up and coming author’ with an ‘international book deal’ and I was too embarrassed to correct them. When the book was laid out fully, I was encouraged, but then we stalled. When I finally got the cancellation email, I sort of knew before I opened it what it was going to say.
HADES found print, finally, with Australia’s largest publishing house, Random House. I did open the box, smell the fresh ink and paper, cut my book out of the plastic and hold it lovingly to my chest. I have an unapologetic affection for books in print. I got to see my first tattered and well-loved copy of HADES the other day in the hands of a man walking down the street, so used to seeing it brand new and sparkling on book shelves in stores.
I am profoundly lucky that my original publisher did not publish HADES.
He stalled me, effectively stopping me from publishing it myself with my doomed publishing deal, and kept the book off the market until the exact moment I arrived in Sydney, where I would find my new boss, who would recommend me to the woman who would become my agent, who would then find me my publisher. I don’t know if you believe in fate, but this example, this crushing, failed opportunity was so perfectly that old door closing so that a window can open, that I had to share it with you. Rejection is never, never a waste. Don’t despair, and don’t count your chickens. Just keep knocking, keep on knocking, until it’s your time to be let inside.