A Letter To My Unpublished Self by Poppy Dolan


Oh dear. This is a bit bleak, isn’t it? This is a rather gloomy place to be: rejected by all the editors your agent submitted to. Each one was like being turned down for the job you wanted, or being dumped by the hottest guy in school when you’re 14, or finding your first grey hair (this one hasn’t happened to you yet, but you have about seven months to enjoy a pristinely brown barnet, lady). Actually, it feels like all three, at once.

You are going to cry. Then, you are going to say you’re fine with it. (You’re not.) You’re going to get irrationally cross with your boyfriend for not stacking the washing up on the drainer properly. Then you’re going to have a bit of a cry again. Because it really does suck, and that’s OK.

What follows is six months of hating the book you worked so hard on, feeling immensely guilty that you wasted your agent’s time and being cringingly embarrassed down to the sole of your shoes that you told so many friends that your book was being submitted. That conversation is not a fun one to have: ‘Oh, um, it wasn’t really anyone’s cup of tea, so … yeah. No. It’s not like 50 Shades of Grey. No. Right.’

Then you try and write a thriller. Gah. Why? Whhhyyyy? That’s not you, and you know it. That’s a very shallow, bandwagon-jumping move and it won’t fool anyone. As you’re going to find out.

But then your lovely writing friends talk you off the ledge. They remind you why you like writing in the first place: not to make money, not to be super duper popular and trendy, certainly not to live a calm and stress-free life. You do it because it has a sort of transporting effect on you, you like thinking of stupid jokes and stubborn but soft-hearted romantic heroes. That’s why you started fiddling about with your new wip again, taking tentative baby steps, not really admitting to yourself even that you are Trying Again.

And when you take the plunge of self-publishing The Novel That Couldn’t on KDP, you still have a rollercoaster of a time, like a microcosm of the publishing world overall. But you’ve learned to focus on the good bits: the genuinely lovely reviews, the bloggers who take a chance on you, the readers who get in touch to say hello. That’s gold. And hitting that Kindle Top 100 is like breaking the ribbon on a 100m dash. Adrenalin-filled and heart-thumpingly exciting. Um, except that it’s taken more than two years and hundreds of thousands of words and many rejections to pass that ribbon. But still, dear Me, it will be worth the earlier crying and disappointment. Because someone, somewhere, is reading your book. Amazing.

Poppy Dolan’s first novel The Bad Boyfriend’s Bootcamp is available on Kindle. You can find her on Twitter @poppydwriter and Facebook/PoppyDolanBooks. All stories of bad boyfriends gratefully received.

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