I’d put everything on this competition, worked furiously for nine months to have a manuscript ready for its closing. This was the right publisher, the perfect opportunity. The shortlist came mercifully early – 6am, just as I woke – but I wasn’t on it. I wasn’t as devastated as last year’s big attempt. Suck it up, this is the way of the world now.
Having no information except that it wasn’t shortlisted my mind ran through various explanations and perhaps none of them were true. 1. All those endnotes, I should have removed them altogether, left clean pages, they thought it was an academic monograph, did not realise it was an enthralling biography. 2. The entry wasn’t lodged properly, they haven’t even read it. 3. The title, some people said they didn’t get the title. 4. Poetry and fiction. They only shortlisted poetry and fiction, how can a biography even be measured against them? 5. An incomplete biography. No publisher will ever share my passion for a trilogy of biographies. Only Shakespeare and TS Eliot get biographies for periods of their lives. 6. The whole thing. It’s not publishable, I’ve written my third unpublishable book and the years of my life wasted are now up to thirteen. 7. Screw them, back on the saddle.
Opting for a mix of six and seven, today when I finally had the chance I have been weighing up manuscript assessors, agents, and publishers with a new-found lack of optimism. I’m not beaten yet but this was another blow.