Dearest reader, it has been done. My book has returned from the editor, and after some minor adjustments, it is officially ready to be served to a publisher. I have been working on this novel for about two years now, and though I hear that this is about how long it takes for just about every author I admire, it felt like a very long time to me. But then, I am only twenty-three, so I guess two years of my life does feel like a long time. Anyway. After two years of imbedding myself in my self-constructed fictional world, I have come out again, and should now dive headfirst into the very real world of query letters, credentials, agencies and publishers. I admit that I am a little daunted—if not downright terrified. Because while after three years of writing, I feel like I have gained some proficiency in that area, when it comes to publishing, I am as green as I could possibly be.
‘Neophyte’ is defined by my dictionary as ‘a person who is new to a subject or activity.’ In its original meaning, it (still) refers to ‘a new convert to a religion’ or ‘a novice in a religious order, or a newly ordained priest.’ It came first into English as Church Latin in the 1550s, at which point its predominant meaning was ‘new convert’; its derived meaning of ‘one who is new to a subject’ is first recorded in the 1590s. To go all the way back to its roots, it derives from the Greek ‘neophytos’, a noun use of an adjective meaning ‘newly initiated, newly converted’; in a very literal sense, though, it means ‘newly planted,’ from ‘neos’ (‘new’) and ‘phytos’ (‘grown, planted’), which in turn derives from the verb ‘phyein’ (‘cause to grow, beget, plant’). Though its use appears to be rare before the 19th century, one could definitely say that ‘neophyte’ is anything but a novice. Unlike, oh say, ‘twerk’ or ‘selfie.’
My neophyte status in the field of publication is giving me, I admit, quite some anxiety at the moment. In the assumption that my novel is, right now, the best it can be, there are so many things that can still go wrong when submitting your manuscript to a potential publisher. Depending on what publisher you are submitting to, the tone and style of your pitch can either be just right or just wrong, and chances are that you’ll fall into the second category. For a young writer like me especially, it is not at all easy to be considered seriously for publication. When the submission guidelines stipulate that you should include ‘relevant writing credentials’ in your query letter, I have several times now looked shamefacedly at the feeble paragraph that flowed out of my fingers. When you’ve only been published in a student magazine, and all you’ve managed to do was to become ‘runner-up’ in a writing competition nobody heard of (yeah, that was a thing—I haven’t told you about that, have I?), and you, uhh, oh yes!, you have a blog!—then chances are that you’ll be passed over quickly. Oh yes, and I’m a student. And I live in Belgium. And English is not even my mother tongue. Shit.
Long story short, I have a lot of factors working against me when it comes to being considered for publication. The only thing I can really hope for, is that (the preview of) my novel looks appealing enough to them to have a serious look at it. And, of course, it is wise to search specifically for publishers who consider new, unpublished authors. An added problem, though, is that my novel isn’t just a novel you can put in a paperback, or turn into an ebook which you can purchase on Amazon (which I am boycotting anyway). Because I have added some experimental touches here and there, you a) need to have my book in print and b) its production might require more than the average printing press. Which is expensive. Which makes it risky. Which makes it even more difficult to be considered for publication—added to which is that my book is ‘literary’ fiction, and deals with philosophy and psychology and poetry and whatnot, so it is likely not to be enjoyed by a very broad readership. So. More shit.To be entirely honest: I am not feeling very optimistic about this, and not just because I am a neophyte in the publishing world. My editor suggested that I look into self-publication, but the sad fact is that, being a poor student, I simply do not have the funds to finance such a project. And another obstacle, I suppose, is also my own stubbornness about this publication business, because I am adamant about doing it ‘the proper way.’ And this, to me, means that I go through the harrowing process of sending out letter after letter until I can’t write anymore, getting so many rejection letters that I can supply the local origami club for several evenings, until finally someone is willing to take a risk on me. That’s how the greats got there, didn’t they? Patience and perseverance. And I believe in the process. But that, alas, does not make it any easier. Pray for me, dearest reader. I will need it.