Are you unique enough?

I don’t know if other author’s experience this, but it is something I think about – especially after reading a lot of Tweets by agents and publishers that talk not about an author’s books or works but the author themselves.
One agent I happened across openly admitted that they where not seeking any type of unique work, they where seeking a unique type of person, and an author had to fit a mould. Is that my problem, I don’t fit a mould?

In today’s heavily visual, heavily marketing, heavily social media focused society I’m not surprised that publishers seek author’s who have a sell-able face, but not just a sell-able face, but a sell-able identity. Somehow, at some point, I blinked – and identity became this massive, important thing. What is your identity?
Are you unique enough to be an author?
It feels like, today, you have to have some sort of incredible personal uniqueness to win an agent, or a publisher – something that makes you stand out amongst the crowd – instead of your work.
But perhaps I only see one side of the publishing industry online, I would really love to speak to publishers and agents about this – because I find it utterly fascinating.

I am pretty sure it was how I was raised that instilled in me an ethic of believing that my work spoke for me. I didn’t want to be put on a pedestal, it was my work that I wanted to share – not me. I wanted my stories, my adventures, my worlds, my characters to shine for me.

The more I write, the more books I put into print, the more I have this intense desire to fade into the background and just let my world exist for me, to let my work be my voice.

Not the right type of Fantasy

When I was much younger (in my teens, just starting my writing journey) I used to be down right terrified of agents and publishers. To me they were the great gods of the industry and I was a pimply, cubby little girl who had dreams far to big to ever achieve. Then, gradually, over the years, I actually got to interact with editors within the publishing industry and I found them to be so kind, so helpful, always willing to give me advice and cheer me along in my dream.
The two years I spent with my novel being considered by Penguin Australia was the best two years of my life. I learnt so much respect for the industry from just those two years and the editors I interacted with and while, in the end, my novel never made it through the acquisition stage I went away feeling like I had received the greatest gift of all:

Belief in myself.

I was about twenty at the time, I had very little self-esteem, and my illness was just beginning to take root, and for a girl who began her life being entirely unable to string words together because of her dyslexia, finding belief in herself was the solid foundation I needed to carry me forward.

I owe Penguin Australia and those editors so much for those few years. While I am sure I would have found my way eventually, just having words of encouragement from those I considered the greatest of the great rooted the oak tree I was growing into.

Years later, I am still trying to find my place within the publishing industry. If anything, I have watched the industry change rapidly around me into something that has terrified me even more than I was once terrified of agents and publishers. I now find myself in limbo. I neither know how to step forward, nor backward, I cannot got up, nor down, nor around. I am…just…here, a voice amongst many.

And that leads me to the interesting journey I have been taking over the past year and a half. Agents. Here in Australia we don’t have many agents, and they usually work side-by-side with publishers, so it can be quite difficult to actually find an agent. It’s a bit of a catch-twenty-two. You can’t submit a manuscript to an agent unless you’ve been accepted into a publishing company, and you can’t submit a manuscript to a publishing company unless you’ve been accepted by an agent. This greatly amused me. I spent quite awhile laughing in my office when I finally realised the little circle that had formed.

Its who you know. Or. You pay something like $900 for a pinch conference and I do not have that cash lying around anywhere. That’s a lot of money…

I’m not complaining, really I’m not – I’m amused. I don’t tend to get upset about these sorts of things and whine, I simply laugh how interesting the tight box I find myself in truly is. When I was a starry eyed little girl, dreaming of becoming the best science fiction and fantasy author EVER I never imagined I would be in my office wishing I had $900 for a five minute pinch. That would never have even crossed my mind!

So, I had to start looking outside of Australia and that has been…interesting…
Twitter is a great source for writers, its dangerous, Twitter, but once you learn how to navigate it and not get eaten alive it can be fascinating to discover what’s going on in the writing world. Thus I started searching for agents to submit to and that…is where…I found…my problem.

I don’t write the right type of fantasy.

Current count of rejections stands at fifteen. Some agents have been really lovely and told me why, which is really considerate of them – and the reasons, once more, have really amused me.

Some have told me that my writing style is to old-fashioned. My apologises, I actually speak a little old fashioned as well (just ask my family.)

Others have told me they don’t like the fact that I have a male protagonist. (Should have had my female protagonist open the novel…would that have worked?)

My biggest sin, apparently, is that said male protagonist *saves* female protagonist – and I will not even begin to rant about this issue. I could write an ENTIRE blog on this issue alone and how unfairly I feel, as someone who is chronically ill, the idea of being saved and being a damsel in distress is being demonised in society today. Because you know, right, you know it’s okay to ask for help, you know it’s okay to need help to get out of a situation that is out of your control?
Well, apparently not. 

I could go on, but I think the picture has been painted.
My fantasy is not the right type of fantasy.
It does not fit the populist ideals.

Perhaps I still live in another era where writing was an expression of just myself, and I did not have to pretend to write something to get published.
I will still write the fantasy I want to read. That was the whole reason I started writing when I was a teenager in the first place. I found myself craving a particular type of science fiction and fantasy, and I could not find it anywhere, so I started writing it for myself to fill the void.

That void might have become larger.
I might be shouting into something so huge, so vast it now engulfs me entirely that I will never be heard but I at least still have a voice in which to shout. To that I am grateful.
I still believe in myself.

Write on.