Friday, 21 August 2009

Gary William Murning's Blog

It's always good to take time out to simply stop and take a look at the scenery -- where we are and, perhaps more to the point, where we have been.

And that's where I find myself this morning. Enjoying the buildup to the publication of If I Never on the 29th and thinking about just how easy it would have been for things to have turned out very differently.

I read a quotation recently on how to achieve success as a writer. Unfortunately, I can't remember the original author's name -- but the quote really struck a chord; according to him, achieving success as a writer was a matter of "practising until you're really good and then persevering until you're really lucky." And, for me, that seems to sum up the whole business of writing quite perfectly.

When I first started writing novels, I was at least wise enough to know that the work I was producing was pretty naff! I didn't expect overnight success (although I did secretly hope for it!) and understood that only with a lot of work would my writing become publishable. So I did what all my favourite writers insisted I must do; I wrote, I read, I submitted, I wrote some more and... yes, read some more! And, as they promised, with time I saw improvement -- to such a degree that, by my fourth novel, at the age of just 24, agents were using phrases like "well written" and "engaging". So I kept writing and submitting...

... writing and submitting...

... writing and submitting...

... but still publication eluded me. The comments that came in from agents and editors were, on the whole, extremely encouraging -- but the overwhelming feeling that I got from them was that my work didn't "fit" neatly enough into any of their pigeonholes. The majority, it seemed, were looking for easy and immediate bestsellers, high concept novels, and they most certainly weren't prepared to take a chance on this particular "first-time novelist". Even the agent I managed to snare didn't quite "get" me as much as I'd originally believed! I submitted a novel to him which had crime elements. Nevertheless, he correctly insisted that it wasn't a crime novel -- what it was was "a bloody good read ". Needless to say, the next couple of months were spent with him trying to edit it down to a crime novel. A tense time that ended with us parting company.

And then I, quite by accident, stumbled across Legend Press. I think I originally found them on, of all places, MySpace. The most unlikely of places for the future of independent publishing, but there you go! If memory serves me well, I originally submitted a novel called The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. The slightly supernatural theme didn't quite fit their lists but it nevertheless caught their attention. More work was requested and I quickly sent them If I Never... and with time, I heard back from Tom, wanting to discuss the novel further and, as it transpired, offer me a publishing contract.

Would this have happened with one of the big publishers? I don't know. It can and certainly has for many people I know. But I have a sneaking suspicion that, however good my writing may be, it requires the independent approach -- the friendly, forward-looking approach that Legend Press and other independent publishers bring with them... publishers who are prepared to take a chance on something they like, however difficult it may be to pigeonhole.

It's fair to say that, prior to finding Tom and the rest of the really quite incredible Legend team, I was growing disillusioned with the whole process of submitting my work. It was so frustrating to hear so many positive comments and, then, ultimately have the work rejected that I probably wouldn't have continued putting my work out there for too much longer.

And that, for me, is why independent publishing is so incredibly important. Both from the perspective of a writer and reader, they take that chance and publish the kind of material I want to write and, also, the kind of material I want to read.

Gary

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