Today was all about building platforms. Not these platforms,
Paul, an editor I've known for years, is quite possibly the only person that knows all of the ins-and-outs of my writing and my work aspirations. I told him that three months into the search for an agent, I still have not found one.
'So?', he says.
'What do you mean?', I say.
'I mean, so? A-aaand?', now he stares.
I am swallowing hard, already hating myself for having steered what was a perfectly pleasant discussion about horses and rain down the sore path of proposals and sample chapters.
'Well, so, I was... wondering... if... when...'
'What were you wondering about?', he keeps on staring, while I say nothing, just sit opposite him, wondering why I am feeling so hormonal about absolutely everything.
'How many rejections have you got so far?'
'So you counted them? Did you keep them?'
'I didn't count them, I keep track of them in a spreadie, with dates and things and everything. I keep them so that when I get The Deal I can frame them and put them all up in the dining room'.
'Sounds good. Out of these sixteen, how many were sent to unsuitable agents?'
'Like? Agents that?'
'Agents that do not take lifestyle non-fiction, that's what you write, right?'
'Lifestyle narrative non-fiction yes. Humorous lifestyle narrative non-fiction', I specify.
'So how many do not take this stuff out of these sixteen?'
'I am not sure, it's hard to tell when they reject your stuff on the basis of a letter alone sometimes'.
'A-ha, that's the best indication! If they bin you at the letter, then they are usually the wrong type of agent. So how many?'
'I think six.'
'So that makes only ten rejections so far, that's not many you know'.
'Well yes, no, it's not many but... how about the agents that called me and talked to me and then rejected the prop and the sample? The work isn't crap I swear, I know that'.
He stares, waiting for more, waiting for what, I am afraid to say, is the truth.
'They talk about platforms or lack thereof more like. I haven't got one because I'm not on the tellie, I am not a WAG or I haven't been on Big Brother and I ain't gonna go any time soon...'
'Steph you're a moron'
'You've got a blog?'
'Right, yes, I have'
'What do you talk about in there?'
'My animals, knitting... stuff... work... life you know'
'That's why you're a moron'
'You should write about work. More about work'
'But I do'
'But not controversially about work, am I right?'
'Well no. I just talk about... about not liking it very much.'
'Start bad-mouthing people. Trash them in the blog. Tell everyone what it is that makes you miserable about it. It's not just the work, surely? It's usually the assholes associated with work. Spare people the violins, the way you feel about work. Tell them the shit, that's what they like to hear'.
'But... that's unethical. I cannot do that'.
'And that's why you are a moron and you haven't got an agent and you haven't got a platform. How did all the other shits out there get really good publishing deals when they were also keeping blogs? By talking about work in certain ways. Or about sex'.
'Well, that's even worse, I ain't got a porn-like sex life you know'.
'Nobody does, these people make it up. And they sell. Build your platform! Generate fucking scandal around yourself! Who is gonna care otherwise? They want you all packaged, you, the work and the platform!'
I left Starbee with leaded legs, defeated, offended, a sackful of rattling snakes flapping in my stomach. I pit-stopped at Waterstone's in order to cheer myself up with a little something (by Umberto Eco this time). On nearby shelves, I came across trash by Jordan and shit by Jade Goody. It's bad enough to see 'autobiographies' of mediocre footballers, but I can tell you that, with an almost finished PhD on my shelf, seeing 'works' by a dim slut and an ignorant maggot as I try to secure my own work is somewhat... surreal, even when I know these books have been ghost-written or co-edited, which, really, are elegant ways to say they weren't written by their supposed authors. I know these are books written by people who can't write for people who can't read but the substance remains: these in the shops, my proposal still doing the rounds.
Good job I didn't think about mentioning them when I was with Paul, else he would have cracked his mug on the table and gone: 'Ex-aaa-ctly' in trumpet-blowing splashes of self-validation for his own argument. And that's why I am a moron and Jordan and Jade are not.