The vagaries of the author’s life

My friend has her home right on the Kalang River, which flows placidly past, only twenty metres from her elegant new patio. I woke in her guest bedroom on a recent morning and reckoned I‘d go out and sit quietly by the river for a few minutes. But first I switched on my laptop and sat on the floor beside the bed to read the previous day’s emails.

Lo and behold, the email of my dreams appeared on screen, from a reputable Australian publisher to whom I had recently submitted my Shedders manuscript. The email got straight to the point: “We are interested in making an offer of publication.”

How exciting! I read it five times and it seemed pretty unequivocal. I poked Rick who had been dozing peacefully beside me and read it aloud to him. He was so excited that he bounced out of bed and headed straight into the kitchen to tell anyone within earshot. Within a few hours pretty much everyone we know was aware that I was about to become a published author.

An author. I could savour the word.

On my part, I replied enthusiastically to the email, saying I looked forward to next steps. I most certainly didn’t say I’d accept their offer without even looking at it, but I must admit the idea crossed my mind.

The other Shedders were ecstatic when I told them. They were happy for me, but also delighted that our story was about to reach a public forum. We kicked around a familiar theme: that we’re really onto something and a published work would be a great way to bring it to light.

I thought about the upcoming communications with the publisher over the next few days. After the initial acknowledgement wore off, and with it the euphoric thoughts of honour and prestige, I stopped to consider. I researched with an author friend what the offer might look like, and got an understanding of the sort of percentage of earnings I’d be looking at for an e-book as well as for a printed book. I reread some of the articles I’d saved about how a writer is better off in these dramatic times self-publishing rather than working through a publisher.

But when push came to shove, I could clearly see a few things about myself. One is that I desired the acknowledgement that comes with being a Published Author. Another is that I was really looking forward to the learning curve that would follow with having professional publishing mentors. But most of all, my natural proclivity to working with other people (that same quality that got me into this lifeboat with my Shedder mates in the first place) shone through. I like working in partnership better than I like working alone. When I’m writing, I spend a lot of time by myself, and I liked the idea of sharing this challenge with committed partners in the industry.

My contact at the publisher’s organised a phone conference with me and the managing editor of the company. He was a delightful, informed and enthusiastic man and it was a very positive call. I liked the bit where he said he’d personally felt swept away by the story of how we Shedders had taken on this daring adventure and then went about fulfilling it.

But I noticed the faintest shadow, a dark-winged harbinger that suggested he had a concern that he was being carried away at the expense of his better judgement. Could his company make a good turnover on this particular book project? Was there general interest in this unusual theme?

He didn’t make the offer on the spot, as I’d been prepared and hoping for. Instead he said they’d come back with it early next week.

That sounded okay, but “early next week” came and went. By Thursday the euphoria was long gone and I began confronting the possibility that the offer wasn’t going to happen. I noticed that by the end of the week even the irrepressible Rick wasn’t telling people that I was about to be published.

Monday evening five minutes before yoga class I got the email, which by now I opened warily. We love your story, they said, and it’s beautiful written. But we’re not sure there’s a big enough market for it. Times are tough in the industry. We’ll have to withdraw.


As I tried to settle into yoga class, I plugged straight into some old familiar demons – clearly, the whole purpose of life is to tantalise and then disappoint you. But by the time the class was over, I was ready to start the job of re-informing all my enthusiastic well-wishers, starting with my fellow Shedders. By the following morning I was rolling up my sleeves and feeling ready to take on this capricious writing life again.

Where I’m left, after this exciting blip on the radar of life, is that nothing can take away the acknowledgement of the publisher’s interest, both in the topic (not personal) and in my writing (very personal). There’s plenty of satisfaction in that.

…But, on the other hand, if you do happen to hear of an interested publisher, you know where to find me.


14 thoughts on “The vagaries of the author’s life

  1. Heather, Heather…I feel like I am sitting beside you, feeling all your emotions….. In my eyes, you are the most interesting author of them all. …so there! Keep ’em comin’.., publisher or not..pretty .please… ILY …

    Date: Sat, 16 Feb 2013 02:32:26 +0000 To:

  2. Dear Heather,
    I think your book has an extraordinarily big market. It’s just that people have not even considered this life choice as an option yet. Keep the publicity up, your website vibing and publish as an ebook and you’re bound to find a publisher soon. It’s only a matter of time…
    By the way, I’m in my early 40s and had considered this way of life before coming across your site. It was a serendipitous meeting indeed. All the best.

    • Anthea, thanks for your enthusiasm and vote of support. I think the e-book market is big enough now to make lots of opportunity for Shedders.
      BTW I reckon early 40s is a great time to begin mulling this over. Happy journey!

  3. Heather, you’ve had your toe in the door once, so there’s no reason it can’t happen again. And again if need be. Their interest means you have a book of outstanding quality, since so many writers never make it as far as an offer of interest, but the fit wasn’t quite right this time. Keep plugging away at finding the right publisher, my friend. One day your book will be published and in your hands. Not only that, it will be in the hands of many readers who would love to read your very fine writing and your fascinating story. And one of those readers is me!

  4. I was dumbfounded to read this… Think was the response to J.K:Rowling’s first attempts too!

    Hang in there – they will be sick with regret at some stage!
    Love from Lynne in Denmark…

  5. I have been following with interest. I live in a very large house and one of my options is to stay here forever and make a community as I get older. One aspect of communal life which I wonder how to manage, and find no mention in your writing, is health issues and growing frailty. Have you seen yourselves all on frames with a couple of advancing dementias and how will it all be managed? Does the nurse/carer move into the shed? You all look so young and fit at present!

    • I enjoyed your comment, Kate. My imagination has been creating scenarios with that big house of yours, especially if it doesn’t go up too many storeys….Your comment will no doubt stimulate more discussions among the six of us – it’s always felt hard to plan for what seems like an infinite variety of ageing possibilities. Those possibilities ARE coming toward us: among us there are a number of surgeries large and small lining up over the next year or two. But yes, we HAVE built our house frame-friendly, and ear-marked the Shed for carer accommodation. I’ll do a post after our next old-age conversation!

    • We HAVE built on high ground, though the road has gone under once or twice over the years we’ve been on Mitchells Island. At the moment Rick and I are in Sydney (somewhat daunted by all the noise and density – did I used to love this??!!).

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