Holding Our Nerve and Finding a Publisher

It’s hard to remember – now that publication is upon us – how long it took to find a publisher for our book about retirement: Retiring with Attitude. It was frustrating, emotional and hard work. One of the blessings of writing collaboratively is that when one of us is ready to give up the other stays optimistic and we both go on having ideas about who to approach next.

photo by Robert Taylor

photo by Robert Taylor

Our first contact with a publisher was informal, asking for advice. She was very encouraging, even considered the book for publication, but decided it didn’t quite fit her list.

Another publisher advised us to find an agent. Using personal connections and the listings in the Writers and Artists Yearbook, we began to send out our proposal and chapter examples. BUT agents either did not reply – so rude – or said they didn’t want to represent us although they said it was a good book and worth pursuing. Then one told us, ‘you have a strong proposal for this book and you are published writers. I advise you to approach publishers directly. ‘ So we did.

The publishers were not as enthusiastic as we were. One problem was that there are plenty of books about retiring already on the market. Some publishers who had these in their lists did not want to publish a book that they saw as competition. They could not see how different our book was from the rest. And other publishers told us they didn’t take that sort of book. ‘Not for us,’ they said.

One publisher suggested a tie-in with a national newspaper. So our final idea for a publisher was the Guardian. If this approach failed, we decided, we would rethink our strategy. In anticipation we attended workshops on e-publishing and self-publishing. However, we did not need to go down this route. We heard from an editor at GuardianBooks:

I’m really interested to see more, as it looks like a really strong idea. It’s great to see an intelligent book about retirement; it would resonate really well with our readership.

Would you be able to send me some sample chapters? 

We did and although it was not all plain sailing after that, it was the start of the publication story. (More about the later stages in a subsequent blogpost.)

During the long period – two years – when we had to hold our nerve, believe in our project, write the chapters and keep on sending out the proposals, these were the things that helped us:

  • That initial favourable response from a publisher,
  • The advice from the agent to go direct to publishers,
  • Our belief in the book,
  • Our experience as published writers,
  • Our mutual support, courage and humour,
  • The response of people in our circle with whom we discussed ideas,
  • Encouraging responses from publishers even when they declined the book,
  • Redrafting the proposal for each submission in the light of comments received,
  • Publishing articles in niche magazines on the way,
  • Feedback and encouragement from our reader, Marianne,
  • Having an alternative strategy for publication in case we needed it, and
  • Repeating our Mantra: Hold Your Nerve! (Caroline had been to an Arvon fiction course, and this had been the advice from the agent to the aspiring writers who attended. He had reminded us that the publishing business needs our books!)

That agent was right. We needed to hold our nerve. On the eve of publication of this book, we are beginning again with another book. We’ll have to say Hold Your Nerve! again to ourselves. Marianne, our reader, has joined us as a co-author, by the way. It’s great!

101 RWA cover

You can pre-order Retiring with Attitude at the Guardian Bookshop or at Hive and other on-line stores. It will be available from bookshops from 24th July.

Caroline Lodge and Eileen Carnell

Do you have advice for writers seeking a publisher for their book? Or useful experience to share?


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Filed under Publishing our book, Writing

10 Responses to Holding Our Nerve and Finding a Publisher

  1. Marianne Coleman

    Lovely Caroline, it is a delight to see the book published and doing so well. I am so pleased to be a fellow author on the new one. Let’s hope we don’t have to hold our nerve for too long on that one.

  2. Thanks, Caroline and Eileen, for sharing your publication journey. I think holding your nerve is excellent advice in the face of what can be quite confusing and conflicting feedback from the publishing world. Hope your book does well.

  3. Congratulations on the publication of your book and thank you for sharing the journey that got you there. Collaboration provides wonderful support and expands the energy – and excitement? I wish you success with your book!

  4. I’m excited. I just pre-ordered my copy. Only 6 days to go!

  5. Eileen

    Thanks so much Marianne, Annecdotist and Norah for your encouraging messages. And thanks too Caroline for posting this blog. It is a wonderful experience working with you. I have learned so much.

  6. Caroline

    Encouragement from friends, including those in the blogoshpere, keeps us going in the bad and good bits. Thanks you all.

    PS the book is currently No 1 bestseller in the Guardian Bookshop. That’s down to you Norah, and all those others who have pre-ordered!

  7. Thanks for sharing your writing and publishing experience. I’m delighted to have found your blog and interesting, intelligent posts about your writing/reading journey. All best wishes for great success with this book (and future ones)!

  8. Well done for getting your book published. I was pleasantly surprised to see your names in the Guardian top ten bestsellers list today as previously I had known you as educational writers. It’s Like Mixing Colours was a real favourite, but I’ll have to look at this new one.

    Best wishes


    • Caroline

      Ah Mixing Colours – that was Eileen’s. Great report for ATL.
      Thanks for taking the trouble to make the connection Peter. You will see if you read our book that the theme of learning is still central to our lives and writing. So not quite so surtprising.

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