I have a written a novel. It's a romantic comedy. I'm very pleased with it.
Before I sent it to publishers I asked some well known friends of mine if they would read it and give me their thoughts.
Ricky Gervais, whom by his own admission never reads novels, said it it was; "funny from beginning to end" David Baddiel said it was; "Very funny" and Jimmy Carr said; "It's the perfect romantic comedy, I loved it".
The editors to whom it was sent were also very complimentary. I shan't name them or the publishing houses, but here are some of their responses....
"I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It's a very accomplished piece of fiction and I found it genuinely funny".
"...compelling characters....the writing is engaging and the story well crafted."
"Very well-observed....very funny."
So, you might be wondering where you can purchase this book. Well unfortunately you can't. You see no one will publish it because I am the wrong gender.
Here are some of the reasons from the editors:
"Men writing about romance and relationships don't appeal to the reading public."
"Women readers feel that women writers cover this area far more convincingly."
Is this really true? Is such a statement fair? It reminds me of a comment made on a daytime chat show where one of the female presenters said; "All men generalise about women and stereotype them" without any sense of irony.
I don't know how Tony Parsons and Nick Hornby managed to overcome this prejudice, but I now admire them even more. I also admire their publishers for taking what apparently constitutes a huge risk.
It has of course been suggested that I use a female pseudonym to sell the book, or have a sex change - but I'm not going through that again. My problem is, by using a pseudonym I feel I would be conceding to the discrimination. I've been asked what's more important, having my book published or making a point? Well, however much I'd like to see my book published - after all who wants to have two years' work wasted - I would feel a fraud, on many levels, by changing my name.
Some publishers have also suggested that I write the book with a female protagonist instead of a male one. Why? I have had over 30 sitcom scripts produced on television and the majority of these had female leads. I've been told I write the female voice very well. However, now that I have decided to write my first novel from a male perspective, I am being penalised. Or, perhaps, penisalised.
Well, I'm sorry, but I'd prefer not to use a pseudonym. I've already used a false identity once (I stole the Identity of the Home Secretary for a Channel Four documentary and was subsequently arrested) so I won't be doing it again.
Now you might be thinking; "Maybe they won't publish it because it's just not very good." Well, had the feedback been negative, then I would have just moved into the trash icon with other rejected work. But as you can see it's had pretty good praise.
I'm aware that JK Rowling apparently used her initials as a way of avoiding rejection on the ground of gender so I know it can work both ways. But that doesn't justify anything. And this reaction does seem extreme.
So, instead of just walking away from it, I've decided to seek crowd-funding to try to publish the book myself. So far, ironically, the majority of backers have been women.
If you are of either gender, and would like to support it, the link is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1100808919/the-girl-from-the-discotheque
Of course, whilst your help is appreciated, it's obviously not mandatory. Or womandatory.
Follow Bennett Arron on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bennettarron