Harry Potter - it's a name that we all know and love; one that has changed the face of modern children's literature and reengaged children with reading once again. However, like many other authors, the great J.K. Rowling did not have a particularly easy time trying to get her work noticed - she was turned down time and time again by the publishing fat cats. Luckily for Rowling - and for millions of children around the world - one publisher did notice the special qualities of her book and the rest, as they say, is history. But what if that one publisher had also rejected J.K's book? Would that have meant that her book was not fit to be introduced to the masses? Clearly not. It would have meant, however, that the world would have missed out on a literary phenomenon.
J.K, of course, is not the only author to have received rejection slips from countless publishers - a huge number of authors could paper the walls with the rejections that they have received, but like the Harry Potter books, this doesn't mean that their books are not worthy of being read. In fact, sometimes it can simply mean that the book was read by the wrong person at the wrong time at the publishing house it has been submitted to. While J.K Rowling did get lucky in the end and did manage to get her book to the masses after being accepted by Bloomsbury, there are many other authors who do not get that break, resulting in readers missing out on what could be a brilliant book in their eyes simply because an editor or professional reader decides that the book is not worthy of publication or does not fit in with their needs. In fact, when you think about it, it was not even a member of staff at the publishing house where Rowling was eventually published who was responsible for her acceptance - it was the eight year old daughter of one of the executives there who read the first chapter of the manuscript and kept wanting to read more!
Several years ago, I wrote a book - in fact two books that were part of a series that I was planning in the children's fantasy genre. Like J.K, I submitted it to various agents and publishers, and the book did get taken on by a literary agent in the UK. However, even with an agent on my side I couldn't find a publisher that would take the book on. Was this because the book was no good?
Not at all, otherwise it wouldn't have secured a well known literary agent that was so convinced that the book could be a success they even signed me up for movie rights representation.
In addition to this, there were many publishers who read the book and agreed that it was very well written but that it was 'ill timed' by which we assumed they meant trying to compete with Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings, which were big at the time, might be an issue. I even had my manuscript accepted by one publisher verbally at one point, but when I heard no more after several months I chased up the children's acquisition reader who had been dealing with my book. I then received a cursory email telling me that the reader I had been dealing with had left due to ill health and the new reader did not feel that the book 'fitted in with their list'.
So, it seems that the acceptance of a manuscript really can be down to something as simple as getting the right editor or reader at the right time. Imagine if that first Harry Potter manuscript had fallen into the hands of the wrong reader when it was sent to Bloomsbury - we might never have heard of Harry or J.K and the world of children's literature might be very different today.
Of course, it was only a matter of time before authors who have put their time, effort, sweat and tears into their work, became fed up of getting one rejection after another from publishing houses. Many decided that it was time to take action and stop the fat cat publishers from deciding which books were worthy and which weren't - and effectively telling readers what they should and should not read.
Today, there is a thriving indie publishing market in full swing, made possible in part by companies like Amazon with its self publishing arm KDP. This has given authors who have been unable to get a deal with a traditional publisher - or prefer not to go down the traditional route - the chance to get their books out there rather than have them gathering dust in a cupboard or virtual dust in some folder on their PC. The ability to publish their work independently without any agents or traditional publishers in the mix has given authors a new voice. But it is not just authors who are benefitting from the 'indie movement'. Readers are also able to benefit because it means that they are no longer limited to the books that traditional publishers selectively decide should be released. Readers can now enjoy a far wider variety of books in all genres, enabling them to discover new authors that they would never have come across otherwise.
The perfect example of this is Amanda Hocking, who was another author who was the regular recipient of rejections. Unlike Rowling, she did not get that lucky break - at least, not with a traditional publisher. What she did do was take matters into her own hands and decide to self publish through KDP and a number of other outlets. It turned out that, despite publishers, in all their wisdom, rejecting her books, they were actually a hit with readers. Of course, once Amanda proved that her books were good enough and that people did want to read them, having made a lot of sales and money along the way, it was the publishers that were chasing her rather than the other way around!
Having self published my own work recently, I ran a free promotion day on one of my books. Within the space of one day I had received nearly 2500 downloads in the UK and USA for The Secret Portal, my book had gone to number one in the free children's fantasy/horror Kindle bestsellers list, and I managed to reach position 124 in the overall Kindle download list for all genres. I have also received some great reviews from readers and reviewers. Readers have since returned to buy the sequel to this children's fantasy horror, The Vampire Returns, and some have come back yet again to purchase my third book, a standalone fantasy YA novel, The Sceptre of Zanafiar.
In short, there is no telling how many literary masterpieces that we may have missed out on over the years simply because of poor judgement from traditional publishers (such as the ones that rejected Harry Potter, who must have been kicking themselves repeatedly for the past decade). However, with the indie publishing market becoming increasingly popular, authors who have created quality work now have a way to connect their books with readers - and readers can at last decide for themselves which books and authors they want to read rather than having a handful of people in publishing houses do it for them!