This post is part of ‘WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS’, a series of writings about Prunella (Ella) Smith, author, editor & reviewer, and the many worlds she inhabits: her physical reality; her online world where disgruntled author Dita stalks; the worlds of the books she edits; her dream world, and the world beneath the veil of her ordinary reality.
Click here for the previous offerings in reverse order, or here for links to them in order.
The Publisher’s Brush-off
Downward Dog is a strange name for an arrangement of the body. Bum up, head down, arms and legs straight. Imagine someone lifting up your hips ….Ssttrreeeettcchh. Ahhhh. It feels goood. I bring myself upright, stretch my spine up and arch backwards. Three times and I’m done. Pain is a great discipliner. If I don’t do my daily exercises, my back soon reminds me. So I do what the physio told me to, I strengthen my core muscles in a regime I attend to more religiously than my meditation.
I walk from my studio—polished floorboards, a mirrored wall and a dance barre, all that remains of my life as a dancer—and into my office, ready to start the day. I turn on the computer and the internet and stare out the window while everything is loading. The misty bush calls to me, and I wonder if the drizzle will stop. The eucalypt forest that wraps my house in its deep-green embrace is like an addiction. I have to have my regular hit, but it’s rained the last few days. Am I willing to take an umbrella and risk leeches to visit the lookout? Probably, but Merlin will have to stay behind. The little ones get between his paws and are hard to get out. I can sprinkle them with salt—then they shrivel up and die—but that isn’t exactly sticking to my vow to do no harm. Nah. It’s better he stays here. Besides, he’s not that keen on getting his paws wet.
A lyre bird with a full tail of arched feathers is scratching at the bottom of the garden. He’s singing, mimicking a bellbird, and his voice really does sound like bells. I love the way it cuts through the stillness with a clarity so powerful that it’s almost unreal—super real. I’d like to throw a stick at the bloody great chook. Its huge claws tear up my lawn and make it really hard to mow.
My laptop comes to life, drawing my attention back inside. The grey day casts only a dim light into the room, and the computer screen glows brilliant blue in stark contrast to the wooden desk on which it sits. The light is a magnet for my eyes, the screen a window to another world. I sit down, click an icon and let the screen suck me in.
I’m in my inbox again, a familiar place. Rows of neatly ordered subject lines surround me. I skip over the top of most of them, my gaze tuned to pick out anything important. There it is!
Re: sequel to Catnip Creek
My heart leaps, and I take a moment to remind myself not to fall into hope and fear—hope that my publisher will want a sequel and fear that they won’t. A deep breath brings me back to the equanimity I had in my morning meditation. On the deepest, most important layer of reality, it really doesn’t matter.
I open the door to this particular room and dive into the words, wondering if those I land on will be soft or spiky. Either way, I could easily turn them soggy. No, I will not cry.
We [the impersonal we; not a good start] like the idea of a sequel very much; [heart leaps] however, [heart sinks—what happened to no hope and fear?] Catnip Creek has not performed as well as expected. Therefore, we are unable to offer publication of a sequel.
We wish you the best of luck with your future endeavours as a writer and are sorry that we cannot be of more assistance at this time.
Yours sincerely… blah blah blah.
My heart’s in my ugg boots now. Sitting there like a lead weight.
Spiky. Fine. So be it.
I’m not really surprised. I glance up at the photo on the noticeboard above my desk. There’s me in the local bookstore pointing to Catnip Creek on the shelf. I was so over the moon about that. I figured my career was made. I had a publisher! I never dreamed they would only want one book. And I never dreamed that the book would only just make back the advance they gave me—it wasn’t a big one either. Catnip Creek disappeared from the shelves even before three months was up and despite all my online efforts, sales dropped right off. Despite its fans and rave reviews, my début novel just didn’t take off.
Then, I thought I had found success. Now, I feel like a failure. What use is finding a publisher if they don’t sell your books? And if I have to market my books myself—as my publisher expects me to—then why bother with them when they take the lion’s share of the income? It’s not as if we don’t have options these days. No wonder authors decide to self-publish.
They didn’t even offer to look at a different title, should I ever write one—unlikely now. That last sentence sounded like a big fat goodbye, done, we’re finished with you.
Yes. I am disappointed. I run from the room—both figuratively and literally—out of the computer world into my world, and out of my office into the kitchen. I need a coffee.