Random Friday

This piece was submitted to an anthology of rejections and it was, well, rejected (with a very nice rejection letter). I thought I’d share the story with you anyway – just to fill in a random Friday! 🙂


by Barbara G.Tarn

This is an old story, mostly from last century. There was this Italian girl who was uprooted from French-speaking countries, where she was doing just fine, to go back to her hometown. From an international setting to Europe’s most provincial capital, Rome. She hated it. And locked in. And started writing stories, where she had boyfriends, plenty of friends and lots of adventures while in real life she was painfully shy and definitely an introvert.

She wrote and wrote, dozens of notebooks throughout high school and beyond. She even took a typing course, and started typing with ten fingers on electric typewriters. You guessed it – that was me. I wrote and dreamed to be published. I did a couple of contests, but either I didn’t win or it was vanity presses asking money to have you in the anthology. Glad I didn’t have any money and my mom was savvy enough not to give it to me! We even watched together a TV show that had a vanity publisher vs. a real publisher, and they said “A real publisher will not ask for money, he will pay you” – which was what I always thought.

The 1990s came (and the PC with a black&white screen, since I used it only as word processor) and I realized that if I wanted to be published, I needed to submit. Doh. I know, too locked in to realize the most obvious thing to do. No publisher could know I was writing hundreds of great stories if I didn’t query, right?

So I sent a manuscript to a medium publisher of genre fiction that screamed “amateurish” since I had put my cover on it. Yikes. I didn’t know the rules, so I broke them. I thought to impress them with my drawing skills, and probably failed completely. The manuscript was sent back to me with a short letter saying they didn’t accept unagented submissions. What? Agents?

It was the dawn of the internet, so with some research, I found a literary agent. They kindly replied that they didn’t take on new writers. What the…? Publishers didn’t want unagented submissions and agents didn’t take on new writers? I was bummed. But I kept writing.

I started writing gay fiction and submitted to a small GLBT publisher. I received a nice long rejection letter that basically said “Your characters have no past and no future. You’re not literary enough. Why don’t you try to write for TV?” I tried with another work, and the second rejection was blunter “We didn’t like your novel, thank you.” Oh, well.

But the lightbulb of an idea switched on at the mention of writing for TV. You see, I have a visual imagination. I write down the little movies playing in my head. My first stories were often episodic like TV shows. I stopped watching TV in the early 1990s, but I still watched and loved movies. Hollywood movies.

So I decided to start writing in English. It was the beginning of the new millennium, internet was available and finding screenplays and how to write them online not an impossible feat. Since the prose is simpler and English is a second (or third) language for me, I decided to start from there.

In the meantime, I attended book fairs and comicons in Italy and France, talking to publishers both of books and comics, trying to find the perfect match. Before submitting, I always made sure to buy at least one book from the publisher to see what kind of stories they liked – which means I read a lot of crap, mostly from new authors. I didn’t find anything worthy, but discovered a couple more vanity publishers in the process… and I turned down their offer.

A few more rejections and fruitless trips to LA later, I was thinking of querying traditional publishers again. My English had improved, I had an English-speaking writers group and felt confident enough to go back to my first love, prose. Writing screenplays wasn’t as satisfying, since there were too many rules and it was almost impossible for a foreigner to break into Hollywood. Which, by the way, would mean spending my life rewriting other people screenplays, not writing my own stuff. Not exactly what I had in mind.

I translated a fantasy novel into English. I checked guidelines and wordcounts, and started rewriting. I was stuck in rewriting hell, though, and I never reached the “minimum wordcount” required in traditional publishing. But I did write one query letter for DAW books.

I never sent it. E-books and the indie publishing revolution happened. I’ve published my first e-books in 2011, including that novel. I stopped trying to fit into a mold. I’ve published almost seventy titles, in two languages, long or short, drawn or written. I was always prolific – another no-no for traditional publishers – and even if I’m using a couple more pseudonyms, I have one main pen name.

I might never reach 100,000 words for a novel, but I write what I want to read and have fun doing it. I have my own voice, untouched by years of no feedback except a couple of friends who helped me tame my fantasies and checked for plot holes. Eventually, I did go to creative writing courses and learned about points of view and other “rules”, but I basically stick to what I know.

I sometimes get discouraged by the time wasted in the publishing stuff – formatting, mostly – since I’d rather be off writing. But now I can draw my own covers (and got better at it) or hire an artist and nobody will care. I am in control of my writing and my career.

Because I’ve heard that publishing a short story in a magazine might be “free marketing”, I submitted a couple of shorts to SFF mags who accepted e-mail submissions. I collected a couple of rejections and went on to publish the shorts in my anthology (they were related to my science fantasy series). I might try to send more in the future, just in case. I can wait the time it takes those editors to accept or reject my stories before I publish them myself.

I have now published two million words of fiction, and I’m not counting the blog posts, or the comics and graphic novels. I enjoy being part of the indie revolution. I know my readers will find me in the sea of new books. It’s a slow climb, but I won’t have to deal with rejections from the gatekeepers anymore!

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  1. thenoveilst

     /  17/10/2014

    This whole Goliath of the publishing industry is not easy at all.


    • Goliath can’t keep up with the fast changes in publishing – it will fall soon to us little Davids! 😉
      Happy Indie Author Barb


      • thenoveilst

         /  17/10/2014

        Yeah, I like the sound of that 🙂


  2. Nikalee

     /  22/10/2014

    I finally got the chance to read this. What I love is the fact that you’ve stuck to what you believe in. Changing your writing to suit those publishers wouldn’t be being true to yourself; it would be writing simply to make money. It wouldn’t work – you’d be unsatisfied and feeling fake. Keep it up Barb!!!


    • Thanks, Nik! 🙂 I’ve always written what I want to read, what I’m passionate about. That’s why I’m not rich yeat – I’m not chasing the market! 😉 But I’ll find my readers, eventually…


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