Without Alice

Published on Sunday 23rd August 2009 by DJ Kirkby

Well this was a post I’ve hoped I wouldn’t have to write. About 18 months ago Without Alice was accepted by a publisher and was due to be published this month. They blogged about me here saying I was cool and groovy and I blogged excitedly about them here.

They sent a contract which I had checked by the Society of Authors. They suggested a few changes which the publishers agreed to and then asked me to sign two copies of my contract and post it to them.

I did so with great pleasure. All so good so far, right? Except I never received my copy of the contract back with the publisher’s signature on it.

But, he was suffering from a flare up of a chronic illness. He was in regular contact via email plus I could see he was doing lots of business promotion and getting the books that were due to be published out on time.

I put my missing contract down to that.

Then a few unpleasant things happened. They published a book that caused a lot of problems for the company. They suffered a further setback when an older family member was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Unsurprisingly their business moved lower on their priority list.

I put my missing contract down to that. There was no rush was there, I wasn’t due to be published for a year and they had posted this on their blog about my book. So I felt very confident that they had every intention of publishing Without Alice. I still do actually….

I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression from this post either. I am not writing this in an attempt to make them look bad. I think they are very nice people who had a lot of bad happen to them in a relatively short period of time. They couldn’t hold it all together. So they did what anyone sensible would do and concentrated on doing the minimum they had to in order to keep their business ticking over.

I believe that not sending me a signed contract became just one of those things for them. It meant the world to me but was relatively insignificant to them when compared to the more pressing problems they were experiencing.The email contact became more sporadic but I remained convinced it wasn’t just me as other authors in waiting were emailing me to ask if I had heard from them because they hadn’t and they were also blogging and twittering less and less and then not at all.

There was a collective intake and holding of breath amongst us authors in waiting and authors who had come of age by having had their books published. Then a couple of books were released on time and a contract or two offered for new books by current authors. A communal sigh of relief from all of us which we shared via email.

Then, a generic email from the publisher to all. They had considered shutting their company down but had decided against it. They were however, going to cut the numbers of authors in waiting and would let us know who made the grade and would stay on their list within the next few weeks. A blog post here reiterated what the email said.

Then…nothing…. except more emails flying round between authors in waiting. I kept out of them all and only spoke to people whom I knew could offer me some sensible advice. And, I emailed the publisher to ask if he had plans to keep me on or did I need to look for another publisher. He emailed back and said I ‘was on the side of the angels’. Whatever that means….I knew one thing for sure, there was no actual yes or no in the email and no signed contract in my possession.

So I waited a few more weeks for the promised official announcement which never materialised. Then I wrote an email asking for a signed contract within the next 3 weeks or I would be withdrawing my submitted novel from them. The contract never did arrive and I have had no communication with them since that email so many weeks ago so I consider my novel to belong to me once again.

I am sad for so many reasons about all of this. A lovely publishing business has struggled with more than their fair share of bad stuff and may be going out of business because of it. Without Alice no longer has a home, an official cover or a publication date. I hear some unkind people (you know who you are so I am not going to bother posting your names) saying ‘I told you so’ or I knew you’d fail’. I am ignoring them as much as is possible but obviously they have still got to me or those words wouldn’t be in this post.

I am learning that that is the way these things go. Writing and getting your work published is a hard business, harder it seems, than actually getting your manuscript accepted by a publisher. It doesn’t mean I have failed. No matter what the nasties choose to believe.

Even so, I have had a slight crisis of confidence and although a couple of publishers have offered to look at my novel I have decided not to submit it to them. Not just yet. A very lovely woman, who knows lots about the publishing business and whom I think would prefer to remain nameless took Without Alice on her holiday and read it to give me some idea of my chances of placing it with a new publisher. She liked my story a lot but felt it needed a good edit to give it the best chance in the current climate.

I want to know that Without Alice is looking her very best before I start introducing her to potential publishers. I didn’t have a good edit with my memoir ‘From Zaftig to Aspie. Scott Pack described it as a ‘clunky edit’ when he did a quick flick review on his blog and I respect that man’s opinion hugely.

However, I am lucky enough to know an extremely good, reliable, quick and reasonably priced editor.So I have indulged myself by hiring the services of an editorial service called BubbleCow. Best of all I am going to be mentored by Caroline Smailes! I am still saying OMG, OMG about that!

While I am not particularly looking forward to the editing process I am very excited about being mentored by such a fabulous author and one whom I am proud to call my friend. I suspect I won’t be allowed to pull the ‘but you’re my friend’ card while she is editing me….I sense some hard work coming up over the next few months. Let me put it this way, she is the only person I know who can get away with calling Chopper Divaboy! She is one tough, ‘fearless’ woman who knows her stuff and has successfully mentored a few very talented authors who have gone on to big successes, including one who had a request this week from ITV.

Anyway there you have it, all my non news about Without Alice

 Have you ever had a secret? One so important that it feels as if it will tear you in two? Stephen’s got one. He’s also got a great job, beautiful wife and an adorable son. Outwardly his life seems perfect but it means nothing without Alice. Stephen is a man who you will love to hate until you learn to love him.

56 comments so far

  • This must have been a very, very unsettling time, but what comes across here are some very measured and philosophical words, despite all the difficulties and frustrations that this situation must have caused you.

    I wish you all the best for Without Alice and hope things work out well: I was glad to read the very positive note at the end of this post.

    Hugs x

  • A very beautiful and sincere post.

    I have my own views and strong opinions about this publisher, but I'll restrain from posting them here. All that matters now is that you put your head down, make your work the best it can possibly be and then send WA out into the world again.

    I am very very very much looking forward to working with you! 🙂

  • Hi Trousers,
    Thanks….I am blessed with an ability to compartmentalise things to the nth degree. There are advantages to being an Aspie that is for sure! I am also surrounded by caring supportive people who manage to keep most of the nasty people at a less harmful distance.

    Hi Caroline (my most sage mentor)
    I know our views differ about this publisher and that is becuase he did wrong by you and some very special people. When I think about that I feel very angry too but I wanted to keep this post focussed on me and Without Alice. I am so thrilled that you have agreed to mentor me and promise to work as hard on WA as you expect me to.

  • With the necessary persistence you will get there. If you ever think about changing editor, I know a very good service too. Just let me know … Things don't always go as they were planned, certainly in this business. Shake it off you and continue: the book obviously has potential!

  • Hi 🙂
    Although the strain of waiting to hear if WITHOUT ALICE would be definitely published and discovering it won't be at that particular publisher, I feel, from this post, that it is actually better for you and for the novel that it wasn't.
    You are going to be giving it a great new edit.
    You have found a fabulous mentor in the amazing Caroline Smailes.
    Things are actually better and will better be.
    Looking forward to reading WITHOUT ALICE when it published.
    All the best!

  • H Megan
    Thanks. I need to get my 'mojo' back as my writing urge has slid and been ignored while this has been going on and that has upset me more than anything. That is why I need Caroline's mentoring most! xo

    Hi Debs
    Thanks. It is a bit of an experiment because people tell me that covers with women sell more but I don't understand why and this book is more about a man than women so…

    Hi Demeter
    I would not consider changing my editor but thank you very much for your encouraging words.

    Hi Richard
    What a lovely comment, thank you so much. Caroline is a very special friend and I am thrilled that she agreed to take me on as a mentee. I know it was a hard decision for her as friendships and business are not always the best mix. I don't think I will have any problem keeping the two completly separete so that is half the battle won right there.

  • That is truly pants, Denyse, and I'm so sorry for you. The one good thing is that you'll undoubtedly have a better novel after the editoring/mentoring with BC and Caroline. If I can help in any way, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

  • Oh, poor you!
    You must be gutted. I'm so sorry.

    Still – brighter futures and bigger publishers next tiem.

    My current over-used phrase at present: "What larks, eh, Pip? What larks!"

  • Oh I have everything crossed for you! Caroline is fab, I'd love to have someone like that on my side. I'm sure it will all work out xx

  • What a wonderful post, DJ. I love the cover and the blurb and the cover and would read Without Alice instantly 🙂
    Lots of luck with finding a home for it, and lucky you having Caroline on your side xx

  • SO sorry to hear about the news. Things will go in the right direction now, with all the adjustments you have made. Don't worry about the naysayers, you know what you need to do and you are already doing it. Good luck!
    :o) xoxo

  • All the best with your new direction. No matter what publisher has insight enough to recognize your talent, your wonderful writing will speak for itself.
    Now when you are published I can say, 'I told you so.'

  • You know you always have a big fan (not only in size) in me. I know you will be a success!!! No doubt!
    I will be the first in line to get this new book as soon as it is published!

    Love you lots,


  • Don't let it get you down. First and foremost you have to believe in yourself, even when no one else seems to. Rejection happens to us all, regardless of track-record, and it never gets any easier. I've made a living as a writer for 30 years. About 5 years ago I wrote what I believed to be the best book I had ever penned. My agent thought it was "enthralling". It was then rejected by all the major UK publishers. They all loved it. In fact their rejection letters gave me the best quotes I've ever had for any book. But, you know, for a book to get published these days it has to conform to very strict commercial criteria, and this one – called The Blackhouse – just didn't fit their bill. It broke my heart, but I put it away and forgot about it. Then last year, I was talking to my French publisher about it and she asked to see it. Within two months they had bought world rights and paid me a bigger advance than they ever had for any of my other books.. They loooved it. The irony, of course, is that its first publication will be in French. I don't mind I just felt vindicated that someone else saw in the book what I had always felt was there. It comes out in November, under the title of "L'île des chasseurs d'oiseaux". My baby will finally take her first steps. The point is, never give up. Keep believing.

  • I'm sorry to hear of your troubles but it's good news that everyone who has seen it seems to like it.

    It means we'll all have to wait a little longer but at the same time, it looks like it will be even closer to perfection.

  • Hi Tim
    Thanks loads. I am feeling ok about it all. It could have been a lot worse. What if they had published WA and then gone bust? WA would have been lost!

    Hi rachel
    It isn't so bad, really. That is publishing eh? I like your new phrase, it made me giggle!

    Hi Claire
    You don't need anyone to mentor you. You went and found yourself an agent all on your own so I suspect your writing and ability to edit is very robust already.

    Hi Amanda
    Thank you 🙂 Caroline is fab and I am very lucky she agreed to let me pay her. I really did think it would be an issue (and it was) but if she hadn't let me pay her then I would have taken my business elsewhere. I am stubborn…

  • Hi Jenny
    I am not worrying about them just pissed off that they get a chance to be right. I am lucky that I can compartmentalise and not get bogged down by their negativity. I am, in a masochistic kind of way, looking forward to editing WA. I just wish I could indulge myself full time in my writing instead of having to work full time and then have to spend all that time emptying my head after work before I can write.

    Hi Dadstuff
    It makes me laugh that you want to say I told you so. And, it makes me feel sort of protected by your faith in me, thanks.

    Hi Sana
    Thanks. I appreciate that. x

    Hi Aunt Nenny
    Your comment made me cry. I love you all up. You've spent your whole adult life protecting me and it feels just as wonderful to me now as nice now as when I was tiny. You will not be buying a copy because I will be giving you one. Oh and you're not fat, you've got those nice skinny legs that everyone else in the family (except me) has! Why do I have farm girl legs? Huh?

  • Hi Peter,
    Thank you so much for leaving such an inspiring comment AND for having such a wonderful daughter…

    I know that books have to conform nowadays and that is why I am glad that Caroline has agreed to mentor me. I am confident that she will ensure my book is as publishable as possible without guiding me into ruining the integrity of WA.

    I love it that you called 'L'île des chasseurs d'oiseaux' your 'baby'. How on Earth did you ever approve the final edit? Are you fluent in French?

    I would very much like to read 'L'île des chasseurs d'oiseaux' but have not been bilingual for many years and wouldn't attempt it in French. Please get your publisher to speak to those fabulous people at Gallic Books about doing a translation!

    Once again thank you for your inspiring words. It is always nice to hear stories from authors who have 'been there' and most espescially from someone like yourself as I couldn't imagine any publisher turning down one of your books. That was good for me to hear that it can happen to anyone even established famous authors like yourself.

  • Hi Gavin
    Thank you and nice to 'meet' you. I started writing WA as a method for em to try and understand NT's behaviours better. As a fellow Aspie I am sure you can understand what a challenge that was and no one was more surpised than me to discover that a nice little book grew out of it. I think having an NT editor and mentor will give me the confidence to start presenting my book to publishers again. The NTs who have read it do like it which is really rather fabulous. Someday I want to write contemporary fiction about Aspies and sell it to the mainstream world. Someday….

    Hi Troy
    Thank you very much!

  • Without Alice sounds intriguing. I'm sorry you've had so many problems, but sure you will win through in the end. Best wishes.

  • Sorry you had to go through all this. Sometimes things happen for a reason and all will work out better than you ever dared hope 🙂

  • DJ, so sorry to hear the news.

    Just remember that "Setbacks in life are just fences that we haven't yet jumped" You'll make it to the finishing line but it may just take a bit longer. Enjoy the ride. Good Luck TFx

    Word verification was READIT 🙂

    PS. Thanks for my award :))

  • Hi Katy
    I can't wait for you to read it. I'd love to know what you think about it. x

    Hi Faith
    I don't think that I've had many in comparisson to some, at least I've got people 'who know' saying they like it a lot. I am glad the blurb intrigued you. x

    Hi Casdok
    I am with you on the 'sometimes things happen for a reason'. They sure do…and I am feeling quite positive about it all. x

  • Hi TF
    You snuck in there. Cool word verification. I am too plump and too clumsy to be jumping fences but I have no qualms about laboriously climbing over them!

  • Awwww hon, I'm so sorry that you've had this hanging over your head for so long!! But…onwards and upwards…

    You have a fabulous mentor and editor in the lovely Caroline!! You write beautifully (anyone who's read 'From Zaftig to Aspie' will know this already) and I know that you'll get there!! And I know that when you do I'll be there behind you Aunt waiting to get my copy!!

    C x

  • I'm sorry about the disappointment and all the limbo. That must have been truly exhausting. But it seems like it will turn out for the best in the long run. Good luck!!

  • Oh you poor thing. What a limbo. Horrid. Glad you are going to continue on… I cant wait to read it when published, because published it will be. x

  • Just as you had hoped you would never have to write that post, i was hoping I would never have to read it. But you are certainly in good hands with Bubble Cow and Caroline, and I know first hand how much you have learned about writing and the business over the past couple of years. All any of us can do is believe in ourselves and each other and continue to do whatever we can to create the best work possible. I know this will all come right for you and I'll be waiting in the wings to cheer you on when it does. xoxo

  • Hi Carol
    Thank you so much for complimenting my writing! That means a lot to me. Looking forward to seeing you this weekend (lots and lots and lots)! Got all kinds of homemade jar'd goodies in the pantry waiting to go home with you. xo

    Hi Jill
    you are right it was exhausting but now that I have made a decision about what to do next I feel much more energised.

    Hi Sue
    As always, you inspire me onwards and to achieve more. Hope you are having a most wonderful summer, it must be almost time for you to make your way back to England.

    Hi LWM
    Thank you so much! What a lovely thing to say.

  • Hi
    Devastated for you. But I've no doubt you have the self belief to get there in the end. I just couldn't keep going. You can and will.

  • DJ, I can imagine that going through this is like having someone tell you your dog has gone to "the farm". It makes me angry but you have cushioned the blow with your very calm post.

    I like the new cover idea. In a way, it fits the teaser better than the other.

    With the very talented Caroline being your mentor and your own incredible writing, Without Alice is sure to be published sooner rather than later. I will be looking forward to it.

  • Oh my, you have the patience of a saint my dear. I am sorry to hear this, but glad to hear new doors are opening up as well. Oh, and BTW, LOVE the cover you chose!

  • Hi Kahless
    There are several suprises you don't know about in the plot and I can't wait for you to be able to discover them!

    Hi GOK
    I don't feel I have any option but to keep going. It will be of benefit so I must persevere.

    Hi Nitebyrd
    I think it would ahve been so much worse if WA had been published and then lost to me because the publisher wnet bankrupt or something. I am sure no publisher would want a book previously published. So I look at this experience as a second chance. I am glad you like the new cover, I sure do. The old cover was chosen by the publisher because women on covers sell books but I think a man on a cover could sell this book. However, the new publisher will have his/her own ideas about what they want for a cover for WA.

    Hi Maureen
    You've got to be patient if you want to be published, this business is slow as molasses pouring.

  • Hi Matt
    'Dashing' huh? I think he looks like a blonde version of you. I am going to ask Caroline for a deciding vote on that statement though.

  • I reached your blog from Twitter. Such a story, with your book and publisher! It sounds like a highly emotional journey. I'm sure you'll find another home for it soon, though.

    And thank you for your kind words at my blog.

  • I am so glad things have sorted themselves out for you – what an emotional rollercoaster! I can't think of a more formidable team than DJ and CS!! xx

  • Hi Matt
    I expected you to say something like that. The most handsome of men (like Chopper) never seem to realise they are and that makes them all the better looking for it.

    Hi Lori
    I wanted people to know the other side of writing and the journey to getting published. It is rarely straightforward and my story isn't unique but it is one that is often left unwritten.

    Hi KJ
    My life IS (and always has been) an emotional roller coaster though. Far be it for me to do anything the easy way the first time round…you think I would ahve learnt by my age!

  • Sounds like you have had a difficult time waiting and never really knowing what was happening. I hope that things are resolved soon. Best wishes.

  • That sucks, as I believe they say in the States. DJ I'm astonished at the dedication you show to your writing amidst all the other distraction of family life (I've only got the one child, remember). You will get there, there's no doubt. Hard work and talent brings theirhynti reward.

  • Oh, I didn't know about that Denyse. Well you are a very determined person and I am sure you'll be a success. You're putting the hard work into it and I'm sure it will pay off eventually. I wish you all the best.
    Love Auntie Carol

  • Hi Tim
    Thanks, support makes life better. I like tags!

    Hi Blu
    Thanks. I don't think it will be 'soon' but I am sure things will take a turn for the better at some point.

    Hi JD
    I write in the hours I should be sleeping. The family life isn't anywhere nears as disruptive to my writing time as my full time employment is…sigh.

    Hi Aunite Carol,
    I have been avoiding saying anything to anyone until I had made a decision about what to do. If I had talked to you about it I just would have cried and felt sorry for myself which would have been an indulgence rather than a way of making a grown up decision about what to do about this mess. I am absolutly amazed and so pleased that you and Aunt Nenny took the time to come and comment here. Love you xo

  • that must have been a really stressful time, being kept hanging on and on like that… but your book will now be bigger and better and you will be a huge success!!! x And sod them!

  • Sorry to hear about your setback. You're a strong person, stronger than I am, and I know you'll pull through this and get it published. Artistically I'm very thin skinned and let things like what you're going through crush my spirit. Don't let that happen to you. Power through.

  • Hi hon. God, I hadn't read this and here's you being so fabulous to your friends. This really sucks – but great news that Caroline is taking you under her wing… to be honest, things ALWAYS happen for a reason and I'm sure this is the best thing for both you and 'Alice'.

  • Exactly the kind of smart and brave response I would expect from you lovely lady (though I might be with Caroline on the publisher by the sound of it). If you need a reader for new edits, or for your next launch, count me in. X

  • Hello Claire!
    Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, this is a very old post you’ve commented on! I am very happy with Punked Books as the publisher for Without Alice. Thank you so much for your kind offer though and I will be taking you up on that for novel two. xo

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