The “big cockroach” submission trap


Sometimes, the fear of rejection is worse than getting the bad news.

While I’m in Greece, I’ve come across quite a few cockroaches; something to do with the heat apparently. And with my knight in shining armour back in the UK, I’ve had to deal with them myself. Let me define “dealing” with them: I squash the little ones with a mix of delectable pleasure and hair raising reflex while I chase away the bigger ones. Or throw things at them. Like chairs, Trainboy’s armbands, magazines, anything within grasp.

Now forgive me for the tenuous quality of this link, but I can’t help but think that my overall attitude to cockroach busting is mirrored somehow in my writing and especially my attitude in submitting material.

With smaller submissions, like articles and shorts, I’ve developed the skin of a rhino. It still pains me to submit them, just like I shudder when I squash a little cockroach. But I do it, knowing that at the end of the day, I’ll get better at it and I’ll get accepted more as time passes and I gain in experience.

My novel on the other hand is more like a big cockroach. I can’t even bear the idea of squashing it, the sound of the crunch just goes through me, let alone the imagined brown liquids that would come out of its meaty body. Yuk. Anyway, my novel sat polished and ready to be submitted for months. It stared back at me as I dusted it every day, but I didn’t have the courage to post it out. In delaying submission, I only became more and more agitated about it just sitting there. I argued (with myself) that it wasn’t ready, but I knew I couldn’t improve it without any further feedback.

Finally, after much deliberation (and dusting) I sent it off. A few weeks later, my SAE arrived in the post. Yes, it contained a rejection. My first major one. And for about twenty-four hours I felt a little numb, a little disappointed and a little deflated. I didn’t feel crushed. In fact I felt like the accumulated stress of keeping it on the shelf for so long, kind of dispersed into nothing. I would have liked some feedback, but at least I have an answer from one publisher, so it is time to send it to the next one. Right?

Well, you would think I’d got the whole “can’t send my novel out” thing under control.

I researched potential new publishers to send to, and even made a list. Yet weeks later and I still hadn’t submitted my novel someplace else.

Until the other night.

The other night, it was way past midnight. Trainboy woke-up. He wanted water.

The apartment was dark, but for the light from the fridge in front of me.

Don’t move, Mummy.” Trainboy said.

Why, darling?”

There’s a big bug behind your feet.”

I turned around. There on the floor close to my feet, a massive cockroach twirled its antennae at me. I can’t remember what I did next. I panicked. Thankfully, I didn’t empty the entire contents of the fridge on it – I thought it would just stay there and eat it. The cockroach moved a little, giving me some space – enough space to get to the cockroach spray from under the cupboard.

I sprayed, and chased it around the house. Trainboy cheered me and squealed in excitement. Finally, after the cockroach ran an equivalent to a 10K, it stopped, turned over and died.

I sighed in relief. Trainboy clapped his hands. I had won. I may have not crunched it under my foot, but I had won. However late it was, I sat immediately in front of my laptop and sent my novel to the next publisher on the list.

Have you ever fallen into the “big cockroach” submission trap? And if so, how did you feel when you actually submitted it? Have you heard back? 

This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The “big cockroach” submission trap

  1. What a brilliant analogy. I’m so glad you fought that big cockroach and won.

    It really is scary and I fully understand how you feel. I’m sat waiting on a large cockroach.

    Here’s to beating the beast! :)

    • Elpi says:

      Thanks for your comment, Rebecca and I’m glad you enjoyed my analogy.
      Here’s to fighting and winning. Eventually we’ll get there! x

  2. djm. says:


    Like Rebecca said, it was a good analogy to the situation. I haven’t had a lot of experiences with letters — truthfully — I don’t send them. This may seem counter-inuitive to the whole getting published, but in a way, that’s not really how I see it working for me. I like to think of myself as an evolutionary writer. There are mediums and forums to play with and I’ll get around to publishing stuff (traditionally) after I’m done playing around. I’ve already self-published, which was in of itself an interesting experience (but one I actually found to be very valuable). I learned a lot.

    I’ll hunt cockroaches another day, today I’m content letting the little bastards eat from under the counters…


    • Elpi says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Derek.
      Like you, I decided to spend some time messing around with forums, workshops and social media. They have taught me a lot about what I want my writing to be like. They have also made me more adventurous and confident enough to try and create a career for myself in the writing world. I think my next goal will be self-publishing. Hopefully i’ll be able to pick your brains when the time comes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *