She still looked discouraged. She was tired from work and handling rejection on top was too much.
'You want them to give you money, not just an advance,' I carried on. 'It'll cost them money just to print, distribute and market your novel. You've got to make the effort.'
It's a testament to her nice nature that she didn't hit me at this point.
I wish I could have said something better. I wish that publishing wasn't a hard-nosed business. I wish there were publishing pixies who waved magic wands and whisked contracts out of thin air. But there aren't. It's always been a tough business and in the current climate it's even harder. But people do get picked up, you don't need special contacts beyond those you can make yourself.
Thinking about it, perhaps I should have tried this angle. Imagine you've just left college and are looking for your first job. You've got some shiny qualifications, and you know you could do the job given a chance. You apply for interviews, along with thousands of other recent graduates. Most you never hear from again or get a standard rejection from. You smarten up your presentation, get some feedback on your CV, practice your interview technique, buy a better interview suit... it's discouraging but you persist because you want to get a job. It's that simple.
Would that have been better? Probably not. When you've got over the first flush of enthusiasm about sending out I'm not sure anything anyone says is going to help. But you've got to carry on if you want to get published. Perhaps the only helpful thing to say is enjoy the journey. Make friends with people in the same position and share your triumphs and disasters. Learn as much as you can. Enjoy the writing process. Start a new novel...