Rejection from publishers is part of the game, says Preston

Author wants to inspire pupils to consider writing careers

Lori-Ann Preston​ recently published a book aimed at adults.
Lori-Ann Preston​ recently published a book aimed at adults.
Image: SUPPLIED

Prolific multi-published author Lori-Ann Preston has a passion for entertaining via the written word. Her  audience is mainly young children but she recently published a book aimed at adults.

However, sharing equal place with her own writing is a quest to spread the joy of reading and inspiring pupils to become writers.

“I have spoken at over 100 schools, to many classes and assemblies, as well as other youth gatherings, which would tally up to over 10,000 learners,” Preston said.

I encourage children to read but also to write. I tell them how to go about it and stress that it is probably not as hard as they envisage

“I encourage children to read but also to write. I tell them how to go about it and stress that it is probably not as hard as they envisage.”

She tries, when time allows, to end every presentation with a question-and-answer session. Initially she was surprised when many of the questions were on the theme of writing and publishing.

“It is very rewarding returning to a school and being shown the results of the rough work or self-publishing efforts. My hope is that one day I may have done enough to see several published books, with young people now working full-time as writers.”

The writing journey for each book or novel always comes to a crossroad when the author types “The End” — will the book see publishers’ ink or will it be rejected?

A rejected book must not be the end of passion to become an author, Preston said.

“I became an expert on rejection. I would get the ‘not for us, thank you’ note, and sometimes not even a reply, then perhaps have a little cry, mope around for a while, and start again.”

The first lesson would-be authors need to accept is that their books will be rejected.

Beatrix Potter and French novelist Marcel Proust were turned away so many times that they self-published.

JK Rowling's original Harry Potter pitch was rejected 12 times. However, by 2004 Forbes named Rowling as the first person to become a US-dollar billionaire by writing books, the second-richest female entertainer and the 1,062nd richest person in the world.

Among the other high profile “rejectees” are Stephen King, William Golding, John le Carré, Joseph Heller, George Orwell, William Faulkner, John Grisham and DH Lawrence.

Preston’s journey into authorship started with inspiration from the same people she is now trying to inspire — young pupils who could not find the sort of book they enjoyed.

“I was reading the British book Horrid Henry to the class, and while they enjoyed much of it, the UK humour was lost on them. That led me to asking what they would prefer, and the answer was anything, as long as it was funny.”

The “funny anything” resulted in Preston’s first book, the Ama-zings, which fitted the funny and also the local demand.

“My break was entering the Golden Baobab Prize competition five or so years ago. It is run by a Ghana non-profit organisation pushing for more African children’s books.

“For me the result was also ‘Ama-zing’. I won what today is probably over R80,000. At the time I was teaching at Beaconhurst but used the prize to fund a full-time career as a ‘tweens’ writer. Now it is time to give back.”

Preston refers to herself as a “hybrid” author, who, she says, she is fortunate to be published by LAPA Publishers, which earlier in 2020 was purchased by Penguin Random House South Africa. Penguin is the largest seller of English language books in SA.

“Hybrid refers to authors who can self-publish if they feel that a book is not right for the traditional market,” she said.

There is a paucity of good children’s books, written by children, and self-publishing makes the entry relatively easy, she said. Often self-published books are picked up by big publishing houses.

East London’s Harry’s Printers specialises in finding new authors and taking a book from manuscript and rough illustrations to the finished product.

The website for new authors needing information is www.harrysphotos.co.za.


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