November 2020 – Jericho Writers
Jericho Writers
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Our Articles

Patience And Passion In Writing

Guest author and blogger Tor Udall shares her story of publishing A Thousand Paper Birds with Bloomsbury after her time at the Festival of Writing, plus how patience, perseverance and passion were key to success. The Festival of Writing had a transformative impact for me. After signing with my agent, what happened next? More drafts. Another four to be exact, since A Thousand Paper Birds is a many layered thing. Based in Kew Gardens, with five characters, two love triangles and a mysterious death, it’s told from multiple perspectives and two time-frames. Add in a speculative thread and the folds of origami, and you can imagine why it took a while to pin this girl down. I learnt a lot in those two years – not just about my characters and craft, but also about perseverance and passion. There were days when it felt like I was entering a boxing ring, wrestling the pages, and leaving the desk with my jaw bloodied. In one particular draft, I tried so damn hard to please that I took on every suggested edit and ended up with a Frankenstein manuscript, the stitches so coarse you could see the seams. It had no blood in it. No heartbeat. I had to go back and lovingly unpick it, gently resuscitating it back to life and asking it to forgive me – and thankfully it did. It’s a delicate balance – taking in other people’s advice, but also staying true to the world you’ve created and to the book’s anima, or spirit. In September 2015, the manuscript was ready, and we sent it out on submission. What a terrifying process! Within 24 hours, an editor in Italy had read it overnight, fallen head over heels and wanted to make a pre-emptive offer. I thought this is it, we’re on a roll. Then nothing happened, for days. Slowly, other offers came in – Portugal, Netherlands, Russia – but nothing from the UK. The rapturous declines were wonderful, but frustrating (it made me laugh to discover that while agents send ‘rejections’, publishers send ‘declines’ … it’s all so much more civilised!). Finally, we got a bite from one editor (followed by a great meeting), then a few more showed interest, and suddenly editors were taking A Thousand Paper Birds to acquisitions. This is not an easy hurdle – the entire team must love it and in the run-up to Frankfurt Book Fair, a lot of books are vying for attention. Trying to keep positive, I took myself off to Kew Gardens (the book’s location) to hear the Director’s Talk. As I left the event, my phone rang and the moment happened. Bloomsbury had put in an offer. I was standing outside the famous Palm House, in the perfect spot. A couple of times I had to ask Jenny to repeat herself – partly out of disbelief, partly because the ducks were quacking, but there I stood by the glasshouse, my dream solidifying in the trees, the lake, the sky, my body. This elation continued in Frankfurt when Random House in Germany offered me a 2-book deal (without even seeing a synopsis for the second). Signing for a second book felt like the start of a career, a validation. So guess what happened next? Yup. More drafts. Two more. It’s pot-luck on who you get as an editor, but thankfully Alexa von Hirschberg is one helluva talented lady. Sensitive, funny, wise, stylish (we even share the same taste in musicians), she was a joy to work with. The copy-edit, too, was a wonderful experience. The copy-editor’s attention to detail was love-filled. It’s the fine work of the scalpel: ‘do you really want ‘in’ twice in a sentence?’ (see, I’ve just done it again), ‘should it be ‘garden’ or ‘Gardens’? Did you realise that you swap between imperial and metric?’ After the large-scale edits, it was a pleasure to focus on the miniscule. Ten drafts in all. So many different versions, characters cut or changed, whole passages gone, and for a while I worried that I would grieve for all the different ‘Paper Birds’ that had vanished. But when I read through the final edit it was the book it was always supposed to be. Everything had come into focus. During this period, there was a lot of other stuff happening, too. While I was writing the draft(s) of my life I also had to set myself up as a business, dealing with foreign tax forms, complicated contracts, asking the Foreign Office to certify certificates of residence. An illustrator was working on a map of Kew Gardens to go at the front, copy for the blurb and catalogue were needed, copyright permissions required for quotes and lyrics, author photos taken, the jacket design approved (oh my, it’s so flutteringly gorgeous!). Then there was also a pregnancy that involved me injecting myself in the stomach for 9 months daily, a premature baby and the usual sleeplessness and chaos that comes with a new-born – but that’s a whole other story …! And now I have a year to write my second book (the first one took seven years, so you can understand why my eye is twitching!). There’s a host of unknown and wonderful things ahead. And I’m frightened. Of people reading it. Of people not reading it. The author events, the promotion – all challenges for a publishing virgin. But in the end, away from the noise of twitter, book sales, reviews, I know my main job is the work itself: to write the next book better, using everything I’ve learnt. The landscape of language, the puzzles of plot and pace, the intimacies of character – this is where I’m happiest, and how privileged I am to be able to spend my day at the typeface, conjuring up things to believe in. This passion (obsession? endless curiosity?) is both anchor and fuel. So, yes, since York, life has changed. After years of writing alone, it’s amazing to be part of a collaboration with some of the most talented, brilliant people in the world. Good luck to all of you ever coming to the Festival of Writing, and remember, too, so much can happen in the one-on-ones, in the coffee queue, at the bar... the quickening of fate can happen in the most unlikely places. Who knows? The roller coaster may be coming for you, too.

US Literary Agents For Memoir, True Story, And Autobiographies

Have you just finished your memoir and are ready to begin your search for an agent? Well, we’re here to help!  WANT TO JUMP STRAIGHT TO THE AGENT LIST? CLICK HERE  Memoirs And Autobiographies The market for memoirs is easy, if you’re a celebrity that is. However, if like the rest of us you find that you’re not a celebrity, then things can prove a little harder.   Memoirs and autobiographies are typically non-fiction narratives, based on the author\'s personal experiences and memories. Similar to a novel, a memoir progresses its storyline through detailed plots, scenes with action and dialogue, exchanges, and character development.   But what will make your memoir stand out from the crowd? Quite simply, it will need to dazzle your readers, and show that you have been part of something remarkable. Not my-friends-think-it’s-amazing remarkable, but the kind of remarkable that will captivate a perfect stranger, like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.    The ability to transform those remarkable experiences into excellent prose is also a requirement. To hook an agent, you need to be able to bring to life the things you’ve seen and done. Have your experiences, the drama, fear, laughter, love and loss jump off the page and engulf your reader. Masterpieces like The Hare With Amber Eyes and Empire Antartica are great examples.   Whatever your story, there’s sure to be an agent out there who can’t wait to read it. So, where to begin?    AgentMatch And How To Use It There are plenty of memoir-loving agents, but you won\'t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of US agents for memoirs is to visit AgentMatch, our literary agent database, and use the search tools on the left to make your selection.  With AgentMatch you can select by genre (e.g. memoirs, true story, and autobiographies), country, the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and much more. You can even save your search results and come back to them, allowing you to work through them one by one, at your own pace. Each profile has been researched thoroughly including what agents like to read in their spare time, information on their most recent deals, manuscript wishlists, submission requirements, and exclusive interviews.  You can sign-up for a 7-day free trial which will give you a good feel for the data and functionality. Or join us as a premium member and get unlimited access to AgentMatch.  US Agents For Memoir, True Story, And Autobiographies  To get you started we’ve selected a list of 20 US agents looking for memoirs:  [am_show_agents id=35] More Resources   We’re here to help you at every step in your writing and querying process. Check out our favourite blogs that can assist you in putting together your query letter and synopsis, and if you want valuable, personal feedback on your writing you can book a fifteen-minute One-to-One with an agent of your choice. Premium members can also get a free query letter review from our lovely Writers Support team!    Happy searching, and good luck on your querying journey!   

How To Make The Most Of The Festival Of Writing

Guest author and blogger Mari Griffith is a bestselling author of historical fiction. For fans of Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel, Mari’s debut novel Root of the Tudor Rose has been internationally acclaimed. Read her top tips on making the most of our annual Festival of Writing. I’d kept trying various writers’ advisory groups, but nothing really opened any windows of understanding for me. I had a knowledge of writing after thirty eclectic years in broadcasting, churning out scripts for documentaries, concerts, children’s programmes, the Schools Broadcasting service, even on-air programme promotions. But a novel? That was something very different. Then I came across some publicity for a writers’ weekend conference in York. Coming to my very first Festival of Writing, I found myself among like-minded people there for the same three reasons – to hone craft, to meet other writers and to relish the whole experience. Motivating workshops and one-to-ones provided insights I needed to get me into good habits. I saw the sense of crafting my novel, of getting to know my characters. I learned about scene setting, plot development, pace, character arcs, convincing dialogue, evocative prose … suddenly, there was so much to think about. My 2B pencil was working overtime! Home again, I realised the need to keep up the momentum. I junked my Prologue and twenty thousand words of my current draft and promptly enrolled on the Writers’ Workshop online course with Debi Alper and Emma Darwin. I never regretted it. They were unfailingly focussed, practical and pleasant in their teaching. Emma guided my footsteps as a writer of historical fiction and Debi offered flashes of pure inspiration. I’ll always be grateful for her thoughts on ‘psychic distance’! My association with the Writers’ Workshop has been enormously beneficial. It has given me confidence in my work and the ability to be my own best critic. That’s important for a writer because it means that your book will be as good as you can possibly make it before you show it to anyone else. Anything that can be enhanced thereafter by editors or book doctors becomes a valuable bonus. Chances are that your work will eventually be good enough to publish, if you can find an agent – and you might manage to do that in York, too. It has been known! Ultimately, everything depends on you, what you make of this golden opportunity. Having thought long and hard about it, I’ve drawn on my own experience to come up with six bullet points to help you make the best possible use of everything the Festival of Writing offers: Pick the workshops that best suit your writing to find out how you can improve and market it. Make notes: then write them up when you get home. Don’t trust to memory, otherwise you’ll never remember all the stuff you’re going to learn. Target your Agents and Book Doctors with care: they tend to specialise. Someone who’s looking for Crime Fiction isn’t likely to help you much with quirky chick-lit. Arm yourself with business cards, which give your basic contact details – you’ll be amazed how many you dish out. Don’t be pushy – not everyone wants your opinion on Kafka. And don’t be shy, either. If you spot a spare seat at the breakfast table next to a bunch of Book Doctors, just ask politely if you can join them. They’ll make room for you. Honestly! These days, I’m a veteran delegate at the Festival. I keep coming back because there’s always something new to learn. It’s fun, too, and that’s not just the craic in the bar of an evening. What’s also special is that since delegates, agents, book doctors and workshop leaders are all on campus for the whole weekend, you’re likely to enjoy useful conversations over lunch, while browsing in the book shop or even in the queue for the loo. I once shared a taxi from York station with Julie Cohen and had a fascinating chat. Another time, I chose Andrew Wille as my book doctor and he remains an encouraging friend to this day. Now I’ve had two books published and my third is a work in progress. I’m delighted to say that I know how it feels to have written a bestselling book (marvellous, in case you were wondering!), and I have the satisfaction of knowing that people do read and enjoy what I write. That’s very special. And the downside of all this? Well, there isn’t one. True, it’s not a cheap weekend, but it’s probably a lot cheaper than the membership fee at the local golf club. And you need to weigh the cost against the result – which is invaluable.

US Literary Agents For Erotica

Have you just finished your novel and are ready to begin your search for an agent? Well, we’re here to help!  WANT TO JUMP STRAIGHT TO THE AGENT LIST? CLICK HERE  Erotica It feels like only yesterday that E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey series was released, changing the perception of erotic fiction. No longer are publishers and literary agents wary – or dare I say snobby? - towards the genre. No longer do they fear that erotic manuscripts are not marketable or that the genre would not pay for itself.  The years following E.L James’ trilogy have seen a huge turnaround in the perception of erotic fiction. Just look at Helen Hoang (author of Kiss Quotient) or Helen Hardt (Follow Me Darkly) to see how popular this genre has become. Literary agents and publishers have learnt the value of this genre; we can see that in the most high-brow literary agents who are now accepting submissions of erotic fiction.  Although, of course, erotic fiction has always been popular to the masses. We only have to look at Mills & Boon’s client list for a who’s-who of romance and erotic writers.   So, what does this mean for you? It means there’s competition. To secure the right representation for your novel, make sure it is ready before you even consider querying an agent looking for erotic fiction. Prepare your query letter and synopsis to the best of your ability.   You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make yours count.  AgentMatch And How To Use It There are plenty of erotica-loving agents, but you won\'t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of US agents for erotica is to visit AgentMatch, our literary agent database, and use the search tools on the left to make your selection.  With AgentMatch you can select by genre (e.g. erotica), country, the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and much more. You can even save your search results and come back to them, allowing you to work through them one by one, at your own pace. Each profile has been researched thoroughly including what agents like to read in their spare time, information on their most recent deals, manuscript wishlists, submission requirements, and exclusive interviews.  You can sign-up for a 7-day free trial which will give you a good feel for the data and functionality. Or join us as a premium member and get unlimited access to AgentMatch.  US Agents For Erotica To get you started we’ve selected a list of 20 US agents looking for erotica:  [am_show_agents id=25] More Resources   We’re here to help you at every step in your writing and querying process. Check out our favourite blogs that can assist you in putting together your query letter and synopsis, and if you want valuable, personal feedback on your writing you can book a fifteen-minute One-to-One with an agent of your choice. Premium members can also get a free query letter review from our lovely Writers Support team!    Happy searching, and good luck on your querying journey!   

Social Media For Writers: Our Top Tips

Social media can be viewed as a series of puzzles. When, as a writer, you first start on social media it seems that everyone knows what you don’t. The mysteries of social media are revealed slowly as you browse and experiment and learn. This post will explore some important pieces of the social media puzzle, of relevance whether you’re new to social media or an old hand. What Are The Goals Of Social Media Participation? The first puzzle I’d like to explore is what are reasonable goals for social media participation? The reason this comes first, for me, is because how you answer this will affect every other social media action that you take. If your goal is simply to increase sales of your books, then there will be a series of steps you need to take to build relationships with people who might be interested in reading or them. This would, however, be a very restrictive and stunted use of social media. It would be like installing a telephone in your offices and only using it for sales calls. Every aspect of your work can be impacted positively by social media, if you let it. Research, industry knowledge, motivation and planning can all be helped by social media tools, which allow you to connect with people, listen and communicate. You can also use social media as a creative tool as well as for all the above. It allows you to express whatever you want; your love of Tolkien or photography or Proust or Joyce or whatever. But you can use social media to build relationships too. Real relationships. Is Social Media A Dog Chasing Its Own Tail, A Self-Reinforcing Bubble, Or Is It Something That Will Last? There has been a steady drum beat in the media over the past few years of Luddite criticism of social media. Some commentators claim that it is all a waste of time, that social media is banal and trivial and that it will all pass. My personal view is that social media is here to stay and that it forces cooperation and openness. To be otherwise on social media would lead to being flamed or being shunned. Cooperation and openness lead to increased learning, as we take on board new ideas. I don’t think every Tweet or post is a symbol of progress, but there are enough positive ones, I believe, to make it obvious that social media is of benefit to humanity, overall, as a communication tool. I do think there is a danger of over hyping social media, the way radio was over hyped in the 1920’s, with a large number of radio companies coming to Wall Street to sell shares. But because many of those radio stations went bankrupt it doesn’t mean that radio was a medium set to die. Radio was hugely important in the Second World War and since too. Rock & roll and the popular music revolutions of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s are just some of the things radio enabled. I believe social media will have a similarly important role in the decades to come for writers. We are now able to reach readers without the help of a publisher or a large inheritance. Could Social Media Be An Agent Of Change In Our Culture? Social media could be as much an instrument of change as radio or TV was, influencing politics, popular culture and comedy to name but a few areas. Social media, like radio and TV, is a means of mass communication. And social media is changing fast. Facebook’s shares go down again, then up again, then down again. Google+ changes its look and feel, again. Twitter is used to assess the political mood and the likelihood of a stock market crash. Soon it will be used to predict riots and stock market rallies. The impact on writers, forcing a more open and accessible personal style, is likely to have a long term effect on what writers create and how they create. And we are still at the beginning of this revolution. Try searching for #socialmedia on Twitter and you will be assaulted by wave after wave of developments in social media. Every minute. No! Every second. But where will all this lead us? I see three clear trends, each of which could have an impact on writers: The visual web. Mobile video stream, Microsoft’s HoloLens 3d headset and local YouTube feeds may allow us to travel almost anywhere and experience everything as ultimate-voyeurs. Expect artistic photojournalism, environments that change as we look at them, permanent people tracking, your visual life on a site, celebrity holograms at your local book store and rebranding sites that will let you see how you might appear with a few nicks and tucks when you win that big publishing deal. Screens may surround us and allow us instant access to the thoughts and recommendations of other people, and even to see what they are seeing, to read what they are reading. We may eventually be able to piggy back onto other people’s lives through visceral monitoring, heart, sweat, body chemicals, leading to the manipulation of our own senses, but all that is far off. Whether we get there is another thing, completely. The auto posting trend. Expect your phone to auto post your location to your life-blog and your audio feed to text tweets to Twitter. Going beyond that we may be tracked by location posting sites for curfew enforcement, remote working and spouse spying applications. Auto posts already make up a big percentage of the posts you see. That includes re-posts and posts simply made at a previous time. The question seems to be, not whether you should auto-post an update on what you are reading/researching, but why you think your followers will be interested in learning that? Perhaps we will have training courses and later, degree course in “deciding what to post” and “deciding what to listen to and who to follow”. The digital chasm. The erosion of the middle class will lead to a divide between those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to pursue writing as a career and those who are not. Fortunately, writing well is not something you can easily outsource to the 3rd world. It requires a cultural dexterity, which can take decades to learn. Instant security services, auto-taser fencing and within-a-minute by drone-extraction from urban locations may all be our future. Security zones may extend to elite stores, clubs and hotels, all invisible to the rest of humanity by their anonymous exteriors. How Did We Survive Before Social Media (BSM)? If my memory serves me we did just fine BSM. Sure, we had to wait to hear gossip, and read newspapers or magazines to find out what was happening around us, but we didn’t know what we were missing. The internet was initially about newspapers and selling or buying things and searching and we used it less (it was slow), and BSM we read more and spent more time watching TV, but I don’t think we were any healthier or wiser as a whole. BSM we just didn’t know stuff. I can’t tell you whether it’s that important in the big scheme of things that we have intimate knowledge of each other’s lives, but I believe this social media trend is unstoppable now. It’s a genii that’s out of its bottle. And I don’t know what spell will make it go back in again, but it will have to be a powerful one. The only thing I expect, which could impact our use of social media is disruption to our electricity supply. And that would lead to a lot of deaths in our electric driven world. We will, I believe, be doing social media differently in the future, but I don’t think we are going back to the days BSM. And yes, much of the above may not happen before 2020. So if you want to write about the near future, consider incorporating some of the above elements. In any case it will be your ability to tell a good story that will make or break what you write. Luck still plays an essential role in all successful writing, but you do know what they say about luck; it’s better to make your own. For me these are four of the biggest puzzles about social media. You may have other ones you think are more important. I hope you will consider sharing those with us below. Please share if you have a puzzle. For me this is one of the most intriguing aspects of social media. How it is developing. 3 Key Takeaways Some of the puzzling aspects of social media: Do You Know What Your Goals Are? Are you taking full advantage of the opportunities that social media is providing or are you just using it to help you sell books? Is Social Media Chasing Its Own Tail? Social media has real benefits. This is not just my opinion. Sure, human connections made on social media are not as strong as the connections we have with people in our local area, but you can build useful relationships with people all over the world with social media in a way that was impossible before. Is It An Agent Of Change? Only time will tell whether the changes in our societies as a result of social media are long lasting or if we will eventually turn away from technology. I strongly suspect that technology will develop further and further. It may plateau at some stage and we may need to change how we do things, such as the annual obsolescence of many devices, but software and the internet are changing too fast and more and more people are finding innovative ways to use the web and getting employed in it, so I don’t think this wave of change is over yet.

Book Critiques

Guest author and blogger Kate Armstrong shares her story of publishing The Storyteller after a manuscript critique from us. It was 2013. Summer. I was a nervous management consultant who had once, a long time ago, been an English student. I was opening an assessment report on the draft of my first novel. I’d sent it off for a professional reading a fortnight previously. In that fortnight I’d obsessively researched Jessica Ruston, who would be writing the report. The subjects of her books were very different from mine; maybe she wouldn’t get what I was trying to do. But then again, maybe she would read it and be astounded at my debut genius. In my wildest dreams, Jessica would declare this was the best writing since Plath – better even than Plath – and I would be turning away agents dangling golden contracts. In my nightmares, the report would come back dripping with pity and rejection. The reality was of course neither one nor the other. When I summoned my bravery to open the file, I found a thorough, balanced, extremely helpful set of comments. Jessica had understood the novel perfectly well. She pointed out both its strengths and where it was not yet good enough, and mostly I agreed. She found it ‘unusual and thoughtful’, praised the writing, and recommended more work on character and plot. I breathed a sigh of relief, and got to work on the next draft. Fast-forward three years, and that novel, The Storyteller, is being published by Holland House Books. It has, as they say, been a journey. Along the way I’ve learned how to take rejection, and how to accept graciously while keeping my hysteria in check. I’ve learned that an agent response of ‘you write incredibly well’ can be immediately followed by ‘but we don’t think we could place this’. I’ve learned how to do social media more effectively and how to write a blog that is true to who I am. I’ve pitched articles to magazines, and some of them have come off. I feel that I’ve been learning a new trade. Because that of course is what it is; both the writing and the ‘being a writer’. I’m published by a passionate literary independent, but passion does not go hand in hand with a huge marketing budget, so much of the marketing responsibility is mine. That was an eye-opener. The other eye-opener was how fast the book became an object separate from me. Other people had views on how it should be edited, what the cover should be like, how to market it. Cutting the umbilical cord – seeing it as a product in a market – was something I was unprepared for. The Storyteller is a very personal book in many ways. It draws heavily on my experiences of mental ill health and its aim, so far as it has one, is to share those experiences with others. It is also a coming of age novel, and a story of friendship, first love and betrayal. Whatever your definition of ‘literary’, it is certainly in that camp. It is, for my sins, narrated in the second person. (I had written it before I read articles advising against.) It is fuelled by atmosphere and character and not so much by plot. It has unsettled many of its readers. I hope it will continue to do that. But regardless of what it does for its readers, it has already changed my life. That life change is nothing external: I have no idea how it will sell. My dreams are of a prize-winning best-seller, my nightmares that only my mother-in-law will buy a copy. Neither is likely to happen. No, the change has been inside. Before I wrote it I could not share my life long experiences of depression, and I didn’t believe that I could write. When my publisher offered a contract it took me 18 months to accept; I didn’t think the book, or I, was good enough. Once the contract was signed I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, too ashamed of the content, too scared of what exposure as a writer would mean. Over the last year I have moved past all of those blocks. I am definitely now ‘a writer’, and that is where I want to be. I have risked sharing some of the things that go on deep inside. I have welcomed other people into my world. Most of all I have built the psychological platform to keep on writing honestly and openly, and in the way that is most true to who I am.

Getting An Agent And Deal You Really Want

So, where to start on the road to publishing? I think, and this is only my opinion, that we should start with ‘The Dream’. Set your sights on a dream and run with it. Make sure it’s big enough too, and I mean aim high! Shoot for the stars and even if you miss, the trajectory should carry you somewhere good and the view will have been great. But what do I actually mean? Well when I set out on my writing journey in earnest, I did a number of things: 1. I started acting like I thought an author should act. I started writing a book every year, setting my own deadlines and sticking to them. I sought help from readers and other writers for feedback and I submitted my completed books to agents. 2. I started networking. I went to events, super events like the Festival of Writing where I met more writers, readers and, of course, some agents and publishers too (usually in the bar, long after Cinderella’s ride was being carved into a scary face). I pitched my novel when asked, or when it was polite, but really, I just wanted to be recognised and known as someone who was serious about writing, so that when my next manuscript hit their desk, they knew the face behind the words. But I think the next is the most important one (so important, I split it in two). 3. I started treating getting published as though it were a project. I gathered intelligence on what I’d need to do, who I’d need to submit work to, exactly how they wanted it submitted, what books they liked and had bought or taken on, where the good places were to meet them etc. I created a plan that I thought would offer me the greatest chance of success – then I stuck to it. 4. I decided in my own mind what ‘success’ looked like for me, and defining this can be hard to do. I decided that, for me, success looked like this: a ‘top’ agent from a major British agency and a publishing deal with a ‘Big 5’ publisher. There, I said it! Outrageous, but that was the target I set myself. This was what success would look like in my project, the stars I was going to aim for. Now, let’s not be silly about this. This is a target, the ultimate end goal, but there could be steps along the way. I’m not saying I’d have turned down almost any agent in the beginning, I simply wouldn’t have, and I’m a loyal person so it’s unlikely I would leave an agent I liked and trusted, but this was The Target and I’d urge you all to identify yours and stick with it. If it’s to be a massive self-published success story, then go for that too, whatever your goal is, get at it with vigour and verve and don’t let any set-back, upset, rejection (I’ve had loads of them!), or dismissal put you off. ‘Publishing is broken! They don’t take debuts anymore! I submitted to five agents and got rejections from all of them!’, etc., etc. (Ring any bells?) If you submit your work to five agents and then give up, then you lack the tenacity for this business. I submitted my work through the usual channels – the slush pile – and got well over thirty rejections. (Some weren’t even rejections, they simply didn’t even acknowledge me at all and never have.) I kept going. I wrote six novels. The first four are pants, some not even that good. The fifth started getting noticed. I had some requests for the full manuscript and got some valuable feedback from great agents (and even a hint of an offer of a very small publishing deal with a small press), then I wrote Tenacity and submitted that. It got nowhere. I had easily twenty rejections and had all but given up, even though it was still out with some other agents. I was already writing my next novel, when I got an email from Curtis Brown – the office of Jonny Geller – yup, there are some agents who are so super that you’re allowed to swear in the middle of their name – Jonny ‘Freaking’ Geller called me. Excited doesn’t begin to cover it. Then, in the same day, more agents showed interest, more great ones. Suddenly, I was in business and that aim, that definition of success, didn’t look so outrageous after all. I signed with Jonny, having been picked up from the slush pile, and my debut novel Tenacity was published by Headline on July 30 2015. I also sold very quickly in the US, too. So my message is hopefully clear. Decide what you want to do, set out a plan to do it, and hang on to that plan as though your life, and the lives of everyone you hold dear, depend on it. Grit your teeth, be ready for rejection, but know absolutely where you want to go. If you want it bad enough, then show the world that you have the Tenacity to get it. And I love that word, Tenacity, so much so that I made it the title of my debut novel, and it’s hopefully one of the strongest traits you’d recognise in my lead character, Danielle Lewis. She doesn’t give up, ever, and neither should you.

US Literary Agents For Young Adult Fiction

Have you just finished your YA novel and are ready to begin your search for an agent? Well, we’re here to help!  WANT TO JUMP STRAIGHT TO THE AGENT LIST? CLICK HERE  Young Adult Fiction In recent years, Young Adult (YA) fiction has become a prominent and big-selling genre. Novelists like Stephanie Meyer and Suzanne Collins (whose trilogies were so popular they were turned into Hollywood blockbusters), and Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series made it acceptable and even popular for adults to read and enjoy children’s fiction.   What followed was the emergence of a spectacular list of YA authors. Think Holly Jackson’s A Good Girls’ Guide to Murder or Sarah J Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses. These new and engaging authors carried on the tradition and continued to attract a wider audience of adult and young readers.  What was the key to their success? Good character development, a fast pace, and a touch of danger.  The fact that so many young adult books are selling means that agents are inevitably interested in the area and keen to take on outstanding work. However, it also means that agents will be picky: they’ll be looking for novels that can compete with the big names. To make sure you give yourself the biggest chance at success, you need to target the right agents. So do your research and perfect your opening chapters before you start querying agents. Don’t waste your chance by rushing into it.  AgentMatch And How To Use It There are plenty of YA-loving agents, but you won\'t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of US agents for YA fiction is to visit AgentMatch, our literary agent database, and use the search tools on the left to make your selection.  With AgentMatch you can select by genre (e.g. young adult fiction), country, the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and much more. You can even save your search results and come back to them, allowing you to work through them one by one, at your own pace. Each profile has been researched thoroughly including what agents like to read in their spare time, information on their most recent deals, manuscript wishlists, submission requirements, and exclusive interviews.  You can sign-up for a 7-day free trial which will give you a good feel for the data and functionality. Or join us as a premium member and get unlimited access to AgentMatch.  US Agents For Young Adult Fiction  To get you started we’ve selected a list of 20 US agents looking YA fiction:  [am_show_agents id=29] More Resources   We’re here to help you at every step in your writing and querying process. Check out our favourite blogs that can assist you in putting together your query letter and synopsis, and if you want valuable, personal feedback on your writing you can book a fifteen-minute One-to-One with an agent of your choice. Premium members can also get a free query letter review from our lovely Writers Support team!    Happy searching, and good luck on your querying journey!   

My Pathway to Publication by Sarah Linley

This week’s entry in the My Path to Publication series belongs to guest author, Sarah Linley. Sarah’s debut novel, The Beach, will be published in 2020 by HarperCollins’ digital publishing division, One More Chapter. Me, Myself And My Book I have wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl, but I didn’t really do anything about it until I reached my early 30s and decided that if I was ever going to get published, then I needed to take it seriously. In 2014, I booked on to the Festival of Writing and entered all the competitions with my first novel. I was incredibly lucky and was shortlisted for Friday Night Live. At this point, I had no idea how big or influential the festival was. I thought I was going to be reading to 20 people in the back room of a pub. That was terrifying enough. I had never read my work out loud before. I arrived to find a huge room, a stage, a microphone and an audience of around 200 writers and literary agents. Cue major stage fright and the conviction that I was going to vomit in front of everyone. I eyed up the exit and considered making a run for it. Fortunately, the other writers were equally nervous, incredibly supportive and I got through OK. People even laughed (which was good – it was a comedy). Joanna Cannon won that year and became a major literary superstar. I had two brilliant one-to-ones. I had requests for full manuscripts. I thought ‘this is easy’. I was so wrong! That book did OK. For a first attempt, I’m surprised that I did get full manuscript requests and helpful feedback but ultimately no agent. Fair enough, I thought, I’ll try again. I switched to crime. I read a lot of crime. I know and love the genre. My favourite books are psychological thrillers and I felt that was the right fit for me. I wrote another book. This time, I knew a bit more about story structure (thanks to Julie Cohen); psychic distance (thanks to Debi Alper) and the four-act structure (thanks to Allie Spencer). Harry Bingham had taught me to challenge my prose and to really care about its quality. I realised I needed to include some setting (which was conspicuously absent in my first book). I went to the next Festival of Writing feeling confident with my first chapter and my synopsis fresh off the printer. In retrospect, I should have waited. It bombed. The feedback from my one-to-ones was completely true, but hard to swallow. There were tears. I got onto the Curtis Brown Creative novel course, which was fantastic, and I learned to accept, welcome and value criticism. I met my amazing critique partner, Phil, and I revised the novel. I went to the Festival of Writing again and the feedback was more positive but still generally ‘meh’. To be honest, I was feeling the same way about book two myself. I gave up on trying to win over the industry. It just wasn’t going to happen. I licked my wounds a little and then decided to write something just for fun. If it didn’t get published, so what? I was just going to write something that I loved and if no-one liked it, then at least I would be proud of it. I wrote my third novel free from expectation but there was something deep inside me whispering ‘this is the one’. I started looking at digital-first publishers who would read manuscripts without an agent and had a faster track to publication. When I got the email from Killer Reads, a digital imprint of HarperCollins, I automatically thought it was another ‘thanks, but no thanks’. I had to read it several times to convince myself that it was a ‘yes’. I had a book deal. I stared at it for a long time, wondering if they had made a big mistake, sent it to the wrong person, but no, it definitely had my name on it. (NB Killer Reads has now amalgamated into One More Chapter). By the time The Beach is published in February 2020, it will have taken the best part of a decade to get a publishing deal. And I still haven’t managed to secure an agent! From Manuscript To Publication I got the book deal in March, just as I was about to embark on my third and final backpacking trip with my husband. The next stage was structural edits which came at the start of June. I was really pleased with the suggestions put forward. I thought they made the book stronger and I felt that my editor really understood what I was trying to achieve with the book. I didn’t have much to do with the title and the cover, but I thought they were both great, and I absolutely loved the blurb. They did a much better job than I could have done! I am now just awaiting the copy edits. I have just the one contact at HarperCollins – my editor Kathryn Cheshire – and everything is done via email. I did get chance to meet her at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate this summer though which was lovely. Surprises It would have been so helpful to have had an agent when I received the publishing contract as I didn’t have a clue what to look out for! Harry Bingham’s Getting Published was invaluable for helping to explain the terms and conditions and I am fortunate that one of my best friends is a lawyer, so she helped me to understand what I was signing. I had read a lot about the industry beforehand, so I haven’t really been surprised by anything so far. I suppose the weird thing about getting a publishing deal is that suddenly people are interested in your writing in a way they weren’t before. You go from writing something quite secretly, perhaps sharing it with some writing friends, to everyone from your boss to your next-door neighbour promising to read it, and that feels very strange! Letting Go I think you have to accept that your novel will never be perfect, so my test for letting go is: if this version was published tomorrow, would I be happy for people to read it? Beta readers are fantastic for letting you know what’s working and what isn’t. Pick people who are going to be honest with you; there’s no point otherwise and listen to their feedback. You don’t have to agree with it, but you should always consider it. Also, deadlines help. Either your own or your publishers. As a former journalist, I am used to working to deadlines and I take pride in always meeting them, so if someone asks me for something by the end of July, it’ll be ready by the end of July! What\'s Next? I am currently working on my second novel. It’s the same genre and style as The Beach, but it’s not a sequel. I am trying to finish a complete first draft by Christmas and I’m really enjoying being back at the start of the process again, creating and developing plot and characters. Also, the research for this new novel is a lot of fun! About Sarah Linley Sarah Linley lives in Yorkshire and works as a Communications Manager for a housing charity. She spent two years backpacking around South-East Asia with her husband. Their travels inspired her debut novel, The Beach. The Beach will be published by One More Chapter in February 2020 (ebook) and May 2020 (paperback). You can follow Sarah on twitter here and keep up with her travelling adventures via her blog, here.

UK Literary Agents For Paranormal Romance

Have you just finished your novel and are ready to begin your search for an agent? Well, we’re here to help!  WANT TO JUMP STRAIGHT TO THE AGENT LIST? CLICK HERE  Paranormal Romance While certainly not the first, one of the most well-known paranormal romance stories of the 21st century has to be the Twilight series. With millions of fans and a multi-billion pound franchise, the success of this series cannot be ignored. While there were many works of paranormal romance before this, the success of Twilight marked a sudden boom and demand for this type of novel. Many of these novels are directed at YA level readers, though there are absolutely examples for adult readers.  Paranormal romance is such a successful genre because it follows the long-established love of a romance novel and combines it with the excitement of whatever fantasy world the writer chooses to explore. This paranormal aspect can focus on, well, anything. It’s important, however, to avoid cliches and plots that have already been done many times. Just because a story is successful once does not mean it will be again. Make sure you have that USP (Unique Selling Point) to really make your story stand out.  It is important, when clarifying your genre, to remember the ‘rules’ that come with genre romance. For a book to be classified as romance, or in this case paranormal romance, one of the primary focuses of the story should be this romance. There are many books out there that may suit a fantasy or urban fantasy genre better, as the romance exists as more of a sub-plot in the story. It’s important to take a close look at your novel and make sure that you have chosen a genre that best represents it.  Once you’ve done that, it’s time to begin searching!    AgentMatch And How To Use It There are plenty of paranormal romance-loving agents, but you won\'t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of UK agents for paranormal romance novels is to visit AgentMatch, our literary agent database, and use the search tools on the left to make your selection.  With AgentMatch you can select by genre (e.g. paranormal romance), country, the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and much more. You can even save your search results and come back to them, allowing you to work through them one by one, at your own pace. Each profile has been researched thoroughly including what agents like to read in their spare time, information on their most recent deals, manuscript wishlists, submission requirements, and exclusive interviews.  You can sign-up for a 7-day free trial which will give you a good feel for the data and functionality. Or join us as a premium member and get unlimited access to AgentMatch.  UK Agents For Paranormal Romance  To get you started we’ve selected a list of 20 UK agents looking for paranormal romance novels: [am_show_agents id=8] More Resources   We’re here to help you at every step in your writing and querying process. Check out our favourite blogs that can assist you in putting together your query letter and synopsis, and if you want valuable, personal feedback on your writing you can book a fifteen-minute One-to-One with an agent of your choice. Premium members can also get a free query letter review from our lovely Writers Support team!    Happy searching, and good luck on your querying journey!   

Peter Papathanasiou’s Path to Publication

Author, and Jericho Writers member, Peter Papathanasiou shares his journey to publication. From rejected manuscripts, getting and then losing an agent, to working with publishers and editors, and more re-writes, Peter leaves no stone unturned. The path to publication is filled with creativity, re-writes, disappointment, bad news and great news. The ‘My Path to Publication’ series features posts from writers, and Jericho members, who are sharing their journey to publication. Here at Jericho Writers, we are very excited to introduce our inaugural post by Peter Papathanasiou. Peter’s memoir, Son Of Mine, was published in July 2019 in the UK with Salt Publishing, and is available now from Amazon. If you’re based in Australia, then fear not, you can get hold of Peter’s memoir courtesy of Allen & Unwin, entitled Little One. You can find more information about Peter if you scroll allll the way down. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy. Me, Myself, And My Book I was born in 1974 in Florina, a small town in northern Greece, but raised in Australia. I was an only child and enjoyed reading and writing. I wrote stories at primary school, but during high school gravitated to studying subjects like biology and mathematics which were more focused at university entrance scores. I eventually went to university where I studied a law degree and PhD in genetics. In 1999, I found out I was adopted; my parents were actually my aunt and uncle, who’d been unable to have their own children and were gifted a baby by my biological parents in Greece. They already had two of their own children, so suddenly I had two brothers. We eventually reunited in 2003. I began to write about this time of my life in 2006 when I was at a writing course in New York City. In 2007, I turned it into a short story, entered it in three competitions, and won two. At this point I sensed I had something, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. From 2008 to 2010, I researched and wrote a full-length manuscript. The manuscript had two narrators, with half the book in my voice and half in my mum’s. Chapters alternated, with the story spanning a hundred years of family history. Editing took another year. I showed the manuscript to friends, my wife, and also got the help from Jericho Writers who lined up an exceptional editor. What made this editor so good? In short – he was a bastard. He saw potential in me and encouraged me accordingly, but he also didn’t let me get away with anything sloppy and told me firmly and without self-censorship. It was confronting to hear at times, but deep down I knew he had my best interests at heart. Additionally, it also avoided arguments with my wife over why this chapter wasn’t working or why that character wasn’t compelling enough. Money well spent! By 2011, and after 13 drafts, I had a polished manuscript of 100,000 words. Filled with optimism, I approached literary agents but received little interest. I must’ve submitted the opening chapters to a hundred agents in the UK and Australia, and only received requests for the full manuscript from a few. None offered contracts of representation. The vast majority didn’t reply at all. Turning My Hand To Fiction Feeling slightly disheartened, I put the manuscript, and four years of work, in a bottom drawer. I decided to consider it my literary apprenticeship – the book I had to write in order to learn how to write a book. One agent who did reply said that most people could adequately write about their own lives, but that ‘that doesn’t make you a writer. The real test of a writer is whether you can write fiction.’ I found it an altogether interesting thing to say, and accepted his challenge. Opening a fresh computer file, I began writing a novel. With a super-fit writing muscle, I wrote faster and with more relevance. After three years, there was less fat to trim in editing. Only seven more drafts followed this time, and my Jericho editor had less to do, which pleased both him and me. By now, I was living in London, and enrolled in a Master of Arts (MA) to write a third book. But first, I submitted my second to literary agents. After only 12 submissions, I had three offers of representation. I was overjoyed. But my happiness was short-lived; after three months, my agent said she’d been unable to sell my novel to publishers. The familiar black cloud of rejection returned. I was told to push it away and instead write another novel. Easier said than done; but fortunately, I had a good idea brewing. From 2015 to 2017, I wrote a third manuscript, and finished my MA. My agent was more hands-on this time around, more proactive with suggestions and guidance than she had been with my first novel. During that time, I returned to Australia, became a father – twice – and lost my own father. Those were deeply emotional years and major life events. Deaths and births always are. 2018 shaped as a defining year. My agent was going to send out my second novel and I didn’t know if I would get a third chance. And with a growing family, it was now getting harder to find the space and time to write at home. It was then that I remembered my failed first manuscript based on my adoption story. Reopening the file, I gradually began to reacquaint myself with the words. I was soon seeing holes and deficiencies, but also things I really liked. Slowly, I began editing old chapters and adding new ones. A lot of new and significant life had been lived since 2011, which now also gave my story an ending. The first time I’d written it, I’d been forced to manufacture an ending, which technically made it a work of fiction. But it was all nonfiction now. I finished my 14th draft in June 2018 and was pleased with the 90,000-word final product. I was keen to show it to my agent. But not long after, she informed me that she hadn’t been able to sell my new novel to publishers, and politely added that I might also want to find a new agent. Needless to say, I was pretty devastated. This was the harsh reality of commercial publishing. I offered my memoir for submission but it was declined. I subsequently spent the next few months in an existential hole. I’d now spent a decade writing half a million words but hadn’t manage to publish a single one – they were still just words sitting on my hard drive. Picking myself up, I started submitting to new agents. I thought having already signed with one agent would help my cause, but I was wrong. More rejections followed. Every agent has their own taste and what they think can sell. Casting my net wider, I began submitting to publishers directly. There were still a few who allowed writers to do that, who opened up submission channels. Even more rejections followed. Those were dark days indeed. Light Emerged, In The Shape Of A Publisher But then, light emerged. It’s funny how it works like that. It’s always darkest before the dawn. I had an offer from a UK publisher, Salt, for my memoir, and two separate offers from Australian publishers. I signed with Salt first and then Allen & Unwin. Allen & Unwin actually plucked my manuscript out of their ‘Friday Pitch’ pile, which apparently makes it 1 in a 1000. I also signed with a new literary agent. Over the past few months, I was sent cover art and proofs from both publishers. I worked with copyeditors and proofreaders and graphic designers, and now with publicists. I shared the proofs with fellow writers whom I admire, and who provided advance endorsements. I called bookshops to organise launches and events. Whenever I needed a break from my manuscripts, I wrote and published short articles in a freelance capacity. These helped increase my public profile and were the equivalent of little ‘sugar hits’, which are needed to feed the publishing soul because writing a book can take so long and be so arduous. I am deeply indebted to my Jericho Writers editor, who has now been with me since 2013 and seen my writing evolve across three manuscripts. He’s not just my editor now – he’s a friend, someone with whom I discuss all things literary, not just manuscripts. I am also grateful for my fellow authors for their incredible support. I’ve found it especially amazing how the writing community embraces debut authors, perhaps because most writers remember how hard it was for them to get their break. The Winding Road To Publication It’s been a long and winding road to publication, but one which has made me a better writer, and also richer for the experience. Everyone treads their own path and in their own time. I’ll always remember the stories of two writers I met in London when they told me their literary journeys. One writer wrote a short story, entered it into a competition, won second prize, and was offered a publishing contract before she’d even started a book. Another wrote four books before she secured an agent, and another four before she was offered a publishing contract. As you can see, the differences can be striking. For me, it was an 11-year gestation from 2008 to 2019. And I’m only just getting started – I still have two completed manuscripts which remain unpublished, and plans to write another one. Naturally, I would’ve liked to have taken less time to publish my first book, but the time was not wasted – in terms of words written – and I know has also made me a better writer.

Why A Best-selling Author Chose To Self-Publish

Guest author and blogger William Kowalski is a bestselling, traditionally published author. He’s shared with us here why he’s chosen to self-publish. This is a tale of two worlds, two centuries, two distinct epochs in the history of publishing, and one author – that’s me – who stands with a foot planted firmly in each age, a devil-may-care grin on his slightly-exhausted-but-still-boyishly-optimistic features, doing his best to appear as if he knows what he’s doing and hoping like hell no one figures out he hasn’t a clue. And it contains, at the end, an Amazing Discovery, certainly the most amazing discovery of my authorial career. Our brave author (that’s me again) is heading out of the familiar and comforting land of Traditional Publishing, wistful for the old days but mature enough to realize that they are gone forever. He is striking out into the frightening wilderness of Self-Publishing, which is not only scary in and of itself but also seems to involve a never-ending foray into the even more frightening world of The Internet, that vast space filled with pictures of cute kittens, videos of baby monkeys riding backwards upon pigs, and approximately 1.9 squillion other self-published books. How did all this happen? How did this come to be? Our intrepid author (hi!) remembers all too well the luminous glow that surrounded him during what he realizes now were the last days of a glorious age, in the final moments of the twentieth century. When he was just a stripling of twenty-eight, you see, he wrote a book, and some Important Publishing People said to him, “What’s that? You’re completely unknown, have no platform from which to promote yourself, might not ever produce a second book, and aren’t even thirty years old? Well, in that case, we’d like to dump this large bucket of money on your head.” Well, said our author modestly, you may certainly go right ahead and do that. He rather thought, in his youthful optimism, that things were always going to be that way. They say the worst thing that can happen to a man is to win a lot of money on a horse race at an early age. A similar statement might be made about young writers who publish the first novel they attempt to write. Our young author moved to New York and took up the business of living just like a Real Writer. It was great fun: cigarettes and smoky bars (you could smoke places then), cool artists, trendy openings, literary cocktail parties. Then came big box bookstores and the home entertainment revolution; then 9/11, George W. and his wars; and then the crash of 2008. All of it was reminiscent of a long, long water slide with no end in sight, and quite possibly no pool of water at the bottom, either. The publishing world, like so many other worlds, was essentially turned upside down and shaken like a snow globe. Fast forward to the present day. Our author is no longer quite so young, but is still incredibly good-looking, and his talent has only matured in the manner of a very expensive French cheese. (Or at least that’s what he tells himself.) “What’s that?” say the Important Publishing People to him now. “You’ve published nine books, including one international best-seller, you have a global readership, and you’ve just finished a new book that critics and readers alike are hailing as not just Really Sorta Good, but also relevant to the pickle our modern society finds itself in? Welp, sorry, chum. We might be able to cough up a few bucks to print twelve copies of it, if you give us a year or two to think about it first. Then again, we might not. You’ll just have to wait and see.” That’s the situation in a nutshell. My latest book, The Hundred Hearts, which is my ninth published title and my fifth work of what I refer to with eternal optimism as literary fiction, was published in Canada in 2013 by Thomas Allen Publishers. Just after it came out, Thomas Allen was promptly gobbled up by another house, whose job it then became to do all the things Thomas Allen was supposed to do–all the things publishers have historically done, such as, oh, I don’t know, sell books. Yet that didn’t seem to be happening. Why not? I don’t know. Neither does anyone else. One might be forgiven for getting the impression that publishers buy books these days not to put them out, but to suppress them. “We hate this book!” I imagine them saying. “We hate its guts. We detest it. So we’re going to buy it, and we’ll pretend to publish it but really we’re going to stick it under this rock here, and because we own the rights, the author won’t be able to touch it!” Well, no, they don’t do that at all, but really, when I got my last royalty statement and realized that the number of copies sold in the last sales period was lower than my shoe size, and when I got on the phone with my agent last week and further realized that the chances of an American publisher putting this book out any time before my children become parents themselves were about equal to Sarah Palin’s chances of being made an honorary member of Monty Python, I knew with a great and mighty knowingness that the time had come. If anyone outside Canada was ever going to read this book, it would have to be self-published. Once I said the phrase “self-published” nine or ten times out loud in the mirror, it didn’t sound so bad. Not nearly as bad as the word “unpublished,” anyway. Why not, after all? I know how to make websites. I know, vaguely, how self-publishing works. It’s no longer considered the domain of the hopeless crank, the type of person who still often buttonholes me at social events to explain the sheer genius behind their scheme of writing a ten-volume series of novels in which they never use the letter E. There are plenty of perfectly respectable writers who self-publish, and in fact there always have been. Perhaps it was my own snobbery that needed to be laid to rest. After all, I had nothing left to prove. I could boast publication by the largest houses in North America and the UK. Even books I’d ghost-written under false names had been published by major literary houses. It was proof, to me if to no one else, that I could really write. That was something I could whisper aloud to myself as I lay in bed at night, staring up into the darkness, remembering the warm caress of the last rays of golden light as the sun went down on twentieth-century Manhattan. I would have to hold that memory close to my heart. Lord knows I couldn’t buy groceries with it. The most painful thing was to admit that I really had nothing to lose, either. Despite stellar reviews, generous blurbs, and even some most welcome press coverage from the likes of Lainey Lui at, my book had only sold a double handful of copies in the land of snowy beaver pelts. If I sold even one copy anywhere else, it would be an infinite increase, percentage-wise, over previous non-Canadian sales, which were zero. So, here I am. It still feels strange, but is decidedly pleasant. I don’t know what the Other Writers are going to think of me now. Will they giggle into their hands as I walk by? Actually, I don’t care. Other writers don’t buy my books, after all. I strongly suspect they don’t even read them. Well, how could they? They’re too busy writing books of their own. Most surprising has been the reaction of the people who do read my books. They seem even more excited by this venture than I. I flatter myself into thinking it’s because they are happy to have another book by me to read. Certain friends of mine have been urging me to self-publish for years. The fact is this: readers don’t care who publishes a book. They only care that they get to read it. That’s the Amazing Discovery I want to share. The imprimatur of the publishing elite is growing increasingly irrelevant. Publishers and authors once needed each other to exist. That is no longer the case. People will always want to be told stories. They will never care whose colophon graces the front page of a book. So guess who will still be standing when the dust clears? I have plenty more to say about self-publishing, but that will have to wait for another post, perhaps. In the meantime, I need to send some emails out to reviewers, I have to finish converting the manuscript to yet another format, and I need to interact with fans on Facebook. Am I busy? Yes. Am I happy? Deliriously so. Onward.

US Literary Agents For Science Fiction

Have you just finished your sci-fi novel and are ready to begin your search for an agent? Well, we’re here to help!  WANT TO JUMP STRAIGHT TO THE AGENT LIST? CLICK HERE  Science Fiction Science fiction is a rich and varied market. With an eager adult and young adult market, and plenty of opportunities for crossover and idea-driven explorations of fiction, it’s an ever popular genre. One of the most popular crossovers is science fiction and fantasy (also written as sci-fi fantasy, or SFF).  As a genre, science fiction remains rich. You can even argue that literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell have published science-fiction novels. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley are certainly renowned for their sci-fi masterpieces. While authors like Iain Banks and China Mieville, who aren’t traditionally considered as literary novelists, have produced some excellent examples of challenging, bold, and thoughtful fiction.    One of the most important things to do when establishing your genre for querying, is look really closely at your novel and make sure you are choosing the genre that best represents it. A novel can use sci-fi ideas and techniques and still be better sold as another genre. For example, maybe your novel is intelligent and better sold as a literary novel, or perhaps it has more of a crime and thriller focus and can be marketed as that, with sci-fi elements.   AgentMatch And How To Use It There are plenty of science fiction-loving agents, but you won\'t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of US agents for sci-fi novels is to visit AgentMatch, our literary agent database, and use the search tools on the left to make your selection.  With AgentMatch you can select by genre (e.g. science fiction), country, the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and much more. You can even save your search results and come back to them, allowing you to work through them one by one, at your own pace. Each profile has been researched thoroughly including what agents like to read in their spare time, information on their most recent deals, manuscript wishlists, submission requirements, and exclusive interviews.  You can sign-up for a 7-day free trial which will give you a good feel for the data and functionality. Or join us as a premium member and get unlimited access to AgentMatch.  US Agents For Science Fiction  To get you started we’ve selected a list of 20 US agents looking for science fiction novels:  [am_show_agents id=13] More Resources   We’re here to help you at every step in your writing and querying process. Check out our favourite blogs that can assist you in putting together your query letter and synopsis, and if you want valuable, personal feedback on your writing you can book a fifteen-minute One-to-One with an agent of your choice. Premium members can also get a free query letter review from our lovely Writer Support team!    Happy searching, and good luck on your querying journey!   

Serendipity (Or How I Met My Agent)

Guest author and blogger Lexie Elliott is author of The French Girl and shared with us how she met her literary agent en route to our Festival of Writing. Find her on Goodreads, on Facebook, or on Instagram. I like contradictions. I like it when there’s a round hole and a square peg that somehow fits it, I like it when things that should be black and white have shades of grey (erm, not those shades. Unless that’s your thing, in which case go right ahead). The exception to the rule always pulls my attention. There’s a story in there, I find myself thinking. How might it unfold? And because I like contradictions, I also like serendipity. The word itself has become a contradiction: in the original tales of the three princes of Serendip, the princes achieve success not merely through chance, as the modern day understanding of the word suggests, but more importantly using logical deduction. And that’s how I met my wonderful, inspiring, supportive agent Marcy: it was serendipitous, but I’d deliberately stacked the odds. I met Marcy just as the train we were both on pulled into York. I noticed a lady waiting to exit the carriage holding some papers emblazoned with Festival of Writing, realised we were going to the same place and somehow eschewed my usual British reticence in order to make small talk. She was having difficulty with her luggage, so I helped her with that and then we shared a taxi to the venue. It was only during that taxi ride that I discovered she’s that most important of creatures – an agent, no less – and, moreover, an agent representing writers in my genre (psychological suspense, since you ask). I plucked up the courage to ask if I could send her some material. Thankfully, she liked what she read, and we started down a path that has thus far led to an enormously exciting two-book deal with Berkley and the sale of the TV and movie rights for my first novel, The French Girl. Like I said, serendipitous, certainly – but it you want to meet an agent by chance, you must surely have a far greater probability of success if you go somewhere where there will actually be agents. I count that particular Festival of Writing as a pivotal point in my writing career, and not only because I met Marcy. I also met lots of other authors, agents (I got far down the line with a couple before settling with Marcy), book doctors, presenters, panellists. I learnt a huge amount about the craft of writing (or in some areas, relearning what I had forgotten). It was a deliberate investment, both in terms of time and money, in my fledgling writing career and an important psychological step to take: just registering for the Festival of Writing felt like a public acknowledgement that I was serious about my writing. I went to York entirely on my own, which forced me to get out of my hermit-like comfort zone and actually start up conversations with people, and I was warmed to find that those people were unfailingly friendly, polite and interesting. As a writer with a young family and a part-time job, I don’t have, well, any free time at all, actually, and certainly none to spend tapping into a nearby community of writers; it was heavenly to spend time talking about writing with people who weren’t either gently bemused by the compulsion to do it (my husband) or rather miffed that my stories don’t contain sword-fighting and/or spies (my sons). I returned from the Festival with a good idea of what was wrong with my current writing project, and a decent plan of how to go about putting it right. More importantly, I returned with a better understanding of my own creative process and a renewed enthusiasm for... wait for it... actually writing. Because, a lot of times, sitting down at the laptop can feel like hard work. It’s much easier to spend that time watching Netflix, or reading the result of someone else’s hard work. Sometimes it can even be easier to tidy the house and do the laundry than to write (admittedly, those are dark days). But those bolts of inspiration, that supposedly come from the blue to strike like creative lightning in the minds of aspiring writers, don’t really strike unless your mind is open to them. You must put in the thinking time and the writing time. You must make yourself into a lightning rod. It turns out that inspiration takes work (just another of those contradictions that I like). The Festival of Writing won’t do the work for you, but it will help you figure out how to get it done. And if you already have something that’s ready for the world to see, you have a pretty good chance of finding just the person to help you get it out there. Good luck! May the force of serendipity be with you. Serendipity (noun); the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Success Story: Dominic Brownlow

I read recently on Chris Bonnello’s blog those distant and, until now, impossibly unreachable words ‘Then it happened to me’, and had to sort of shake myself, not because it has also happened to me but because I realised it is not as simple as that. It is not something that happened to me, or to Chris for that matter, I imagine, but because we’d made it happen. We’d shortened the string on that wild, flailing kite and pulled it out of the sky. This is not gloating, by the way. My journey to this point has been as long and as painful as everyone else’s, I can assure you. The writing part, or so I thought, finished a year ago. Those endless, fey evenings at my desk pretending to be an actual writer were, and are, some of the happiest, if not most distraught moments of my life. I loved it. I still do, but whether we care to admit to it or not we all crave for our stories to be in print, for the ‘It happened to me’ moment and so at some stage we must prise them from the confines of our computers and send them out into the dark, unknown world of agents and publishers. If you’re like me you’ll do this far too soon and potentially blow all your chances of publishing something that is fundamentally, so you believe, as worth publishing as anything else. As with many people here my writing was a secret affair. After a while, many years in fact, you tire of people asking you how the book’s going and people tire of asking. Eventually, my first draft completed, some five or six years ago now, I sought the advice of an editor. He was fantastically honest and I owe a great deal to him. He stuck with me as very slowly, scraping hours between work, I would once a year send him a new draft and he would, at the same time as encouraging me and persuading me I had the potential to write something publishable, quite brutally put me in my place. ‘I’ve been on many aeroplanes in my life,’ he once told me over coffee, sitting outside the British Library,’ but I wouldn’t think to fly one.’ This resonates with me still and I think is the best advice, as a wannabe writer, I have ever been given. Yes, I could write pretty sentences, often staring at them for hours, freely swapping the words around as though they were jigsaw puzzle pieces, and I had a decent story up my sleeve, but in order to write it I had, at first, to learn how to write. And so I did. With these words reverberating in my ears and what I believe to be the best writers’ guide available, Release The Bats, by DBC Pierre, positioned like a Bible at my side, I started again. I deleted the entire folder, 149,000 words, and started again with the same idea but a different outlook completely. It was slow, fastidious work, as we can all appreciate, finding hours here and there and forever being tired, but over time something clicked and I knew, in practice at least, I was doing it right. And I was loving it. If anyone had asked me how the book was going I would have told them with the fervency of a new father that it was going well, that I was getting ready to send out to people, but they weren’t asking anymore. Best to keep quiet about ‘the book,’ they most likely thought, but it didn’t matter, not now. A publishing deal was a dead cert. I even, lofty in my own self-belief, entered and was long-listed for the Bath Novel Children’s Award. It was surely only a matter of time. A quick trip to the York Festival, to get out of my house and into the publishing world at last, and I was in. But I wasn’t, was I? I wasn’t even on the starting blocks and I’d been going at it, one way or another, for nearly seven years. What I got, though, from the York Festival was encouragement from a couple of agents. They very kindly told me I could write well but, and here’s the cruncher, they didn’t think they were would be able to place the book. Was it a children’s novel or a literary novel? I had purposefully, and somewhat foolishly as it happened, set out to write a literary novel for young adults. Confused once again, disheartened and at a bit of a loss, I took the plunge of seeking professional help, to learn how to fly. I found the very fantastic Susan Davis at Jericho Writers and everything from that moment changed. Susan instantly took to the manuscript, concurrently instilling confidence but highlighting some quite major issues. More importantly she encouraged me to stick to my guns, that this was a novel that didn’t need categorising, even when others were telling me it did, that in order for it to progress it had to have a clear and definable place on a shelf. I never doubted her, even after making the changes and sending out to near enough two dozen agents and receiving some of the most glowing yet fundamentally worthless rejection letters imaginable. They all claimed they liked the book but couldn’t place it. Frustrated as I was with the responses, I turned again to Susan who contacted a friend of hers, Louise Walters, who had recently set up a small imprint, Louise Walters Books. In August this year I sent her the manuscript. She came back to me, saying that on first reading she loved it but, here we go again, she couldn’t categorise it. However on a second reading, back to back, she knew just how to resolve this situation and was in complete agreement with Susan about its potential. By this stage a couple of other small publishers were showing interest, but nothing now would stop me signing with someone who was not only willing to read the novel twice over in one sitting but to look at it with such vision and optimism and, dare I say, bravery, and we signed a few months later. Relief and, yes, a general air of purpose gild now the hours I spend at my desk but I am acutely aware, also, of the temporal nature of this solace. In order to retain ‘this thing that has happened to me’ not only do I have to keep learning but I have to pack my bags and leave for University. For, as I am fast learning, the lessons are getting harder, my lecturer is not simply a voice in my head and whilst I am unreservedly enjoying Freshers’ Week I understand that, really, all I have learnt so far is how to take off. The Naseby Horses is set for release in paperback and ebook in December 2019 with Louise Walters Books.

The Rewriter’s Journey

When I handed my wife my five-hundred-page, hundred-fifty-thousand-word completed draft of my first novel, she did three things. She read it. She told me she loved it. And then she gave me the best advice I’ve had in a decade: “Send it to Jericho.” Context This wasn’t my maiden voyage. I first learned about the value of rewriting your story—the agony and ecstasy of rewriting, its trials and rewards—more than a decade earlier. Back in 2005 I coauthored a little “business parable” with a friend and managed to secure us a terrific literary agent, who in 2006 sent it round to a handful of publishers in New York and got the following responses: Editor 1 at Publisher A said no. Editor 2 at Publisher B said no. Editor 3 at Publisher C said no. Editor 4 at Publisher D said no. Editor 5 at Publisher E said no. Editor 6 at Publisher F said no. Editor 7 at Publisher G said no. Editor 8 at Publisher H said, “This one was pretty interesting. The writing is good, but the payoff was a bit lacking.” In other words…no. So we took the manuscript back, spent months reworking it, and then in 2007 sent it round to publishers yet again. This time, some of those same editors from 2006 responded, as did a few different editors at some of those publishers, as well as some altogether new editors from entirely different publishers. Here’s what they all said: Editor 9 at Publisher A (Editor 1’s publisher) said no. Editor 10 at Publisher B (Editor 2’s publisher) said no. Editor 11 at Publisher I said no. Editor 12 at Publisher J said no. Editor 13 at Publisher K said no. Editor 14 at Publisher L said no. Editor 15 at Publisher M said, “Starts out with a bang but loses steam in the middle.” That’s a no. Editor 16 at Publisher N said, “Liked it, but not quite right for our imprint and the direction we are going in this year.” Nyet. Editor 17 at Publisher O passed to Editor 18. Who said, “Like it, but couldn’t get other team members enthusiastic about it.” Nein danke. Editor 4 (back at Publisher D) who’d said no on the first try, said, “It’s very well done, but I don’t think it’s the kind of book that will work well on our business list.” En-Oh. Editor 5 (back at Publisher E) read the new version and said, “Needs a unique hook or punchline to get people to respond. Writing is great but payoff not strong enough.” Fuggedaboudit. Editor 6 (still at Publisher F) said, “Saw this twice now. Liked it, but didn’t love it. While I like the message a lot, the story itself seemed a little more didactic and forced than we would like.” Amscray. Editor 7 (back at Publisher G) said, “Liked it. Wanted to love it, but I’m afraid I just didn’t connect with it. I’ve been incredibly wrong before and probably am on this one, but I’m going to have to pass, with regret.” Don’t let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha. Editor 19 at Publisher H, the same house where Editor 8 had said “This one was pretty interesting but the payoff was lacking” the previous year, said— Wait, what? He said “yes.” The Moral Of The Story We published THE GO-GIVER in early 2008. It hit some lists, won some awards, and to date has sold nearly a million copies in more than two dozen languages. But the moral of the story isn’t what you might think. You’ve heard the stories about persistence— J K Rowling turned down by a dozen publishers. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen and their goofy idea for a book called Chicken Soup for the Soul turned down by 144 publishers. Harlan Sanders and his recipe for fried chicken rejected more than a thousand times. And so on. The moral is, persist! Believe in yourself! Don’t listen to the naysayers—keep knocking on those doors! Right? Yeah…but. Those first eight editors were right to reject our book. To this day I thank my lucky stars they all said “no.” Because if even one of them had said “yes” and we’d published the book back in 2006, it would not have sold a million copies. Maybe a thousand. Or not. Because it wasn’t ready. Those eight editors knew something we didn’t know. And that, that, is to me the moral of the story. Yes, believe in yourself, believe in your idea, trust that your story is the most fantastic and amazing and compelling story that has come around in years, that the world needs and wants your story. Have unshakable faith in yourself. But keep one ear open. Maybe both ears. Because there are people who know things you don’t know. And if you want your idea to become all it can be, all it should be, all it was born to be, then you need to hear those things you don’t yet know. Hear them, and act on them. During those months of reworking that original manuscript, our agent first covered every page with red ink, and I then spent dozens of hours rephrasing, simplifying, compressing, and deleting. Changed one character’s gender. Cut a few other characters altogether. Remember that comment about how “the payoff was a bit lacking”? Right: we tossed out the entire last chapter and wrote a brand new one. And it became the book it was meant to be. Which was why Number Nineteen (aka Adrian Zackheim at Portfolio, an imprint at Penguin, now Penguin Random House) said “yes” and launched my career. Fast forward a decade. By 2018 I’d written a bunch more books, some fairly successful, some not so much, but all of them sharing this in common: they were all shelved on the nonfiction side of the bookstore. In June of ’18 I set out to do something that terrified me: write a novel. Harry Bingham is one of my crime-fiction heroes. I’ve loved every word of the Fiona books. I wanted to do something like that. I’ve also come to love Harry’s teaching and coaching. Before starting work on my novel I read his How to Write cover to cover, joined Jericho Writers and watched his video course. Then I started. Steel Fear The story is a thriller called STEEL FEAR, and I cocreated it with a friend, a former Navy SEAL sniper with whom I’ve written before (all nonfiction, till now). He had the basic story idea, supplied technical and background detail, and was a rich source of color and flavor for the world I was building. The actual writing—creating characters, designing the plot, working out the twists and turns, putting flesh and blood and bones on the whole thing, and tapping out one damn word after another—was my job. Here’s the elevator pitch: A disgraced Navy SEAL stalks a serial killer aboard an aircraft carrier in the midst of the Pacific Ocean. It took me about fifteen months, from first research notes and scribbles to first draft. At which point my wife said: “Send it to Jericho.” Understand, this is something I’ve never ever done before: hired a third-party consultant to critique my first draft. I’ve gotten critique-and-review assistance from my agent, from my publishers’ editors, and from the handful of friends who form my early readers’ circle. This was different: a novel. My first. And a thriller, yet. I knew my wife was right. I needed professional help. So in mid-September 2019, I submitted the manuscript to Jericho for a full manuscript assessment. I don’t think it’s too early to say, that one action has changed the trajectory of my career. Jericho paired me up with veteran thriller author Eve Seymour, who turned around a lengthy, comprehensive critique within a shockingly short time. (Weeks, not months.) Eve was most generous in her initial comments, the “What I think is great” part. And then got down to business. Chapter by chapter, page by page, structure, plot, characterization, pacing and tension…she mapped out the entire thing, end to end, from broad-strokes observations to detailed notes. Her critique was fantastic, phenomenal, incisive, spot on. Kind but ruthless. Terrifying. Galvanizing. Motivating. I saw what was lacking, and what was possible. Eve helped me see that the story had major flaws. I’d conceived of it as having more or less three protagonists—and you can see the problem right there in the phrase “more or less.” It was vague. Not a clear three-strand braid, but not a clear one-hero thread either. She prodded me to make a clear choice as to who was the protagonist, and then rework everything to serve that choice. I had way too much backstory. Heaping helpings of unnecessary exposition. The pacing was fantastic toward the end but laborious in the first half. And inconsistent: some scenes zipped along, some dragged or halted the momentum altogether. Plot took way too long to get going. Some subplot threads didn’t really work. And so on. I had a lot of work ahead of me. I spent October through the end of the year completely reworking it, in the process shrinking from 152k words to 129k. On New Year’s Day I sent Draft 2 to my agent. Who read it. Told us she loved it. And asked for further cuts and revisions. Her observations ran along exactly the same lines as Eve’s. All I had to do was keep going. Between January and April I went through two more drafts, in the process taking that new 129k word count to 120k, and finally to 103k. (From the original, that’s about one in every three words chopped. Warning: Many, many darlings were murdered in the course of this production.) Deleted a handful of characters, some of whom I’d thought were “indispensable.” Tightened timelines. Shifted critical revelations to earlier. Rewrote all the murder scenes that were originally told from the killer’s POV to now be from the victims’ POV. Eliminated a prologue I’d thought of as brilliant and riveting but which turned out to be neither. And so on. Until, finally, it had become the book it was meant to be. In June we got a handful of offers, took the one from Ballantine Books for a two-book deal. Signed a contract in early August. The first book of the series, STEEL FEAR, will hit the shelves on August 24, 2021. The sequel comes a year later. With, perhaps, more to follow. And here’s the cherry on the sundae: we are presently in discussion with three A-list Hollywood producers, all of whom want to bring our story to the screen. The book has, as they say in Tinsel Town, “buzz.” Once a deal solidifies and we know for sure which horse we’re riding I’ll see if we can append that information to this post. Will the book be a hit? No one knows. Will the screen adaptation really happen? No one knows. But this I know, and know for sure: If we hadn’t gone through all that rewriting, none of those editors in New York would have jumped on it. Not one. And the novel would have ended its days sitting on my shelf. Writing made the story. Rewriting turned it into the story it was meant to be. Essentially, writing is rewriting. No story is perfect the first time it hits the page. So if you want to know how to rewrite your book it\'s just this: listen to feedback, keep your end goal in sight, and get rewriting. If you think you need copyediting for your manuscript, take a look at our copyediting services. Jericho Writers’ experienced editors specialise in editing both novels and non-fiction and would love to help you with your work. Click here for more.

US Literary Agents For Fantasy Fiction

Have you just finished your novel and are ready to begin your search for an agent? Well, we’re here to help!  WANT TO JUMP STRAIGHT TO THE AGENT LIST? CLICK HERE  Fantasy Fiction The fantasy fiction market has been incredibly successful over the years, and publishers have made a lot of money from it. As have the film and television industries.  The flexibility of this genre means that authors are able to explore the many facets of not only their characters but also the world they’ve built for their readers.  There have been some excellent authors who have written in the genre, China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, and Iain Banks to name a few.  This means that there are plenty of agents looking for the next big thing in fantasy to come their way.   To make sure your fantasy novel stands out from the slushpile try reading this article on world-building. You’ll also find this piece by published author Geraldine Pinch on how to write a fantasy novel useful, too.   AgentMatch And How To Use It There are plenty of fantasy-loving agents, but you won\'t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of US agents for fantasy novels is to visit AgentMatch, our literary agent database, and use the search tools on the left to make your selection.  With AgentMatch you can select by genre (e.g. fantasy), country, the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and much more. You can even save your search results and come back to them, allowing you to work through them one by one, at your own pace. Each profile has been researched thoroughly including what agents like to read in their spare time, information on their most recent deals, manuscript wishlists, submission requirements, and exclusive interviews.  You can sign-up for a 7-day free trial which will give you a good feel for the data and functionality. Or join us as a premium member and get unlimited access to AgentMatch.  US Agents For Fantasy  To get you started we’ve selected a list of 20 US agents looking for fantasy:  [am_show_agents id=27] More Resources   We’re here to help you at every step in your writing and querying process. Check out our favourite blogs that can assist you in putting together your query letter and synopsis, and if you want valuable, personal feedback on your writing you can book a fifteen-minute One-to-One with an agent of your choice. Premium members can also get a free query letter review from our lovely Writers Support team!    Happy searching, and good luck on your querying journey!   

US Literary Agents For Horror

Have you just finished your novel and are ready to begin your search for an agent? Well, we’re here to help!  WANT TO JUMP STRAIGHT TO THE AGENT LIST? CLICK HERE  Horror Horror has been an enduringly successful and popular genre for many many years, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to Stephen King’s entire writings. With the ever-increasing fascination with being scared, and the adaptation of books to films, television, and even stage, the horror genre continues to be popular.   There is such a variety in the way that horror novels are presented that not only is there something out there for every reader, but it broadens the possibility for authors. Crossovers with history and crime and thrillers mean that every novel looks entirely different from the next. With writers like Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House) and Susan Hill (The Woman in Black) demonstrating a more classic representation of horror, and authors like Gracey Hendrix (Horrorstor: A Novel) showing that you can have fun with the genre. You really can do anything.   The most important thing to remember when writing horror is that it is intended to scare, whether that’s through disgusting imagery, psychological elements, eerie atmospheres, or exploration of the supernatural.   Whatever your story, there’s sure to be an agent out there who can’t wait to read it. So, where to begin?    AgentMatch And How To Use It There are plenty of horror-loving agents, but you won\'t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of US agents for horror is to visit AgentMatch, our literary agent database, and use the search tools on the left to make your selection.  With AgentMatch you can select by genre (e.g. horror), country, the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and much more. You can even save your search results and come back to them, allowing you to work through them one by one, at your own pace. Each profile has been researched thoroughly including what agents like to read in their spare time, information on their most recent deals, manuscript wishlists, submission requirements, and exclusive interviews.  You can sign-up for a 7-day free trial which will give you a good feel for the data and functionality. Or join us as a premium member and get unlimited access to AgentMatch.  US Agents For Horror  To get you started we’ve selected a list of 20 US agents looking for horror:  [am_show_agents id=23] More Resources   We’re here to help you at every step in your writing and querying process. Check out our favourite blogs that can assist you in putting together your query letter and synopsis, and if you want valuable, personal feedback on your writing you can book a fifteen-minute One-to-One with an agent of your choice. Premium members can also get a free query letter review from our lovely Writers Support team!    Happy searching, and good luck on your querying journey!   

What Authors Really Think Of Publishers

Jane Friedman and I launched the English-speaking world’s most comprehensive survey of what authors think about publishers, and the book publishing process. We invited the views of traditionally published authors only, whether or not they had also self-published. We sought to create a survey that was both balanced and incisive: one that wouldn’t shirk the questions that matter most to authors. Our results are in. We’ve had 812 responses all told and the data makes for very interesting reading indeed. My personal take on the principal conclusions to be drawn from the survey follows, I do recommend taking a look at Jane Friedman’s note on the topic as well. Who Responded To Our Survey? Our authors were typically highly experienced. Almost 50% had published 6 or more books. Almost 80% had had something published within the last 12 months. More than 60% had the services of a literary agent. Our authors were also typically allied to Big Publishing. 56% of our respondents were published by a ‘Big 5’ firm or by one of the industry’s larger independents. (Such as Bloomsbury in the UK, or Perseus in the US.) About three fifths of our respondents were based in North America. Almost all the rest were based in Britain or Ireland. The Bookseller was a strong supporter of the survey, but we also had supportive tweets, blogs, appeals from (among others), the Society of Authors, the ALCS, Novelists Inc, and numerous other author associations and leading industry figures. In short, the authors who responded to our survey were a well-rounded, experienced and authoritative group. I’m not aware of any reason why our sample should be skewed either to favour or penalise the industry overall. On the contrary, we did all we could to invite views from the entire breadth of the spectrum. The rest of this post summarises the full data and draws some of the main conclusions. Conclusion #1: Authors respect their publishers’ editorial and design skills There’s no doubt about it: authors rate their publishers’ editorial, copyediting, cover design and copywriting skills very highly. Some 71% of authors thought their publishers’ editorial skills were good or excellent. On copyediting, the proportion was 73%. On cover design and cover copy, the proportions were 81% and 80% respectively. These results are equally strong when we consider only the smaller, indie publishers, implying that standards remain high right across the industry. These are outstanding results, proof that traditional publishing is indeed expert at taking a manuscript and making a book. It’s an excellent endorsement of some of the industry’s core competencies, and one that comes from those people in the best position to make the assessment. (Congratulations!) Conclusion #2: Authors have serious reservations when it comes to their publishers’ marketing skills and philosophy There’s no kind way to say this. Authors are unimpressed by their publishers’ marketing campaigns and the methods by which those campaigns are developed. If the top two responses can be taken as broadly equivalent to the “Excellent or good” categories we were looking at before, the 70-80% satisfaction rate has now dropped to less than 40%. Adding the “significant gaps” and “not marketed at all” answers together, we have a Poor/Non-existent rating that’s nudging 50%. Needless to say, any author would like a splashy launch with lots of consumer advertising and all those other lovely, expensive things. But note that our question explicitly calls attention to budgetary limitations and simply asks about whether the author’s own skills and connections have been properly used – an area where any cost implications are small to minimal. I would also note that if we look at the responses only of those (400+) authors who have published 5 or more books, the distribution of answers is essentially identical – and it would seem highly implausible that these experienced authors continue to have misguided expectations as to the scale of publisher marketing spend. In short, our survey offers no support for the hypothesis that authors only grumble about marketing because they are unrealistic about budgets. Indeed, our survey doesn’t simply offer a conclusion as to what authors think – it offers a massive clue as to why they think it. Here’s our data on the extent to which authors felt involved in their publishers’ marketing strategy. Over 60% of authors felt marginalised or worse by their publisher when it came to marketing strategy. A scant 20% felt closely involved and informed. These results look broadly similar whether the authors were being published by very large trade publishing firms (the Big 5 and their closest competitors) or by smaller indie or academic presses. They look broadly the same whether we look at North American publishers or British & Irish ones. In short, it seems that our authors – numerous and experienced as they are – feel neglected by their publishers’ marketing departments and feel underwhelmed by the campaigns that result. Conclusion #3: Publishers are poor at communicating with their authors In my view, the single most astonishing finding of this survey is this: a full three-quarters of authors are not asked for feedback by their publishers. That proportion is essentially the same if we look at authors publishing with a major publisher, or authors on large advances (defined for the purposes of this post as any advance of $30,000 or more.) British publishers were a little less likely to invite feedback than American ones, but only somewhat and within a plausible margin of error. This failure to ask authors about their overall experience of the publishing process doesn’t appear to be a one-off glitch in a generally strong and communicative relationship. We also asked authors to rate their publishers’ communications more generally. Answers divide pretty much 50/50 between Good and Excellent on the one hand, and Average or worse on the other. Given the generally strong experiences authors reported in relation to editorial and other book production functions, it seems clear that the industry as a whole could do better. That conclusion is underlined by a further question, which asked our respondents whether they received “systematic guidance from your publisher about how you could add most value to the overall publishing process”. Half of respondents either received that help or felt they didn’t need it. But a full half reported either that they received some guidance but wanted more, or that they received no guidance and felt marginalised as a result. The traditional publishing industry often claims to have authors at its heart, but our results suggest, on the contrary, many authors feel somewhat excluded from it. Since communicating better with authors would not entail significant costs (and might, you’d think, bring some significant benefits), it would seem that our data provides a large clue as to how regular publishers could improve their operations. Finally on this point, I think it’s worth relating a more anecdotal observation. In the course of collecting data on this survey, I was told by three authors – all formerly Big 5, now with Amazon Publishing – that Amazon constantly solicits and responds to feedback. One told me, “It’s night and day. There’s much more of a teamwork attitude there. Completely different from any of my traditional publishers.” That is: the faceless machine of Seattle may actually be better at author relationships than the traditional industry. If that isn’t a call to action for more mainstream publishers, I don’t know what is. Conclusion #4: A clear majority of authors are unimpressed by their publishers The single most important question in our survey was also the simplest. We asked, “For your next book, if a different, reputable publisher were to offer you the same advance as your current one, would you move to the new house or stay where you are?” What authors told us is that more people would quit, or would consider quitting, their current firm than would choose to stay. The move/don’t knows together emphatically outnumber the stays, by almost exactly 2:1. If we look only at authors working with major trade publishers, the results look distinctly better – the “Stay” group now nudges up to 42% – but that still leaves almost 60% of authors who would, or might, choose to switch. The same effect is apparent if we look only at authors with large advances: the “Stay” category is now 44%, but a clear 31% of such authors would choose to move. I don’t think anyone involved in the industry would or should think that those numbers are acceptable. Given that authors are highly impressed by many aspects of their publishers, the two clear areas of weakness, as identified by our survey, are (a) authors’ involvement in marketing, and (b) the whole area of communications and feedback. Those two things shouldn’t simply be cheap to fix; better performance on those two fronts might well prove profit-enhancing. Conclusion #5: Authors generally love their literary agents Reviewing what we’ve learned so far, one might be tempted to conclude that authors are just a grumbly bunch. Maybe nothing would make them happy. Well, that’s a theory of course, but it’s not one with any visible empirical foundation. Our survey also asked the question, “If another reputable literary agent at another reputable agency offered you representation, would you accept it?” Looking only at the data from authors with literary agents, the reponse we got back was as follows. Fully two-thirds of authors are happy with their current representation, and the positively dissatisfied proportion is little more than 10%. The ratio of stay vs move is better than 6:1, as opposed to the worse than 1:1 ratio we discovered in relation to publishers. What’s more, authors’ frustrations with their agents seemed relatively limited. Although this survey did not investigate the author-agent relationship in depth, we did ask respondents for a Twitter-style summary of the message they’d want to send their agents if they could. Many authors just wrote some variant on the message, “I love you!”. The one negative issue which recurred again and again was a variant on “Answer my emails!” I’d suggest that if the poor communicators among agents sharpened up their act, there would be extremely few authors who would remain dissatisfied. Respecting career guidance. Just 3% of authors view their editor as being their main source of career wisdom. A further 17% answered “agent and editor”, as compared with the 57% who replied “agent only”. Some observers might argue that publishers are there to publish books, agents are there to guide careers, and there’s simply no purpose in the former group attempting to do the latter’s job. That isn’t, however, what the industry itself claims. For example, in its submission to the House of Commons Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, the Publishers Association states that the “the publishing company[‘s] core roles are … to identify, nurture and develop authorial talent.” You can’t nurture and develop talent if you take no interest in its longer-term evolution. At present, literary agents seem to be performing that role very successfully. On our data at least, few publishers can say the same. Since our site is proud to serve writers seeking agents, we’re delighted that published authors share our favourable view of literary agents. Conclusion #6: Authors feel poorly paid and poorly treated It’s common for surveys like this one to report, by way of headline, that authors are badly paid. And, indeed, our median author received an advance that was somewhat less than $10,000 – or, let’s say, about £5,000. That figure, however, includes many academic authors, or poets, or people bringing out smaller books with smaller presses. It would be fair to assume that those people aren’t really turning to publication primarily as a source of income. On the other hand, if we focus only on authors who (a) have agents and (b) sell their work to Big 5 or other large trade publishers, it would be fair to assume both that those writers are writing primarily as a way to make a living and (certainly) that they represent the most commercially successful cross-section of our sample. Even here, however, our median author received an advance of just $20,000 or so (£13,000), which will not strike most people as a handsome income, (though royalties and overseas rights sales will tend to increase that amount.) Whether these sums feel like fair rewards, given the broader industry context, is perhaps more telling. And, when asked for their broad agreement/disagreement with a number of possible statements about publishers, only 7.5% of authors feel well-paid by their publishers. If we select only those authors who have literary agents and are with major publishers, that scant 7.5% stat rises … to 9.5%. When you consider that the average Big 5 graduate trainee is paid around 50% more than that median Big 5 advance, you can understand that authorial frustration. Now, to be fair, the industry has never claimed to offer large rewards to the bulk of those who write for it, yet you would hope a lack of financial remuneration is made up for by good treatment in other respects. Our data, however, do not provide evidence of that good treatment. Only one quarter of our respondents felt well-treated by their publisher “in non-financial ways”. The agented/large publisher authors felt well-treated just 31% of the time. That seems a dispiriting result. The only other firm messages from this question were that a clear majority of authors felt that the industry had been “lazy and un-innovative” when it came to digital matters, but that only a smallish minority (about 16% of respondents) think the industry is likely to vanish anytime soon. Curiously, most authors don’t think that publishers constitute a “crucial bastion of culture and learning”, a result I am not able to explain. (Except possibly as a matter of priming: it may be that by asking our authors to think through their relationships with publishers, we accidentally primed a kind of surliness by the time we reached this point in the survey. I’d also note that only 30% or so of authors felt that Amazon treats self-publishing authors well. Given that Amazon offers access to pretty much every reader in the world via a well-designed author-interface that costs nothing to access, that delivers instant results, that provides real-time sales data and very swift payment – and bearing in mind also that the firm’s sites and e-reader technologies are both state-of-the-art and have cost billions to invent and create – you sort of have to wonder what the 70% of hold-outs want from a self-pub company. In short, I think there is some evidence of surliness towards the end of our survey.) Conclusion #7: Authors aren’t leaving the traditional industry You might think that our results so far would imply that a broad swath of authors would consider leaving the traditional publishing industry altogether. And, indeed, there is some support for that view, as evidenced by this: some 44% of traditionally published authors have also self-published. Yet this data may well mean less than appears. To speak personally for a moment, I have self-published work in both the UK and US. In Britain, I’ve self-published some of my older work, where I never sold the e-rights. I make a couple of hundred pounds a month from the exercise, but not even remotely enough money to base a career on. In the US, I’m currently self-publishing some of my front-list work (for reasons explained rather exhaustively here), but I’m conventionally published in Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and elsewhere besides. Those relationships contribute the vast bulk of my authorial income and I have absolutely no intention of disrupting them. I’d be crazy to do so. In short, it may be that plenty of authors are happy to self-publish their older or more marginal work, or self-publish in territories where traditional print publishing didn’t quite work out for them – yet those same authors have absolutely no intention of self-publishing their current, front-list work if they have an alternative. Just under a quarter of respondents say they’d feel excited by the adventure of self-publishing. Well over a third say they’d feel negative, or worse. But perhaps the key stat in this set of responses is that the question itself was skipped by more than half of respondents … a fact which suggests, to me at least, that most respondents were thinking, “I would never self-publish” (or perhaps “would never self-publish a front-list work in my home market”). That lack of enthusiasm for the new frontiers of self-pub is also evident when we focus directly on the cash implications of going independent. Our last question on that was skipped by most respondents, suggesting that the topic did not feel involving. And of those who did respond, only 15% of authors felt confident of improving their financial outcomes. To summarise: authors may have grumbles about their existing publishers, and many authors may seek to switch publishers if they could, but that does not imply authors are about to start leaving the industry en masse. Today, at any rate, authors are in a state of discontented equilibrium: grumbling, but not leaving, the industry. A Parting Note You’ve heard enough from me. A final hope on which to end. I’m a big believer in traditional publishing. I’ve been with the industry for over 15 years and I hope to be with it for more – yet it’s no secret that my own journey has at times been rocky. I firmly believe that the things broken are not just fixable, I also think this industry could achieve better results by acting on these insights. The formula for success is not hard to find. Talk to authors. Involve them. Ask for feedback. Then rinse and repeat.

Screenwriting Structure: Our Top Tips

It’s what sends screenwriters into frenzied anxiety attacks, rapidly losing the will to live, but Structure can seem a whole lot less terrifying once you realise that all it really means is the way your story unfolds. Think of it not as some rigid template you have to squeeze your story into, but the way the emotional needs and actions of your characters are shaping and driving the story. Keep remembering that the aim of structure is to draw your audience into an intense emotional engagement with the story and keep them totally absorbed throughout. Think of it as the story breathing – ever-developing sequences of tension and release which keep depth-charging the emotions of the audience. Having a flexible outline of pivotal events can help. A story needs something to get it going, moments that are turning points which force the character in new directions (often an emotional revelation, not just surface action), a climax and a resolution (which can be ambiguous or open-ended).Some pointers for shaping the story: Watch A Film Once, Then The Same Film Backwards The idea is to trace how the narrative thread is not just shaped but layered. You’re looking for how the whole story is paced, moments or scenes where you’re given breathing space to absorb what’s happening and so on. You’re looking out for moments that move the story forward in ways that layer and interweave. Make notes as you keep hitting the pause button. Starting from the final frame: Be aware of how each scene has been prepared for in previous scenes. You’re following the thread backwards. Try to keep in mind the overall thread – something in scene 20 may have been foreshadowed in scene 2. Make a note of what it is in each scene that is driving the story. Is what’s happening now more interesting than before? How is conflict being developed? Look out for moments where you’re registering meaning through the ways in which the story is being orchestrated not just in terms of plot. Watching backwards is a terrific way to see how not just actions, but symbolic resonances, unspoken feelings, visual metaphors, subtext, dialogue, subtext are all structuring the story. (Silence can be structure.) How are all these script elements driving the story forward? How’s the pacing? Is it varied? How much tension and release is happening? Do this with other films so you can discover some of the most powerful ways to develop the natural unfolding movement of a story. Beat Sheet This represents emotional beats and events which are pivotal to the flow of the story, and helps to focus on a clear and concise storyline. Think of it as successive bullet-points. A beat can be something happening within a scene or across scenes. Jot down a bare outline of the main critical moments in the story. This will help with pacing. Are there ups and downs? Where are the moments of dramatic tension and release? Significant turning points where things move in a new direction? Any twists that surprise? Now you’ll have a firmer idea of what other beats to add – and crucially – where they fall in the arc of the story until you have a complete sheet. A beat sheet is invaluable for assessing how an audience will stay completely connected to the story. Look at every beat and ask: Will the audience want to know what happens next? It can also help to draw a graph of beats to see at once how varied the pace is and whether you have those all-important tension and release sequences. Getting The Pace Right Make your words move, shift, change gear. Give them energy. Open your script at random and read a page out loud. Is there something moving which impels one word to the next, one line to the next, one page to the next? Now this isn’t a question of speed. A work has effective pace when everything happens at the right moment for its dramatic purpose. A stopped momentum is pace. A high-octane action sequence is pace. The key is to vary the pace. Keep asking your script questions. I strongly urge you to get some friends to do a readthrough of your script. They play the characters, one of them reads the descriptions and you listen and make notes. It’s best if the ‘actors’ can stand up and move around. You’ll soon be able to see where the story sags and needs more tightening, or has too much going on and needs more breathing. It’s the quickest way to find out whether the structure and shape of the story is working.

How I Got A Publishing Deal: Philippa East

Okay, well I’m not dead yet, but in the three years it’s taken me to create my novel Little White Lies, the story has reincarnated more times than I like to count. Draft zero took about three months to write. The subsequent editing took three years (and counting). Am I mad? Has it been worth it? Best if you decide... Before embarking on this novel, I’d had a number of short stories published, so I reckoned I could write okay. In December 2015, I had a premise, some characters and... not much else. In the end, I decided to just start writing. (Uh oh.) I set myself a target of 1,000 words a day and stuck to it for the next two and a half months. I ended up with 82,000 words of... something. I wrote THE END on the final page: draft 0, aka the sh*tty first draft. Honestly, mine was very sh*tty. I had written a mess, basically a patchwork of random scenes. I tidied up what I could and gave it (now called draft 2) to my sister. Always my biggest critic, I knew she’d be honest. She had a lot to say, some positive, a lot on what needed improving, all of it valid. I wanted to make it better but I was completely overwhelmed. And so, I signed up for Emma and Debi’s brilliant self-edit course. Over the next few months, I rewrote and rewrote. Characters, plot, voice, pacing. Pretty much everything needed fixing. In September 2016, I went to the York Festival of Writing for the first time and immediately liked the look of the one-to-one agent I sat down with (Sarah Hornsley). She had some pertinent feedback (the whole weird omniscient narrator POV wasn’t working AT ALL), but asked to see the full manuscript. Maybe I liked her because she asked for the full, but I think I liked her anyway. The novel, though, was nowhere near finished. It was still a mess. I was still rewriting and rewriting, this time trying to include Sarah’s feedback too. I could have just sent it, but I wanted to get it as good as it could be. A full year on from Sarah’s manuscript request, I was finally ready. By now the MS was on draft 12(!!). Alongside submissions to a handful of other agents, I sent the full in to Sarah. A couple of tense weeks later, I received her response: \"There is a lot I like here but I think at the moment it isn’t twisty enough for me to offer representation. I would love a call with you though to discuss some of my editorial thoughts as I do think it has real potential, but I think it would take a lot of work.\" By now I’d already written this book 12 times. I had worked on it non-stop for almost two years. Now an agent was calling me to suggest I rewrite the whole damn thing? She felt the plot needed a big twist. She thought it would work better written from two alternating POVs, instead of one. This was (in her words) ‘a massive rewrite’. Was I up for it? Another author might walk away at this point, feeling the agent’s vision was just too different. But a little voice in my own head was already whispering that the book could – and therefore should – go up another level. Personalised feedback from other agents was suggesting something similar. I realised I had written a book that was ‘for me’. Now it was time to let go of that version and write a book for the outside world. I told Sarah I would give it a go. The next couple of months were agonising. Coming up with a brand new twist idea, and re-drafting my opening chapters in dual POV (which I had never done before) were two of the biggest challenges I have faced as a writer. I had to push myself so far beyond my current level of competence, while trying not to freak out about how much was at stake (agent representation, a potential publishing deal, etc. etc.). I rewrote and rewrote, inching my way there, trying to avoid a nervous breakdown. Finally, I achieved what I wanted. Not perfect, but good enough to represent my vision. I sent my new outline and first 47 pages to Sarah. She emailed back within a couple of hours. She loved them and wanted to represent me. I jumped for joy, all about my house. Over the next eight months, under Sarah’s guidance, I rewrote the rest of the novel – all 85,000 words of it. (Again.) Together, we went through at least another 4 drafts. The version that we ultimately ended up with was so different to the original that, in my head, I now consider them two separate novels. One was the book I had to write for myself, and I still have a lot of affection for that story. But as they always say: you have to kill your darlings. What have I learnt from all this editing? Here are a few reflections: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Sh*tty First Draft. Painters need paint; sculptors need clay. We need word-vomit on a page. Writing is re-writing; it really is. Read (Current Titles In Your Genre). This is like getting your hands on a thousand past exam papers. If you’re trying to fix issues in your own novel, why not look at how other (successful) authors have done it? No need to reinvent the wheel. If You Possibly Can, Create Some Kind Of Outline. I’ve come to accept that, in the long run, pantsing will only ever get you so far. Eventually you’re going to have to learn how to plan. Learn Your Craft. Editing a novel isn’t about changing it. It’s about changing it for the better so that it works. There are basic elements of writing craft that make stories work for readers. These include: show vs tell, point-of-view, psychic distance and – so importantly – story structure. Getting to grips with these will make it easier to edit your novel successfully. Not easy, obviously. But easier. Be Humble. Listen to feedback, and accept that other people (agents, editors, even beta-readers) are often better judges of your own work than you are. Your book has a very best version of itself. Be open, and trust that others can help you achieve that vision. Don’t Panic (Too Much). Editing is scary, especially editing in response to feedback. By definition, you’re being asked to fix things that until now you haven’t been able to. You are going to have to do better than your best. Keep working at it, seek help when you get stuck, and trust that you will eventually get there. So was it worth it for me, in the end? By October 2018, I finally had a MS that Sarah was happy with. (Probably, 20 by now.) We were ready. Sarah talked me through her submission plan, advising that it would be about a month before we’d know if we had any firm offers. Oh, and just before we sent it out to publishers, could I edit the climactic scene just one more time? By the end of the week, I was ‘on sub’. Six days later, we had our first offer and a couple of weeks after that, Little White Lies sold at auction to HQ/HarperCollins. I celebrated with Pink Cava and made sure to enjoy the moment. After all, an editorial letter would soon be on its way... Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Author Website Essentials: A Writer’s Toolkit

You’re an author. You need a storefront. You could put a sign up in your front garden or (better idea) you could build a website. Here’s everything you need to know. 1. The Book Comes First Do you have a book cover already? If not, you must get that in place before you start to design your site. That cover will define your brand as an author. It’ll be the primary way that readers ‘know’ you. That book cover will define the fonts and images that are part of your visual brand. Your website needs to support that, not conflict. There are no exceptions to this rule. That means: if you are an indie author and don’t yet have a cover, then get one. If you’re a traditional author, then wait for your publisher to produce a cover before you start to build your website. Either way, start with the book, then roll that look out to the site. 2. Build For The Long Term It’s really easy to think small, early on. That means limiting your budget. Limiting the design energy. Using a free domain such as instead of just (Or, if some celebrity has got to the domain name first.) On balance, I’d advise writers to somehow find the extra money needed to do this right. As your writing business expands, you’ll want your core assets to be strong enough to support that expansion – and that means getting the site right from the start. What’s more, doing it right doesn’t mean a lot of investment. Once you have your book cover, you’ll have the basic look of the site right there, together with font selections and images. Generating the rest of the site should not be hard or expensive. If you’re paying more than £1000 or $1500, you’re probably paying more than you need. So if you’re a pro or semi-pro designer yourself, then build your own site. Anyone else, commission a site, but make it clear from the outset that the designer should use the fonts and images that are used in your book cover. You’re essentially looking for a technician to plug things together for you, not an artist to create something wonderful and new. And pay the small amount needed to get your own proper domain name:, not harrybingham[.] Those little things do count. 3. Your Site Must Be Mobile-friendly These days, it would be a crazy designer who didn’t generate a site that wasn’t mobile friendly, but still, do be explicit in your brief. And when you see a draft site, then check it. If you’re working on a laptop not a phone, just resize the window so it’s phone-sized and take a look at your site now. If your key assets and messages are being buried at the bottom, you need to re-order those things so that they float up to the top. This isn’t hard to do, and any competent designer can do it fast. 4. SEO Doesn‘t Matter For Fiction, It’s Essential For Subject-led Non-fiction Are you writing fiction? In that case, Search Engine Optimisation basically doesn’t matter. If people want to search for your site they’ll almost certainly search you by name, in which case your site should pop up at or close to the top of any search. (If it doesn’t, just go out and do a few guest post with bloggers active in your niche. Make sure there’s a link through to your site at the end of the guest post. Those links should be enough to tickle Google’s algorithms that it figures out what to do.) If you’re writing creative non-fiction (a travel book, a personal memoir, or bringing some little-known historical narrative to life) then much the same thing applies. Those sort of books can pretty much forget Search Engine Optimisation as a source of readers and traffic. If, on the other hand, you’re writing subject-led non-fiction (a book on ‘How To Build a Great Author Website’, for example), then SEO matters a lot. Your first step is probably to ditch the idea of using your name as the site’s domain name, and instead use something like – basically embed your core search term in the website title itself. Then give proper, search-engine-friendly titles to every page on your site. Make sure the content is good. And go build some links. That recipe basically works every time . . . but this isn’t a blog post on SEO, so I’ll leave it there. Suffice to say that for this type of non-fiction author, SEO does matter and it’s a big, important subject. Go research it with people like Brian Dean and Neil Patel. 5. Don’t Confuse The Brand Are you an eclectic, interesting person, with numerous interests and passions? Great. Please don’t tell me about it, or at least not on your author website. Your website is there for readers of your books. You need to target your site at them. You need to leave everything else at the door. If you want a more personal site that shows the full range of you to a wondering world, then fine. But your author site needs to stick to its knitting, which is your books and nothing else. If you write two very different series – slasher horror fiction under one name and heart-warming children’s books under another – then you’ll need two websites. Sorry, but again no exceptions. You can of course link between the two, so readers from one can easily navigate to the other but keep the core message clear. 6. Figure Out Your Priorities What do you want your site to do? Your answer is quite likely to be ‘help sell my books’, but remember it will basically never achieve that objective. If people haven’t heard of you, they won’t come to your site. If they have heard of you and are curious about your work, they will go to Amazon. The only people likely to visit your site are readers who have read your work and who are passionate enough about it to investigate further. Certainly, you may achieve some additional sales by providing a warm and interesting experience, but the truth is, you can probably only convert one or two percent of people that way. It’s not a priority. So if an author site isn’t there to sell books, what should it do? For me, there’s one very, very clear answer to that, and only a fraction of author sites do this properly. Your author website is there to collect the email addresses of passionate readers. Why does that matter so much? It matters for two reasons: When you next release a book you can contact your core readers and tell them directly about the launch. A high proportion of those readers will make the purchase and those are nice easy sales to make – one email, to sell hundreds or thousands of books. Better still, you can time the sales you make. When I send out a sales email relating to my Fiona Griffiths novels, about 30% of my list will buy within 8 hours of my hitting send. That causes a huge wave of sales to hit Amazon … which drives my book way up the salesrankings … which means that (because most Amazon search pages promote high-selling books over low-selling ones) my book becomes more visible right across the Amazon system … which means I start attracting the interest of completely new readers. Of these two issues, it’s the second which will make you the most money, so don’t neglect it. You can get a ton more help with all this from us and don’t forget to check out our post about Instafreebie. 7. Connect, Connect, Connect These days, the first thing that someone will do if they want to learn more about you is seek you out on social media. You don’t need to be a social media junkie to succeed these days. Personally, I’m more or less Trappist on both Facebook and Twitter, and I’m perfectly happy to stay that way. Still, you do want to make yourself open to the world for all sorts of reasons. For example: You want your site to be easily shareable for those who do use Twitter and Facebook You want to be easily contactable You want to have all channels open so you can, for example, make contact with a key blogger in your area who is contactable via Twitter, but may not be easily reachable via email. Your super-fans need a way to reach you direct. You don’t have to answer every email that comes your way – and you certainly don’t have to answer promptly – but those super-fans are the absolute heart of what will drive things. Happy site-building!

My Path To Publication By Ruby Speechley

My Writing Journey My debut novel, Someone Else’s Baby was published by Hera Books on 25 July 2019. It won ‘Best Opening Chapter’ at the Festival of Writing in 2017, so it feels very special to be asked by Jericho Writers to blog about my publication journey. I’ve been writing on and off ever since I first picked up a pencil, but it wasn’t until thirteen years ago that I took my writing more seriously and applied to do a part-time MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam University. My second child was only two and it meant driving to and from Cambridgeshire once a week, but I was determined to do it. Three years later, in 2009, I graduated with my first completed novel. But I needed a break from that book, and I wasn’t ready to start approaching agents, so I wrote another novel whilst being mentored on the Gold Dust scheme. In 2012 I heard about the Festival of Writing and decided to go, partly to meet my new Twitter friends, Amanda Saint and Isabel Costello and partly to see if there was any interest in my second novel. I came away from the full weekend experience buzzing with everything I’d learned in some of the best workshops I’d ever been to, given by the now legendary, Debi Alper, Andrew Wille, Emma Darwin, Julie Cohen, Shelley Harris and Craig Taylor. I made lots of new friends, but there was no interest from agents. I went home and dug out my first novel and worked on it again. In 2014, I went back to the Festival of Writing and this time three agents asked to see the full manuscript. Despite the positive comments, the rejections came in. After a further edit, I took it back in 2015 and again more agents were interested, but no offers of representation followed. I skipped the Festival the following year and started work on a new novel, but in October 2016, another idea came to me while I was watching a FoW friend on a TV show. Another guest, a surrogate and the couple she was having the baby for, took my interest. The surrogate’s pregnancy was fraught with problems, not what she’d expected at all and to me she seemed incredibly naïve to think she’d breeze through the experience. I wondered how well she really knew this couple who were promising to involve her in their baby’s future. What obligation did they really have to this woman once they’d paid her? I had so many questions! For the next two months I researched my idea as much as I could and on 1 January 2017, I started writing my messy ‘zero’ draft by hand. Four months later, my third novel was completed. I typed and polished the beginning and sent it out to competitions, including the Festival of Writing, to gauge the response. I arrived at the Festival of Writing a couple of months later, not knowing that my novel was on the shortlists for the Best Opening Chapter and Perfect Pitch competitions, because they’d forgotten to send out the email! So it was a shock to be called up on stage and even more of a shock to win Best Opening Chapter and be the runner up for the Perfect Pitch. I was asked to read out my prologue and it received a fantastic response. A flurry of agents contacted me on the night and over the following days, but my manuscript wasn’t quite ready. A couple of agents were prepared to wait for the next edit but one, Jo Bell at Bell Lomax Moreton, who I’d subbed my first novel to a year before, asked to meet me and to see my second novel, which was in a more publishable state. She loved that novel even more! When she offered to represent me, it was an easy decision because she loved my writing and all my novel ideas. I felt at ease in her company as soon as I met her. Although Jo isn’t an agent who edits, she offered insightful suggestions, as did her assistant. A few writer friends read it for me and I took on board their helpful and detailed comments in the final edit. Sending my novel out to editors was a drawn out and painful experience. Weekly rejections for months is not something I was prepared for. My novel received mostly positive feedback but there were no offers from traditional publishers. I believed in my novel and so did Jo. By this point it had won and been listed in eight competitions. I’d been told enough times that it was a unique take on surrogacy. I was determined to keep going so I worked on it again. This time Jo sent it out to a few digital publishers and an offer to publish quickly came back from a big publisher’s digital imprint. A few days later another offer came in from an established independent. While I was weighing them up, a third publisher, Hera Books contacted Jo. I loved reading their editor’s response to my novel – the big reveal made her gasp! They were a new company, set up by Keshini Naidoo and Lindsay Mooney. I remembered feeling excited reading in the Bookseller about this dynamic, female-led publisher only a few months before. Their entrepreneurial spirit spoke to me (I founded and ran my own local magazine business while doing my MA and successfully sold it on four years later). I consulted my scribbled wish-list – Hera Books were at the top. Once I’d heard from all three publishers, about their thoughts on how I could edit and improve my novel, I knew for certain that Hera was the right choice for me. Keshini completely understood the true story I was trying to tell. She did an incredible job in helping me improve my manuscript through a round of structural edits followed by line edits. With her expert guidance, I worked as hard as I could to make Someone Else’s Baby the best book it could be. The Festival of Writing has been such an important part of my journey to publication. Each time I went, I used the festival dates as deadlines to finish whichever novel I was working on. The workshops and agent one-to-ones were always helpful, relaxed and friendly. It’s an incredible experience to be in a room with so many writers, all at different stages – people who really understand the ups and downs of trying to break into the business. Hats off to Harry Bingham and his team of dedicated organisers and tutors who give everything to make the process of building writers’ skills and knowledge enjoyable and accessible. I’m back working on the novel I put aside to write Someone Else’s Baby. I was stuck, not sure how the story could develop and what the ending would be, but it worked itself out as I wrote the first draft in a month using NanoWriMo (National Write a Novel in a Month). Writing never ceases to delight and surprise me!

Jodi Taylor’s Path To Publication

Some time ago, I sat down and wrote the first sentence of my novel, Just One Damned Thing After Another. Actually, that’s not true, because, having no idea what I was doing, I started in the middle of my book and wrote backwards, but I like a good dramatic opening. Like many people, once I started, I couldn’t stop. The word just piled up like the contents of an elephant house whose occupants haven’t been able to get out much. The first draft totalled 123,000 words and at this point I realised I was a writer in need of help. The Secret To Getting An Agent Jericho Writers has asked me not to plug them, but I can’t help it. I sent them my manuscript and seriously expected a ‘Thank you for sending us your novel. It’s not really quite good enough for publication but you obviously enjoyed writing and that that’s the main thing.’ What I actually received from them was a closely packed editorial report (a bit like this) and tons and tons of much needed encouragement. About six brain-boggling months later, during which I parted, weeping, with some of my best prose, my favourite characters and about thirty thousand words, I finally had something I was prepared to let the world see. At this point, never having heard of self-publishing, I proceeded along the conventional route, sending off the required chapters to a few carefully selected agents. Three months later I repeated the procedure. And then again. A year passed – I grew older and my cherished novel had been rejected by the biggest and best in the land. I was quietly proud. And then (have I mentioned the importance of wine in the creative process?), during a very long lunch with very good friends, I heard of the existence of an online organisation named Smashwords. Overcoming my deeply held belief that self-publishing is the last refuge of the talentless, I swallowed my pride, some black coffee, and got stuck in. I got the manuscript formatted – the technically competent can easily do it for themselves – or Smashwords can supply a list of approved formatters if you wish. Total cost $54 dollars for the Smashwords format and $54 for the zipped Amazon file. The same company also offers a range of cover design services. I chose the middle range option, sent them the blurb and told them they could be as creative as they liked. Cost $137. The result was first-class, and I’ve received some very favourable comments. The formatted files and cover design came back within five days, I sat down at my laptop and uploaded the files to Smashwords and Amazon. It took only a couple of hours and I was led through the processes, step by simple step. I clicked ‘Send’ and, terrified at what I had unleashed, retired into a wine bottle. And that’s it! That’s really all there is to it! The whole process – from being persuaded to give it a go, to my book appearing on the Smashwords and Amazon lists – 6 days. As soon as they’d checked the format, Smashwords sent my book on to Apple, Nook, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and all the rest. I didn’t have to do a thing. My life changed. It might perhaps be clear by now that I wasn’t particularly well balanced in the first place, but normal life as I had known it just disappeared completely. Obsessed, I started getting up in the middle of the night to view my all my download figures. Do not do this. Wobbling blearily up and downstairs with a mug of tea and an open laptop is not a good idea. Trust me. It gets even more embarrassing. Because I hadn’t got a clue what was going on, I couldn’t understand where all the reviews were coming from. According to the figures I had, apparently, only sold 3 copies and yet I had over one hundred reviews. I emailed Amazon. A very, very kind lady gently broke the news that I was looking at the wrong column and that I had, in fact, had over 25,000 downloads. Life changed all over again. For a start, I had to have a good sit-down. I began to suffer separation anxiety if I couldn’t check my download figures every couple of hours. Did I mention I wasn’t particularly well balanced in the first place? The book climbed steadily up the Amazon charts, reaching Number One of their Free list. I suspect this was because many people were downloading free books for their holiday reading. It never occurred to me to schedule publication to coincide with a seasonal event. That’s how dumb I am, but it makes sense. Publish a Christmas story at Christmas. By now, of course, I had to be surgically separated from my laptop. And then – I opened my emails one morning to find the independent publisher, Accent Press, was interested in offering me a publishing contract. The last remaining brain cell fled for the hills. They contacted me – we liked the sound of each other – and they emailed me a draft three-book contract. Because, even with over 65,000 downloads and over 500 reviews, I didn’t have an agent (and still don’t – what is it about me? I know I’m not normal, but I’m not that bad, surely?), I was advised to contact the Society of Authors, who were marvellous and offered excellent advice and assistance. So my book was published in paperback on September 12th, less than 3 months after the initial Smashwords publication on June 24th. Of course, my life is now full of deadlines, re-writes, blogs, author interview (only one, actually, but it sounds so grand. Please forgive me.), but the sequel, if I live long enough and survive the editing process, will be published around the end of November. And the third one, next year. So, do I have any advice for fellow writers? Well, first of all, you’ve got the write the damned thing. So knuckle down and write. Secondly, avail yourself of the very excellent service offered by this team. I have no hesitation in saying none of this would have happened but for their superb editorial services. Thirdly, if you can’t get an agent, it’s not the end of the world. You can do it alone. Some people prefer it that way because you have complete control over every stage of the process. Yes, there’s a lot of self-published dross out there, but there’s no reason why yours should be part of that mountain. Lack of attention to grammar, punctuation and spelling are common complaints. My scattergun approach to commas received one or two comments. Fourthly, do set up your social media sites in advance so you won’t be caught on the hop, like me. Even now I’m still not completely sure what a Twitter is. Get to know online book clubs such as Goodreads and add your book to their lists. Join the discussions. Drink wine. Eat chocolate. Not simultaneously, obviously. And enjoy yourself.

How Rejection Set Me On The Path To Publication by Sally Harris

No-one told me writing should come with a health warning. Something like on cigarette packets would be great; a shocking or disturbing thing to dissuade the unwary from venturing too near pen, paper or laptop. When I signed up for a creative writing course several years ago, I assumed it would be nothing more than a relaxing pastime, a quiet hobby like reading. How wrong I was. As we waited for the first session to start I looked warily at the other would-be writers. I had no clear notion of what I would write and certainly no thoughts of publication. All that came later. There was just one thing that bothered me back then; what would the group make of my writing? Each writer’s journey is unique but we pass many common milestones. The writing community share tales of progress, disappointment, and triumph on social media. One writer may finish her novel in a year, another may take a decade. Others write flash fiction or short stories and never consider anything longer. However, we all experience one thing if we put our work out there, and that was what worried me back then. Rejection. If you are getting rejected on a regular basis, you are, without doubt, in fine company. J.K.Rowling’s submission story is well known. Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish. Both writers went on to sell millions of copies of their books. Even though we writers know this, we still dread the Big R. The staple of the writing life. I escaped much of this angst for several years. There had been the odd bumpy bit of feedback in the weekly creative writing class but nothing to raise my blood pressure too much. Classmates were kind, my tutor, very lovely. Nothing much to stress about. When I submitted my novel to agents, things start to heat up. The submission process was a whole new ball game. It didn’t help that I submitted my novel far too early. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but back then I’d done with redrafting and polishing; all I wanted to do was get the story out there. I buried the nagging little voice in my head that said the story wasn’t hanging together as it should. I researched suitable agents. Little did I know I was heading for rejection addiction. After I pressed send on carefully crafted emails to a few hand-picked agents fear loomed large. My pulse started to race and I suddenly became inseparable from my mobile. My little ghost story, an old and haunted house, a family, isolated and struggling to survive, was nothing new or unique. No USP. Imposter Syndrome took hold, my writing was inferior, the characters cliched. No agent would bother to respond with hundreds of stronger submissions arriving each week. Stress levels soared, rejection was heading my way. Weeks passed and silence pulled out. I’d been right, my story was boring, going nowhere other than agent’s trash-boxes. A couple of standard rejections dribbled in then silence again. I relaxed, assumed I would hear nothing more and went back to everyday things. No real harm done. I had been to a networking lunch when her email came through. Two hours of chatting with fellow lawyers, local business owners and listening to a speaker about new tax legislation had kept me away from my phone. I read the agent’s email, checked it was meant for me. It had my name on it, the title of my novel. A woman I had never meet and who knew about books and publishing had pulled my submission free from the slush pile. She was looking forward, she said, to reading the full manuscript. I danced a little jig in the ladies loos back at the office then sent off the manuscript. News spread, my writing group and tutor all held their breath. Again, more weeks passed, my mobile welded to my palm. Rejection, when it came, had a very sharp sting. Heightened by hope, the crash was steep. I rushed the novel out to more agents. Surely someone would offer on it? More agents declined. I was a junkie craving the next fix, no way could I stop now, not having come this far. Exhaustion set in. I paused, took stock and sucked up all the feedback from agents. I needed some expert help so I contacted Jericho Writers who teamed me up with Susan Davis. She looked over my submission package and said it looked good. Then a lengthy and detailed manuscript appraisal followed. Susan was generous with her praise and kind and clear regarding areas where improvements could be made. A lengthy phone call followed, more encouragement and advice was given. A fresh pair of eyes on the story made all the difference. I was clear about what was working. Taking to Susan solved problems with the plot and how giving information to the reader could be threaded through the narrative. The fog had cleared, I could, at last, see my way forward. I set about redrafting. The novel inched further along the path. Susan read the novel again. We stayed in touch with the occasional email exchange and piece of advise regarding agents, a kind word to keep me on track. The nagging voice became a mantra, restructure, restructure, restructure but I didn’t know how and it’s not easy to get advise on the big picture. I read books on the three and five acts, looked at character arcs, the turning points in a narrative. I obsessed about fixing the novel. Eventually, I pulled it apart, wrote out road maps, made lists, plotted timelines. During the Christmas holidays, I took a leaf out of Scrooge’s book and ignored the festivities, Bah humbug, all that could wait. I silenced the nagging voice and rewrote the novel. I sent Haverscroft out to publishers and agents in the spring of 2018. The novel was as good as I could make it. I knew that it worked. Without the rejection from that first agent, my novel would not have developed into the story it is today. The dogged determination to keep getting it out there would never have set in. Persist. If you don’t send out your writing it becomes invisible, no one can hear you. The best protection against rejection is to become the very best writer you can be. I signed with an agent in July at a time when three indie publishers also liked the look of the book. I signed a contract with one in September. Haverscroft was published by Salt on 15th May 2019. Now I wait for the reviews to roll in… Our list of over 50 editors work with hundreds of authors like Sally, providing  detailed, structural editorial feedback on your work including advice on how to address any problems raised. To find out more, click here.

How To Format A Screenplay

Screenwriting is probably the strangest discipline in the whole literary world. Unlike a novel, short story, article or poem, the finished screenplay is not really a fait accompli. Even the greatest screenplays in the world when finished and signed off are merely the first step of a highly technical process. I’ve never seen a published screenplay for an unproduced film (unless it was of huge interest due to its place in a highly esteemed film-maker’s body of work). A screenplay doesn’t really exist on its own. A screenplay is a blueprint for the production of a film. This is a good way to view it as, like a blueprint, it is a highly technical document which provides information for a very wide variety of people. Just reading a screenplay is a skill in itself. Understanding how this bizarrely, falteringly laid out piece of prose and direction could be visualized. Writing one is ten times harder. When you write a novel, you’re writing purely for your reader – to entertain or inform them. You can write the whole thing in first person if you like and just directly dump all that information into their head. A screenplay must be an engaging and distractingly enjoyable read but it also must deal with the expectations, demands and egos of far more than just one compliant reader. I’m not going to tell you how to format a screenplay – yet – but what I do want to explain to you is who you’re writing your screenplay for and what their needs are. Producers Need: To be impressed. The producer holds the purse strings and have the ultimate authority on a film. To make a producer happy, you need to, most importantly, have a good, commercial idea. This means you have written a film for a specific audience and touched all the bases that audience would want from a cinematic experience. You might think the Transformers films are cynical in this way but a film like The King’s Speech is almost identical in its awareness of what its audience demands. The producer also cares about budget, so think carefully before you make it rain in a scene or have a moment play out in front of a crowd of six thousand troops. Running time is a big issue for producers. Legend has it that many won’t even read a script that feels heavier in their hand than the 90-page product they can most easily persuade cinemas to exhibit – if you write a two-and-a-half-hour film, nobody will touch it as cinemas would have to do fewer showings, therefore making less money. The exceptions to the rule are always from very well-established film-makers who market their wares based on epic qualities. Keep it under 90 pages. Directors Need: To have control. Here’s your problem with the director. They probably hate you. There’s a gulf of ownership over a film which exists between the writer, who originates and creates the story and the director who interprets and realizes it. I’ve never held with the ‘Auteur theory’ but I can empathise with a director who slaves so hard over the job and who, really, is the person who will be held publicly accountable for its success or failure. They want to have creative control and you must give it to them. That’s your job – to make them look good. Careful formatting plays into this. The biggest no-no is to write camera direction into the screenplay (‘we zoom in’ ‘the camera pans left’ ‘the camera walks alongside them’) as this is telling the director their own job. Their job is to take what you’ve written and translate it for an audience using their vision. But you have your own vision too – you’ve already visualised the whole film in the cinema of your mind, as you wrote it. So here is perhaps the toughest part of screenwriting – you must write in such a way that the director can only interpret it as you saw it yet think that it’s their own vision. If you want a tight close-up of Billy’s eyes, you can’t write ‘extreme close up of Billy’s eyes panicking’ – you have to write ‘tiny beads of sweat form around the bags of Billy’s wildly rolling eyeballs’ – there is no other way a director can illustrate that without a tight close up. Crews Need: To have technical information. A technical crew couldn’t care less about your script or vision. They need the most basic of information and a screenplay formatted in such a way that they can get that purely by skimming. What do they want? They want clear and precise technical information. Formatting is key. You must put a slug-line at the beginning of each scene. It should look like this: 36. EXT. SCHOOLYARD. DUSK The ‘36’ is the scene number – this is important to the people who schedule the movie and make sure it’s running efficiently – the script supervisors, the assistant producers, the second and third units. The people who know what is happening when and why. You can’t say ‘we’re shooting the schoolyard scene today’ – there might be 30 of them, all differing wildly. You must number your scenes. The ‘EXT’ stands for exterior and it has a counterpart ‘INT’ for interior. Although it may be a whimsical choice to you if it is EXT or INT – for the production team, it makes a massive difference. An INT scene can be shot in a studio or closed location – it is controllable and easy and can be done with far less fuss. An EXT shoot demands issues of weather, light, sound, controlling the public – you need more crew, you must work quicker, it’s an entirely different proposal. Too many EXTs might even get the script rejected by the Producer on feasibility grounds. The ‘SCHOOLYARD’ is your specific location – something that is going to have to be secured or created by the production design team. The set builders and production managers really care only about these words in the whole screenplay. ‘DUSK’ refers to the time of day, though more common would be DAY or NIGHT but if you have a specific vision of twilight, dusk, dawn, or the like, you must make that clear. This affects art design, location management and camerawork. Also, don’t forget that anything not shot in general ‘DAY’ will cost a production a lot of money in overtime and, again, affects feasibility. Throughout the script you should also put important sounds and effects in block capitals to draw attention to them. The technical crew aren’t interested in your prose or the value of your work, they just want their responsibilities written clearly in CAPITAL LETTERS. Actors Need: To have dialogue (and just dialogue). Actors are the easiest to please. Their character names and dialogue run down a column in the middle of the page. It’s good form for everyone if the first time you mention the characters appearing in the prose sections, you do so in capital letters. It just lets people know that a new significant character is now making their appearance. Everyone writes dialogue differently – sometimes you’ll add in stutters and pauses, I think this should be a very rare thing – along with writing in such a way to reflect accent. The actors can figure this stuff out for themselves. I tend to say write the best dialogue you can and then trust the actors and director to worry about delivery and reflection. It’s bad form to write direction in brackets preceding the dialogue. The dialogue and strength of situation alone should convey the emotion. That’s basically it. Remember that all writing is altruistic but when composing your screenplay, you’re not just writing for the generic reader – you have the power to make a lot of people’s jobs a lot easier or a lot harder and these are the people who will dictate whether you get a career. And now you’re ready to format your screenplay. The lovely answer is that you needn’t. You can download formatters like the excellent Celtx for free online. And when you’re ready, you may just like structural feedback on your film script, too.

If An Agent Accepts Your Work, What Are Chances Of Getting Published?

And how to get a book deal yourself … You’re at that scary submissions stage. Your manuscript is edited right down to the very last comma. It’s time to go out into the big wide world and GET THAT BOOK DEAL. But – uh – what exactly do you have to do … and what are the odds of success? How To Get A Book Deal You want a book deal? So here’s the formula. This formula works for anyone wanting to be traditionally published (with a publisher, that is, rather than self-publishing via Amazon.) It also assumes that you are writing fiction or mainstream non-fiction – the sort of stuff you might find on the front tables of a larger bookstore. If that applies to you, then the formula for getting a book deal is: What Are The Odds Of Getting A Literary Agent? Those odds are somewhat scary. A typical agent in NY or London receives approximately 2,000 submissions a year. They are likely to accept 2-3 writers from that deluge. Some agents will accept fewer. So, as a rough rule of thumb, and allowing for plenty of variation, the chance of getting an agent are about 1 in 1000. That sounds frightening, but you can and should apply to more than one agent, so the 1 in 1000 is perhaps more like 1 in 100. And, in any case, it’s not about the odds. If your book is blindingly good – if you’ve written a The Hunger Games, or a Gone Girl, or an All the Light We Cannot See – your odds of getting an agent are essentially 100%. So don’t focus on the odds. Focus on your book. That’s the only part that you have any real control over. What Are The Odds Of Getting A Book Deal? Well, you can look at this in two ways. From the agent’s end, it’s probably true that a good agent at a top class agency will sell approximately 2 books for every 3 they auction. That is, the odds of a sale are about 67% – which is why most writers, correctly, think that getting an agent is the most significant hurdle between them and publication. But that’s to look at it from one end only. I spoke recently with one editor, who has a key job at one of London’s best publishers (a major part of a Big 5 house). In effect, that editor is as selective as it gets. These days, he receives, via literary agents, about 12 submissions a week. Those 12 submissions equate to about 600 manuscripts crossing his desk each year. And of those 600 manuscripts, he takes on maybe 3-4 new writers a year. (As well as, of course, continuing to publish the work of his existing stable of authors.) In other words, he buys less than 1% of the work being offered to him. Yikes! These stats are frankly terrifying, but they need to be taken in context. In particular: A smaller or less prestigious publisher will be less selective. There are many smaller publishers out there, but they\'re smaller and less selective than the big guys. They’ll offer much smaller advances to authors and they won’t have the marketing heft of their larger rivals – but if you get an offer from them, it’s still a massive compliment to your work. It’s a real publishing deal and you should be elated.It’s also wrong to conclude that if you have an agent, you have only a 1% chance of getting a top-ranked publisher. It isn’t so. If agents are looking to auction a manuscript, they’ll typically send it out to 8-12 publishers – that is, to all the bigger publishers in town. So while an individual publisher might take just 1% of work submitted, that means an overall success rate of more like 10%. Something similar, of course, applies with submissions to agents.The better the agent, the higher that success rate will be. A top agent will reject any work that doesn’t come up to the right standard, will seize hold of any work that does come to the right standard, and will do so with a strong expectation of selling it. Even then, no agent I know has a 100% record, but the best agents will have a strike rate of well over 10%. So why does my Big 5 editor reject so much of what comes his way? In his opinion – and also mine – agents (mostly less well established ones) are sending work out before it’s properly ready. You don’t want your work set out early, which means it’s time to consider … How To Think About Getting A Book Deal In the end, though, the conclusion has little to do with odds or stats. The 2012 British Olympic team contained 541 athletes. The US Olympic team is that little bit larger. Either way, those numbers are larger than the number of debut novels being listed by elite UK or US publishers today. So you need to be (at least!) an Olympian-of-writing to make the grade. That’s the bad news. The good news is simply this: If you are in the world’s top 20-30 sprinters, you will get selected for the Olympics. If you’ve written one of the best espionage novels of the year, you will get published. In brutal market conditions, the standard required by top publishers is rising all the time, but the best work still gets selected, still attracts advances and investment, still gets published. What you need to worry about more than anything else is the quality of your work. A promising book will not do, a dazzling book is essential. One further conclusion. At Jericho Writers we’ve always been against writers sending their work to dozens & dozens of agents. Our own rule of thumb is that if you can’t attract a Yes from an agent in 8-12 (intelligently chosen and properly presented) submissions, then your manuscript is not yet good enough. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but for the most part the rule is a very good one. If you send submissions to 200 agents, your chances of hooking an agent improve, but I’d say that your chance of getting a publisher remains the same as before. About 0%, if the first 8-12 agents turned you down. A Little Bit Of Boasting At Jericho Writers we have helped many writers not only find their perfect agent, but go on to become bestselling authors! Through our Agent 121 meetings, and our AgentMatch service (available to members)we help make those author dreams more attainable. And that’s not because we’re miracle workers, but because we focus relentlessly on the quality of your work and ensuring you know where to look for the perfect match. So keep honing your craft and ensure your story is tight, make sure you really understand what the market is looking for (and therefore agents and editors too), get your query letter polished to perfect, and get your list of ideal agents just right. Once you have that all in place, you\'re on your way.After all, the only way you can fail is by never giving it a good try in the first place!

Creative Writing Degrees: Waste or Wonderful Career Opportunity?

I posted a set of concerns about MA creative writing courses a while ago. I argued that they had far too little connection with the publishing market as it is today. Marketability in the Conventional Sense? After writing that, I looked at some course prospectuses. Here, for example, was the blurb in 2011 from UEA. “The MA does not function through exercises but by considering fiction as a form of aesthetic, psychological and cultural enquiry. Neither the poetry nor prose fiction strand is primarily commercial in direction and neither teaches conventional genre forms or, in the conventional sense, marketability.” Marketability in the conventional sense? If you want to be a writer – the sort who writes books that are sold in bookshops – then considering marketability in a conventional sense seems like a good idea. Here was the blurb from Goldsmiths: “The inter-relationship between theory, scholarship and the creative process is key to the Goldsmiths MPhil/PhD in Creative Writing. … Doctoral students for the PhD in Creative Writing are expected to combine their own creative writing with research into the genre or area of literature in which they are working, to gain insight into its history, development and contemporary practices. … They are also expected to engage with relevant contemporary debates about theory and practice.” I Doubt Publishers Care. They\'re Probably Just Happy Publishing Good Books. Here, really, is the point of this post. I’ve realised that the best courses do indeed do a stunning job for a proportion of their students. UEA can boast of the following alumni: Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Anne Enright, Tracy Chevalier, and plenty of others. Bath Spa says, ‘Two [of our recent students] were long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, three for the Orange Prize, one for the Costa Prize and one for the Guardian First Book Award.’ Those are strikingly good achievements. On the other hand, I’m still sceptical. A minority of talented writers may bloom to a wonderful degree and go on to have long writing careers. A large majority will, I think, end up being rejected by the industry, having quite possibly not been properly equipped with the skills that would have allowed them to thrive. What Jobs Can You Get From a Creative Writing Degree? So the conclusion remains the same. Don’t assume these courses will launch you as a writer. Research them carefully. Know what you want to write and what they want to teach. Check out your tutors. Check out what these tutors like to read, and their biases, for instance, if you’re a writer of children’s or genre fiction. Check out teaching methods. Talk to past students (and not only those who ended up with a book deal.) And if you go for it – then have a wonderful time.

Paul Braddon On How He Got His Literary Agent

The first in a regular new blog series, Paul Braddon takes us through his journey to finding a literary agent. My Writing Journey The writing bug first bit as a teenager when I entered a sixth-form essay competition run by Barclays Bank and shocked myself by winning a runner’s up prize.  Heady stuff! But the real surprise was how much fun telling a story could be when I wasn’t being told what to write. Anyway, I was now sold on a career as a novelist and the only sensible step was to study English Literature at university... although unfortunately, after three years of Dickens, Wordsworth and the major works of Shakespeare, I was no nearer to being published. My biggest hurdle was thinking I knew everything just because I’d read a few novels. I spent years on a lovely story titled The English Witch – a sort of Sabrina meets Harry Potter (all before JK Rowling put pen to paper) set in the 1930s – that I couldn’t interest agents in, although my friends were generous. ‘Better than Tolkien’, one told me, although that isn’t as great as it sounds because he was no lover of Tolkien. After The English Witch, I wrote an historical novel about a piano-playing German girl and with it made my first sensible decision – I commissioned editorial feedback. Nervous as to what I was paying for, I opted for Jericho Writers (Writers’ Workshop as it was then) on the basis that the offer included a follow up ‘conversation’, a guarantee in effect that the editor would have to do a half-decent job. In the event I got lucky and was allocated the truly excellent Liz Garner, who wrote me several extensive assessments, each followed up by a long phone call. I took my now much-improved piano-playing German girl manuscript to the York Festival of Writing but failed to interest my chosen agents in it. However, one of these agents was the fantastic Joanna Swainson, who was eventually to sign me, so not all would be lost, although of course I could not know that at the time. By now fed up with historical fiction, I was willing to do almost anything to succeed and turned my hand to a contemporary thriller set in Finland. The process of leaving my comfort zone was like casting off heavy boots and this book – The Butterfly Hunt, was my best work to date. Three of the first four agents I queried (including Joanna) requested the whole manuscript but the feedback I received was consistent, that although the first third worked, I needed to rewrite the rest. Which unfortunately was easier said than done! I think the lesson I learned is that when you change significant elements of a carefully structured plot, you can end up twisting it completely out of shape and end up with less than what you had before. In early 2018 I started on The Actuality, a further genre shift, this time into speculative fiction. The Actuality is set a hundred years in the future and could be best described as a cautionary tale of friendship, love and advanced bioengineering. My approach to writing The Actuality came from my experience on previous projects. My method has become to first plan out an overall structure, getting the main beats in place and when I’m happy with all of that, I dive in to see how I do. If this appears to work, I merely keep writing, filling in the plot details and editing chapters as I go, and if all continues to go well, in four or five months I have a reasonable first draft. That’s the plan anyway, but in the case of The Actuality it wasn’t so simple. In fact, it was a massive struggle and this was because I grew to believe that the story of an AI living with her ‘husband’ at the top of a Thames-side high-rise complete with rooftop garden was almost certainly unpublishable. In the end, after rushing through the last couple of sections, I did make it to the finish line, but the word count barely scraped 62,000. Anxious as to what I had created, I only sent it to Joanna, hoping I could trust her not to laugh. To be honest, if she had, I would have shelved it. Instead, amazingly, she actually liked it, and liked it enough to chat about it and encourage me to expand it to a commercial length. Confidence regained, this I did, adding 18,000 words, and shortly after that in October 2018, she took me on! Last Piece Of Advice I think, if I was passing on any advice, it would be three things. Number One (and I think most readers will have worked it out for themselves by now) – Seek Professional Advice, whether that is through courses, editorial assessments or reading up on the craft – don’t spend years thinking you know everything. Two – Escape Your Comfort Zone – perhaps try a completely different genre, you can always go back, you never know you may not want to. And Number Three – Don’t Be Afraid of Trying Something a Bit Different, if that’s what you fancy – different will stand you out from the crowd if nothing else and if there is passion behind it, that will make a huge difference too. Are you on the lookout for representation? If so, why not check out AgentMatch, our database recording all UK and US literary agents. Or, are you about to embark on your first round of agent submissions? If you are, then you’ll probably find this article really helpful!

How I Got My Agent By Helen Fisher

Did I Always Want To Be A Writer? I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but didn’t do it until I was 44 when a friend bullied me into it. She told me to write a chapter a week and send it to her. Clocking in with her was a great incentive, although I realise a lot of authors like to write the whole thing before they let anyone see it. About 30,000 words in, I panicked: I DON’T KNOW HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL, I thought (constantly) and – realising I needed help – I bought Harry Bingham’s book: How to Write. I read it cover to cover and quickly discovered I wasn’t alone in any of my thoughts – neither the negative ones (I CAN’T do it) nor the positive (I CAN do it). As well as practical support, that book provided the emotional support I needed. I read it and went back to my novel, and – with steam coming out of my ears, and springs coming out of my head – I finished it. I commissioned a really useful editorial report via Jericho Writers, and submitted it to a few agents. But ultimately I shelved it. A year later I wrote my second novel, Spacehopper, the one that’s going to be published. I was in a better place to do it, because this time I had some tools in my belt before I started: the ones I didn’t have until I was 30,000 words in the first time round: I’d read How to Write, been to a JW Getting Published Day and used the resources I found on the JW website. What I Learnt And How I Learnt It I learnt a lot from reading books about how to write. Not just Harry Bingham’s book, but the famous On Writing, by Stephen King, and other books like that. Reading about writing inspired me and made me believe I could do it; I needed that. Mind you, the feeling would wear off quickly, it wasn’t long before I’d start thinking I can’t do this, again. It was like a drug I had to keep topping up to get the same effect, so I kept reading. Reading novels also helped. I found I was reading more attentively now, really looking at what I loved best in novels, so I could more knowingly make an impact on readers through my own writing. I took out a month’s membership at Jericho Writers as a birthday present to myself, it was a luxury I found hard to afford – it is fantastic value, but I was skint – so I made the most of it: joined up when I knew I could make best use of the online videos. I immersed myself in the information, made notes, and soon felt like I had a bag full of stuff to help me get through the writing process. Unfortunately, at that stage, it did feel as though I was simply trying to get to the finish line, rather than enjoying the process. I’m an impatient person, and novel-writing isn’t ideal for the impatient. Now, I’m getting there: learning to enjoy the process. With my new novel, Gabriel’s Cat, my agent asked for a synopsis early on, something I’d never done until the book was finished. Being clearer about where the story was going has helped. I feel less frightened about what will happen next when I sit down to write. I have never enjoyed writing more. I learned a lot at a Jericho Writers Getting Published Day. There were lots of really interesting and practical sessions during the day. I left with more inspiration, and was buzzing because I’d spent a blissful succession of hours with people who could talk all day long about writing novels, without glazing over once! My First Draft It took me four months to write the first draft of Spacehopper and I gave it to four friends to read in chunks. These were the same friends who read the novel I cut my teeth on the previous year, and this time was different. They didn’t really have any criticism, just wanted me to get on with it, so they could find out what happened next. This boost to my ego was essential: much as I wanted honest feedback, I think I would have crumbled, possibly stopped, if the feedback had been bad. I wanted them to be honest, but I wanted them to honestly love it. Spacehopper has a big twist; I didn’t think of it until I was more than halfway through writing the novel, and as soon as I decided on the ending, I couldn’t write fast enough. I wanted to hear what my readers felt about the ending. When I made them cry, I punched the air. When the first draft was done, I did the same as last time, and commissioned a full editorial report through Jericho Writers, from the same editor as last time. It was a stretch on my finances, and I knew I would only be able to afford one round of feedback. The report I got back was worth every penny, not only in its practical suggestions, but because the editor said she was certain it was a novel that would be published. Hearing that from a professional, gave me the confidence to keep going, make a few adjustments and start to get ready to submit to agents. I think I would have enjoyed writing Spacehopper more if I’d planned out the story in more depth before starting, and followed more of the plot structures that make stories work. Not just because there is something nice about knowing where you’re going with a story, from beginning to end – indeed I truly believe you can know too much about what’s going to happen in the novel you’re writing: things that you don’t plan will be some of the best bits. But when you understand the plot structures that make stories work – even if you don’t follow them strictly – you will surely have more confidence that your story is going to be better told. Understanding what makes stories work, makes us better storytellers. From First Draft To Final Version The editor who conducted a full editorial report, via Jericho Writers, suggested I make some changes. I’ve looked back in my notebook and I see I made 39 changes to Spacehopper based on her recommendations. It might sound like a lot, but the majority were fairly straightforward. Essentially the novel remained unchanged (in comparison, when I made changes to my previous novel, it was a huge task and I felt I had a different book by the time I’d edited it). I worked for a couple of weeks tweaking Spacehopper, and after that, without the finances to put it through another round of editorial revision, I started getting ready to submit to agents. I didn’t give it to anyone else to read at this stage. As I mentioned, patience is not my strength, and I had to get it out. How I Got My Agent In September 2018, I put together my submission pack to agents. I trawled resources online and in books, to make sure my letter was just right and I used Jericho Writer’s AgentMatch to look up agents that might like my type of novel. A problem for me was that my novel includes time travel, but it’s not science fiction, or fantasy, it’s about love and grief and what we would say to those we loved and lost, given the chance. But it’s hard for people to see beyond the time travel element. I put my synopsis together and finally decided that I needed to get a submission pack assessment done: I didn’t want to mess up my first impression with agents before I’d left the starting blocks. Again I commissioned this via JW, and after that I began submitting with confidence that my submission pack, at least, was as good as it could be. I’d read enough to know I needed to brace myself for rejection. It was a rite of passage, everyone said so, and even if I was to get an agent one day, I knew I would have to taste rejection first. But knowing you’ll get your heart broken, doesn’t make it any easier when it happens. The first time I saw the name of an agent in my email inbox, I held my breath. I was at work, and I stopped everything: the email wouldn’t open. I trotted to another part of the college trying to get a connection, all the time thinking what if they want me?? When the email opened and I saw it was a rejection, I realised I wasn’t really prepared for the disappointment; the way it stuck in my throat and made it hard to swallow, the way I teared up because this email had been the difference between my dreams coming true and my dreams basically, not coming true. And then I got another rejection, and another, and another, each one feeling like a shovel full of dirt being thrown over me, until I felt buried. Fourteen rejections between October and Christmas brought me to an all-time low, which I managed to hide from most family and friends. I remember thinking that if I couldn’t write, then I couldn’t do anything I really wanted to do. Plus I’d made the mistake of telling everyone that I was submitting to agents. One of my friends who’d read my book and loved it said he would help me self-publish, and I said I’d think about it. But first I needed to get myself into a better place. I’m usually a happy person and I was so down. I needed to get back up. Over Christmas and January 2019, when I’d put Spacehopper in a drawer and locked it, I convinced myself that I’d been happy before I wrote this novel, and therefore I could be happy again. Eventually I started to come to terms with the idea of not getting published, even though I still believed so strongly in this novel that I’d locked away. Then a little bit of fate stepped in. Last year – before I started submitting to agents – my ex-husband’s fiancé asked in passing if she could read my novel, and after some deliberation, I agreed. Then in February this year, I got a message from her saying I just read a book that makes me feel a bit like your book did. That’s nice, I thought. The next day I happened to be in Waterstone’s and picked that book up, wondered if the agent was mentioned in credits. She was. Maybe – I thought – maybe I’ll try just one more agent – Judith Murray, at Greene and Heaton. And I did. I submitted my letter, synopsis and manuscript to her in the middle of February. When I got an email saying that Judith was loving Spacehopper and could I send the rest of the manuscript, I wasn’t prepared: by now I was only prepared for rejection. I sent the manuscript, and held my breath for three days. She rang me, and on March the 1st I found myself meeting Judith in a restaurant in Borough Market in London. At last I felt I had opened the wardrobe door and stepped into another world. Meeting Judith was one of the most delightful experiences of my life, hearing her thoughts on my novel, getting to know her and that feeling that I’d met my fairy godmother and she was going to do everything she could to get me to the ball. My Author-Agent Relationship After we met, Judith and I talked about making changes to my novel that she thought would give it its best shot at being an attractive prospect for publishers, and she gave me a set of notes to work from. Everything she said struck a chord, and I enjoyed working on the edit. Where the changes were trickier to come to terms with, Judith explained why they would work, and by Jove, she was right! By the beginning of April, Judith was ready to submit to publishers. She told me that waiting to hear back from editors/publishers could be nerve-wracking (why does everything about this business have to be so bloody nerve-wracking!) and Judith clearly knows that some authors need more support than others during this stressful process. She was always there at the end of the phone or email and did what she needed to do to help me not lose heart. I always felt she was there for me, even though I knew how busy she must be with other authors and all those submissions. She kept in touch regularly during those early days of submissions and we talked on the phone weekly, or more if necessary. Even though we now have a deal and things are calm at the moment, we still talk and email. She is an utter joy to work with, and I feel incredibly lucky that I found her, and that fate led me directly to her door. I trust her completely, she is wise, and kind and life is better for knowing her. And if that sounds over the top, don’t forget she’s negotiating on my behalf to make my dreams come true. Last Piece Of Advice I have two pieces of advice I would give to anyone who wants to get published (I have more, but am sticking to two, as I’m well over my word-count limit!). The first is to listen to anyone who says your novel needs changes. If they are professionals, in particular, I think that for the most part you should trust that they’re right. You might not want to change things in the way they suggest – no problem – make changes in your own way, but certainly, listen to their advice and act on it. Similarly if your friends or family feel that something doesn’t work, even if they’re not professional writers or readers, they are still readers, and if they feel something’s not working, then they’re probably right. Secondly, targeting the right agent is key. You know that, I knew that, I’d read it a million times. But while the information available on agents’ likes and dislikes is useful, in the end, for me, it was finding a novel that felt something like mine that led me to the right one. If you can read a lot of books and find out which agents are likely to go for a story like yours, then hopefully, you will hit a bullseye. For more information, try our article How to Get Your Book Published.

3 Key Steps To Building Your Author Brand

Author branding, when done right, can be critical to future success. And self-publishing authors must be able to do this right. Even when choosing traditional publishing, something many authors miss at the beginning of their careers is creating an authentic online presence to engage readers. If you’re self-publishing, though, it’s central. You’ll be your own editor, designer, social media coordinator, production team, etc., and everything traditionally done by a publishing house, you’ll need to be doing yourself. And you may not like imagining yourself as a marketer when all you want is to get on and write. In this article, graphic design platform 99designs walks you through a few key tips (and how to keep it fun, too). Why Branding Is Essential For Authors (Self-published Or Not) Building a brand for yourself helps your audience find out what your work is all about, what you stand for and what they can expect from you. It establishes a connection with your audience and takes no more than a few careful steps to consider. Step 1: Defining Yourself As An Author The following aspects can help you communicate your unique personality and engage with readers. Your author personaUse the storytelling skills you (almost certainly) possess already. Then apply them to you. What is the character of your public self? Are you snarky, quirky? Or more introspective? What is it you are sharing with your audience? Defining yourself will help you understand what you want to create. So consider your story, or “public persona”. Your readersNext, think about your reading audience. Who is reading your books right now? Who do you want to read your books? Are they the same? Think about what kind of person would represent your current or ideal audience. Then examine why they are interested in your writing. By defining who your ideal audience is and understanding what they are looking to get from you, you’ll be able to communicate with strength and clarity to the right people, and think about the community you want to create. Your specialtyFinally, and most importantly, you will need to define your specialty. You may not be the only romance or fantasy writer in the world. But whatever you are writing about, you are bringing your specific one-of-a-kind perspective, voice and way of thinking to the page. This differentiates you from other writers out there. This is your “Point of Difference”. Do you have a specific style, unusual skill or experience? Consider how these things may make you or your writing special. (But, please, never show off.) Step 2: Presenting Yourself As An Author You need the right tools to communicate with readers. So here are a few tips on presenting yourself as a writer through design and social media. Get your author website designedYou’ll need to get a website and logo designed. And both must look clean, polished and professional, no matter how wacky the design. Your logo could be your name or a graphic, as long as it works with the style of the website and doesn’t clash. The look and feel of your logo and website should depend on this vibe you are going for. Look up any images that inspire you. Note down hues and typographies you like for CSS. Then once you’ve decided on a look, keep it consistent. Whether you\'re looking to redesign or create your site, look at a few examples of well designed author websites to get inspiration. Remember to think about site function as well as site design. Those two things have to work together, always. Then build a presenceIt’s not enough to simply have a website. You also need to actively build your online presence around it. Engage with readers and other writers to have the most impact. One of the most effective ways is regular blogging, keeping your audience engaged and helping them to know you better. It’s also good to be active on social media, but consistency is everything. So select the channels you’re sure you’ll use. Stick with them until you’re happy to experiment. Share updates and answer questions, but don’t just tell us about you. Look up chat hashtags to join (i.e. #amwriting on Twitter). If you see things you like, repost and reply. Others will be likelier to reply to you, too, building your following. And engagement is better than constant self-promotion. Look also for Facebook groups, forums or other blogs, where you can comment, write posts or share your content and opinions. Brené Brown’s website, for instance, is an excellent example for author branding. Find your readers where they areThough it’s good to stick with the social media you’re confident with (especially if you’re new to it), look online for where you would find readers that could be interested in you. Say if this is Instagram (i.e. perhaps you’re a novelist, but also an aspiring poet), and you’re not an Instagram user, then it might just be time to learn. Join in the likes of Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav. Get to grips with hashtags, too. You can become part of the conversation and people will get to know you. By interacting via social media, as a general rule you can find vast groups of interested people to engage with, spread the word and start building a following of your own, leading them back to your site. Step 3: How To Stand Out As An Author The true challenge is to create a one-of-a-kind-brand for yourself as a writer that sets you apart from everyone else. To achieve this, here are some last pointers. Be true to yourselfTo really be successful, you need to be authentic. Only if you let your authentic personality shine through in all your efforts can you build a strong and compelling presence as an author. Your readers will appreciate your honest voice, so stick to who you are to build a connection. The most important core of your author brand is you. Be consistentIt’s easy now to be impressively consistent with your site design. Online tools exist to help you create matching Twitter and Facebook cover and profile photos, etc., for a polished look across your site and social media. To establish a clear idea, and so everyone knows it’s you, create a consistent style across the digital channels your audience can find you on. Incorporate your ‘Point of Difference’As discussed earlier, this is your biggest selling point. The clearer you can let it shine in all you do, the easier it will be for you to build a loyal audience. Your Aide For Success So, the obvious: good writing is what will get you read as an author. Nevertheless, building an authentic brand as a writer is well worth it, despite the effort involved. A clear and convincing image of your work to the world will be key to building a loyal and engaging audience – vitally, one which loves you not just for your writing, but also for who you are as an author.

An Interview With Agents On Polishing Submissions

Having shared insights with Festival of Writing 2017 attendees, three agents – Catherine Cho, Sandra Sawicka, Susan Yearwood – sat down with us for an interview on getting agent submissions right, what they’re most moved by, and what they’re looking for in the slush pile. What sort of books do you love receiving? Catherine: I love books that are transportive; with layers and depth, with a compelling story at its heart, those are the novels that I remember. Sandra: I love reading about things I don’t know. It could be a particular setting that is foreign to me, or a character with a weird profession, or completely different set of experiences … worlds for me to explore and learn. Have you ever opened a new manuscript, read a single page, and thought ‘I’m going to end up making an offer on this’? What was it about that page which excited you? Sandra: Yes, first line in fact. It was Paul Crilley’s Poison City where a talking dog tells his owner off for not providing his favourite tipple (sherry). I immediately thought – this is mad, I need to tell everyone. Catherine: I have read manuscripts and been drawn in from the first page – usually from an incredible voice that immediately pulls you in. It’s an exciting feeling, especially after reading so many submissions and to discover something amazing, it’s a bit like falling in love. Are you most drawn to beautiful writing? Or a wonderful plot? Or a stunning premise? Or anything else? Susan: I’m drawn to writing that engages so completely that I’d rather read the submission than do anything else during the course of the day. A good plot and premise are difficult to realise fully without a good sense of place and character in any genre. Catherine: Plot and premise are very important. What I notice is that often, first-time novels don’t have a strong narrative drive, and we need that central conflict or narrative momentum to create a compelling story. Do you need good personal chemistry with your authors? Sandra: I mean, it helps. I usually meet authors before I offer to represent them, to see whether we are on the same page about the edits but also to talk about how I work. Tell us how you like writers to submit work to you and how you’d like them not to submit work? Catherine: I prefer to receive my queries by email with the cover letter, synopsis, and first 3 chapters in the body of the email. Susan: I prefer to see the initial 30-50 pages of a script (or a book proposal with a sample of writing at that length in the case of non-fiction submissions). The covering email (or letter if it’s impossible to send the submission by email) should be brief, with a line about the book, an explanatory paragraph with more detail about the script then a few lines about yourself. Do you have any pet peeves about cover letters? Catherine: I have a couple of pet peeves on cover letters (Dear Sir, in particular), and this is a personal one, but unnecessary autobiographical details. I think a novel, even if it is inspired by personal experiences, should stand for itself. The grim stats: how many submissions do you get per week (or year)? And how many new authors do you take on? Susan: I receive about 80-100 per month, depending on the month. How many new authors I take on depends on the submissions I receive. I am looking to take on more writers in adult fiction and non-fiction than I currently represent and introduce 9-12 age range children’s fiction and teen/YA fiction to my list. Catherine: As I’m building my list, the majority of my writers are from the slush pile or writers I’ve approached from anthologies and writing journals. I receive 50-80 submissions a week, and because I read them all on my own, it means that I’m constantly behind! When did you come into agenting? What did you do before? And why agenting? Susan: In 2007, I founded Susan Yearwood Literary Agency (now Susan Yearwood Agency), having spent part of the early to mid-90s at Virago Books and Penguin. I spent some time outside of publishing and came back to books via agenting to represent the type of writer I enjoyed reading, which, I feel, is the most exciting part of being a literary agent. Catherine: I came into agenting in a roundabout way. After university, I went to law school and tried working in the corporate law world. I then shifted to lobbying and worked for a lobbying firm in Washington DC. After a year at Capitol Hill, I realized that I’d rather lobby for something I believed in, and I decided to try and move to publishing. I hadn’t heard of agenting before, and I initially planned to find a job in editorial. I slept on friends’ couches in New York and had many coffee meetings with different people, and someone suggested that I try to find a job with a literary agency. It sounded like a dream job, and as a bonus, it would mean that I’d also be able to use my legal background. I was lucky enough to become a literary assistant and contracts manager at Folio Literary Management in New York, which was a great introduction to the industry. And then when I moved to London, I joined Curtis Brown as a literary assistant and have been working on building my list. If you had one bit of advice to give to new writers, what would it be? Catherine: My advice to new writers would be to keep writing! Writing and querying is a very subjective business, and the most important thing is to keep going, to keep learning and improving your craft. Read more free advice on submitting to literary agents!

Meet UK Literary Agents At The Festival Of Writing

It’s not easy wowing literary agents. With one email, just a letter, a synopsis, and your first chapters to go on. A great literary agent submission pack makes a difference, but agencies in London are often inundated and it’s not uncommon for writers to not hear back. UK literary agents are looking for new writers, though – and you’re that bit harder to ignore face-to-face. (It’s not to say you can harass agents. You couldn’t phone an agent to ask a meeting unless you were a client – nor is it an idea to thrust a manuscript under a nose at first chance. Nor send gimmicky gifts to UK literary agents’ offices. This has happened.) What you need is a chance to connect authentically, in a professional setting. With an agent there who is open and expecting to talk to you. Here’s how to make the most of the Festival of Writing in York and meet literary agents for yourself – plus an incredible story from one author who had several UK literary agents jumping to represent her after her time at the Festival of Writing. Who’s The Festival Of Writing Really For? If you’ve got a manuscript written and want to publish – and you’re ready to talk to editors, agents and book doctors about it – the Festival of Writing is for you. And whilst you’ll find great workshops on improving writing and craft (as on publishing topics), agent 1-to-1s are part of your ticket. So the focus is on publication, whether it’s traditional or self-publishing you’d like. You’ll be a writer looking to pitch an unpublished manuscript. You’ll be able to send competition entries on time for judges to review, opening chapters in time for your chosen agent to look at before the day. It means you’ll get full value out of your Festival ticket. If you’re also pondering self-publishing (our Festival workshops cover self-publishing), professional feedback is still vital before you self-publish a book. A literary agent, book doctor or editor 1-to-1 at the Festival can give that feedback. And if you’re not from the UK – that’s okay. We’ve had many writers fly in for this event. Just bear in mind it’s literary agents from the UK you’ll meet at the Festival. If you’ve just started writing, or you haven’t got a manuscript ready, or you couldn’t get it ready in time for the next Festival, this is an annual event, and one to plan for – you’ll want to have your writing ready as it can be. It could be the sort of event to write towards in a year. And you can follow us on Twitter or join our mailing list for ‘earlybird’ updates each year, too. How Prepared Should I Be For The Festival Of Writing? On one hand – there’s no need to be worried about presenting your agent pitch. The only thing that ever persuades an agent is the quality of your manuscript. Think of the pitch simply as a gentle way of introducing the rest of the discussion. 1-to-1 sessions are also the most formal part of proceedings, but we hope you will chat to agents over tea or in the evening, as well as other writers. Some of the best contacts can be made this way. All the same, you’re investing in your writing career. Aside from 1-to-1s, you’ll enter writing competitions (deadlines before September), and shortlisted entries are read out for literary agents in the room. Past Festival visitors have been offered representation because of these things. Your agent submission packs also need to be with your chosen agents before the Festival itself, so they need time to read your work over before 1-to-1s. So it’ll help you to prepare at least a few months in advance. Be as prepared as you can, because the Festival of Writing gets you noticed – as happened for author Tor Udall. Tor came to the Festival of Writing in 2013 and A Thousand Paper Birds went on to be published with Bloomsbury. Tor Udall’s Story (Warning: Attending The Festival Of Writing Could Seriously Change Your Life) The truth is I was terrified. My comfort zone is a quiet room with only my characters and words for company, so the idea of spending three days with hundreds of writers I didn’t know felt challenging. Apart from having to face industry professionals, there was also the prospect of the Gala Dinner. When I followed participants on the forum discussing dresses they were going to wear (taffeta was mentioned), I definitely wobbled. But I was determined to do something radical. I had been writing for 15 years, been close to publication a couple of times, but the overall message I was receiving was ‘you have talent, you write beautifully, BUT…’ Hearing I had potential in my early twenties was lovely. Hearing I still had potential 15 years later was frustrating and I realised that if I was going to cross that golden threshold I had to do something different. I had submitted my third novel to 5 agents in June 2013. After receiving silence, I booked my place at York. The week before the Festival, three of the original agents got in touch, saying they were interested. So I arrived at #FOW13 on a high and had an absolute blast. I learnt so much from the workshops and loved meeting writers from other genres. The biggest discovery was that I actually ENJOYED ‘small talk’ if it was about books. I was in my element. During the weekend, I met two agents who both asked to read the manuscript. I returned from the rollercoaster, proud that I had pushed my courage to the limit, and as I sat there on the Sunday evening I had no idea that the real ride was only just beginning. The agents from the Festival read my manuscript within 24 hours and both offered representation. I then returned to the original 3 and they offered representation too. Overwhelmed, I contacted two people I had met in York: the wonderful book doctor, Andrew Wille, and the fabulous Francesca Main from Picador. Both offered advice without being directive and both suggested that I contact other agents too. This led to a ridiculous number of agents saying yes and my diary became unrecognisable with daily meetings. I was in the centre of a ‘buzz’ and I realised that people were now reading the manuscript differently with a starting point of ‘how can I help make this work?’ The doors I had been knocking on for 15 years were crashing down around me. I now had a new problem. Who was I going to pick? All the agents were smart, passionate, experienced and a delight to be with. I would have happily worked with each of them as they all brought something unique to the book and showed great insight. By this point, several successful writers were also getting in touch to recommend their agent or offer advice – and I remain stunned and humbled at the support I received from so many professionals who took time out of their busy schedules to help. But it did get to a point where I was scared to look in my inbox to see which celebrity was there that morning: ‘BOO!’ However the overall message I received was clear. I needed to listen out for that infamous ‘click’ … and to trust my instincts. When I walked into the ANA offices, Jenny Savill led me into the boardroom where I found a pictorial homage to my book spread out on the table. There were not only photographs of the novel’s location, but print-outs of music I mention and images of motifs that proved to me she understood the subtleties of what I was trying to do. She then introduced me to her colleagues and they had read the book too. Despite being in the hectic run up to Frankfurt, each of them stopped to meet me and I was so overwhelmed that I walked into a glass door. A classic Bridget Jones moment. … Had I heard a click? There had been a symphony of castanets. But still I wasn’t sure. How could I possibly turn down the others who I also adored? But I kept coming back to Jenny who had shown me that she understood the book, and what I’d been trying to do, better than I did. The key moment came when I drove past a poster of an NME cover showing David Bowie surrounded by origami birds. Both of them key motifs in the book. It was the strangest synchronous moment … and the first person I wanted to call to was Jenny. And that was that. It was hard to let the others down – all who had put so much energy and belief into the book – and of course I would have loved to mesh them into one uber-agent! But this was the real world and after all the excitement, my suitors rode into the sunset to find other books to fall in love with, other writers to court. In the ensuing silence, I was left standing opposite the one I had chosen, the two of us looking into each other’s eyes, thinking of the years and challenges ahead of us and saying. ‘Okay, let’s make this happen.’ So then I had the draft of my life ahead of me. But I was back in my ‘happy place’, playing around with words and asking these wonderful, frustrating characters to reveal themselves to me just a little bit more. And as I worked, I didn’t only have the brilliant support of Jenny … but all the agents’ wise voices in my head. And I feel hugely supported and blessed. None of this would have happened without the Festival of Writing. They were the spark that lit the fire. I also can’t thank Andrew and Francesca enough for their unbiased support – I couldn’t have got through the rollercoaster of these crazy months (or had so much fun) without them. There are still many more hurdles to jump. But I have learnt an important lesson … and ironically, it’s a lesson I needed to learn for my characters too. If you do the thing you’re most frightened of, you might just get what you want. 11 Tips For Making The Most Of The Festival Of Writing Be brave. As Tor said – if you do the thing you’re most frightened of, you might just get what you want. Make sure to locate the front desk. This is where you’ll check in and can ask your questions during the weekend. Write down your 1-to-1s and keep these with your programme. This way you have your map, timetable and 1-to-1s all in one place! Be professional. We’ve mentioned it before, but it’s very important! First impressions really do count, and although this is a fun weekend, it’s the opportunity to meet UK literary agents with whom you may want a working relationship – so don’t just thrust your manuscript at them! They are people, too, so have a chat. Make the most of tea breaks, meals and drinks. These are all great times for networking and if you’re professional and polite, industry professionals will enjoy talking to you. Bring bottled water. Although there’s plenty of tea breaks, it can get hot and you’ll be going between workshops and 1-to-1s. Make sure you’re properly hydrated! Wear comfy shoes. Between workshops, panels and 1-to-1s, there’s lots of walking around. Make sure you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing! Take a walk if you need a few quiet minutes. Bring a bag with some empty space. There’s the opportunity to buy books over the weekend and maybe even have them signed by their authors. Leave some room to take your books home! Remember to ‘dress to impress’ for the Gala on Saturday! We’ve had kilts, black ties and ball gowns. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve also had jeans, nice shirts and tops. Wear whatever you’re comfortable in to bring a bit of sparkle to your evening. Have fun and enjoy your weekend! Find out more about the Festival of Writing! A Thousand Paper Birds (Bloomsbury) was longlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and has been translated in six languages. The paperback was released 3 May 2018. You can follow Tor’s journey on Twitter and at her website.

How To Start A Writer’s Blog (The Basics)

Whether you’d like to be traditionally or self-published, this kind of contact between yourself and readers can start with a blog. Sharing your thoughts and writing life in a blog helps create a connection to readers, whether you’re published now or are hoping to be. For in-depth social media and blog insights, you may like our self-publishing course content – but, be you published or not, here’s a whistle-stop tour on how to successfully start a writer’s blog for time-pressed writers. What To Write About In Blog Posts A few first ideas. Opinion post (perhaps wise or poignant, perhaps funny, depending how you write) How-to guide (on something you know well) Personal anecdotes (sharing stories that serve audiences and serve you) Book reviews Book giveaways Round-ups (e.g. writing or competition news, links, etc.) Enjoy mind-mapping, as this should be a passion project and unique to you. A blog you love is a blog others will love. (If you’re a planner, you may enjoy creating a blog content calendar, too.) What Blog Platform To Choose If you’re an uncertain blogger, try starting a hosted blog., for instance, is a free platform that makes it easy to transfer to, the latter giving autonomy on domain, design choices, and more. You’ll have the option of upgrading later to a self-hosted site when you feel confident. Joanna Cannon, for instance, uses WordPress. Squarespace is an alternative blog home, as used by Tor Udall. If you’re time-pressed, another idea is a micro-blog. Writers like Erin Morgenstern, Rainbow Rowell and Neil Gaiman use Tumblr. On a hosted site like Tumblr, it’s easy to ‘re-blog’ if you’re on the move. You can re-share social content (bookish images, links, quotes, audio, and video), whilst still linking to original users. If you know you’ll struggle finding time for posts, Tumblr is a ‘low-maintenance’ choice, and you can buff up less-frequent writings with this sort of re-sharing. Question how much time you can really commit to a blog, how confident you are, your aims and the content you want to create. Research your options and work from there, as best suits you. How To Write Blog Content That Sticks You need writing readers can return to. How will your blog shine out, and how will your posts stick over time? Creativity on your own time and terms should bring fun and fulfilment, so write posts that bring you to life. Just remember, if you’d like to create engagement and connected readers, everything you post needs justification. What value is it bringing? If you’re writing for other authors, as an example, why must people with limited writing time stop by to read? Is there timeless advice you’re posting, encouragement you can share, a round-up of quotes, or tips for productivity and self-confidence you can give? Brainstorm advice, anecdotes, lists and inspiration you can offer. Write for enjoyment, but make it worth a reader’s time stopping by. If your content grips, they’ll linger, feeling more connected to and interested in you and your books. Look up popular authors’ blogs for ideas. A Note On Copywriting You’ll have no in-house editorial team as a blogger, no line- and copy-edits made, just as if you were self-publishing a novel. As a plus, you can write what you want. As a minus, you can write what you want. Shakespeare’s observed brevity is the soul of wit, so keep sentences clear, concise, and sharp. Use shorter paragraphs, bullet lists and subheadings, remembering people will often read on the move. Simpler is better in blog copy. How To Get People To Blog Your Book Whichever social channels you feel comfortable using (never the ones you don’t), add your blog URL to profiles. Make use of writers’ and readers’ hashtags like #amwriting, #askagent or #bookstagram if you’re sharing post links on Twitter. If there are calendar days or months like #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November), tap into these, schedule thematic blog posts and join the chats. Social media helps feed your blog. (Just don’t spend too long on social media. Keep it to only an hour a day.) What’ll make readers linger on your blog, though, is still value of content. Once those readers are there, really enjoying your words and your stories, they can enter their emails to subscribe to your feed. Ultimately, whatever you’re posting should bring readers value and wisdom in some guise. This gets readers to your blog and keeps them there. Do Writers Need Blogs? You’ll need a website and social media, online spaces your readers can find you. A personal blog should display writings, musings, advice, insight into what readers may find in your books. It’s the space you can create meaningful connections with readers. Do share your links on social media with us. For more free insights, peek at our prose advice, or other writing advice pages to give you ideas. Happy blogging!

Taking Emotional Possession Of Your Characters

As an editor, I’ve recently read a couple of submissions where the author is writing about someone they knew, in one case a brave, soldier father, in another an interesting aunt. Our biographies are often submerged in our novels: the idea of a roman a clef was precisely this: thinly veiled characters whose identity could be guessed at by the reader. Many authors find this a useful device from Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks, to Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, to Scott Fitzgerald in Tender is the Night or even Violet Trefusis in Broderie Anglaise. It’s not so much why authors write about their own families and people they know, it’s how they go about it. Do you stick to facts or do you muck about with them? My first novel was based on the life of a cousin of my great-grandfather’s, a soldier in the Great War who kept some (rather dull) war diaries that were published after his death in 1918 and are often quoted by military historians because of the pinpoint accuracy of his observations of the landscape and his obsession (very necessary) with the ranging of his guns as an artillery officer. But what interested me was what he was really thinking on the inside. I’d found draft diaries in one of those tin boxes with his name in white paint on the side and the top that hinted at a much more interesting interior life: he was a Catholic convert and obsessed by his religion, he had a tender but slightly tentative relationship with his wife and was enjoying the war enormously, although he writes about his suffering, too. Even more interesting was the fact that all the (to me) interesting bits had been scored out with blue pencil before they were published. Here was my subject, I felt. But this was my first novel, how the hell did I go about taking emotional possession of someone who had really existed? The facts of his life daunted me to start with: they seemed so final and definitive, how could I change them and what would I change them into? And not only that, but the detail of the Great War almost crushed me to death. It’s a huge subject about which I knew not very much. I mentioned what I was doing to someone (a great mistake, never mention tender subjects like this at a dinner party as you run the risk of exposing yourself to the highly contagious disease of doubt, rife amongst authors), and he said, ‘Oh, but hasn’t the First World War been done to death?’ Well, yes, it had. But not by me, I decided, after a bad day or two. I proceeded with my task. My hero, Gerard (his middle name, in fact), died in real life in 1918. Did that mean I had to somehow write about four whole years of the most written about war in history? After about a year, I realized that I could do whatever I liked. For fictional purposes, I killed him off sometime in early 1915, but I used the text of the real (and indescribably moving) letter written by the priest who buried him to his wife in the actual novel, a letter that afterwards appeared in The Faber Book of Letters, adding another twist to the whole roman a clef business. When the book was reviewed in the TLS, the reviewer knew of my character’s real identity and mentioned his quite famous war diaries in the review. So what was true and what wasn’t? By the end I couldn’t remember and quite frequently confused my own fiction with fact, so successful had I become at my task of ‘playing God’. In fact, immersing myself in the First World War changed my life for good. As a result, I took my then young children every Remembrance Sunday to the ravishingly beautiful service in Westminster Abbey, something they remember now with great intensity. We visit the real Gerard’s grave whenever we go that way through the haunted battlefields of the Somme, too – and I always weep. If you want to take emotional possession of your characters, let them take the same of you.

How Tim O’Rourke Became A Kindle Bestseller

Publishing direct via Kindle is increasingly becoming a sensible option for new writers. Guest author and blogger, Tim O’Rourke, succeeded in becoming a #1 bestseller within his category by taking that exact route. In just four months, he has sold 40,000 books after manuscript feedback from us, and sales are still increasing. Here is his story. My name is Tim O’Rourke. Recently my ebooks have really taken off, and on this blog, I’m going to tell you how I did it – what I’m discovering – and how you can do it, too. I’ve only been self-publishing my books for the last ten months. If I really think about it though, that short space of time has been tough, fun, exciting and sometimes surreal. Like many aspiring writers, over the years I’ve had my fair share of knock backs from agents and never got close to even getting any of my books in front of a publisher. But, I never stopped writing and that’s the most important thing. I kept on writing because I just loved doing it. Last February I was bought a Kindle for my birthday. I didn’t want one as I loved books. I loved the feel of them, the smell of them and the noise of the pages being turned over. Nevertheless, I switched it on and started downloading and downloading and reading and reading and downloading and reading – you get the picture and rightly or wrongly, I haven’t bought a paper version of a book since. In March, I happened across an article on the internet regarding self-publishing your own books onto the Kindle to be sold on Amazon. Intrigued by this and with a fair amount of hesitation (what if I didn’t sell any?) and the numerous articles on the internet telling you that you shouldn’t self-publish on the Kindle as it’s killing the publishing industry, and self-published authors on the Kindle are lucky if they sell more than 150 copies, and although Amazon offer an attractive 70% royalty programme, 70% of nothing (the amount of books you will sell) is still nothing, I thought I would give it a go. What did I have to lose? I would have been happy to sell 50 books as that meant I’d shared my stories with 50 more people than I had previously. So with very little effort and totally free of charge, I uploaded my first book Doorways onto the Kindle, which meant it was available as an ebook on Amazon in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. The original cover was designed by a friend. The book was a fantasy adventure aimed at 14 – 16-year-old boys. I set the price low at 99 cents (77p). Why so low? Two reasons, I thought that as a self-published and unknown author it was more important for me to find a readership for my work than to make money. Secondly, I have two teenage sons who, believe it or not, have never walked into a music store and bought a CD. Every piece of music they buy, they download for 79p from the iTunes store. The Apps and games that they download are never more than £1.00. So, as I was aiming my book at a similar age group and my books were going to be downloadable, it made sense to me to set the price of my books at the same levels as equivalent media that my own children were downloading. With my book on Amazon, I waited to see what would happen. Not a lot. After initial copies that were snapped up by friends and family, the book just kind of sat there. Undeterred, I uploaded another book that I had just finished writing. This book was called ‘Black Hill Farm, a psychological thriller with a paranormal twist aimed at the YA market (16 plus). Again, I got my friend to design a cover, and I uploaded to Amazon. This did a little better and I sold about 65 copies in the first few weeks and a few more copies of ‘Doorways. Pleased by my progress (hey, I was halfway to that magic 150 number!), I wrote a follow up book to Black Hill Farm called Andy’s Diary. I put this out about six weeks later and my sales crept up again and I think I sold about another 50 copies. (Happy days as I had passed the magic 150!) The problem is, there are over 600,000 books available to download on the Kindle so how do I make mine stand out? I’m competing with books promoted by massive publishing houses – my books must compete with thousands of traditionally published books! My Kiera Hudson series is, again, another set of books aimed at the YA market. Kiera Hudson is a feisty twenty-year-old new police recruit who has the wonderful knack of solving crimes that others can’t, especially when it comes to vampires and all other things paranormal.   Eventually my £80 marketing budget dried up, and although my sales had increased to anywhere between 150 – 200 a month, I couldn’t tell if this was due to the bloggers, the Facebook adds or if my books were spreading by word of mouth. I had started to sell books in the US and I knew this wasn’t friends or family who were buying them. Then one day, just before releasing the first book in my Kiera Hudson series, I googled my own name and the title of my book ‘Black Hill Farm’ and I was surprised that it was being mentioned on blogs that I hadn’t even contacted. It was also being mentioned on a website called Goodreads. I’d never heard of it. It’s a site where avid readers and writers review books, join communities and talk about authors, etc. I was surprised to see that my book and been put on the virtual bookshelves of members of the site and some had mentioned that they had seen my book on Facebook – so I knew that in some way, my £80 had been well spent. I joined the site and created a blog which I connected to my own books. I put the first Kiera Hudson book out in July and then something exciting started to happen. In August, I had my best month ever and sold approx. 400 books. Then, in September, something truly amazing happened and I sold just under 1,000 books. October, I sold approx. 4,000 books, November, over 8,000 books, December over 16,500 books. Why did this happen? To be honest, I think there are several reasons. I set the price of my book low, I write in a genre that is popular, I personally answer every single piece of fan mail that I receive, I contact those people kind enough to have left me reviews on Goodreads and thank them for doing so. I believe this is important, not to sell more books, but to say thank you to that person for spending their money on my book, taking the time to read it, then to leave a review for me. For instance, I received an email only the other day from a young girl you said that she had been given a Kindle for Christmas along with a £10 gift voucher. She went on to say that my books were the first that she downloaded and had loved them. It’s nice to know that she enjoyed them, but more than that, she spent her Christmas present on my books and that really made me think how nice that actually is. So the very least that I could do was email her to say thank you. I also have my own website which I have linked to my Facebook page. This is where I post news about my books and a place where people can become a fan of my books and leave messages. Again, I make sure that I respond to every message that is left for me and answer any questions. This for me is important and the bit I love the most, because it gives me a chance to chat to those people that are taking the time to read my books. I’m not very good at ‘Twittering’ but this again is an important tool, so I have linked my Facebook page to my twitter page, which is linked to my Amazon author page and website. This is a great way of connecting to the readers of my books. I also run competitions and giveaways, which have included signed T-Shirts that I had made with my book cover on the front, bookmarks that were kindly made by a fan, signed prints of the book covers and original pieces of artwork from the book cover designs. This to me is the most important part of what I’ve done, to have a good relationship with the people that read and enjoy my books. I have made so many new friends. At the beginning of this blog, I said that I had experienced many things in the last ten months and one of those was at times I had found the experience tough. How can it be tough? I’m doing what I’ve always dreamt of doing? But the thing is, I still have a day job and a young family. Everything that I have done in the last 10 months, including writing eight novels, publishing them, marketing them and everything else that I have mentioned above has all been done in my spare time. One night I was caught by my family asleep sitting in front of my laptop halfway through writing a chapter. The point I think that I’m trying to make is that, although my books are selling well (and there are other independent writers out there that are doing just as well and better) it has taken a lot of work. This is not easy. As an indie writer you are just that, plus the publisher, the editor, the marketing department, finding artists to do book covers, answering and dealing with all the correspondence, updating your blog, website, Facebook and a hundred other things that I’ve probably forgotten. I am no expert in publishing, but my heart tells me that things will change in the publishing world. I’ve read plenty of articles on the internet that authors are now leaving their agent and publishers to self-publish on the internet. Some of them have said that they earn more money that way, and others say it gives them more creative freedom. But for me, I’m starting to wonder if publishers will look straight to the internet to see what they want to publish next. Maybe the test of a good book won’t be on the suggestion of an agent, after all that is just one opinion, but if a book seems to be selling well on the internet, doesn’t that suggest that the public are enjoying it? Maybe that will be the real test. I believe this for a couple of reasons. The first book in my Kiera Hudson series was rejected by an agent as they said the book was for adults, not children, but the Amazon Children’s Horror chart and Amazon Children’s Romance Chart didn’t reflect this. Despite the concerns the agent had that my book wasn’t really a children’s book (although I wrote it for YA), doesn’t the fact that it was at the top of the Children’s/Young Adult chart suggest it did fit into that age range? Secondly, another agent recently said “no” to the same book because they didn’t think they could sell the foreign rights, despite that the book sold more copies in the US than anywhere else, as well as in Canada, Australia, Mexico, Germany, France and Italy – without even being translated. I even received an email from a US Publisher asking if I had an agent because they were interested in buying the rights, so they could sell my book in China. Yet I’d just been told by an agent that the book wouldn’t sell abroad. The point that I want to make is this: isn’t it the children/young adults who are buying my books the people that decide whether it’s a kid’s book or an adult book? Why pigeonhole everyone? Children have different reading ages, and likes and interests. With regards to my Kiera Hudson books, haven’t the young adults who are downloading them in their thousands already decided they like them? Yet it seems it’s just a handful of adults deciding what is right for them and what they should and shouldn’t be reading. I don’t know, I could be wrong – but if young adults didn’t feel that my books were right for them, would they be buying them? This point was never made clearer to me than the other day, when I received an email from a young teenage girl who said in big bold letters at the end of her email: “I want to be Kiera Hudson!” If you’ve been inspired by Tim’s story then learn more about self-publishing yourself. From how to write an Amazon description, which ebook format to use, and whether developmental editing is something indie authors should invest in, we’ve got you covered.

Developmental Editing: What It Is & Where To Get It

What is it? Do you need it? Where can you get it? Definition: What Is Developmental Editing? In the good old days, developmental editing used to have one precise meaning. It now has certainly two, maybe three, and possibly four meanings. In short: no wonder you’re confused. And no wonder it’s unclear whether developmental editing is something you need or not. But let’s start with those definitions. Here goes. Developmental Editing – Traditional Definition But we start with the first, core, and most precise definition. To quote the ever-reliable Wikipedia: “A developmental editor may guide an author (or group of authors) in conceiving the topic, planning the overall structure, and developing an outline—and may coach authors in their writing, chapter by chapter.” In other words, any true “editing” took place before the writing. It was a planning and design function, in essence. Because competent authors can probably take care of planning and design perfectly well by themselves, such editing was always relatively rare and, in fiction, extremely rare. I’ve authored getting on for twenty books now and have never once had a development edit. I’m damn sure I never will. Developmental Editing As Industry Euphemism But of course not all authors are perfect and, now and again, publishers have to deal with a manuscript they’ve commissioned, but which turns out to be absolutely dire. Think celebrity memoir of the worst sort. Or a multi-million-selling author who’s long since stopped caring about how he or she writes, because they know the money will roll in anyway. So what to do? Well, the standard solution in trade publishing is to do what is euphemistically called a ‘development edit’. What that actually means is that sometimes a developmental editor takes on the role of something akin to a ghostwriter. They rip out everything that’s hopeless and rebuild. I’ve known a Big 5 editor who had done this a couple of times, and he said it was soul-destroying. He didn’t get any bonus for doing the work. He didn’t get a share of fame or royalties. He didn’t go on the chat shows or the book tours. And he was always dancing on eggshells with the Famous Author, because the author in question was very prickly about having his work slighted in any way. Even though the work in question sucked. Great. So that’s the second meaning of a development edit: basically a euphemism designed to disguise what is basically a ghostwriting job. Developmental Editing In Self-Publishing That second meaning – basically, “complete text overhaul” – has given rise to a third one. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a particularly weighty hardback for the last few years, you’ll have noticed that indie authors – that is, self-published ones – have done rather well. They’ve gobbled ever more market share. Their books look better than ever before. They read better than before. They are marketed superbly. (So much so, that every single notable marketing innovation of the last few years originated with the self-pub industry. That’s astonishing. You can find out more about self-publishing here.) Over time, whole sections of the market (romance, SF) have been pretty much eaten whole by these indie authors. But let’s say you’re one of the modern breed of self-pub demigods. You publish 4-6 books a year. You have a backlist of 20+ titles. You know how to exploit all the key marketing channels at your disposal, and you exploit \'em good. You earn, for sure, a good six-figures. Quite possibly, you’ve hit seven. A million bucks plus in annual income. Wow! Kudos to you, my friend. We mortals bow in awe. But those demigods still have to write the damn books! And do everything else! And sleep! How do they fit it all in? Well, the answer is often that those authors complete their full-length novel in 3 months – something I’ve done just once in 20 years. They’re skilled and experienced writers and they’re also just plain good. That’s why they earn what they earn. (You can’t market rubbish.) But still. A first draft is a first draft, and first drafts aren’t normally known for their wonderful excellence. So these pro authors often work with developmental editors. That editor’s task is basically to clean up the text. Solve plot problems. Clean up sentences. Add a bit of setting and colour, if those things are sometimes wanting. Make sure that if the hero starts with blue eyes, his eyes haven’t changed colour halfway through. And so on. The author and the developmental editor will often form a team who know each other very well, understand each other’s roles, and produce genuinely excellent books together. That’s not how the traditional industry ever worked, except in crisis, but then again the traditional industry was never all that great at churning out authors earning six- and seven-figures a year. That’s the third definition, but it brings us to the last, most relevant one: Developmental Editing As Juiced Up Manuscript Assessment Now for me, the gold-standard method of improving a manuscript is quite simply the good old-fashioned manuscript assessment. You write your book. You send it to an editor. You get a report back saying, in essence, “this worked, this didn’t, here’s how to fix the bits that were off.” That sounds simple, but it isn’t. And often enough the effect of good manuscript feedback is a total revitalisation of the work. Many, many times, I’ve known a manuscript assessment to be the single most pivotal moment in a writer’s path to publication. But – A manuscript assessment is mostly just that. A long, written report. In the case of Jericho Writers, you get a fabulous editor, a report of no less than 3,000 words, and a long track record of success. But what you don’t get, or not mostly, is a page-by-page list of things to think about. And sometimes you need that too. Sometimes you need the rounded, structural commentary of the report but with detailed page-by-page advice alongside – actual annotations on the manuscript. Comments written in Word. Sample edits made to the document itself. That’s the glory of developmental editing. The big and the small. Both things delivered together. This kind of service is what we, Jericho Writers, offer by way of developmental editing. Others offer it too. It’s a very, very good service. It’s the ultimate gift you can give your work. (And yes. I know. That just sounds like a sales pitch – but read on. Developmental editing isn’t right for everyone. It might not be right for you.) When Is Developmental Editing Right For You? Honestly? You want my most honest opinion here? OK, here goes... Traditional Developmental Editing Do you need help conceiving, structuring, planning and shaping the manuscript before you have written it? Well, yes, maybe if you are hoping to write subject-led non-fiction. So if, let’s say, you’re an expert in optical physics. A well-known publisher wants a book on that subject for laypeople. They come to you. It probably makes sense for you to spend a day with your editor, planning the book that you will write. Your subject expertise + the editor’s market expertise = a proposition that might actually sell. I sincerely doubt that this situation applies to even 1% of those reading this article. Developmental Editing As Industry Euphemism Are you a global celebrity who has written a terrible book that needs reshaping by a pro? No? Then you do not need developmental editing of this, second, flavour. Developmental Editing In Self-Publishing Are you a self-pub demi-god? Do you pump out 4-6 books a year and earn enough revenue to employ a pro editor? If you do, then sure, you need developmental editing, but I don’t understand why you’re wasting your time reading this post. Go write another book. Developmental Editing As Juiced Up Manuscript Assessment Are you an ordinary writer slowly working your way to a manuscript (probably a novel) of publishable quality? If you are – and I’ve been in your shoes myself – then I get why you are thinking about developmental editing. It’s a sensible thing to think about and, for maybe 10-15% of you, it’s a sensible thing to purchase. The advantage of developmental editing is that it forces you to look at the big and the small. You’re asked to think about characterisation, and place, and story arc, and theme. And at the same time, your attention is being drawn to sloppy sentence structures, loose images, clunky dialogue, and erroneous habits of punctuation. That is one hell of a mix and it is powerful. Yes. So developmental editing – such as we offer – is a great service. It’s awesome. It could do wonders for your manuscript. But – Here are some downsides: It’s expensive Many of the page-by-page points will be picked up in some way in the editorial report. You won’t normally get a complete list of (say) poor sentences, but you’ll be given examples, so you know what to look for. Very often the structural advice will demand some significant level of rewriting, which means the page-by-page comments may be less relevant. If your prose quality and general writing technique are reasonably strong, then the most important feedback will live in the editorial report anyway. If you go on to get an agent and a book deal, your publisher will end up paying for a full professional copy-edit (and proof-read), so they’ll end up addressing all the things that a developmental edit might have addressed – and more. That said, if your work is strong enough to do without the development edit, you should do without it. Someone else can pay. Those things aren’t small. If you have all the money in the world, then yes, sure, hire a developmental editor. For the rest of us, the matter demands thought. If I were advising a serious amateur writer on the subject of manuscript assessments, I’d say, “Get one if you can. It’ll probably be the biggest single jump you can make.” If I were advising the same person in relation to a developmental edit, I’d say, “Think hard. It might or might not be right for you.” Yeah. Helpful, I know. Still not sure if a developmental edit is the right choice? Then you’ll probably find this article on the different types of editing really useful. Developmental Editors When it comes to deciding whether a developmental edit is the best fit for you and your book, it\'s not just the details of the service itself that matter, but also who you choose to perform the developmental edit. So if you\'re looking for some examples of developmental editors, head to our editors page, and filter by developmental editing. Hiring A Developmental Editor: Conclusion In the end, whether you hire a developmental editor or not is your call. It is a great service. It is expensive. The manuscript assessment alone does normally provide most (not all) of what you need. If you’re reading this post and still don’t know what you want, or which way to turn, then do reach out. Our customer service team at Jericho Writers are not employed to sell; they are employed to help. We don’t offer sales bonuses. We don’t hire salesmen. A good proportion of our workforce are writers like you. We’re on your side. I’m telling you all that, because if you want to get in touch with us to ask our advice, we’ll give that advice honestly, to the best of our ability. I hope that helps. And whatever you decide, may you and your writing thrive. In the end, that’s all that matters.

University Courses In Creative Writing

University courses in creative writing have become ever more common in both the US and the UK. But are they worth it? Personally, I think many people who do such courses can be let down by them. I think the teaching is often far too removed from the market, and the writers who graduate can be underprepared for market realities. In the first place, it’s important to realise that agents and publishers wouldn’t care about your academic qualifications. My degree is in economics. I spent ten years working as an investment banker. There was nothing in my history to suggest I had any talent at creative writing, and no one cared. There’s only one aptitude test which matters, and that’s whether you can write a good book. Yes, it is true that agents will tend to stay in close touch with various creative writing schools, watching for emerging talent, but so what? The most that’ll do is ease your path into the industry. If your book is good enough, and you’re not a numpty about finding agents (we doubt you are), you’ll secure representation. Good genre fiction is quite simply good writing. It deserves proper teaching, as much as anything else. One of our first clients came to me after having completed a creative writing course at a highly respected university. He had written a thriller – clever, stylish, nasty, memorable. But it wasn’t right. It spent too much energy on the style, too little on the thriller. I helped that client out with a couple of editorial reviews. He had much talent and a great concept. The things that needed fixing were obvious, fixable. But why was I providing that feedback? Why hadn’t this guy’s tutors already told him what he needed to know? He said that they were all literary writers who didn’t relate to what he wanted to do and had hardly ever read the full-length manuscript. I feel that’s inexcusable. (Oh, and we got that writer a top agent within weeks of his having finished his final edit with us.) And even if your interest is in writing literary fiction, I’m unsure most courses will set you on the right track. Fifteen years ago, there was a market for the ‘slim’ literary novel. You got paid £5,000 for it. It sold 200 copies in hardback. It sold 3000 copies in paperback. It got some nice reviews. No one made any money. After two or three such novels, everyone agreed that enough was enough, and an author’s career ended. That just doesn’t happen now, and it shouldn’t. Novels need to command an audience. The best debuts are loud, clamouring, unforgettable things that demand attention. Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Audrey Niffenegger’s Time Traveler’s Wife, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated. That’s what agents are looking for. Those are the books that can launch a career. Those are the things that MA or MFA courses should be teaching. Yet the tutors often have never written such an arresting book themselves. Whilst this isn’t always the case (Scarlett Thomas teaches at Kent, and China Mieville at Warwick, and there are more besides), some tutors have published short stories and poetry, sold slim literary novels of their own, but never engaged with the industry the way that most of their students want to engage with it themselves. I do know some brilliant professional authors who used university courses to put the final finishing touches to their work, and whose careers took off as a result. I know others (more of them) who completed their courses, often with distinctions, only to find that their work was unsaleable. Creative writing tutors loved their work. Publishers didn’t. Don’t let this happen to you. If you do sign up for one of these courses, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. For example, do sign up for a course if: you genuinely just want the thrill and satisfaction of writing creatively you want the fun and company of going back to college you want to broaden your feel for literature your course tutors have the kind of track record and publication history that you yourself aspire to If you want to write commercial fiction, or commercially successful literary fiction – if, in general, you want a career as a writer – then just consider carefully. As it happens, we run our own complete novel course, which is like a slimmed down MFA, but cheaper, less intrusive. There are other courses we have, though I’m not saying you ought to do our course or any course. And there will be a percentage of people for whom an MA or MFA in creative writing is absolutely what they ought to do. Only that percentage isn’t 100%. (Or 80%, etc.) Before signing up, do your research, ask the hard questions, and take care. Begin with the end in mind.

Diversity In Genre Fiction: One Writer’s Perspective

When Is A Book ‘Not Asian Enough’? There’s been a lot of recent discussion about diversity in publishing. A lot of people lament the fact that there aren’t enough diverse characters in fiction and that there\'s little inclusive language in books. There is diversity in the people who live in the UK and diversity in the subsection of those people who write books, so why the mismatch? As part of this discussion someone brought up the fact that books with BAME protagonists are judged by a different set of criteria – one of which is is this book Asian enough/black enough? This question winds me up. What is the benchmark for a book being Asian enough? Who sets it? How often is it reviewed? What is the point of it? I write romance, arguably the biggest-selling genre in fiction. I’m British/Sri Lankan. Asian is part of who I am. It’s not something I consciously work at. If you asked me to list the things that define me, my Sri Lankan background would not make it into the top five. As a kid, I lived in a regular house, went to a regular school, and read the same books, watched the same TV shows and listened to the chart show every week, just like the rest of my classmates. Of course, there was the odd Goodness Gracious Me moment, but mostly, my life wasn’t vastly different to my friends’. It wasn’t as though as soon as I shut the front door I was transported into another world of saris and spices. Yet, if you read mainstream fiction featuring Asian characters you’d think that was the case. No wonder everyone was so astounded that Nadiya Hussein chose to flavour her cheesecakes with fizzy pop on The Great British Bake Off (or that she even baked in the first place!). My first book featured middle-class Sri Lankan characters. I wrote about people who were, basically, a bit like the Asian people I know. I submitted it to agents and small publishers, I had a few notes back, and a few requests for the full manuscript. ‘Asian Lit’ was popular at the time; White Teeth and Brick Lane were still riding high. The most useful feedback I got back was “I like it, but I don’t know where I’d place it”. It wasn’t Asian enough for literary fiction and not white enough for genre fiction. Being the pragmatic sort, I wrote the next book with white main characters. Given that I write about middle-class people, the things that worry white characters would be pretty much the same as the things that bother Asian characters – job security, sexism, bullying, the quest for love. Besides, people are people, regardless of what shade they are, and white characters have the same range of feelings as brown ones. I placed this book with a small publisher relatively easily. Why Diversity In Genre Fiction Is Important If you want fiction to represent the experiences of a wide range of people, you need accept those experiences as they are presented – even if they don’t fit into your preconceived notions. Rich people face different challenges to poor ones. First-generation immigrants face different challenges to their children. No two Asian homes are the same, because no two families could be the same. So perhaps we should stop trying to pretend that they are. How can fiction show the reading public any variety in the Asian experience of life if the publishing industry insists that that very variety does not exist (or, more accurately, that the reading public won’t buy it)? ‘Diversity’ isn’t about showing Asian characters doing things in an \'Asian\' way, or gay characters doing things in a \'gay\' way or disabled characters doing things in a disability-adapted way all the time. That’s just pandering to stereotype. Diversity is achieved by showing characters of different backgrounds doing things in their own way and telling their unique stories. If it makes minority characters look less different than the majority expect them to be, that might even be a good thing. In case you hadn’t guessed, I write under a pen name since my real name is difficult to spell, and it helps to keep my writing career distinct from my day job – but I have always submitted my work to publishers and agents under my real name. I think (although I have no data to back this up) that the ‘is it Asian enough’ question arises not from racism as such, but from a skewed assumption of what readers can stomach. As a point of principle, I always have at least one Sri Lankan secondary character in each book. In my latest book (Please Release Me) the heroine is mixed race. I’m sneaking minority characters into mainstream genre fiction one book at a time. Interestingly, readers don’t seem bothered at all.

How To Sell A Movie Script: Our Top Tips

Is Your Script Really Ready? Review, Proofread And Then Review Again! Is your screenplay ready to go out to market? How many drafts have you done? 10- 20 is the norm. It really has to be the best it can be. It also has to be meticulously presented. Standard industry format, with no typos whatsoever. No scene numbers. Before even considering sending out your script, practise writing loglines and synopses for it. A logline is a one-sentence description of your story. A synopsis is a description of the story and characters that’s about one page in length. This offers you a final sense (reassurance?) that the whole storyline flows effortlessly, but they are also a necessary marketing step when trying to sell a movie script. However many drafts you’ve done, I urge to take one more look and ask yourself some questions. Imagine you are an industry reader late on a Friday evening, desperate to get home, or a producer who’s spent all weekend avoiding her slush pile and now it’s Sunday night and she’s tired out. Page One: Will they bother to turn the page? It has it be absolutely compelling. Keep on reading and until you’re satisfied that it is bold, original, with the words leaping off the page, don’t send it out. Wherever you send it, you get just one shot. And if in doubt, get feedback. It’s a new career you want to establish. Why wouldn’t you invest a little in getting proper, tough advice before you get going for real and try to sell your screenplay? Research Film Companies, Agents And Actors That Could Be Interested In Your Script Read the trades – Screen and Variety – invaluable info on who’s looking for what. Go online to find film companies’ websites for contact details of Heads of  Acquisitions and Development. Check out the kind of films they produce. If you want to try getting an agent (very tough now) look up online, research the writers on their lists to make sure there’s a chance they’d be interested in your type of script. If you want to try sending a script to a particular actor, call Equity in UK or Screen Actors Guild in New York or Los Angeles to get their agent’s contact details. Go to film festivals and screenwriters’ festivals. Network like mad. Join screenwriters’ forums – lots of useful info about festivals and contests – and moral support! Write A Sizzling 5-8 Lines Query Letter To Describe Your Script Do not send a script. The letter is to persuade them to ask to read it. Your query letter should be 7-8 lines maximum. No meandering, dull prose story of your life! Grab the reader in first 3 lines. Who you are, what your job is. Next 3 lines, a sizzling description of your script in 25 words or less. Make sure it’s original and intriguing. You need to spend time on getting this right. End the letter with: ‘I would like to send you my project for consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.’ Think About Your Selling Terms There are two probable alternatives when it comes to selling your script. First is an ‘option’, for a certain amount of money the producer or production company will have, for a specific time, the exclusive right to try to get funding and attach names to the screenplay. In effect, it’s a temporary sale. At the end of the option period, the producer can buy the script if it looks like the project can be produced, renew the option, or simply forget the whole thing – where the writer keeps control and copyright of the script. The second alternative is an ‘outright purchase’. After you sign this contract, you will not own the rights to your script anymore. New writers are often brought in and the screenplay dramatically changed. Consider Entering Specialised Contests To Gain Some Exposure Winning a contest or becoming a finalist or shortlisted can give your script some kudos and encourage industry professionals who monitor these contests to contact you. There are many to choose from with different criteria and entry fees. Of the most respected: Nicholls, Blue Cat, Red Planet, Zoetrope, and Page. While you wait, get onto the next piece of work immediately!  If this script doesn’t sell, it could get you commissioned to write a different script. Good luck! Other Tips Do try writing some shorts. Production companies now go to short film festivals that have mushroomed in the last few years. Join film-making groups, get involved, write a great short, get a director on board. The film could win or get shortlisted at a festival and that will mean your full length script will get taken more seriously. Several writers of shorts have gone on to be commissioned to write feature-length Hollywood screenplays. Why not you?

What I Learned About Book Publishing As A Debut Author

My debut A Thousand Paper Birds was published by Bloomsbury last June. Here are some of the things I’ve learned. Agents Are Heroes I am in love with each and every one of them. I know, from a distance, that they can seem like impenetrable gatekeepers but they are passionate advocates for good writing, work ungodly hours for work that they believe in and have no guarantee of financial reward. Sound familiar? Like writers, they too have to go through the precarious and heart-thumping process of submissions, rejections and deals. Agents not only help hone your work and protect your rights, but are a great sounding board throughout the entire journey. But most importantly they believe in, and fight for, books and writers. If you meet one, you should look them in the eye and say thank you. (A deep bow to Jenny Savill.) Book People Are Incredibly Generous The generosity of the industry has taken my breath away. Influential editors and publicists from other publishing houses have praised A Thousand Paper Birds on social media and encouraged others to read it –  and I’ve seen them do it with other debuts too. Why? Because they are passionate about books that they love whether it’s from their imprint or not. There are so many inspiring, authentic, brilliant people in this industry – brains as big as planets (a big wave to Georgina Moore and Alison Barrow!). The same is true of authors. If they believe in your work, they will shout about it from the rooftops. Being published for the first time is a giddy ride and it’s helpful to meet other authors on the rollercoaster. Having received so much support, I’m keen to help upcoming writers. It’s one massive chain of ink-stained hands and I love being a part of it. I truly believe this industry contains some of the best human beings on the planet. It Is A Team Effort After years of solitary writing, it has been a privilege to collaborate with the team at Bloomsbury. They are brilliant at what they do. From my sublimely smart editor to my sensitive and astute copy-editor, through to my designer and the publicity, marketing and digital teams, they’ve all been fighting my corner and helping the book be the best it can be. What a freakin’ honour. It’s Not True That You Need To Be Well Connected I got my first agent through the slush pile (most writers do). After losing him, I went to the Festival of Writing and left with 8 agents interested in representing. I put in the graft. I said hello. At my first meeting with my publicist, she asked if I had any media contacts and my awkward answer was ‘not a sausage.’ But we sent out the proofs and a few people really liked it. They then told other people who told other people and suddenly we had momentum. I will be forever indebted to the authors, reviewers, bloggers and readers who have championed Paper Birds. And some of these ‘strangers’ have become friends. In an overcrowded market you need people singing about your book. The beauty is that one voice can become a chorus. Publishing Is A Vast Eco-system Pre-publication, most writers learn about agents and publishers, but the vitality of the industry is dependent on a much larger eco-system that includes mentors and editors, literary scouts, translators, bloggers, vloggers, reviewers and most importantly booksellers. Yes, that person behind the till at your local bookshop is the king or queen you should worship. Booksellers can make or break a book. If they buy one copy and shelve it in alphabetical order (you will normally find ‘U’ in the darkest corner) there’s not much chance of that book being sold and the shop ordering more. But if they highlight it in a table or window display, things are very different. Waterstones in Richmond did a gorgeous window for A Thousand Paper Birds. It became their biggest selling hardback for 4 weeks, almost outselling their bestselling paperback. Get to know your local booksellers. Buy from them. Give them chocolate. They make all the difference. Your First Chapter Remains As Important As Ever Reviewers and bloggers receive SACKS of books weekly. There is no way they can read them all. A few reviewers have told me that they read the first page and if it’s not sparked their interest, they move onto the next one. The sheer volume prevents them doing it differently and rightly they want to spend their energy and time on books they love. Many of them are freelancers or fitting reviews in between the day job and yet still they will go out of their way to make a difference. So work hard on your pitch and your first chapter. Getting past that ‘sack-pile’ is quite a hurdle. You Will, At Times, Be Terrified A couple of weeks before publication I said to my friend, ‘How can I stop this?’ Yes, those were my words after twenty years of perseverance because suddenly it was too exposing and far too unknown. I spent the first three months completely out of my comfort zone. I was interviewed for ITV news, pranced about in photoshoots, did many Q&A events and readings, gave a keynote speech and later did a live 30-minute radio interview for America. It’s quite something moving from the private act of writing to the public stage. It requires completely different mind-sets. As hard as it is to come out of your shell, it can also then be difficult to withdraw again and deepen your focus. You almost need to separate these two identities – and with all your might protect the quieter one that is aching to write. Events are wonderful – and it’s an honour to be invited to talk about your work – but they are also exhausting. They will, at times, scare the life out of you, but they will also stretch you into a bigger person than you knew you could be. And to be honest, despite the nerves, I would return home, yelling I LOVED IT! You Will Juggle Many, Many Balls You will be promoting one book while writing another and perhaps pitching a third. You will be answering Q&As for various journals and writing articles. You will be reading all the new books that have been sent to you for endorsement as well as trying to keep up with your usual favourites. You will also be setting yourself up as a business, sorting out foreign royalty forms, and for me, having to work out 7-years of expenses for my tax return (HIDEOUS). While doing this you may also be juggling a day job and caring for children (or the sick or elderly) – and if you’re really crazy folding HUNDREDS of paper birds for displays and promotions. Anxiety is, unsurprisingly, common. Suddenly the writer is being pushed and pulled in several directions. While writing to deadline you may well have to sacrifice personal hygiene. But to survive, at some point you will need to learn how to say ‘no’ or at least ‘not now.’ And you will need to take responsibility for your own well-being by putting in support mechanisms (for me, it was yoga). I thought that success would allow me more time to write, but actually there’s been less. There gets a point where you have to prioritise writing your next book over all the chaos. Social Media Is Both Friend And Foe My timeline is full of stunningly brilliant people, fantastic books and new friends who make me laugh on days when it feels like the world is going to hell in a handcart. On Twitter, I’ve found my tribe, but beware, it is a major time-sucker. Also, if there are days when you’re struggling with self-doubt, it can be tricky to take in the constant barrage of big advances and bestsellers. You must do everything you can not to compare yourself to others. The truth is that there will always be people doing ‘better’ and ‘worse’ than you. (And remember, a published writer isn’t necessarily more talented than an unpublished one – it’s so dependent on timing and market.) All you can do is focus on your own journey. Twitter is also a great way to find out who is who and how it all works: the eco-system in all its glory. There Are Still Set-Backs You would think that after getting through agent rejections and years of perseverance that once you reach publication everything is golden. But that gold is sometimes honey, sometimes treacle and sometimes actually a bit pissy. There are many books of the month and end of the year lists, debuts to watch out for, longlists, shortlists, book club selections and promotions. When you are listed or selected for something, it is an amazing feeling. When you don’t, it can feel rotten. All of the above betters your chance of getting a second book deal, so in that context it can feel quite stressful. There have been days when I’ve wanted to google ‘where can I buy extra layers of skin?’ But you can’t buy that resilience, you can only earn it. My rule is that I’m allowed to wail and beat my chest for one day but for one day only. The next morning, I roll up my sleeves and face the most compelling challenge of all – how to be a better writer than I was yesterday. Everything else isn’t in my power. It is just noise. The Reader Is The Most Important Ingredient Of All Stupidly, I didn’t share my work with many people pre-publication – mostly, out of terror. So this year has been a revelation. Every day I receive messages from readers saying how much A Thousand Paper Birds has moved them. I had no idea how much that would mean to me. Unbelievably I hadn’t got my head around the fact that it is the reader who breathes life into the characters and makes the story live. Now that my characters exist in others’ heads they have become real (and I hear they are sometimes glimpsed in the book’s location, Kew Gardens). The reader is the true alchemist. The true creator. This has been my biggest and most humbling lesson of all. Remember Why You’re Doing This After Paper Birds was published, a famous author wrote to me saying, I should try to stay ‘grounded and clear-headed. Don’t get confused by events one way or the other.’ I have found this advice to be invaluable. You can so easily be swayed by great reviews then knocked down the next day with disappointment. It is the way to madness. And the biggest joke, once you’re published, is that you realise that there is no finishing line. After years of striving, you reach the top of that glorious, much-longed-for hill and see that you are only at the start of a vast mountain range. So you have to love the journey itself – the actual writing. To stay curious about your characters. To strive to tell the truth. To fail and start again. To be in love with the work itself. To write with humility and the hunger to learn. The more I understand about both this industry and the craft, the more I realise that I am a mere novice. But isn’t that a fascinating place to be? My famous author finished his advice by saying, ‘Crack open a bottle of champagne. … And send a quiet thank you to the realms that deserve it.’ It’s important not to forget the magic. The mystery that you stumble on at three in the morning when you’re been slogging away for hours and then all of a sudden the right words fall through the sky in the right order and you are merely taking dictation. In that instant, the book market fades into the background as a temporary, fickle thing. The ego that fretted about what to wear to that event dissolves and there is just the essence –  the listening. The strange act of writing becomes the beating heart of everything. And this is what I can tell you. At that point it doesn’t matter if you’re published or unpublished, we’re all on the same daunting and heroic journey. The stories we tell each other impact us all. They shape how we respond to the world and what we create in it. In these tumultuous times we need stories more than ever. If you are a writer, I salute you. It takes a certain amount of courage, of innocent madness, to retain a state of wonder, to help us all see more clearly and to be more empathic. And sometimes, just sometimes, some of us might imagine alternative ways of walking through this world that makes everything brighter.

Should Self-Published Authors Turn To Traditional Publishing?

Thankfully, there isn\'t as much animosity between the self-publishing and traditional publishing worlds as there used to be - but it\'s still an immense question as to whether whether self-published authors should, at some point, turn to traditional publishing. Self-Pubbers Going Traditional There have been numerous examples of highly successful self-published authors turning to traditional mainstream publishers for the next stage of their careers. Here are a few you might\'ve heard about over the last several years: James Oswald offered his first book free on Amazon, by way of a taster for his second book which was priced at £2.99. He sold 50,000 copies in a month and was snapped up in a three-book, £150,000 deal by Penguin – and I strongly suspect that, given Oswald’s subsequent and continuing success, Penguin would feel that they got a very good deal. Kerry Wilkinson sold his first books at £0.99 on Amazon and shifted 250,000 copies in six months. He was offered a (remarkable) six-book deal by Macmillan that took his self-published work into print and extended the series to a minimum of six books. And then there\'s E.L. James. In terms of sales, James dwarfs pretty every other author who started out with non-traditional publishing contracts. She\'s a bit of an odd case though because she never really self-published - instead, she took a kind of hybrid e-book/POD deal that wouldn’t have been offered by a more conventional publisher. Her subsequent sales, via Random House, were simply vast, breaking most international sales records leading to the female-centric erotica genre becoming more mainstream. The Cons Of Going Traditional Given that there are plenty of intelligent voices suggesting that conventional publishers have relatively little to offer self-published authors (examples here, here and here), there’s a real question about why anyone would want to shift from a self-published status to a more traditional one.And that’s not a silly question.To be clear about it, self-published authors have the following massive assets on their side: They earn 100% of the net receipts from e-books.That’s about 70% of the cover price. A regularly published author will not be entitled to more than a 25% share. They have total control over every aspect of publication.Self-published authors pick their covers, pick their editors, pick their page-designers, pick their marketing strategies. If they don’t like something, they change it. They retain total control over copyright.When a traditionally published authors sells his or her book, they are selling it. The publisher may well retain control over that book until the author is dead and his or her children too. (The exact arrangement will depend on the nature of any reversion clause, but historically those clauses have been written sharply in publishers’ favour.) There’s nothing to stop self-pub authors selling subsidiary rights as they want to.If you are self-published in the UK and want to sell your US rights to a big 5 publisher there, you can. If you want to sell audio rights, you can. If you want to sell foreign or TV rights, you can. You can do those things if you have a traditional deal too, but the point here is that you can be self-pub in one arena and still work with huge media conglomerates in any area where you feel your own reach would be insufficient. The Pros of Going Traditional Since those are rather significant advantages, and since the likes of Oswald, Wilkinson and James are hardly idiots, there must be some quite substantial advantages of the conventional route, too.And there are, such as: Access to print distributionEven now, it remains the case that if you want your book to appear in bookstores – and to pick up the revenues that result – you will need a publisher on your side. Yes, you can achieve some kind of hyper-local distribution by working very hard yourself, but to get properly promoted in bookshops across the nation, you will still need a publisher. Access to traditional channels of acclaimThis one is a little more in flux, but it remains the case in the UK that it is rare for self-published books to be taken seriously by reviewers. And more broadly: the kind of books that the chattering classes talk about are nearly always traditionally published ones – as though print still sheds a kind of glamour on the author. We don’t particularly welcome that fact – our view is that books should be judged on their merits, and that’s it – but we don’t get to set the rules. (Alas.) Better access to foreign marketsAs a self-published author, you can sell your work overseas without having a domestic publisher – but it’s a hell of a lot easier if you do have one. Partly that’s because you’ve already proved that one corporation has loved you enough to lay out a significant amout of cash for what you have to offer. And partly it’s because publishers are deeply nested in the whole foreign rights market. They, and agents, just have a depth of contacts that you can never acquire on your own. Better access to film and TV marketsListen: it’s actually relatively rare for fiction to get made into film, whether for the large screen or small. But when those things do happen, it’s much commoner for regularly published work get taken on. There’s just a halo of approval you get from a regular deal which just helps those film and TV deals happen. An easy lifeYes, as a self-publisher you have total control... but you also have a hell of a workload, and that load gets bigger the more successful you become. Publishers do know how to market books and they will simply, at a stroke, relieve you of much of the burden. In effect, you acquire a professional and experienced support team with a few strokes of the pen on that contract. Better financial outcomes than royalty figures suggestIt’s true that publishers pay authors only 25% of net receipts from Amazon and other e-sellers. It’ s also true that print royalties are pretty small (think about 7-10% on paperbacks). But remember that authors get advances, not just royalties, and – without getting too technical about it – if your book doesn’t earn out, then your de facto royalty per book will be far higher than those relatively modest amounts. And since most books don’t earn out their royalties, authors can do very well, even in comparison with the riches of successful self-pub. The Future is Flexible! You’d expect a site that helps writers find agents to argue that self-publishing was only ever a stepping stone to the real thing. We don’t actually believe that, however – and think that the future is likely to see many more hybrid authors emerging: authors who self-publish in one corner of their activities, and who publish conventionally in others. We also think that the relatively standard boilerplate of the average publishing contract is likely to become more flexible over time, so if there are elements of a regular deal you don’t like, there will at least be a sensible discussion over how to accommodate your preferences. And we think the emerging world will be a better one for authors. The ease with which any author can simply self-publish on Amazon will keep publishers honest. That’s great. The availability of other means of distribution will make publishers more humble and more flexible in their terms. That’s also great. The ability for an author to choose how to publish is also wonderful. You want total control? Then have it. You want dedicated corporate support? Then that’s fine. You want one thing in one market, and another in another – then, fine, let’s talk about it. And one simple and everlasting truth is this. If you can demonstrate, through successful self-publishing or simply a remarkably good manuscript, that your work can move readers, there are agents who want you.And (of course) you can find all those agent profiles in our database here. Whichever route you chose, whether that be self-publishing or traditional publishing: good luck!

How To Ensure This Is The Year You Get An Agent

Those first few days of January make everything seems possible. Finishing your book. Getting a literary agent. Then something will happen that will make that seem less doable. Usually something life-related, but it can also be hitting a wall with edits, or perhaps a rejection email. Ignore it. Getting a literary agent is definitely possible. And this really could be the year. How? Well, let’s say you’ve just finished the first draft of your novel. Here’s how you might have a literary agent before the end of the year. January – Read Your Novel Through. February – Re-plan Your Structure. However much you planned your novel before you started, chances are that it doesn’t look exactly the same now it’s done. That’s okay – it doesn’t need to. What your plot does need to do, is make sense. Make notes on what your plot does at the moment. Read this guide to classic plot structures – does yours match them? Identify the parts of your novel structure that aren’t working as they should. Re-plan your structure. Post-it notes can be really helpful for this part. And use the snowflake method, or you’ll probably go as crazy as a barn owl. March – Implement Your Structural Changes Until Your Plot Is Spot On. Don’t be afraid to delete scenes, or even entire chapters at this point. You can always move them onto another document for use again later, if needs be. Take each new plot point in turn and think about what needs to change with your original draft to make it fit. Make the changes to a new draft document. Again, don’t get bogged down in the details. At this point, you’re really just looking at the bare bones of your plot structure. As you swap things around, you might realise that has ramifications further on in the book – that’s okay. Make a note of them to come back to later. April – Read Your Novel Again, Focusing On Your Character Development. All novels centre around characters that change, and the successful ones emerge from intensive character development work that takes place (ideally) before you start writing your novel. What does your character want in the beginning? How does this change as they go through the novel? Is that believable? What does your character learn at the end? What is the character arc? And what about your secondary characters? If your character journeys don’t quite match up just yet, then go back to the drawing board and ensure your plot makes that happen. Remember – most stories are driven by their characters, not the other way around. Do also remember to check that your key scenes are shown, not told – that is, you need to make sure you have dramatised them on the page in (the fictional version) of real time. Third party reports of what happened aren’t nearly so enticing, to put it mildly. More on showing and telling here. May – Give Your Novel To Another Writer, Or An Editor You Trust. Once you have your structure sorted, it can be really useful to have another pair of eyes on your work. Make sure they know to read only for the plot and not the language. Ask them if they found the characters believable (yes – even elves need realistic character arcs). You don’t need to agree with every comment they make, but it’s worth asking why they made it. If they didn’t like your protagonist, perhaps you need to make it clearer why they should? Once you get your feedback – such as stunningly good quality feedback from our Jericho editors – make the changes you feel will make your novel better. June – Look At The Language. Okay, so now it’s okay to start doing a copy edit. Still, park your typo hunt for the time being and instead focus on some of the larger language issues: How are you telling the story? First person? Past tense? Is this the best way for this story to be told? Is your voice consistent? Write a set of voice rules, such as syntax and grammar. Are these followed throughout? Are your sentences as tight as they could be? Every word you use should have its place in your sentence. If you have any lines that aren’t pulling their weight – get rid of them. Our material on prose style, writing descriptions and dialogue will help remove your worst mistakes – and start giving your whole manuscript a gleam as if of gold … July – Give Your Novel To An Editor, Or Beta Readers. An editor will do wonders for your book. They will spot things you’ve missed in structure, character, dramatisation and things you probably haven’t given much thought to before. This is their job, and they’re good at it. Alternatively, sending your book to family, friends or writing groups can be a good way of getting this feedback. As before, remember that you don’t need to change everything for everyone, but it’s worth thinking about why a reader said what they did. August - Proofread. Your editor or beta readers may well have pointed out a few errors already, but there are always more, hidden away. Try printing your manuscript off. This will help your eye spot the mistakes on the page. Look for inconsistencies. Check your language rules again. Do a ‘Find’ and ‘Replace’ for any mishaps. This stage doesn’t matter as much as you might think. Of course, it’s important that your writing is of a high standard before it’s sent to agents. But it’s much more important to get the story, characters and language right, than it is spotting every typo. September – Start Putting Your Work Out There. Yes – this is the scary bit. But there are ways you can ease yourself in, first. Come to the Festival of Writing. This will tell you everything you need to know about taking this next step and even give you a little help along the way, perhaps via one of our Friday Night Live sessions, or a literary agent 1-2-1. Enter writing competitions. The Bath Novel Award, or the Mslexia Novel Award, perhaps? Even being long-listed for these awards can be a huge boost – not only to your writing CV, but also to your confidence. October – Learn How To Submit To A Literary Agent. If you came to the Festival of Writing, you might already know this stuff. Otherwise, ensure you read everything you can on the rules of submission. There are rules and you do need to follow them to ensure you’re taken seriously. Learn how to write a synopsis, and have a go at making a few of different lengths. Polish up the first five thousand words of your manuscript. Learn how to write a professional query letter. And of course, you’ll be following (rigorously!) our guide on getting literary agents … and using our massive agent FAQs for any questions you may still have. You’ll also be needing our (comprehensive and up to date) lists of US agents and UK agents. November – Submit To Literary Agents. Make a longlist of literary agents who will take your work (try searching for genre via this). Make a shortlist of agents who you like the best – perhaps because you’ve met them at an event, or because they represent books that are similar to yours. Send to the first five of these agents, making sure you follow all the rules to submission. December – Land Your Literary Agent. Sometimes, it can take a while to find the right agent for your book. When you do find the right agent though, they will often know from the very first page that they want to represent you. When this happens: Email the other agents you are waiting to hear back from, letting them know you’ve had an offer of representation. You want to be in a position to choose your favourite, if you can. Meet with the agent(s) and ask them questions about what they can do for you and your book. Sign a deal with the literary agent of your dreams. You’ve probably noticed that the majority of your year will be spent working on your novel. That’s because writing a brilliant book is the best thing you can do to ensure you land a literary agent. The rest, is really just knowing the rules of submission and getting it out there. So – are you ready to ensure this is the year you get an agent? Then let’s go. Success starts now. To see how we could help you get a literary agent this year, have a look round our site. More than ready to get the ball rolling with agents, but just need a little push? Or perhaps you’ve had a few rejections but aren’t sure why? Our Agent Submission Pack Review gives you detailed professional advice on how to perfect your submission and increase your chances of securing an agent.

Can You Write A Book In 6 Weeks? (Yes!)

Guest author, journalist and blogger Sam Jordison shares how he wrote Enemies of the People in six weeks. One of the biggest challenges any writers must face is, you know, actually writing. The sitting down in front of a computer and typing side of things. The finding the time. The ploughing on: despite blocks and distractions. The getting out of the words even though you might have a headache. The thinking and the doing and the typing. Did I mention the typing? No books are ever published without typing. And put like that, it sounds too obvious to even mention, yet the physical act of writing is one of the most fascinating and difficult parts of the process. At literary festivals, writers are invariably asked questions about how they carve out the space to sit down and write, and how you keep going when the going gets tough. Some of the best interviews on the craft of writing in the world are those published by the Paris Review and the first thing they always ask is a variation on the question of pen, pencil, typewriter or word processor? When I teach my Creative Non-Fiction Course, meanwhile, I always like to try to address the question of how you physically get the words down. The advice I offer is generally to try to be flexible, because not only is every person different, every writing day is different. One of the worst things you can do is beat yourself up and obsess over the fact that you haven’t hit an arbitrary word count. Equally, another of the worst things you can also do is to fail to get any words down on a regular basis. Most often I try to suggest that people get into a sensible routine that fits them, not to worry too much if progress is slow, but to always try to make progress. I like to hope that this is good advice. I’ve followed it myself in the past – and managed to produce a dozen books and plenty of journalism by doing so. But more recently, I have discovered two things that can work even better: a fierce deadline and a burning sense of injustice. If you have a burning desire to write a memoir, a piece of journalism, or a biography then use that energy to propel your writing. In early spring of 2017, I was asked to write a book about the people that brought us Trump and Brexit and the general sense that the world is spinning off its axis. I was also asked if I could write it in about six weeks. And make it reasonably long. My first thought was: oh, hell yeah! The rage I was feeling at the collapse of our democracies and the rise of a dangerous and malevolent right-wing would perhaps start to feel a bit less impotent. If I could channel my anger into a book that would tell the truth about post-truth and provide real facts instead of alternative-facts, I might have a small hope of influencing things for the better. My second thought was: oh, hell. I’d have to do an awful lot of writing and research in a very short time. And I’d have to – as already discussed – actually sit down and do it. But that’s when the two weapons of clock pressure and anger really kicked in. I didn’t spend any more time wondering about how I was going to write the book. I didn’t have time for that. All I could do was get going. If I wanted to nail the people who had done so much to make things so bad, I just had to get going. I’m not going to lie and say it was easy. It was stressful and tiring and my head was whirring for six solid weeks. But lots of the things that usually get in the way of writing just weren’t around. There was no putting it off until tomorrow, because tomorrow was too late. There was no wondering if I was doing things the right way – because I was arguing with people who seemed so obviously wrong. And it worked. At the risk of sounding like a Nike advert, the thing I realised that sometimes the best approach to writing is to just do it. I got the words down. And as I type this article, I’m waiting for the first copy of the resultant book to come through the post. It’s called Enemies Of The People and even though it probably has a few rough edges, and a few clumsy sentences that I might have improved if I had more time, I also hope that the way it was written has given it rawness and energy and a burning sense of indignation. It feels important. And I’m very glad I sat down and wrote it. Sam Jordison’s Enemies Of The People was published in the UK on 1 June 2017.

Finding US Agents Seeking New Authors

How To Find A Good US Literary Agent We receive lots of questions, but two of the most common must be: how do you find a literary agent? Do you know literary agents who are taking on new, first-time writers?  There are plenty of ways to figure out which agents represent your genre but finalising your shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.     We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. Save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s some names to get you started:  Lauren Bieker  Amelia Appel Joquelle Caiby  Sonali Chanchani Jennifer Kim Kiana Nguyen  Quressa Robinson Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors! How Do You Find An Agent? Nearly all agents take on new authors. If they didn’t, they’d go out of business. It might not happen straightaway, but eventually they will.  It’s important to remember that all agents need to submit to the same group of editors. They’re a small group at that: most books are pitched to 8-12 publishers in the first round of marketing. So, all agents are looking for quality manuscripts. If they find one, and love it, they’ll take it on. If they don’t, they won’t.  It’s somewhat easier to secure a new up-and-coming agent than a giant of the industry. That’s not because quality standards are different – because they’re not – but because newer agents are actively seeking submissions and are prepared to work hard to grow their client list. If you went to such an agent, with a manuscript that was dazzling but still imperfect, then they may be prepared to work with you to fix it. However, a more established agent with an already long client list may regretfully turn the book down.  If you’re looking for an agent who genuinely welcomes first-time authors, rather than just accepting them, it’s a good idea to approach those who don’t necessarily have an established client base. So, you’re looking for agents new to the role, or those who have come into the profession from somewhere else in the industry.  Don’t just query smaller agencies, there are plenty small agencies that already have an extensive client base. Also, larger agencies tend to have more new recruits hungry to build their list. Try not to rule anyone out until you’ve done your research.  As always, these guidelines should be balanced against everything else. Ultimately, you’re looking for an agent who genuinely loves your book and believes they can sell it. The fact that the agent may work for a small or large agency, or maybe new to the game or well-established, doesn’t matter.  You, the book, the agent. If these three things gel, then nothing else matters.  If you keep getting agent rejections or just want to perfect your manuscript first, then it’s time to ask for help. There’s lots of information out there. We’ve helped hundreds of authors in their writing journeys, and we can help you too. So, get in touch. 

How Long Does It Take To Sell A Book?

Before answering this question, let’s assume you’ve got an agent. Let’s assume that you’ve done all the editorial work you need to do at this stage. Let’s assume your book is something that has potential global reach, whether fiction or non-fiction. In that case, the process will probably work a little like this. Your agent rounds up a possible 8-12 editors. That’ll mostly be editors who work at large publishers (though often in semi-autonomous imprints or companies), but there’ll be 2-3 smaller independent publishers, as well, more than likely. Your agent will introduce editors to the book, check they’re available (not off on holiday, etc.), then more or less simultaneously get the book to them. (Books used to be sent on paper. These days, it’s often electronic.) You wait. Your agent will be looking for a first offer. As soon as they get an offer: They’ll start calling everyone on the list, setting deadlines, coaxing offers, etc. A book auction chemistry is critical and delicate. Get three rival offers from three rival publishers, and you should do well, except many notionally independent publishers are connected (e.g. Transworld, Orion, Hodder, Headline), and these guys don’t bid against each other. A smaller publisher (Quercus, Faber, Profile, Atlantic) may be a wonderful publisher, but they won’t be able to fight the bigger ones on advances, so a financial outcome does depend very much on where interest lies. Then your agent will call for ‘best and final’ bids, then close a deal. A contract may take a while to follow. I’ve known it take as long as 6 months, but a verbal agreement is nevertheless something you can depend on. These agreements should never sour. So much for your home nation deal (i.e. the UK if you’re British, US if you’re American). Your agent will then start to target major overseas markets. Most agencies will have someone in charge of foreign rights, who’ll be talking to publishers or sub-agents in Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Spain. Your agent will also have a sub-agent in the US (if she’s British) or the UK (if she’s not). That sub-agent will be also start sending your book around. Note it’s often easier for US authors to get a UK deal, and harder the other way around. What’s more, books that seem obviously US-friendly are oftener ones that make no impact. Ones that seem obscurely British or quirky often do well (Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch is a famous example). And once those major markets have been dealt with, your agency’s attention will start to turn to other areas where small but meaningful deals can be done. India and China, by the way, may well buy your book, but mightn’t do so for much money. This entire process can easily take about a year, perhaps more. And by the time the last paperback publication advance drops into your account, you’re quite likely not just onto your next book, but the one after that. Good luck!

What is YA Fiction? | Writing for Young Adults

Something to be conscious of as a fiction writer is the market for which you write. Young Adult (or YA) fiction isn’t a genre, but it’s a defined label in publishing, typically considered for readers aged 12-18, and those who are coming of age, though this too is fluid. Since the publication of titles like J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, YA is a term you need to know if you’re writing fiction for young adults, and want to convince literary agents and publishers that you can do it well. The most important thing is to always read debuts in your genre, and for the age you’d like to write for. These are the books publishers are looking for. Whilst it’s true publishing trends will always shift, books read by your ideal ‘audience’ are evidently the books they enjoy, so it pays (literally) to be conscious of them. Read on for our top tips on how to write a YA novel and learn about the market for this age group. Step 1: Write Your Own Trendsetter It pays to be aware of trends in young adult literature and the market, if only so you can buck them a little. This is a balance, however. Readers of The Bookseller can see regular updates on new UK book deals, and every spring, may espy annual coverage of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, with ample talk and speculation of what’s hot and selling as foreign printing rights are bought and sold. There will always guaranteed be a sentence or two on trends, on what publishers of Middle Grade or Young Adult books are hunting for. It’s as well to be conscious of trends, but what’s trendy will soon be outdated. If you’re still writing, a hot topic now could be obsolete by the time you’ve finished your novel. Trends move fast, and a single book can also change things. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight happened to be a YA phenomenon, but the ensuing paranormal romances ‘competing’ for attention with Twilight blurred a little into one another, even as the tide continued and anticipated the rise of dystopian fiction, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, and so on. The lesson of all this is to try and present an idea (even an old idea) authentically. Vampires have been written about before and Bram Stoker’s titular Dracula preying upon Lucy Westenra laid the founding of an established trope. Twilight just happened to hit a certain chord for its readership and this at once predicated and, in so doing, slightly nullified its trend. So be careful and cautious of trends, since these can be a double-edged sword. Trends are transient, they escalate and subsist again. Whilst it pays to know your audience and what’s in the bookshops, to be conscious of the books teenagers are drawn to and reflect on why this is the case, bear in mind trendsetter-novels aren’t necessarily the books you want to compete with. Satiated trends mean a saturated book market (for the time being). Even if you’re ahead of the bookshops, trying to keep up with publishing news and new book deals, what you know now won’t be the thing your writing can keep up with. You’ll need to write your own trendsetter. Step 2: Read, Read, Read YA Fiction That said, read around and shop as much as you can for YA fiction, obvious or intuitive as this may sound. Your novel can’t exist in a vacuum. It’s no good disregarding what your audience is reading now, so know YA books to know your audience. You’ll need to write in this subtle tension, conscious of taste in YA, of past commercial successes, making your novel similar enough and yet entirely original.  You must create a book that fits into the market. Read around the sort of thing already out there you’d like to write, too. It’s not that vampire-human romances hadn’t been written about before Stephenie Meyer’s Bella and Edward. It’s not that Greek gods hadn’t been written about before Percy Jackson and the Olympians from Rick Riordan. It’s been observed how similar J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of being a Wallflower are, etc. You’ll want your book to fit with a canon of similar stories, without just writing ‘copies’ of things done before. YA novels like Beauty by Robin McKinley, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas or Uprooted by Naomi Novik share links to Beauty and the Beast, but each of those books is still unique. The same is true of books like Ash by Malinda Lo or Cinder by Marissa Meyer, with ties to Cinderella. It’s just that an old idea was reworked by an author in new ways. So learn what teenagers like, then read what they like. (If you’re not sure, look up book blogs like The Mile-Long Bookshelf.) How does your novel compare to the YA books you’ve found? How do you feel your own work will be judged? It’s also worth noting that it pays to read contemporary YA fiction. Classical lyricism and verbosity needn’t concern you so much as writing a resonant, gripping story to hook modern readers. There have been various game-changers in fiction-publishing for young people. Melvin Burgess’ Junk (or Smack in the US) was one. The book won the Carnegie Prize and Guardian Children’s Fiction Award in the UK in 1996. Whilst its subject (heroin addiction) caused ripples of shock, Junk paved the way to an increasingly mandatory style of authentic, honest, raw writing that’s now commonplace in YA publishing. The success of Junk among its readers, with its prize-winning status, changed perceptions and sent publishers a message. What’s needed in successful YA fiction is resonant, emotional experience teenage readers can connect with. Step 3: Know Your Subject (And Write Sensitively About It) If you’re also thinking of writing a young adult novel on a possibly more controversial topic, explore sensitively and with all due research. Don’t just write to shock. Write to be poignant, and so to connect. The Fault in our Stars by John Green caused a stir when it was accused of being ‘sick lit’ (a pair of terminally ill teenagers fall in love). Whilst its subject seemed to ‘shock’ some adults, its poignancy that so stirred readers nullifies these sorts of ‘grown-up’ objections. Who cares? The Fault in our Stars isn’t a shocking novel. It’s a moving one. It’s been adapted for film, its catch-lines passing into contemporary language via its readership. (‘Okay?’ ‘Okay.’) Melvin Burgess has shared how his novel Junk, about teenage drug addiction, has been life-changing for some teenage readers, but it’s important to note Melvin Burgess knew his setting. He knew these emotional landscapes. More recently, Lisa Williamson wrote a resonant transgender protagonist in her YA novel The Art of Being Normal, though she herself is cisgender, but she’s spent time working for the UK’s Gender Identity Development Service. She brought her experiences to her writing. Bear in mind, though, LGBT+ is not its own separate genre or subgenre, nor should fiction be defined by country or ethnicity, as still per some bookstores. Patrick Ness’ novel More than This features protagonist Seth, who is gay, but this is incidental to its main plot and it’s okay for this to be the case. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a high-school love story between a Korean boy and an American girl, and sometimes it need only be this simple. You needn’t write clunkily to make a point. As Rainbow Rowell herself has said: “Why is Park Korean?” The first time I was asked that question, three or four months ago, I had a pretty short answer: “Because Park is Korean.” … Because Park was always Korean. Because I think there should be more Asian-American characters in YA, especially boys. (And also more chubby girls.) Because it’s up to people like me, who write, to write them. Only by writing sensitively and incidentally can writers help make sure all sorts of characters become unquestioned players of mainstream fiction, not sectioned by ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability or anything else. Everyone, everything, should be mainstream, especially in YA and new adult publishing. Teenagers, who will be faster than adults to question norms and pick up on injustices, should be catered to in the novels they read and not be defrauded in this respect. Appreciate and accommodate for diversity in your own YA writing. It’s good also to have first-hand experience of what you’re writing, but if not, the importance of empathy and careful research to create an authentic emotional experience can’t be stressed enough. Step 4: Know Your Audience (And Keep Prose Authentic) This is important. You must know your audience. You can’t write about living in a teenage character’s shoes unless you know teenagers well. If you can’t remember or don’t care, find someone else to write about and to. YA readers will be looking for experiences outside their own, looking for ways to challenge and break rules, and will be (strongly) averse to feeling patronised or educated in fiction. Write about being a teenager, and never write to educate. Again – to best do this, read and read up on YA novels that are doing well. Respecting ‘voice’, too, author Joan Aiken has also observed adolescents are ‘lightning-quick to spot hypocrisy or artificiality’. Never patronise and never attempt a ‘coolness’ that can’t sound organic, at home and natural in your first-person narratives. An inauthentic teenage voice will destroy your book before it ever reaches a literary agent. This offers a good reason YA fiction should be taken seriously. A manuscript assessment can also certainly give you invaluable editorial feedback with insights into the commercial perspective that drives YA publishing, and to harness your own voice in a way that sounds both raw and compelling in YA fiction. Happy writing!

30 Best Books On Writing And Getting Published

I was recently asked to recommend some books on how to write a book and on any related topics. I started to trot out the obvious suggestions - the well-known best books on writing fiction, on creative writing, on how to improve writing - then realised there was a real trove of material out there. So, with some short comments, here are my top suggestions, by writers, on writing: Let’s get the two most obvious ones out of the way to start! 1. Getting Published by Harry Bingham. A reliable guide to traditional publishing and finding an agent. 2. How To Write by Harry Bingham. How To Write gets excellent reader-feedback. It doesn’t pick out one single aspect of technique or pretend that you can learn how to write in a couple of months. It’s a big, meaty, book on every part of a writer’s toolkit. 3. On writing: A memoir of the craft by Stephen King. You needn’t be a fan of Stephen King’s to enjoy this honest, compelling tome – and I know it has legions of fans. For me, the most striking part was King’s list of the books he read in any given year. That list is intelligent and eclectic and goes to show that good writers simply can’t read too much or too well. 4. Story by Robert McKee. A book for screenwriters, but still one of the best analyses around. This book belongs in the pantheon, no question. 5. Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. A key text for the new generation of self-published authors. David’s book should be read in conjunction with his Let’s Get Visible. 6. Write. Publish. Repeat. by Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt. The strategies in the Write. Publish. Repeat book won’t work for most writers. Those authors’ basic mantra is to write heaps and heaps of material and build a career as much from the volume of output as from its quality. I can’t, as something of a purist myself, really get excited about that approach, but you still need to read the book. It’s got a lot to say, and it’s usually right. 7. Aspects of the Novel by E M Forster. The following 5 titles aren\'t quite how-to guides, but deserve a place on this list nonetheless. 8. 10 Rules of writing by Elmore Leonard. A brief (and somewhat tongue in cheek) list of suggestions. You could probably break all of Leonard’s rules and do just fine – and indeed, I do quite often break them. 9. The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler. This essay is a vastly important milestone in the development of crime fiction: a manifesto for a new age, and a manifesto that has echoed well beyond the walls of that genre. 10. The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera. It’s important to read what writers have to say about writing – and a variety of writers at that. 11. Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov. You won’t always agree, and you don’t have to. The important thing is that you run the arguments in your head. 12. How Fiction Works by James Wood. Wood is arguably today’s most influential critic – and he writes beautifully. My comment above that you need to run the arguments in your head applies here too. Wood’s book offers a personal and partial view. (He loves sentences and doesn’t, astonishingly, even mention story.) But he’s so good that his partial is worth most people’s everything. 13. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. Not really the how-to book that most people think it is. But it’s still fun and still worth a look. 14. Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. Part of a new wave of popular neuroscience. This is not specifically about writing but is, for my money, very illuminating indeed about the creative process. 15. Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. Also popular neuroscience. If you like something with more how-to-ish ambition, you’ll certainly get more from Cron’s book. 16. The Elements of Style William Strunk Jr. A must-read on a list like this. 17. Reading like a Writer by Francine Prose. Well-written, thoughtful, gently inspiring. One of the best books on how to write a novel. 18. Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan. Elmore Leonard would presumably want to kill Rebecca McClanahan, but I’d be on Rebecca’s side. 19. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. An approach to creativity more than, directly, a how-to-write-a-bestseller type book. But it’s great, heartfelt. 20. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. Sol Stein was a very respected editor (as well as being a novelist himself). Stein on Writing is his attempt to set down the rules by which he’s lived. It was the first how-to book of this sort that I read, and I still have a soft spot for it, although the tone can be a little self-important at times. And finally, some other books that have, at the very least, been thought-provoking and helpful ones for me: 21. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell 22. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon 23. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler 24. Outlining your Novel by KM Weiland 25. Where Do You Get Your Ideas? by Fred White 26. From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler 27. A Dash of Style by Noah Lukeman 28. The 4 a.m. Breakthrough by Brian Kitely 29. Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris 30. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp Need more writing advice? Or if you need more recommendations, then try popping your favourite book into a book recommendation tool and see what other users are raving about. Good luck, and have fun.

A Rejection Letter To Avoid

In 2014, I came across a rejection letter from a, once half-decent, literary agency that ran in full like this: Dear John Many thanks for this. The writing is strong and the storyline intriguing. I have to tell you however, that agents are finding novels, even intelligently written commercial work like this, harder to place nowadays. Publishers are so subjective and only concerned with the bottom line. What I can do is to suggest an organisation who, for a reasonably low fee will make the full arrangements to ensure a full Kindle publication of your work. What is more, they will edit as well – obviously not a radically comprehensive edit – to a thoroughly presentable standard. Many Kindle books are going on at a later stage to traditional publication or Print on Demand. Their fee is just £950 and you get a free Kindle as well. Let me know if you would like me to put you in touch with them. OR There is a publisher we deal with now, (not vanity) who have taken some of my more worthwhile mss and I believe they will promote and publicise properly. They do charge a fee (£4,500 – refundable to you after sales of just 2,000) but I believe it is an acceptable deal as the writer enjoys a far better rate of royalties. One of my authors who has taken advantage of this, is Provost of one of the oldest Oxford colleges and is a knight of the realm. His work has just been nominated for an award for Political Fiction. My most recent was a High Court Judge. Let me know if you would like me to submit [novel title] to them. Very best wishes [Name] of Futerman Rose & Associates This letter was copied from Novel Rejects blog (my thanks to it for existing). I hope you don’t need me to tell to you that this is a poor letter for any agent to send. Also, do I think that Oxford Provosts and High Court Judges fall for this kind of nonsense? Lord help us all if they do, but perhaps they do. I alerted the Association of Authors Agents about this letter, and letters such as this are, in my opinion, emphatically contrary to their Code of Conduct (certainly in spirit, probably in letter, too.). In the meantime, probably useful to rehearse the basics once more. If you want to find a literary agent, you do so like this, and if you want to know what a literary agent does, they will do this. And on the question of reading fees and all that, just remember the rules of the road. These can be found over here.

How To Achieve Clarity In Writing

Clarity is key in getting our point across as writers. When our writing is clear, our meaning is clear. When our writing is unclear, our meaning is muddled. And when our meaning is muddled, our readers can’t properly engage with our work. Fortunately, you can improve the clarity of your writing by brushing up on a few key fundamentals. This article contains four key tips and some examples of clarity in writing.  How To Improve The Clarity Of Your Writing Clarity starts at the sentence level. Think about your sentences as mini movies that your readers play in their heads. They need to know the actors and the actions of these mini movies to correctly picture what’s going on. If your writing is unclear at the sentence level, your readers won’t understand what’s happening in your work. Worse yet, they may disengage from your writing because they can’t understand it. We start by thinking about clarity at the sentence level because if your sentences aren’t clear, your paragraphs won’t be clear. If your paragraphs aren’t clear, the rest of your work won’t be clear.  Unsure about how to ensure your sentences are clear and easy to read? Not to worry. Let’s take a look at four easy ways to improve sentence level clarity. 1. Reduce Sticky Sentences There are two types of words in sentences: working words, which convey meaning to the reader and are essential to the purpose of the sentence, and glue words, which are the extra words that hold sentences together.  Glue words aren’t essential to the meaning of your sentence. They’re not the actors or the actions. If you remove or rewrite your sentence to eliminate these glue words, the sentence will have the same meaning. It may even be more clear for your readers to understand.  Sticky sentences are sentences that contain too many glue words. They should be rewritten to improve clarity for your readers. While glue words are important to make your sentence coherent, when you have too many in a sentence, it becomes hard to read. By removing unnecessary glue words, your sentence becomes clearer. Consider the following:  It doesn’t matter what kind of coffee I buy, where it’s from, or if it’s organic or not—I need to have cream because I really don’t like how the bitterness makes me feel. I add cream to my coffee because the bitter taste makes me feel unwell. Each sentence has the same main idea: that the narrator can’t drink coffee because it makes him or her feel sick. However, the second sentence is clearer and easier to read than the first because it has fewer glue words. The meaning isn’t obscured by extra words. You should aim for an average of less than 40% glue words in your sentences. That doesn’t mean that all of your sentences have less than 40% glue words. Some may have 50%, some may have 30%. As long as your document averages at 40% glue words, your work will be clear. This is also important to consider when writing a great opening sentence for your novel. 2. Avoid Clichés Clichés are phrases like actions speak louder than words, love is blind, and the grass is always greener on the other side. Many writers use clichés when they’re trying to sound relatable or to make their writing more accessible. Unfortunately, clichés often do the opposite: alienate readers that aren’t familiar with the phrase or do not understand it. Even though these expressions are older than dirt (see what I did there?), when isolated, their meaning isn’t clear. This reduces the chance that your audience will engage with your work, especially if your audience is made up of non-native speakers.  When editing, aim to remove phrases that aren’t universal or don’t translate well into a different language. That way, your work is accessible to everyone. 3. Make Your Subjects And Verbs Shine With Active Voice When your sentence is in the active voice, your subjects and verbs are clear. When it’s in passive voice, your subject is unclear. Here’s an example of passive voice: The sample was selected. Who is selecting the sample? We’re not sure, because the sentence doesn’t say so. Passive voice leaves your sentence open for interpretation by the reader, especially when it’s uncertain who or what is performing the action in the sentence. Consider the same sentence in active voice: Researchers selected the sample. Now, the subject is clear. Readers won’t need to think very hard to understand this sentence. There are a few types of writing where passive voice has its place, but typically, active voice is better. While passive voice isn’t technically wrong, it can make your writing harder to understand, which, in turn, makes it less engaging.  4. Use Precise Words Adverbs are words that add colour or style to your adjectives and verbs. Like passive voice, adverbs aren’t grammatically incorrect, but they can reduce clarity because they prop up boring, imprecise verbs. For instance:  Scarlett ran really fast. Scarlett sprinted. In the first example, the word “really” is an adverb that modifies “fast,” which is itself an adverb that modifies the verb “ran.” The word choice in the second sentence, “sprinted,” is more precise. Replacing adverb + verb constructions with a precise strong verb will paint a clear picture for your reader. Common adverbs that are guilty of propping up weak word choices include: really just very actually in order to definitely absolutely If you see these words in your writing, you can likely improve your clarity by cutting them and choosing a more specific verb or adjective in your sentence. Do You Want Help From Prowritingaid? Wondering how you can easily improve the clarity of your writing? An editing tool can help. ProWritingAid’s 20 reports identify clarity issues in your writing and make suggestions for fixing them. Here’s just a taste of what ProWritingAid can do: The Writing Style Report at ProWritingAid can help you find and fix instances of passive voice in your writing.  The Writing Style Report at ProWritingAid can help you identify unwanted adverbs and use precise verbs in their place.  The Clichés and Redundancies Report at ProWritingAid highlights these phrases so you can brainstorm new and better ways to say the same thing.  The Sticky Sentences Report at ProWritingAid highlights sticky sentences and identifies the glue words so you know what to change or remove to improve your sentences. Clarity In Writing: Final Thoughts You can have the best idea in the world, but if your writing isn’t clear, readers won’t know it.  To make your writing clearer, you have to start with your sentences: the fundamental building blocks of your writing. By eliminating adverbs, making passive verbs active, forgoing clichés, and removing extra words in your sentences, you’ll ensure your writing effectively communicates your ideas.
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