Jericho Writers
4 Acer Walk , Oxford, OX2 6EX, United Kingdom
UK: +44 (0)345 459 9560
US: +1 (646) 974 9060

Our Articles

What Genre Is My Book?

A few weeks ago, I was asked what I do for a living. When I said, ‘I’m an author,’ the gentleman said, ‘Oh, what do you write? Crime?’  ‘No, romantic comedies.’  ‘What, like Dame Barbara Cartland?’  ‘Er, no. She wrote historical romance.’  ‘So not like that E. L. James either then?’  ‘No. She writes erotica.’  He looked disappointed by this and sloped off, presumably to go and lose himself in a gritty murder or a rampant bodice-ripper.  What is a Book Genre? So what genre is your book and how would you describe it?  In simplistic terms, a genre is the category or style of a book - for example, romance, crime or horror. It comes from the French word, for ‘type.’ In essence, it describes the type of story being told.  There are many book genres, ranging from dystopian to horror (more on that soon) but two of the most popular book genres, in terms of sales figures right now, are romance and crime.  Bestselling names in the romance genre include authors such as Danielle Steele and Sophie Kinsella, whilst for crime, authors such as Ian Rankin and Martina Cole reign supreme.  Romance has an enduring, escapist appeal and has seen a huge variety of its authors and titles consistently topping the bestseller charts for a number of years. The tales of love overcoming adversity, sometimes whilst in sun-soaked climates, set in sprawling castles or with a good dose of humour, continue to enchant and enthral readers of all ages and from a wide demographic. Romance Subgenres But, to make things more complicated, there are also subgenres within each genre. As my Cartland vs E. L. James example shows above, just because there’s a lot of kissing in two different books doesn’t mean the reader is going to get the same kind of romance in both. So, when looking at genre, it’s important to also consider subgenres. In romance, the subgenres are plenty – often crossing over into other genres:  Romantic comedyParanormal romance Fantasy romance Queer romance Christian romance Young adult romance New adult romance Historical romance Regency romance Contemporary romance Erotic romance Romanic suspense  The list goes on…and, much like love itself, there’s something for everyone.  Crime Subgenres But readers, and authors, don’t always stick to enjoying just one genre. As I’m an author of romantic comedies, you won’t be surprised to learn that romance is my favourite genre, but I am in no way adverse to any others. I have just finished reading The Affair by Hilary Boyd, an often dark thriller about a married woman having an affair, who then finds that her ex-lover begins to stalk her.  As most writers know, reading across all genres helps hone your craft enormously.  In recent times, crime and thriller novels have seen a huge resurgence in popularity. Perhaps due to the odd times we are living in, it is the appeal of good triumphing over evil and justice prevailing, which explains why so many readers are keen to lose themselves amongst their pages.  Cosy crime, described as a gentler form of the crime genre, has also seen a massive rise in readership in recent times. Authors like Richard Osman and M.C Beaton are hugely popular in this book category.   Let’s look at some more crime and thriller subgenres:  Cosy mysteries Classic detective/PI Police procedural Hard-boiled crime Thrillers (legal, medical, forensic, military) Suspense thriller Psychological thriller  Book Genre List There are frequent debates as to how many different book genres exist. During my research for this article, I read claims that there were approximately thirty-five varying book genres, whilst other articles insisted there were around fifty.   I have therefore pulled together a book genre list (excluding subgenres) which I consider to be the most prominent ones – with some details as to how they may be defined. Fantasy Categorised by works including elements of magic or the supernatural. This can encompass high fantasy, like Tolkien\'s Lord of the Rings and George R.R. Martin\'s Game of Thrones, or magical children’s books, like Rowling\'s Harry Potter. But it also includes steamy novels like the fae-filled series A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Sci-Fi Sci-fi stands for ‘science fiction,’ meaning it looks at outer worlds with a heavy leaning towards space, technology and science. Think aliens, time-travel or exploration to other planets. This includes anything from Star Wars to Ernest Cline\'s Ready, Player One. Speculative Fiction This can encompass all the above – basically anything with a twist of magic – but can also include fabulism and magical realism. That’s to say stories based in our world (past or present) with a hint of magic. Think Chocolat by Joanne Harris, or The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow. Horror When you say ‘horror book’ most people think of Stephen King – for good reason. Horror is known for its frightening, often graphic, elements and paranormal elements. Anything from The Shining to The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells. A subgenre of this is Gothic books, such as the classics Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and Brontë\'s Wuthering Heights – think eerie and spooky, more than blood, guts and monsters.  Mystery Fiction that includes a mysterious occurrence and a gripping plot to be solved. This can include a good old-fashioned Agatha Christie ‘whodunnit’, or bestselling novels like Flynn\'s Gone Girl.  Crime Stories that incorporate a crime being committed and illustrate the protagonist’s struggle to solve it. Think Lee Child, P. D. James, and Martina Cole.  Historical Books defined by a time period from the past. Fictional stories based in a historical setting such as the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn or Gabaldon\'s romantic Outlander novels set in eighteenth century Scotland. Or many of the books by Tracey Chevalier or Philippa Gregory.  Thriller A step up from Mystery, more edge-of-your-seat stuff, this fiction is often charged with lots of excitement. For example, a life-or-death scenario, huge stakes, cliff-hangers and action. Think of all of Dan Brown’s books, or modern classics such as Hawkins\' Girl on the Train or Larsson\'s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Western Fiction focusing on the American Frontier. Genre usually set in latter 19th and early 20th century, centred around the lives of cowboys and gunfighters. Although more modern stories, such as Proulx\'s Brokeback Mountain (as the tale of two cowboys falling in love set against the backdrop of bigotry and judgement) was a huge hit when it won the National Magazine Award for Fiction in 1998, and then went on to become a Hollywood blockbuster.  Romance Romantic relationships are at the heart of this genre (if you’ll pardon the pun!) Stories may follow various tropes including star-crossed lovers, love triangles, unlikely lovers, and soulmates. As we saw earlier, it can reflect anything from Me Before You by Jojo Moyes to Jackie Collins\' works. Erotica Fiction designed to arouse the reader with explicit sexual scenes and imagery. The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy was the highest grossing book series of the last decade.  Dystopian Part of the science-fiction genre, dystopian novels usually describe a frightening aspect of the future, such as oppressive governments. Think Sweeney-Baird\'s The End of Men, Atwood\'s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Mandel\'s Station Eleven. Literary Literary fiction concentrates on real-life issues and, unlike commercial fiction which is plot-driven, this form of storytelling is a lot more character-driven. It also often has a more complicated or convoluted story structure, using a more complex vocabulary. Sally Rooney has had great acclaim in this genre with her books Conversations With Friends, Normal People, and Beautiful World, Where Are You.  Children\'s Fiction This is a broad subject that includes everything from picture and board books for very young children, through to Middle Grade and Young Adult. Classic Middle Grade authors would include Roald Dahl, and more contemporary novels would include Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Sophie Anderson\'s The House With Chicken Legs, and The boy At The Back Of The Class by Onjali Q. Raúf. These books are written predominantly for 9-12 year olds, and often cover important life lessons.   Likewise, Young Adult (for 13-18 year olds) is very varied in style, themes and content, and includes books such as Angie Thomas\' The Hate You Give, Suzanne Collins\' The Hunger Games, and They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera.  Why is Genre Important? You might ask yourself whether the question of book genre really matters. Surely it’s the plot and characters that are important, not the category?   Well, genre does matter as it acts like a building block to establish where your book will sit in the market and what readership it’s likely to attract.  By having an awareness of what genre your book is, you’re able to carve out not only your own unique voice, but also an audience who enjoys reading that genre of novel. You are enabling your readers to identify your book as one which they will enjoy reading.   Being able to neatly categorise your book into a particular genre means you’re creating a strong author brand in a genre where other authors have already established themselves. You’re creating a foundation for (hopefully) solid book sales and letting agents, editors, booksellers, and readers know what to expect from your work.  For a book to therefore become successful, the writer, reader and marketer must all possess the same vision and understanding of what the story is and how it’s being told.  Agents and Editors It also makes prudent sense to have identified what book genre your novel is, when the time comes for you to pitch to agents and publishers. Targeting the right publisher and agent for your work, via the genres they publish and represent, means that you will be giving yourself the best possible chance of achieving representation and publication.   I once read a great quote from an agent who said, ‘Imagine yourself in a lift with the agent of your dreams. You have ten seconds to pitch your latest novel to them before they get out. How would you describe it to them?’ This elevator hook or pitch should draw in the agent, enticing them to ask for your manuscript. It would also, if it has done its job properly, give them an idea of where your book would sit alongside their current authors and in the market generally.  For instance - sending your completed manuscript to an agent who represents science fiction, when you have penned a rollercoaster 110k word espionage tale, is a waste of not only your time, but also that of the agent.  Booksellers and Librarians When someone is looking for a book, the first thing they do is head for the shelves categorised by genre. If the genre of your book isn’t clear, and it’s wrongly categorised, then it won’t reach your ideal market. Your Readers Establishing an author platform in the book genre you write in means you stand a good chance of readers of that genre returning for more. It’s therefore essential to create a certain anticipation in your prospective readership, so they know what they can expect from you. This is why authors often write in just one genre – and don’t spread out into others without either waiting to become very established or writing under a number of pseudonyms.  How to Identify the Genre of Your Book To increase your novel’s chances of success, you, as the author, together with your publisher, agent and marketing team, should have a certain expectation as to where your book will fit into the market.  Where do you imagine your novel sitting on the shelf in a library or in a book store? Which other authors would it sit comfortably beside? Is it a heart-warming romantic comedy, in the vein of Jenny Colgan and Trisha Ashley, or a political thriller similar to that of Ken Follet and Jeffrey Archer?  Book genres often cause a degree of heated discussion amongst the writing, reading, publishing and agenting communities.  Everyone, to a greater or lesser degree, has a different idea of what each genre represents. The question of what each genre should carry, can elicit strong feelings, not to mention very differing views. Even book covers in particular genres can cause much debate about their style and substance. How often have you read quotes on the cover of books which have said things like, ‘For readers who love Maeve Binchy’ or ‘For fans of Stephen King?’ This is a publisher communicating a book’s genre to its readership.  This is a clever marketing tool, designed to appeal to the loyal readers of these authors, that your novel is in the same book genre as these giants of commercial fiction and therefore they would enjoy yours too. The most important thing is that you, your agent and editor agree (or, if you are self-published, you are consistent with your marketing). So, How Can You Define the Genre of the Book You\'re Writing? My advice would be:  Read a lot of books and see what elements are featured, and which chime with yours. Familiarise yourself with the book genre options out there and how they relate to your book. Identify the genre elements that are contained within your novel. How do they reflect those? Pull together a short list of potential genres and also subgenres. How does your novel compare with others in those categories? Concentrate on the most relevant genre/subgenre for your book. Think about the audience of the books that you enjoy reading in your favourite genre. Are they the same readers who you think would enjoy your book?  Check out book genre labels which are often featured for each of the different book genres for Kindle reads. Do any of these relate to what you are writing? For example, words such as ‘dark’ and ‘conspiracy’ are often applied to books in the Thriller genre.   Remember, you’re not trying to explain the entirety of your book, you’re trying to advertise its aesthetic. You are aiming to create a similar air of anticipation amongst the book-buying public, so that they too will be drawn to your novel.  Once you have done that, take a look at your own book and ensure your writing style, characters, and plot stick to one (at most, two, genres). For instance, if your spy is getting more action in the sheets than the streets, ask yourself whether you are really writing a spy thriller – or a spy romance novel. Then amend accordingly.  Determine Your Genre Nailing the genre of your book is not the most important element of your writing journey – at least not to begin with.   However, the importance of identifying the most appropriate genre and subgenre of your book, should not be underestimated. Finding that commercial aspect to your writing and to your novels is crucial, if you are to identify a reading audience for your book and appeal to their reading tastes – not to mention hook the right agent and editor.  So, have a clear genre (and audience) in mind when you start plotting and writing, and make sure you don’t veer too much into too many other styles and categories. It’s the first step to ensuring your readers will one day find your book and savour every page – no matter which genre it ultimately finds a home in!  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. 
Read more

Tips For Authors Getting Headshots

You\'ve finally finished your book! After months of writing, followed by toing and froing with your beta readers and editor, the book is ready to go to print. But just as you\'re thinking of jetting away somewhere hot and having a much-deserved rest, your publisher (or Amazon Central) asks you for an author headshot.   You could give them that photo of you at your cousin\'s wedding, or the one work took for their website. Right?   Wrong.   In this guide, I\'ll be explaining how author headshots function, why having the perfect one matters, and I\'ll show you how to organise a professional photoshoot, get the right look, and make the best use of the result. I’ll also link to some real-life author headshot examples. The Importance Of Author Headshots Like any aspect of self-branding, the writer headshot should never be overlooked. However open-minded we like to think of ourselves, people make snap decisions about each other and what they have to offer based on what they look like. This also holds just as true for an author on the back of a book, as well as people we meet face to face.   This is both bad news and good. While a poor author portrait could put potential readers off your work, a good one can do the opposite. It\'s an excellent opportunity to communicate your genre, tone, and style. And it\'s in your control!  This is why it makes sense to invest time and money hiring a professional photographer for a photoshoot (unless you have a generous friend in the business who will do you a favour, or you’re exceptionally good at selfies and have a well-lit studio at home).  So where do you start?  Author Headshot Tips Find The Right Photographer  Traditional publishers will occasionally arrange author headshots themselves. Usually, however, it is left to you to choose a good local photographer. Make sure you follow any specific instructions from your publishing house – and if you\'ve collaborated with somebody else on this book, you will both need your own photo.   The ideal photographer will have taken this kind of portrait before, and they should be able to show you some of their previous work to help you decide. Take a look at the photographer’s online portfolio or check out the name of photographers that took author headshots you like from other local writers.  Are They Right For You? Choosing a photographer may not be a life-long commitment, but you are paying them to take photos that will be defining you as an author – not to mention spending a morning or afternoon with them. It’s important you feel comfortable around them. Meet them first to discuss your requirements or have a quick Zoom call to get an idea if you will work well together (after all, you may need more photos in the future). If you’re not happy, walk away. The more comfortable your photographer makes you feel, the better the results will be.  Calculate The Best Package For Your Budget Author headshots can cost thousands of pounds or dollars. However, the average cost is between £100 and £150 (US$100 and $250). Location shoots with multiple looks and outfit changes are likely to cost more than straightforward studio shots in front of a single background.  Confirm the price and what to expect within the package. Ideally, you want to own the images you choose (the alternative is paying a licence fee every time you use one). Find out whether you will need to pay for each photo separately or if the photographer will give you all the images in a digital file.   You may want your photos retouched to remove blemishes (dark circles under the eyes, for instance). The need for this may only become obvious after the shoot and add to the cost as it’s not always included. So be prepared for that.  Create A Good Brief  Decide the impression you want to make with the headshots and communicate this clearly to your photographer. What do you need to consider?  Research your competition To get an idea of what style of author portrait photo is right for you, look online at the Amazon pages and websites of other writers in your genre for inspiration.   What are you trying to get across in your author portrait? Are you fun and lively, or moody and dark? Is your work serious literary fiction, or do you write light and fun rom coms? The photos on the website of a picture book author will be very different from the one Ian Rankin uses for his crime books, for example.   Black-and-white or colour?  While black-and-white works well for high-brow literary types, most commercial authors choose colour. A traditional publisher may make this decision for you. The average release from Galley Beggar press wins at least one literary award, so it\'s no surprise the author photos on their website are all in monochrome. But bear in mind, if you wish to use the same photo for press, many magazines ask for a colour photo. Some writers use a number of images from the same shoot for various things.  Location, Setting, And Background The focus of the headshot should always be on the author\'s face. Thus, many writers use a plain studio background, particularly for online stores like Amazon. However, others use an appropriate setting, hoping it will help communicate their brand.   Mary Berry, famous cookery book writer and presenter of The Great British Bake Off, stands in a white kitchen for her author portrait. Robert Thorogood’s photo is in front of Marlow, the UK setting for his new cosy crime series. Cathy Cassidy, a Young Adult writer, is pictured in the back of a VW campervan.   The dark red wall behind Rory Sutherland’s Twitter profile, clashes with the bright red jacket he’s wearing. The overall effect is unexpected for a business guru, yet his latest release \'Alchemy\' has the tagline, \'The Magic of Original Thinking in a World of Mind-numbing Conformity.\' He’s not trying to be corporate.   Plain studio shots work particularly well for serious black-and-white photos. But remember, an entirely plain white background flatters very few people.  Image Styling: Be Yourself If I was being entirely myself in a writer headshot, I wouldn\'t brush my hair. That kind of honesty, however, would probably stop me selling books.   I\'m not suggesting you lie about who you are, but it’s important to project how you wish to be perceived. Think of yourself as the main character in a book about your writing career. What does this person wear? What expression and mannerisms do they use? Are they business-like, fun, or very serious?  Outfit Even authors going for ‘zany’ should keep their outfits as simple as they can. The safest plan is to wear one or two layers of plain clothing with an open collar. Busy patterns will detract from your face, as will too much jewellery. (The shy may see that as a good thing, but it isn\'t).  Period costumes may well suggest historical romance, but they will detract from the author’s face – and it’s important that your readers (and the press) know what you look like. Period romance author, Evie Dunmore, gets it right. Her outfit suggests a Victorian or Edwardian woman by wearing three simple items - a lace top, a wide-brimmed hat, and a pearl ornament in her hair. Not quite fancy dress, but enough of a nod to her genre.  Different make-up and clothes will look better in colour or black-and-white. If you\'re not sure which will work best, play around with both looks. You can always ask to have more than one photo taken at the shoot, but as discussed, this will increase time and possibly cost. Save time and money by taking selfies at home and asking friends and family what they think suits you best. Hairstyle This is probably not the time for a radical new hairstyle unless you\'re given to eye-catching changes. Ideally, you want readers to be able to recognise you at author events. Even if you don\'t think you’ll attend real-life book signings, you may want to appear online in a Facebook live, for instance. So if you\'re usually blonde and wear your hair back in a ponytail, do that. Now is not the time to try out a bright pink beehive. Lighting If the shoot is outside, the photographer will probably make the most of the natural light. Depending on the time of day this may be warm, soft, and flattering light. Let them decide the best time of day to achieve the look you are going for. For instance, during the late morning or early afternoon, there\'s usually a yellow light with few harsh shadows. And the ‘golden hour’, the period just after sunrise or before sunset, gives a red light and softer look.   Wherever the shoot, light on the face makes you look fresher and more approachable, a good thing for almost every author. If you write crime or horror, an arty portrait with your face in shadow may seem like a good idea. Take care, however. You don’t want to be confused with one of your villains! Practice Your Pose Body language matters, and so does being relaxed in front of a camera. This is the time where the mirror is your friend.   Choose a pose that feels natural. Don\'t force a smile or anything that doesn\'t feel right. If you\'re not comfortable, it will come across in your photos.   Consider if you\'re going to have your hands in the picture and what you can do with them to add to your message. For example, you could rest your chin and hands on a flat surface for an informal feel. Or hold your chin to look like a professional with good advice. Some authors cross their arms, but remember that depending on your genre this can look defensive and may make you look unapproachable.  Again, take a look at what other authors are doing. Some writers opt for the close up to be framed so no arms make it into the shot (a lot less pressure). Props You could also think about using an appropriate prop (and whether it would make you more or less comfortable during the shoot). Perhaps, you could hold your own book, or the Golden Dagger you were awarded last year. Again, the emphasis should be on you, so keep it simple and avoid cliché. Only use a prop if it will add to your overall message.   Also bear in mind whether this photo is just for one book, or you want it to be used for a number of years. It doesn’t always help to use a photo of you holding up your debut when five books down the line you are known for a lot more.  Rest Before The Shoot A photoshoot may seem like a largely passive activity, but how you feel on the day will affect how you look and come across on camera. Avoid those dark under-eye circles by drinking plenty of water and getting a good night\'s sleep beforehand.  Look Directly At The Camera Many headshots break this rule, but it helps create a sense of connection with the viewer. Again, ask yourself if you want to come across as a whimsical, mysterious writer or direct and approachable.  Be Relaxed The photographer will do their best to put you at ease, but there are also practical things you can do to help yourself on the day.   Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the shoot, so you\'re not rushing.   Remind yourself that however badly it turns out, your author headshot is nowhere near as important as writing a good book. And the photographer will take lots of photos, so you can always discard those you hate at the end. If it puts your mind at rest, ask to take a look at the first few shots to see if they are working.  And, going back to acting like a character in your own book, if it helps hide behind your new persona. Yesterday you were a nervous introverted debut writer, but today you are a famous author - cool, calm, and collected.  Listen To Your Photographer They should be able to guide you to an author headshot that works. If they say that a certain pose works best, listen to them. Take direction. They know what works.  Ask For Black-And-White Copies Of Your Colour Photos This increases your choice later on. You can convert the photos digitally yourself, but it’s usually better done by a professional.   Select The Right Images You may be tempted to choose the image that makes you look fifteen years younger or like a supermodel - but the best author headshot is the one that conveys the right message and reinforces your \'brand\'.   Ask other people to tell you honestly what they think, especially if they read the genre you write. Why not enlist the help of your followers on social media or your publisher’s publicity department? This can be a fun way to connect with readers and see yourself through their eyes.  Use The Same Photo Across All Of Social Media Consistency is key when it comes to self-branding. Whatever image you choose to use on your website or the back of the print book, use the same photo across online stores and social media. This will make it easier for readers to recognise you as the same person and, hopefully, increase your number of follows.  But, like most rules, some are made to be broken. Picture book author, Julia Donaldson, uses a headshot with a plain studio background for her Amazon page but she’s surrounded by soft toy versions of her characters on her website. There’s a particularly good photo of her reading to the Gruffalo.   So, if your Linked In profile is serious and you are using it to connect to the industry to sell them a self-help book you are pitching – perhaps don’t use the same sultry image of yourself that appears on the website of your raunchy erotica series.  Keep Your Photos Up-To-Date Whatever the temptation to stay eternally young in your reader\'s minds, you should upload a new book author headshot every two to three years – especially if you change genre or publisher. As your career evolves, so should your photos. To Summarise… All in all, preparing for the perfect author portrait shoot is simple.  Hire a professional, brief them well, prepare your look and setting beforehand, and relax during the shoot. If you follow this advice, you should have a great headshot to add to the rest of your marketing package.  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. 
Read more

Top 12 Best Self-Publishing Companies

Self-publishing is no mean feat. After the herculean task of writing your book, it may seem easy to go at it yourself. Maybe you\'ve already explored the option of traditional publishing, and it isn\'t for you. Perhaps you\'re burnt out from the hunt for an agent. Either way, if you\'re reading this, self-publishing may well be the gleaming light across the dock enticing you with promising book sales and a sense of achievement. Going it alone is admirable, but there\'s also lots of things you must be aware of first. Cutting corners may lead to you being blinded by less than virtuous offers. Integrity in book publishing is not a lost art - you just have to know where to look. This article will show you the best self-publishing sites, platforms, and companies around to help you (help yourself) and get your book into readers\' hands - the non-traditional way... What Do Self-Publishing Companies Do? Self-publishing companies are in essence service providers. You bring the completed project and all its frills, they supply the technology/logistics needed to publish it. But there are different levels of service you can opt for. At the most basic (and essential), you can sign up with a pure retailer - notably Amazon. Amazon obviously has the power to reach all the readers in the world (and it\'s extraordinary to think that all that power can be at your disposal - for free.) But if you self-publish with Amazon, the whole business of cover-design, blurb-writing, pricing decisions, marketing and so on are for you and you alone. Amazon is not going to get involved. At the other end of the spectrum, you have companies that will do all of that for you ... but at a cost. That cost is measured in dollars, certainly, but also, those companies don\'t care about book sales the way you do. If they sell you a cover design that you\'re happy with, then they\'ve made their money. Job done. They don\'t actually care whether that book cover generates sales for you or not. In other words, the more you get others to do, the more you are putting your book into the hands of people who care less than you. For that reason, it\'s worth taking a look at the range of options out there ... Types of Self-Publishing Companies Rest easy, for self-publishing companies will not own the rights to your book - you will. They will typically take a share of the royalties, however. When deciding who to go with to publish your book, it\'s important to consider the differences between the three main types of publishing service companies and the roles they each fulfil. Retailers Think of retailers as online bookstores. They give your book a spot on the digital shelf, so to speak. If they\'re a big enough name, you\'ll publish your book through a branded ebook publishing platform. You\'ll share the royalties, just like you would if you went with an aggregator. Examples include: Amazon KDP, iBooks Author, Barnes & Nobles Press, Kobo Writing Life Aggregators Aggregators distribute your book to multiple retailers simultaneously. They often charge you for this convenience. They take their share of the royalties only after your book has made its sales. Examples include: KDP Print, PublishDrive, Smashwords, Draft2Digital Full-Service Companies Full-services companies are the whole package. They offer editing, formatting, interior and cover design, blurb, and distribution all rolled into one. Just because you\'re going the self-publishing route, doesn\'t mean you have do all the publishing heavy-work yourself. However it\'s worth noting that this option is best suited to those looking to sell only a few copies of their book—and not with significant commercial success in mind. Examples include: BookBaby, Outskirts Press, Matador, White Magic Studios Vanity Publishers and Hybrid Publishers We should probably also include a note about vanity publishers. These guys are the snakes and serpents of publishing. They essentially pretend to be a real publishing company contemplating the commercial publication of your book. Inevitably, however, you\'ll be told that the \"editorial board\" or something other fictional entity decided they couldn\'t quite afford the risk of going it alone. So you\'ll be invited to spend some quite large sum of money on \"partnership publishing\", or something like that. If it smells bad, it is bad. Just say no - with emphasis. If you feel like adding a cuss-word or two when you say so, then we won\'t be offended Hybrid publishers are a somewhat cleaner version of the same thing. They\'ll ask for money to get you published, but be more candid about likely outcomes. If you encounter honesty and openness, the publisher may well be trustworthy. If you encounter heavy selling and a lack of candour, then avoid, avoid, avoid. Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing Some authors will instinctively know which publishing route to take for their book. For others, it may be a tougher decision. Traditional publishing often follows a linear pathway from submission, to finding an agent, to having that agent pitch to publishers on your behalf, to the publisher buying the rights to your work and distributing it as widely as possible across various territories and mediums. When trad published, your work has a whole host of people behind it who all have a vested interest in its success. You, on the other hand, are now an empty-nester taking a more hands-off approach to the future of your book. Will you be involved much in the rest of the process? Well: up to a point. You\'ll never have the same level of control - and you\'ll never get the same level of royalties. A self-pubbed ebook will give the author royalties of 70%. The same number for an ebook sold via a trad publisher through an agent will typically be under 15%. It\'s that stunning difference which has powered the whole self-pub revolution. And while good book sales are simply too multifactorial to summarise neatly, the fact is that self-published authors typically make more money than trad-published ones. There are more million-dollar a year indie authors, than there are million-dollar a year trad authors. The same is true if you knock one zero off that number, or two zeroes. Yes, you can make money as a trad author, but if money is your only metric, you should think seriously about self-pub. But the money doesn\'t come by itself. It\'s not enough to write books, you have to market them. You have to write books that people want to read. You have to think hard about the genres that do best as self-pub books. And the money won\'t flow without a little investment upfront. And you won\'t make money until you have a little stable of books to offer, not just the one. And of course, it\'s unlikely that you\'ll see your book in a physical bookstore. So yes, there are challenges - and ones that you need to take seriously. But if you want total creative control and the best chance of making money, self-pub is just too good an option not to take seriously. Top Self-Publishing Companies If you are going to go the self-publishing route, then take a look at our compilation of the 12 best self-publishing companies and what they have to offer: Retailers: 1. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Amazon\'s KDP is the kingpin of self-publishing companies, where most e-book sales take place (about 85% of the total). To use this service, you must first create a Kindle account and fill in your tax information. Uploading an ebook-ready manuscript is quick and easy after that point. You have to do it all yourself, but the user-friendly interface invites every author to give it a go. It\'s not the only piece of the puzzle, though. Amazon can step in with their KDP Select program which helps you market your book with deals, though it will own your book\'s exclusive rights for whatever period of time you choose to use this additional service. Furthermore, Amazon also offers one of the top print-on-demand (POD) services - KDP Print. To get your book turned into a paperback and distributed, all you have to do is upload a formatted PDF and cover design - made even easier if you already sell ebooks on KDP. This service is technically an aggregator and will get your book (as a paperback or ebook) to other bookstores and retailers if you opt in to \'Expanded Distribution\' via your KDP dashboard. Know this: One of the biggest decisions you\'ll be making is whether to publish \'wide\' (via every retailer) or \'narrow\' (via Amazon only.) It sounds obvious that you should want every retailer on your side, except that exclusivity with Amazon confers some powerful benefits. As a rough guide, we\'d suggest that you publish narrow to start with, then reconsider your strategy once you have two or three books out there. 2. Apple Books (iBooks Author/Pages) iBooks Author is the second-best free-to-upload self-publishing outfit - but it\'s a distant, distant second best. No sane person would consider working exclusively with Apple. It\'s only a question of who you sell with in addition to Amazon - if anyone at all. Also, do note that Mac users have a monopoly on this service, however, as you have to be a Mac user to publish there and take advantage of the 70% royalties rate. If you are already assimilated into Apple\'s eco-system, you can upload your manuscript from Pages, which as of mid-2020 replaces the iBooks software. If not, you first need to use an aggregator to publish (in industry-standard ePub format) to the Apple Store. iBooks Author pairs nicely with Vellum, a free-to-download formatting software made for Mac with purchasable packages for exporting your ebook. It has great features and you can even publish in paperback with Vellum Press. 3. Kobo Writing Life Another retailer on this list - Canadian Rakuten Kobo\'s self-publishing division \'Writing Life\' - accounts for 25% of Canadian ebook sales, as well as having a significant international presence. You might have also heard of their e-reading device. The simple, step-by-step publishing process is attractive, as well as the inbuilt sales analytics tool on their platform. With its maximum royalty rate and global outreach, Kobo\'s self-publishing program is very popular. But again, don\'t publish via Kobo only. Either publish with Amazon exclusively, or with Amazon, Apple, Kobo and everyone else. For most (all?) newer authors, it\'ll make most sense to attack those smaller retailers via an aggregator. 4. Barnes & Noble Press Free to upload, 70% royalties, an easy-to-use interface. But B&N is fourth on this list for a reason. Add it as part of a \'wide\' sales strategy. Don\'t think about it, even for a moment, as an exclusive partner. Aggregators: 5. Draft2Digital Draft2Digital is a service which takes care of your book formatting for you. Getting your book published with them is easy: set up a free account, upload your manuscript, choose from a wide range of vendors, set your own list price, manage your book sales and track your metrics. They take care of the rest and provide ongoing support. If you want to publish \'wide\', then we recommend: Setting up a direct account with Amazon KDP. You always want direct control of your Amazon account. It\'s too important to entrust to anyone else.Handling your wide sales via Draft2Digital. D2D is the best of the aggregators and is a nice easy way to enter all the retailers other than Amazon Customer service at D2D is great and the tools are slick and constantly being improved. Recommended. 6. Smashwords Smashwords was one of the first aggregators to come about, and it distributes to just about everywhere BUT Amazon. Its cut is 15% and that doesn\'t include formatting - you\'ve got to do that yourself! With a little effort, it\'s a wonderful resource and can teach the average independent book author all they need to know about branding, marketing, and publishing. Smashwords has seen a lot of competition lately - namely Draft2Digital who does distribute via Amazon AND formats your book for you. Smashwords has traditionally been strong in the romance area, but even there, we don\'t think it\'s the best option for you today. 7. PublishDrive PublishDrive boasts connections with over 4500 publishers and over 400 stores - with excellent international distribution. The interface is used to check in on all your royalties and sales, which will be slashed by 10% if you don\'t pay to subscribe to their service and keep all of your royalties. Luckily PublishDrive has 24/7 customer support to help you keep all those plates spinning. A good alternative to D2D. 8. Ingram Spark Ingram Spark is the only meaningful competitor to KDP Print worth mentioning. This company reaches a great amount of readers with its global print services independent of Amazon. They can sell your book through 40,000+ retailers and libraries—in stores and online. For this reason, IngramSpark provides one of the top print-on-demand (POD) services, though does not sell direct and is instead technically an aggregator for print. Full-Service Companies: 9. BookBaby Using BookBaby for self-publishing authors means purchasing one of their somewhat pricey Self-Publishing packages. These vary depending on how much help you need with design, marketing, print, and distribution. You can rest assured that the professional care taken to perfect your pages for print comes at no extra cost other than that which you pay upfront. Royalties suffer slightly however at 50% if you choose to sell directly to readers via BookBaby\'s Bookshop. BookBaby boasts a global distribution network of its own as well as offering an Amazon Priority Service to further expand your reach with KPD Select. 10. Outskirts Press Outskirts Press\' full-service package offers much of the same, with the caveat of having fewer distributors for your book as well as more limited expert services to get your work to standard before distribution. There\'s just as much support, but less tailoring involved with your package. 11. Matador Unlike the other full-service companies on this list, Troubador\'s Matador caters more to the UK\'s indie authors. They distribute through the traditional channels as well as POD. They are choosier about their clientele, only taking on 75% of those who would like to publish with them. Your book undergoes more scrutiny than with others on this list—this is not an everyman option. If you are one of the lucky few, you will benefit from their reputation in the publishing industry alone AND a whole host of publishing, marketing, and distribution services depending on your needs. 12. White Magic Studios Matador\'s affordable UK counterpart White Magic Studios gives you 100% of the royalties and ownership of your book. They don\'t quite have the same gravitas as others on this list but they\'re still a safe bet for an all-in-one package if you know what you\'re looking for in terms of service and distribution. The Self-Publishing Option That Works for You The ultimate, best-of-all-time, undeniable front-runner, crème de la crème of self-publishing companies happens to be the one that works best for you and your book. Do your research (work your way through this list, for example), go with your gut, and see how you get on. Self-publishing has worked for others, so it can work for you! All you need is the makings of a good book, stellar knowledge, and a can-do attitude. 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.
Read more

How to Ruin Your Author Brand

When Author Branding Goes Wrong Just as you put thought and dedication toward what you write as an author, the same focus should be put on your writer brand. Author branding tells your readers a story about who you are and inspires them to connect with your work.   Think about some of your favorite businesses. What draws you to them and what sort of characteristics come to mind? What about the brand keeps you coming back?  You should consider the same questions when it comes to your writer brand. Creating a strong, defined presence will significantly help you find and connect with your readers – helping them know if what you create is for them, and what to expect from you in the future.   Getting started on your branding involves several different factors from conceptualisation to marketing. In this guide you will learn exactly what elements to focus on, along with us sharing a few author branding examples for inspiration!  What is Author Branding?  Author branding is how you choose to present your values, mission, credibility, and personality to readers. In order to create your author brand, you should start by identifying your target readership. Remember you’re not aiming to appeal to everyone; a loyal target audience is more beneficial than trying to reach all readers.   Once you know who you want to connect with you can work on developing your brand voice and the face you will put out into the world. Tell your story and showcase what makes you different from other authors in your niche, it’s your USP (unique selling point). This also ties into your brand appearance, which might include consistent colours, logos, and fonts across your website and social media channels.   For instance, if you’re a horror writer then the images you share, posts you write, and general look of your social media will differ from that of a children’s writer who publishes books on unicorns and fairies.   As a horror writer you may link to horror-related shows, other books, funny images, explain your writing journey, run a competition around Halloween etc. Whereas a children’s author is more likely to talk about school visits, sharing cute pictures, talking about funny things kids said to them, inspiration for their books, and get behind child-related charities etc  Your writer brand should offer an experience for your readers, and as you gain your following you also want to make sure to stay consistent with reader expectations. Yes, building a winning brand is a lot of work but it’s 100% worth it for longevity (and can be a lot of fun). The Importance of Author Branding  So why is having an author brand so important?   For one, it’s what helps inform readers why they should buy or support your content. When you have a strong, effective brand, it shows your audience that you’re an expert and demonstrates why they can trust your writing.  Your author brand is also a bridge of communication with your audience, keeping them engaged and excited. When readers feel they have a personal connection with you and your work it keeps them coming back for more.   You can engage with your audience by asking their opinions, talking about real experiences, and most importantly, being consistent. Getting your author brand right is only a small part of your author marketing activity – it’s more PR than sales. Remember: only 10-20% of what you post online should be promoting your work (no one likes to be sold to). This is about giving a clear picture of what you stand for as a writer.  Your brand also goes a long way with reinforcing your overall reputation. For example, if you are going live on your social media and interacting with your followers, they’ll get to know you as a reliable brand. Responding to comments, answering inquiries, and providing meaningful content are all reputation boosters. A positive image is crucial for marketing success! Author Branding Mistakes Now that it’s clear exactly how beneficial author branding can be for your writing career, we want to also highlight just how damaging certain mistakes can be. It takes a long time to build a good reputation, but it doesn’t take long to ruin your author brand.  So take your time building your brand in order to avoid certain pitfalls that can diminish all of your hard work. Here are a few common author branding mistakes to avoid: Failing to Connect with the Right Audience  As previously stated, determining your audience should be the first step to take when considering your brand. If you fail to target the right audience then no connection will be built, and that is bad for business.   Your tribe will be naturally interested in you and your story, so it’s up to you to deliver stories, visuals, and content that match your niche audience and the product (i.e. books/your writing) you are promoting. This all helps to establish an emotional connection that must be maintained to keep your audience interested on a deeper level.  If you are struggling to pinpoint one specific target market, it can help to imagine an avatar, a literal representation of who your reader is. Then have that image in mind when deciding what to talk about and share. If your make-believe ideal reader is Jane, a thirty-year-old mother living in Idaho who enjoys pottery and poetry – then great. Think of all the things Jane would like to know about, not just about your books but your life and interests that may match hers too. And if 65-year-old Bob from London hates that content, then that doesn’t matter. Don’t change a thing. Bob isn’t your target market.  The more you stay focused and consistent, the easier it will be to naturally form a coherent audience that grows and supports you and your work. Poor Market Understanding As you start to consider yourself as a brand and a business, you’ll need to also think about competitors. You have to research the market to understand what others in your niche are doing. Focus on what they are doing well and what they could improve upon. How are competitors influencing audience perception? Not doing your due diligence when it comes to competitive analysis will adversely affect your author brand.   If you see that an author of similar books to you is getting a lot of traction by sharing certain pictures or asking certain questions, see how you could do similar things. But that doesn’t mean losing your individualism…  No USP Think about some of the most popular writers across different genres. The reason they stand out is because they have a unique selling point, also known as USP. Your author brand needs to convey how you are different from the thousands of other writers in the market. Simply matching what competing brands are doing won’t make a reader want to choose you over them. You must clearly communicate your own brand values, vision, and a strong author identity to be unique.   Inconsistent Messaging and Visuals Do you have a website? Social media channels? Do you attend public events or take part in school visits?  While completely different platforms, the content you post should be consistent across all forms of communication. Online you should identify colors, fonts, and logos that best reflect who you are as an author. Then ensure you use your branding kit when you post visuals. If people don’t automatically recognise your work, it’s impossible to stand out from the competition – this is especially relevant to those who write non-fiction, run a blog, or offer freelance writing services.  Your messaging should also be consistent, making sure that you (or a social media manager) always write in the same voice and tone. And when you are taking part in public events, reflect that brand. You should act, look, and sound exactly as they expect you to.  Some authors like to be visually recognised when at public events: Terry Pratchett was known for his hat and scarf, V E Schwab wears cat ears to her signings, and Jackie Collins wouldn’t be seen dead without her big jewellery, big hair, and very glam outfits!  No Brand Strategy Without a brand strategy, you won’t have any structure for your author brand. Without structure, you won’t have consistency and that can contribute to brand failure. A solid brand strategy is built from your values and vision. You need to find the balance between authenticity and having a clear direction.  Once you have achieved that, you can identify your goals, and then determine how you will track them. These can include financial goals, marketing goals, or goals set around content production. Consider how you’ll position your brand and iron out how you will highlight your value proposition.   With all of these elements in your strategy, you will have brand success.   All this may not be as relevant to fiction authors who are simply wanting to showcase their books and talk about their writing journey (some authors are lucky enough to have huge support from their publishers in terms of marketing, so don’t feel the need to be on Twitter every day). But it’s highly important if you write non-fiction and wish to prove your worth as an expert in your field, if you want to interact with your readers, or if you are looking to create hype in order to sell more self-published books, attract an agent, or get readers excited about a new book release.  A Subpar Website You don’t have to invest a lot of money in a web designer. In fact, there are plenty of DIY website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress that are more than good enough for writers.   However, you do have to ensure your site looks professional and accurately represents your brand. Your webpage is where readers (as well as reviewers, press, interested publishing professionals etc) can go to learn more about release dates or new announcements. It’s also a hub for your social media channels and contact info.   Keep your domain active and make sure your site is up to date, has a press kit with working purchase links, author photo, your contact info, and that it all loads properly. It can reflect poorly on your brand if your website looks subpar.  Stay On-Brand Many authors gets sucked into Twitter wars or make mistakes in their career. That’s OK, we are all human, but often it’s not the strident opinion that the public and their fans take umbrage at…it’s that their opinion is off-brand.  If you are an children’s author writing stories about equality, but you don’t think kids in the UK should have free school meals, you’re off-brand. If you write about saving the planet and you wear a fur coat to a signing event, you’re off-brand. If you spend a year posting funny content and wise writing advice, then all your post from then on are photos of your pet snake, people will stop following you. A huge U-turn is the fastest way to undo your hard work and stop your hard-won readers from trusting you.  So pick three words that represent you, your values, and your work – and ensure all you do reflects that.  Get Branding! Author branding is something all writers should create a strategy for. Showing your readers who you are and connecting with them on an emotional level is key to building a fanbase. Yes, it takes dedication but as long as you avoid these common branding mistakes you will easily win the hearts (and trust) of your readers – and in turn, you will have an audience that will not only support you but encourage others to as well!  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. 
Read more

A Writer’s Guide to Inclusive Language

A Writer\'s Guide to Inclusive Language Disappearing into a great book can be a transformative experience - a form of escapism and an expansion of your understanding.   When I’m diving into the world constructed by a creative author, I want to feel as though I belong in that world. Reading inclusive language is one of the ways in which all readers can feel connected to a story.   So how can you ensure you don’t exclude any of your readers and you help them feel seen?   Firstly, ask yourself this simple question…  Why Are You Writing This Particular Story? We all possess an unconscious bias, and no matter how hard we fight it those hidden prejudices can be projected on to our work. Before we begin exploring inclusive language, ask yourself these questions:   Am I writing about what I know? Is the person’s identity, socio-economic status, race, and age relevant to the plot? Is this my story to tell, or would it be better told by someone who has lived this experience?  If the answer to any of the above is ‘no’ and you still want to write this story, we strongly suggest you do your research and work with critique partners/beta readers/sensitivity readers who have lived the life you are writing. This will not only strengthen the realism of your work, but it will grant you more respect when it comes to pitching your novel to agents or editors.  As society changes, we need to remember our readers and their expectations change too. So, let’s look at how to write inclusive stories…   What is Inclusive Language? Inclusive Language Definition: Inclusion is the practice of fostering a sense of belonging, by including many perspectives, imagining a diverse audience, a multiplicity of ideals, values, and experiences. Inclusive language is how authors show that they recognise their readers, whoever they are, and that they are welcome.   Many people who belong to marginalised communities yearn to see and read about well-rounded, authentic, and diverse characters who are empowered. Characters with independent purpose in narratives, and therefore given the ability to make meaningful change.  Inclusive language isn’t just the description of appearance or using appropriate pronouns; it’s also the use of language to portray power, interest, and direction. It directly addresses the violence of racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, transphobia, islamophobia, anti-semitism, homophobia, and heteronormativity. Use of inclusive language also avoids direct discrimination, implicit and unconscious biases, and other forms of prejudice.   By practising inclusive writing, you will become highly aware of the language that has been used to communicate exclusion, bias, and hate. In order to appeal to ever-evolving audiences, it’s vital to be aware of out of date language, words, and descriptions, as well as those that have always been intended to cause offense.   Why Use Inclusive Language?  Inclusive language is important because it means you are thinking about your most vulnerable and marginalised readers. It’s important for us all to identify where our writing style inadvertently includes out-dated, offensive terms and work toward eliminating these – because we can’t expect our readers to sift through our work to find the good stuff.   So many people experience the world through the writing of others, whether it’s in museum text, film, TV, literature; representation matters to everyone. Limited representations and stereotypes of people in our society does not just harm those who are misrepresented or erased, it harms all whose imagination is limited and keeps their worldview small.   What Does Inclusive Language Look Like? Power and agency are vital when considering your diverse characters. They must have autonomous, developed identities (so not just sidekicks or plot devices) who participate actively in the story and world.  As experiences of marginalisation and exclusion differ across identities here are a few ideas and examples to consider for your writing. Parents and Pregnancy For many authors creating character profiles is a useful starting point when developing family dynamics.   When writing inclusively you should be aware of:  Hetronormative family structures. Heterosexual romantic relationship(s) don’t have to be central to the familial history and structure.  Gender norms as affecting roles taken by parental figures (the mother doesn’t have to do all the cooking, the father doesn’t have to be great at DIY). Assumptions of the nuclear family with two parents and one or more child. These erase polyamorous and blended families and is a western ideal that doesn\'t often include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and multi-generational households as the core familial structure.  Language matters – use toughen up instead of man up, homemaker instead of housewife, husband and wife instead of man and wife.  This doesn’t mean you can’t have a family that is made up of a married female mum, male dad, and 2.4 kids – it simply means that society doesn’t only look that way. It’s important to reflect reality in your work, as long as it doesn’t feel forced, gratuitous, or irrelevant.  A book that explored the idea of family in an inclusive way is Candice Carty-Williams’s 2019 novel Queenie. The titular character’s family is central to her narrative and their history unfolds throughout the story with the family dynamic driving the narrative. Queenie’s family is her grandmother, grandfather, her aunt, cousin and her mother; as well as the family she creates in her ‘corgis’. The relationships feel authentic and complex - their dynamic is a natural part of the texture of the world.   Gender and Sexual Orientation It’s essential to use inclusive language when exploring gender experiences as well as experiences of sexuality across the spectrum of the LGBTQIA+ communities.   This acronym is used to capture a wide spectrum of experiences, not just those of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. The first three letters (LGB) refer to sexual orientation. The \'T\' refers to transgender, and so to gender identity. The “Q” stands for Questioning or Queer, the “I” for Intersexual and the “A” for Asexual.   Regardless of your own sexual preferences, remember the world is made up of many people with many different outlooks and lifestyles.  This also applies to unconscious bias when it comes to gender roles and what it means to be ‘male’ or ‘female’. Think about non-sexist language such as:   Gender binaries and gender-neutral language (the idea that you have to be either male or female). Framing around gendered appearances (e.g. describing someone as girlie or a tom boy).The effects of patriarchal assumptions that make it seem necessary to use ‘female’ as an adjective with professions that have assumptions of a male standard e.g. doctor or scientist. Toxic masculinity that equates being a man to being tough and unemotional - and femininity to being submissive and sexualized or viewed with the male gaze to satisfy unrealistic fantasies.   Language matters - use gay instead of homo, sexual preference instead of sexuality, trans person instead of transvestite, humankind instead of mankind.  The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett discusses gender (and race) in an intimate manner. Reese and Jude’s relationship unfolds as a sweet experience of connection and insecurity of two marginalised people. Reese’s identity as a trans man is established early and his pronouns established and used consistently then on, with none of the narrative based on speculating on his gender. In fact it is society’s gender assumptions that become absurd, and painful when viewed from the perspective of a couple that sit outside of this. Social Inclusion Poverty and social exclusion are often overlooked when writing inclusively. The language used to refer to people of low socioeconomic status can strengthen negative stereotypes upheld by society, without exploring the systemic inequalities that create poverty and social exclusion in the first place.   Things to keep in mind:  Consider talking about people’s socio-economic status rather than class.  Describing people as survivors rather than victims addresses the idea of agency and power inherent in inclusive writing.Describing people as poor or areas as ghettos, is offensive and dismissive, assigning value only to financial and material assets.   In fact, if you show (not tell) your reader what your characters\' lives are like you won’t need to refer to the words poor, low class, or slums.  Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood describes the reality of living in a community that had been ghettoised by systematic exclusion and discrimination in Apartheid South Africa. The characters in his narrative are interesting and complex, not limited by stereotypical victim narratives, simply people who have to live in an excluded society. Disability When writing about the experience of disabilities it’s important to acknowledge the vastness of what is understood as a disability. As mentioned previously, if disability is not your lived experience, then work with those who can advise you.    Things to consider:  Assumptions about what a disability looks like can result in invisible illnesses and mental health conditions being treated with scepticism and mistrust.  Framing of disability as something strange encourages tropes of disabled villains. Such as where disfigurement and scarring are used to signal wickedness (the James Bond franchise has been under fire for this recently); or mental health or childhood trauma is used to create a backstory that explains violent characteristics. These are dangerous and hurtful tropes with real-life impact.   The ‘othering’ of disabilities detaches these experiences from our understanding of ‘normal’ experiences in society and supports social exclusion - despite the fact that 15% of the world’s population openly identifies as having a disability.   Language matters - wheelchair bound implies a wheelchair traps its user, whereas wheelchair user articulates that their mobility aid provides freedom and greater access to its user.  With mental health, the words mental, crazy, unhinged, unpredictable etc are biased and harmful (unless purposely used in dialogue to represent a character’s own views). Describe their characteristics without using words that are biased and rooted in ridicule or fear.  Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals explores the nuance of dealing will long-term illness and disability, along with Black feminist theory, delivered through poetry and essays.   Race and Ethnicity Race is a social construct, but racism is a reality that affects us all.   Ethnic diversity is often what people refer to when discussing racial differences; ethnicity is a mix of inherited features and shared cultures. It’s distinct from nationality, which is a legal status that assigns a person to the laws of a state or nation, as well as affords them protection by this state.   Many readers will have, at some point, read ‘classic’ narratives with no ethnic diversity, or tokenistic and stereotypical representations (for instance, the language used in the much-loved classic, The Secret Garden, would not be acceptable today).   When considering ethnicity in characters, remember it’s not always vital to describe the skin colour or nationality of your character through physical descriptions (you can allude to heritage via their name or setting, or simply let readers decide what they look like).   If you must describe them, consider:  Our world is ethnically diverse, so your literary worlds should be thoughtfully described without dipping in to fetishized language focusing on features in an overt and uncomfortable way. When describing someone there’s no need to isolate body parts like lips or genitals, or describe skin tones using food.   The Diversity Guide is a great source of reference for inclusive language examples.  Language matters - use uppercase ‘B’ in the word ‘Black’ when referring to race, ethnicity or cultural background, and lower case for the colour ‘black’.   An excellent example of inclusive writing around ethnicity is N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy. Though set in a fantasy world where racial identities do not correlate to our own, the character’s physical descriptions are detailed and rich enough that readers experience a varied cast of characters that are ethnically diverse, nuanced, and relatable.   Age I will end by exploring writing inclusively about age, which is essential as all our identities are filtered by age. For instance, referencing age can provide a restrictive lens that may ascribe ignorance and beauty to youth, and cynicism and wisdom to the elderly.  Ageism affects people regardless of how old they are. Consider these intersections to help challenge stereotypes:  Ageism with gender assumptions, around pregnancy and desires for pregnancy. Is every woman over thirty desperate for children?Ageism combined with racism brings forth particular stereotypes and harmful assumptions (e.g. Black youths vs Black elders).  Ageism combined with disability can bring to light an array of pre-conceived prejudice. The erasure of LGBTQIA+ elders support an idea that these communities are new in society without longevity and legacy.  Language matters – although the terms old fart, little old lady, bitter old man and old hag are often used in jest, they are still insulting (unless they’re included in a character’s dialogue to reflect their own bias).   For a great example of how to change a reader’s perception of age, Jonas Jonasson’s novel, The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, is a refreshing narrative from the perspective of an older protagonist that actively challenges the limited expectations of older characters, instead highlighting how all the experiences of his life created accumulated knowledge and perspectives that furthered his narrative and creative possibilities. Evolution of Language Bear in mind that movements to reclaim language that’s historically been used to offend, by those who these words were used against, is rising.   Exploration around ‘crip culture’ reclaiming the word ‘cripple,’ or movements within the LGBT+ communities to reclaim the term ‘queer,’ are very interesting elements of inclusive practice that explore the complexity of power and positionality.   However, these remain problematic for most writers unless they have lived that experience and have a very good reason to use self-deprecating language.  The reclaimed language, among other debates and advocacies based on marginalised people telling their own stories, can and should be explored further by following the #OwnVoices hashtag (created by author Corinne Duyvis). Other related community discussions and campaigns, such as the We Need Diverse Books campaign, are worth researching.   But please, don’t ask someone else to educate you. If you want to run ideas past someone, hire (that means pay) a sensitivity reader.  Champion Inclusivity If your intention is to create a greater sense of belonging, a richer and more complicated world that feels relevant with open possibilities, then it is always worth expanding your practice and considering the impact of the words you choose and the inclusivity of your text. We don’t always get it right, but it’s important to try.  Because I believe there’s a reflexive relationship between inclusive language and inclusive society. As writers it’s our job to be aware of exclusions in society, to consider the agency in the characters we create, and to help move the world forward through the literary worlds we build.   And remember, if all of this appears to be too difficult or unnecessary – maybe your story isn’t yours to tell. Draw from your own experiences. Bring your readers into your world, and in turn help them feel seen.  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.
Read more

How to Turn Your Book into an Audiobook

Take Advantage of the Growing Audio Market You’ve taken the plunge into self-publishing, and now you’re considering creating an audiobook. You’ve heard that audiobooks are a good business opportunity, but how do you go about making one?  In this article, we’ll explain the possible approaches to creating an audiobook, along with their pros and cons. After reading, you’ll be able to make an informed plan and starting working toward your first audiobook release.  Why Make an Audiobook? Audiobook sales are soaring in English-speaking markets—and it’s not just because of lockdowns in 2020. In fact, audiobooks have experienced eight straight years of double-digit growth. In the US alone, the audiobook publishing market has grown to encompass $1,100,000,000 of revenue as of 2021.  Clearly, there is a hunger for audiobooks. And it makes sense: they fill gaps in our daily routine that printed books and e-books don’t, such as when we’re travelling, exercising, or preparing food. Plus, most people already own a mobile device capable of playing audiobooks: a smartphone.  Some authors are concerned that audiobooks will steal sales from their other formats. At a market-wide level, across-the-board growth in print sales and ongoing strong e-book sales suggest this isn’t happening. Plus, more than half of audiobook listeners say they make “new time” for audiobooks and read more books overall as a result, while other readers credit audiobooks with helping them rediscover their love for reading.  In short, the business case for audiobooks is strong: added sales today, plus excellent year-over-year growth facilitated by a widely-adopted technology.  Best Audiobook Genres Be forewarned, not all genres work well as audiobooks:  A book that is intended specifically as a visual experience, such as a coffee-table photography book, obviously doesn’t make sense as an audiobook.A book that relies on diagrams, graphs, or images to convey key information won’t work as-is, although it may be possible to adapt it. Ask yourself whether the images in your book could be converted into short spoken passages that convey the same information. (For example, a diagram showing how to dress a turkey before roasting is helpful but could easily be narrated instead. Meanwhile, a map showing alternate routes between several towns, plus nearby landmarks, would be difficult to narrate in any useful way.) Reference books typically don’t work as audiobooks, because of the need either to search for particular words or to jump between sections easily.  However, any book that’s primarily running text, whether fiction or non-fiction, will likely work well as an audiobook. Some of the top audiobook genres, based on today’s sales charts, include:  Mystery/thriller/suspense Self-help and self-improvement Business & Personal Finance Science fiction and fantasy Popular science History Romance  You may also have heard that autobiographies and memoirs do well as audiobooks. By the numbers, that’s true, but much like print and e-book editions, you need either a pre-existing “name” and platform or an excellent marketing campaign to perform well in these genres.  How to Create an Audiobook The core of creating an audiobook is recording and editing the narration. You’ll also need to prepare the Whether creating your audiobook yourself or hiring professionals to do it, the core of the work will be recording and editing the narration. Lesser (but equally necessary) tasks include preparing the script, commissioning a cover design, mastering the edited recording, and uploading the package to a distributor. Let’s take a look at what some of these terms mean, and then we’ll explore two approaches you can take to getting the work done—working with a company that can support you, or doing it yourself. Narration Narrating an audiobook is more than just “reading out loud”. The narrator needs to achieve an error-free performance, which is a challenge compared to speaking casually, where we make a surprising number of errors. Another challenge is that an untrained voice will begin to sound rough after 30-60 minutes of constant talking. (If you have public speaking experience, none of this is news to you!) The average person speaks at a rate of 120-150 words per minute. This might seem to indicate that someone can record a 70,000-word novel in 10 hours, but a more realistic estimate would be 20-30 hours, depending on experience. Bad takes, interruptions, and preparation time all inevitably add to the total. Recording, Editing, and Mastering The job of the recording engineer is to set up a suitable recording environment and, using specialized hardware and software, to capture the performance into a digital file. After recording comes editing, which involves choosing the best takes, marking any passages that need re-recording, and “cleaning” the audio of defects such as pops and clicks. This process is laborious and can take three-to-four hours of work per finished hour of audio, depending on experience and the quality of the initial recording. (Note, this means that narration and editing together require five-to-seven hours per finished hour of audio!) After editing comes mastering. This is where an edited recording is adjusted so that the volume is even throughout, with no sudden jumps. The tone will also be balanced, so that the final result sounds good on all types of speakers and headphones and won’t fatigue the listener’s ears. Cover Design Audiobooks use square cover images. If your book has already been published in print or ebook format, it may be possible to adapt your existing cover, or you may have received an audiobook format cover as part of a package you paid for. Otherwise, you’ll need to commission a new design.  Assembly and Uploading When all of your final files are created, you’ll need to assemble them and upload to your distributor. You’ll need to make sure that what you upload meets the distributor’s specifications and requirements. (Be sure to check these requirements before you begin the recording step!)  So, now that you have some understanding of how to create an audiobook, what’s the best approach to use? There are two broad audiobook creation options, one costing mostly money, the other costing mostly time.  Approach One: Use Professionals Using a professional narrator and audio engineer(s) allows you to spend less of your own time on your audiobook, and receive a reliable, high-quality result—but the investment is significant, often $2000US or more. The two most common ways to hire professionals are by using a marketplace, or by dealing with a specialist audiobook company.  Marketplaces A marketplace is a service that connects you with a variety of professional talent, allowing you to review samples, see prices, and choose the narrator you prefer. Two popular marketplaces for audiobook production are Findaway Voices and ACX. (The two sites work somewhat differently and offer different business terms. You should explore both to see which best fits your needs.)  The voice actor you hire will handle the recording process and deliver the final recording to you. Contract terms may be either a one-time fee, or a royalty-sharing agreement that delivers a percentage of each sale to the voice actor.  Specialist Companies If you prefer an approach that’s even more hands-off, you can hire a company that specializes in recording audiobooks. The advantage of these companies is their integrated approach: because they specialize in recording audio, they’ll typically have a dedicated high-quality studio, a staff of experienced professionals, and a well-defined production process that produces reliable results. On the downside, they may have a smaller or more expensive roster of voice talent. Expect to receive an all-in-one quote and delivery of a complete (edited and mastered) audiobook.  If you need to minimize the time you put into audiobook production—for example, if you have an established writing routine and don’t want to disrupt it—or, if you really don’t want to handle the creative direction or price negotiations, using a specialist company could be a good option for you.  Approach Two: Do It Yourself If your preference is to spend less money, but invest more time and effort, then the do-it-yourself approach may be best. Be forewarned that narration, recording, and editing all take practice. And no, DIY isn’t cost-free—particularly not the first time.  Recording your own audiobook gives you a very intimate connection to the final product, and if you do a high-quality job, it can give your readers a special connection to you. Plus, reading your script out loud can improve your writing, particularly (if you write fiction) your dialogue.  Essential Equipment You’ll need to acquire some essential equipment for recording audiobooks:  A high-quality vocal microphone. This is a purchase you can’t avoid and shouldn’t skimp on. (Expect to spend around $60US minimum.)  A “pop guard” or “pop shield”, which is a small barrier of nylon or metal mesh which blocks bursts of air from B and P sounds that can ruin your recording.  Depending on the acoustics of your recording space, you may also need an isolation box—a small, padded cube that surrounds your microphone on all sides but the front, blocking unwanted reflections from nearby walls and surfaces.   You’ll also need a computer with recording and editing software to create audiobooks. There are free options that will work just fine, though professional software often has features that can save time.  Note that if you live in a space where there’s constant noise (such as an apartment above a busy street), it’s unlikely you’ll be able to prepare this space for recording without a significant investment in soundproofing. In this situation, hiring professionals to record your audiobook may not cost any more than doing it yourself.  Technique A complete how-to is beyond the scope of this article, but expect to learn and practice the following to record your own audiobook:  How to use your recording and editing software, and how the various audiobook formats work. How to warm up your voice before recording, and things to avoid before a recording session. How to schedule your recording and editing sessions to avoid vocal, auditory, and mental fatigue. (The twenty-ninth hour of recording and re-recording your novel can test your endurance in ways you didn’t know were possible!) How to ensure recordings made on different days have the same tone.  Because of this learning curve, you might consider creating a short or free excerpt as your first audio release. Much like writing a short story before you dive into a complete novel, this will give you a low-risk opportunity to work out the kinks in your process. You’ll also get useful feedback from your dedicated readers: if they tell you the quality isn’t good enough, you have a chance to recalibrate before recording the full book. (And if they tell you it sounds amazing, that can give you the reassurance to forge ahead!)  You should also consider the possibility of hiring a professional to master your final recording. Much like a manuscript editor, their outside perspective can give much-needed objectivity. Plus, if you arrange to send them your first chapter for review, they can warn you of any serious problems before you record any more. Creating a partnership with a professional audio engineer can be a great way to ensure a high-quality result for your self-recorded audiobook.  Do Your Research and Be Heard As you can see, there’s a lot of flexibility in how you go about creating your audiobook. You can choose to spend time or spend money, and to forge long-term creative partnerships or to outsource for minimal distraction.  Importantly, if your budget is tight, you don’t need to feel shut out of the growing audiobook market. With diligence, you can produce a quality audiobook your listeners will love.  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.
Read more

Choosing The Right Book Printing Service For You

Given the choice, would you rather see your name on the cover of an ebook or a paper book? Would you rather see your name in pixels or in print? Would you rather hold an amorphous concept of your book, cached away in an ebook reader or the actual physical object, you know, the one that allows you to feel the weight of your words?   Okay! I’m aware that I’m asking increasingly leading questions. Nor do I want to disparage ebooks as an effective route into self-publishing. But there’s still a romance and joy to seeing your words on an actual page. Not to mention the practical advantages of having something you can press into someone else’s hands, and even (if you’re feeling expansive) autograph for them.  Why Get Your Book Printed? There are some big names that, as a self-published author, you may choose to publish under who will print and distribute for you. They tend to take a hefty cut from the sale price for themselves but do cover a large percentage of the hassle. Plus their print-on-demand service means you can have your book in your hands in a matter of days.   But what if you want to go at it alone and retain full control?  As a self-published author, the advantages of printing a book are clear. Although there are also obvious disadvantages. Most notably, while it doesn’t take too long for those self-publishing to find out how to create a decent and marketable ebook, book printing is a tougher and opaquer proposition.   There are several potential pitfalls and many important questions to answer before you can proceed with confidence. This article will give you the guidance you need to help you choose the best printing services.  What Are Book Printing Services? Perhaps the easiest way to describe book printing services is to explain what they are not. They are not publishers. They do not (generally) offer the kind of distribution and marketing services you would expect from a conventional publisher, and they do not (generally, again) offer editorial advice. At the most fundamental level, a book printer’s job is to take your finished digital manuscript and turn it into a print copy.   That may sound straightforward, but the more you look into custom book printing the more questions you are likely to have. But before we get onto those, let’s answer a few basics.   Many (if not, most) self-published authors opt to print their books via Amazon. Their KDP service ensures distribution of ebooks, along with paperback and, more recently, even hardback options! Although they take a hefty cut from the sale price for themselves, it does cover a large percentage of the hassle and their print-on-demand service means you can have your book in your hands in a matter of days.   But some authors want more control – and more profit. A lot of what you decide to do will depend on the kind of printing you go for. There are two main methods of paperback and hardback book printing: print on demand and offset printing.   Let’s take a quick look at those: Print On Demand Book Printing As the name suggests, print on demand book printing is a form of printing where a book is produced once it has been ordered. Digital book printing technology enables printers to produce books in the exact quantity required with a rapid turnaround so that a customer can order a book on a website, or from a bookshop, and expect to have it within days.   It’s particularly useful for self-published book printing. It means you don’t need to worry about storage because you have no inventory. Printers are able to do single book printing, or many print several on demand books at once, depending on the orders that come in. On demand book printing services are also often integrated with sales and distribution channels, meaning your book is generally only a few clicks away from your potential readers. Importantly, there are also fewer upfront costs because once the files are loaded onto the printer’s system, the individual production cost for each book is absorbed at the point of sale. (Which is to say, the book printing cost is deducted from the sale price and you and the store get the remainder.) The most well known and reliable Print on Demand services are IngramSpark and KDP via Amazon. Let\'s look into each of these options more closely. IngramSpark IngramSpark is a service that allows authors to self-publish print books and ebooks. There is lots of information on their website in order to learn more about self-publishing, help you choose the best printing option for your book, and how to create files for uploading your book. The costs of uploading a book with IngramSpark: Print and Ebook - $49 (when uploaded at the same time)Print book only - $49/title Ebook only - $25/titleThey even have an option for you to see how much you will pay to print and ship orders directly to yourself or customers, based on the specifications of your book. This money will come out of the money earnt on the sold books, so consider this when pricing your book. With global distribution, hardcover and/or paperback, a variety of print options, ebook and print book publishing all in one place, and online sales reporting, this is an excellent option for self-publishing authors. If you want to sell hard-copy books through every channel, then most authors prefer IngramSparks as they distribute to over 40,000 retailers and libraries globally, including Amazon. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) KDP is Amazon\'s self-publishing and printing service, allowing authors to self-publish Ebooks, paperbacks, and hardbacks. They give you direct access to your book on Amazon, allow you to create a product detail page for your book, give you the option to expand your book’s availability on a global scale, and gives you full rights to your book The cost of printing with KDP: Paperback - No upfront costs. KDP prints your book on demand and subtracts your printing costs from your royalties.Paperback printing costs are calculated based on the specifications of your book - page count and ink type - and which Amazon marketplace the customer bought your book from. You can estimate this using their calculator.Hardback - No upfront costs. KDP prints your book on demand and subtracts your printing costs from your royalties.Hardback will automatically be more expensive than paperback to print, but the printing costs are calculated in the same way, factoring in page count, ink type, and which Amazon marketplace the customer bought your book from. You can estimate this using their calculator. Authors earn money from royalties, and KDP has a minimum list price so that your royalties earned are always enough to cover the cost to print your book. This means that you don\'t need to part with any money. KDP also offers different types of sales reports, so you can track how many books you have sold, how much you have earnt from it, and much more. As KDP only allows you to sell on Amazon it is not ideal for authors wanting to sell on multiple platforms, but if you’re selling exclusively on Amazon, then this service would be perfect for you. Disadvantages of Print on Demand Most self-published authors find that this kind of custom book printing works best for them. But there are some disadvantages. Digital technology has improved a lot over the past few years, but it’s still much harder to guarantee good quality book production with print on demand. The differences are often small, but noticeable: the paper can look too bright white, the definition of the ink on the pages can be wrong, the pages can feel weirdly smooth, a few books come out that aren’t properly aligned. There’s also the issue that if you start selling in big quantities, for instance, it can make sense to move to offset printing since the unit costs are generally lower.   Let’s look at that now.  Offset Book Printing Offset book printing is the form of printing that traditional publishers generally use, whereby you order a set quantity of books - ranging from the low hundreds to hundreds of thousands. These are all produced at once, in one print run and the more you print, the more the unit cost comes down.   These savings on book printing prices can be significant, but you have to balance them against the potential problems relating to storing and distributing the books, fluctuations in demand over time and the horror of paying a lot of money upfront and not being able to shift enough units to cover your costs.   Offset printing can make sense for self-publishers who have a shop eager to buy large quantities of their work. It might also be a good solution for people who have a steady book-selling outlet, like public speakers who can make a tidy income from bookstalls at the back of the room or at events.   But most self-publishers should approach it with caution.  How To Choose The Right Book Printing Service Talking of caution, it isn’t altogether easy to choose the best book printing services. There are a lot of different online book printing services.  It’s hard to make the right choice and to know how to protect both your hard-earned money and the quality of the book bearing your name.   There are, however, several useful things you can consider when weighing up your options. It’s important to give serious thought to which service provider will work best for you. Don’t rush into anything. Do make sure you’ve done your research. And, crucially, ask the right questions.  What Should I Be Asking? The first question you’ll probably be asking will be about the book printing cost and various book printing services. But there are plenty of other things to ask. You will need to know what is the turnaround time? What kind of binding will work for your book? (Hardback? Paperback? Or maybe even spiral or wired binding?) What kind of paper will it be printed on? How much do you want to spend on paper quality? Will the cover be on good paper stock? Will the images be printed at the right resolution? Do I need a matt or gloss finish? How much control do I have over the size of the pages and layout? What file format should I use? Where does the paper come from? Is it responsibly sourced? What other environmental impacts will the printing have?   You may also want to consider if you want to use the services of a printer experienced in the genre of book you have written. Do you need a printing service that provides integrated sales and distribution? What level of interaction and customer service do they need from the printers?   The tricky thing here is that many of these questions quickly start to have very technical answers. You might soon discover, for instance, that you’ll also need to employ a professional typesetter to get your words looking good on the page. You might also need a cover designer who can properly discuss ink colours, embossing and different finishes with the printers.   Worse still, since this is your book, and your project, there are perhaps also quite a few questions that only you can properly answer. And then, there are also the restrictions of your budget and the returns you hope to get back from your book. I understand the desire to have a book printed on vellum and bound with leather - but it isn’t generally the most practical option, unless you’re going for a very special kind of one-off book printing.  Evaluating Book Printing Services I’m aware that I’ve given you a lot of questions and not quite as many answers. But these questions are the ones that will help you narrow down your choices.   The important things to think about are how well your prospective printer will be able to handle your queries and how well they will be able to produce the finished book according to the specifications you give them.  It’s also vital to thoroughly evaluate book printing services before making a commitment. Look at plenty of examples of books previously printed. If you can order copies so you can see the finished item. Examine the services printing rates/costs per unit. It’s also a good idea to ask other authors about the service and check on writer forums for good tips. (Naturally, we recommend Jericho Writers Club).   The world of book printing online and on demand publishing is also fast-changing, so check how long your printer has been operating and make sure they have a decent reputation for delivery and quality. Also, remember that you’re the customer and most printers will want to help you and answer your queries so put your questions to them.   Do they provide sales and distribution?   What is their turnaround time?   Do they do hardback as well as paperback book printing?   The answers to the queries you make will also help you gauge the other crucial question about what level of customer service your printer provides. If they’re good at helping you, they’ll also hopefully be good at bringing your book into the world.  Finally… After all that, I hope you still want to see your name on the cover of a paper book. I can’t pretend that it’s an easy process. You have to be very aware of costs, quality and the importance of making sure that your chosen service can meet your specifications.   But the joy of holding a beautiful copy of your own book in your hands will make it worth the hard work. It’s a happiness all writers deserve.  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. 
Read more

A Complete Guide to the Different Genres of Nonfiction

You have decided you want to write a nonfiction book, but what’s next?  While some readers may lump all nonfiction books into one category, authors should understand there are numerous genres that nonfiction falls into. Nonfiction genres are not one-size-fits-all and determining which area your book belongs is important when pitching, selling and promoting! In this article I will be walking you through these various genres along with nonfiction examples to help you correctly label your book. What is Nonfiction? Nonfiction is any literary work that is fact-based, intended to present true events and information as accurately as possible. Fiction, on the other hand, are narratives that are drawn from the imagination. Nonfiction books focus on what is real. While narrative nonfiction is presented as a story versus expository nonfiction being more explanatory, both are still devoted to informing readers of the facts. These include books such as, Becoming by Michelle Obama, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Nonfiction Genres List Every author knows that making an outline before writing sets the blueprint for your book. But before you can get to that stage, you need to identify your target audience. Determining which genre of nonfiction your book best fits into is the guiding principle you should begin with. For example, if you choose to write historical nonfiction your audience, word count, and formatting will be completely different than for an academic text. Understanding and selecting the best nonfiction genre is crucial to success. Let’s look at the most popular genres in nonfiction… History History nonfiction writing involves recounting a historical event or specific time period. While authors can frame how the information is presented, all information presented in history nonfiction must be verifiable, factual, and historically accurate. An example of a popular historical nonfiction book is Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham. The work presents the story of the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine in April 1986. Biographies and Autobiographies Both biographies and autobiographies focus on retelling a life story, but the two genres are different. Autobiographies are written about and by the author. Biographies are third-person narratives, where the author tells someone else’s story (while still remaining accurate and factual). Unlike autobiographies, the subject of the story can be living or dead when writing biographies. One of the most famous autobiographies is Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. Memoirs A memoir tells readers about significant moments in the life of the author. Memoirs are sometimes confused with autobiographies since they are both written from the same perspective. However, what differentiates the two is that memoirs may be written about a shorter period of time, such as a specific event or experience in the writer’s life. Examples of memoirs include The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl and The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. Travel Writing Travel writing is a nonfiction genre with several of its own subgenres. Travelogues are sometimes called travel memoirs, where the author discusses personal travel experiences. Travel guides are another form of travel nonfiction, providing information about destinations and reviews. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is one of the most well-known travel memoirs, with a critically acclaimed film adaptation. A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal by Anthony Bourdain, is another great example, focusing on the late Bourdain’s travels across the globe and culinary experiences. When it comes to travel guides, Arthur Frommer, Eugene Fodor, and Rick Steves are some of the most recognised travel writers. Philosophy Philosophy nonfiction includes exploring topics like the purpose of life, ethics, and a deeper understanding of humanity. Though the names of traditional philosophers such as Aristotle, Confucius, Plato, and Voltaire might first come to mind, modern writers are changing the landscape. Now, more than ever, the philosophy genre is becoming more accessible, and writers are making their books more digestible to a wider audience. Philosopher Bertrand Russell has written several books in this genre, with The Problems of Philosophy providing a brief glimpse into some of the deepest philosophical questions. What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy by Thomas Nagel, is another accessible option that is meant for beginners. Religion and Spirituality  The religion and spirituality genres are just as broad as the concepts themselves. Authors can choose to write from first-hand experience or focus on teaching about a specific practice. It is also possible to have them as a subgenre, such as self-help books, helping readers on their spiritual journey. Theology, focusing on the systematic study of God and religion, can also fall into this category. A best-selling book in this category is Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, where the famous author discusses Christian beliefs and addresses criticisms based on philosophy. Self-Help The self-help genre is surprisingly (or perhaps not!) one of the most popular categories on nonfiction. Here, authors can teach readers anything from new skills, how to manage finance, maintaining happiness, and even parenting or starting a new business. Feeding the Soul (Because It\'s My Business): Finding Our Way to Joy, Love, and Freedom by Tabitha Brown teaches lessons in hope, while Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki is a classic personal finance book. Science Writing about science clearly falls into the nonfiction category, as it is grounded in observation and evidence (not to be confused with science fiction). When writing science nonfiction, authors are required to include reputable references throughout their text and ensure that all studies are thoroughly fact-checked. These books may be a compilation of complex academic research, or they may be condensed and distilled into easier-to-read literary works. The Cosmic Machine: The Science That Runs Our Universe and the Story Behind It by Scott Bembenek is a great example of a book simplifying complex scientific topics for readers. On the other hand, a book that has shaped scientific literature throughout the centuries would be Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Medical The medical genre of nonfiction writing includes books about healthcare, technology, and patient care systems. Another broad genre, authors can write about mental health, clinical conditions, well-being, nutrition, and more. Medical books can also be instructive in nature, highlighting terminology or serving as study guides to medical professionals. Anthony William’s Medical Medium series is an excellent example of just how much this genre can encompass. Psychology Psychology nonfiction books serve a wide range of purposes. Some are more clinical in nature, while others may fall in the self-help category. Authors can help readers understand how the brain works, improve memory function, or even assist with relationship building. An interesting example is The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks. The book consists of various cases studies from Sack’s patients that highlight different brain functions. Art The art genre of nonfiction writing largely falls into two categories—writing about actual art, and guiding people on how to create art. For example, a person interested in learning about various artists and their work might read Artists: Their Lives and Works by Ross King. A reader interested in drawing could consider How to Draw Cool Stuff: A Drawing Guide for Teachers and Students by Catherine V Holmes. Crafting Craft writing teaches readers how to make decorative items by hand. Craft books provide instructions on how to execute these projects and can cover everything from paper flowers to knitting. For example, The Unofficial Book of Cricut Crafts: The Ultimate Guide to Your Electric Cutting Machine by Crystal Allen is very niche, whereas Low-Mess Crafts for Kids: 72 Projects to Create Your Own Magical Worlds by Debbie Chapman targets a much broader market. DIY Do-It-Yourself is another popular nonfiction genre. These books guide people in everything from home plumbing to car maintenance. How to make homemade beauty and haircare products are also popular topics, along with gardening and woodworking. 40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead by David Toht teaches readers how to make chicken coops, sheds, fences, and also covers gardening. The Martha Manual: How to Do (Almost) Everything by Martha Stewart is a more complete DIY manual that covers a wide range of projects. Photography The photography genre is one of the most popular nonfiction coffee table genres, and is highly influential. Photography books capture moments throughout history in real-time through photographic collections. These may also be instruction books teaching people how to shoot photography. Digital Photography Complete Course: Learn Everything You Need to Know in 20 Weeks by David Taylor is an instructional book, while Photography: The Definitive Visual History by Tom Ang showcases photographs and more. Gardening Popular nonfiction genres include gardening and plant care. Authors can focus on a particular type of gardening, such as in Vegetable Gardening for Beginners: A Simple Guide to Growing Vegetables at Home by Jill McSheehy. Or the topics can be more general, such as The Complete Gardener\'s Guide: The One-Stop Guide to Plan, Sow, Plant, and Grow Your Garden by DK. Food, Drink & Cooking Cuisine is another popular nonfiction genre. Whether you want to write recipes, reviews, or restaurant guidebooks, there are quite a few options with this genre. An example of a recipe book would be Tieghan Gerard’s book (with a very long title), Half Baked Harvest Super Simple: More Than 125 Recipes for Instant, Overnight, Meal-Prepped, and Easy Comfort Foods: A Cookbook. Whereas Eat Better, Feel Better: My Recipes for Wellness and Healing, Inside and Out by Giada De Laurentiis combines recipes with personal stories. Computers and Software The computers and software genre is quite comprehensive - just think of all the technology we use every day. These books may be about specific software tools such as Microsoft Office or on programming languages such as Java and Python. For example, Upgrading and Repairing PCs by Scott Mueller teaches readers how to troubleshoot and optimize computers while CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide by Mike Myers prepares people for certification. Health and Fitness The sales of health and fitness nonfiction spike in January (no surprise there) and include everything from workout programs and health related guides, to tips on how to achieve certain health goals. Books in the health and fitness realm include, NOT A DIET BOOK: Lose Fat. Gain Confidence.Transform Your Life by James Smith, and The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation by Michael Matthews. Political Science The political science genre can include books that discuss local governments or those that cover politics on a global scale. A couple of examples of political nonfiction include Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright and The Populist Explosion by John B. Judis. Business and Economics Business and economics is a big genre that covers everything from case studies of specific companies to economic theories in practice. Books like Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt gives an overview of economic principles. Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston looks into various corporations and their practices that can make the world a better place. Parenting and Family With millions of parents in the world, parenting and family is a wide-ranging genre. Parenting books might be about teaching kids a new skill, how to balance parenthood and relationships, psychology, and practical guidance. No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child\'s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson is a mix of psychology and advice. Education The education nonfiction genre includes educational theories, practical standards, instructional materials, and topical guides. An example of an education book includes The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America\'s Broken Education System - and How to Fix It by Natalie Wexler. Music Music nonfiction writing can encompass many different areas, including modern-day musical styles or musical history. The books can also be instructional in nature. Two examples of music nonfiction books are How to Read Music in 30 Days: Music Theory for Beginners by Matthew Ellul and Concise History of Western Music by Barbara Russano Hanning. And that’s not all… All in all, whatever you’re an expert in – write about it – because someone, somewhere, will benefit from your expertise. There are so many types of nonfiction and these genres are just the tip of the iceberg, within them there’s a large array of subgenres you can write. Whether you want to share your love of witchcraft with the world, or want to teach people how to train their llamas, as long as you categorise your nonfiction book into the right genre and know who you are writing for, you stand a chance of success! For more advice for writing nonfiction check out our blogs on writing a nonfiction book proposal and writing creative nonfiction. 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. 
Read more

A Simple Guide To Social Media For Authors

Many an author, struggling to balance writing with the constant pressure of having to be visible online, often finds themselves asking – ‘But do I really need social media?’  Let’s take a look.   Do Authors Need Social Media? Yes and no. If the thought of spending time online trying to engage with strangers in the hope they might buy your book is distressing in any way, then the simple answer is don’t do it. My agent has never asked me if I have a social media presence, and neither has my editor. Social media takes time, effort and planning – it’s not something we all have the time or inclination for.   However, it’s worth noting that while the UK industry doesn’t currently seem to mind too much what you do or don’t do online, this isn’t always the case in other parts of the world and the goalposts are always changing.  A strong social media presence is beneficial in many ways – especially if you’re an aspiring writer or an independent author. Without the marketing clout of a publisher, social media is the cheapest (well, free) way for you to be seen. Remember that your potential readers are likely to have at least one social media account to their name, if not several. Developing an author brand and connecting with your audience can massively boost your profile and get your books where you want them – in the hands and under the noses of readers and industry decision-makers. This article isn’t a deep dive into the intricacies and algorithm theories of each social media platform. Feel free to research this once you decide to make the leap into the mire of author social media. This article is less of a how-to….and more of a why-to, when it comes to social media. This may sound rather intimidating for a beginner but don’t panic, here are some tips on social media marketing for authors. Social Media Platforms For Writers Rule number one: know your audience.  The number of platforms you can use might seem dizzying, but you don’t need all of them. Social media professionals always say to focus on one or two. Ask yourself - Who will most likely read my books? Which social media platforms are they more likely to use? It might be worth looking at your comparative book titles before you start investigating. For instance, how do your favourite authors in your genre use their social media? Let’s look further at some of the more popular platforms and look at how different authors are utilising them to their benefit.  Facebook Did you know 66% of the UK population is on Facebook? That’s a lot of potential readers meaning it’s a popular platform for writers of certain genres. Currently, the biggest expansion in regular users is coming from the 65+ age group, with younger users dropping off. Although it’s still the most popular platform in the world and (especially for genres catering to over 30s and parents) it’s a great way to connect with potential readers. Before you consider creating your own author page, take a look at some of the reading groups that already exist and join as a reader (most of them won’t let you promote your own books, but occasionally they have exceptions). Crime novels are extremely well represented on Facebook – the UK Crime Book Club alone has 20,000 members. Being present in groups like this and interacting on posts by readers is a small but effective way to raise your profile (and you’ll find loads of other great books to read too!). One author who is great on Facebook is Clare Mackintosh, who runs her own monthly book club group. It has 8,000 members, and people post recommendations and requests daily for new reads. Clare is very active in the group, often commenting and starting discussions as well as running the monthly ‘readalong’. She also offers various promotions and sneak peeks which are very popular.   If you aren’t too keen, just a simple page where you share your news is fine – you can have a look at mine if you like. I don’t use Facebook a lot, but it’s useful for having a foothold that I can amp up later or use as a base for future advertising. It also keeps a nice record of various reviews and things to look back on and allows people to tag you in relevant posts. Or irrelevant ones – it happens!  Twitter Twitter is a popular social network for writers as it’s instant and in real time and focuses on short, succinct posts (though always add a picture if you can – they get 150% more engagement!) I find Twitter to be the simplest of all platforms to use - easy snippets, easy shares, easy interaction. This is where you’ll find your 30-49 year olds and is the most popular platform for male users; 68% according to these demographics. You can find your people on Twitter by following other authors in your genre and checking what they’re up to, and by searching hashtags like #writingcommunity. If you’re lucky you may even go viral, which (although no guarantee of increasing sales) it certainly gets you lots of exposure and often media picks up on viral trends and posts. Regardless, you\'ll benefit from being part of a social network for writers within these smaller Twitter communities. It’s worth remembering that Twitter is a good place for your readers to get to know a bit more about you as a person aside from your writing. So don’t just share promotions, write about other things too. What are you reading? What is your writing process like? Hear any good advice recently? Ask questions, and don’t forget to interact with other people’s posts.  One of my favourite authors to follow on Twitter is Margaret Atwood. I like how she engages with her fans online by retweeting articles, promoting things she’s up to and even responding to fellow writers about her creative process. She ‘liked’ one of my tweets once and I nearly expired. Instagram Instagram is where you’ll find more women hanging out, and your slightly younger audience – 70% of users are under 35. Although that doesn’t mean us oldies can’t enjoy it – I love Instagram. You can use it to post pictures of yourself or your books, or anything really, and use hashtags to make your posts easier to find.  Instagram is absolutely stuffed with book reviewers. They’re an amazing community to get involved with and can help get a real buzz going about your work. It’s not just about the pretty pictures – I rarely post on my ‘grid’ – it’s the ‘Instagram stories’ that work for me, and for lots of other authors too. One of my current favourites to follow is Elodie Harper, author of Wolf Den, a novel set in Pompeii, pre-eruption. She often shares beautiful mosaics and art from the period, giving a wonderful taste of the time and the basis of her inspiration in her stories. TikTok Getting involved with ‘BookTok’ (ie book lovers on Tik Tok) is becoming a truly inspired way to reach the youngest of social media users. If you’re writing YA or older MG, get yourself on there! Tik-Tok is the fastest growing platform in the world and the most used – one hour per day on average – with more than a billion users. There are already lots of authors paving the way on TikTok – one to follow is Victoria Aveyard, author of the Red Queen series. She shares all sorts, from insights into the publishing world, how to structure novels, to killing your darlings. She’s also really funny, which always helps. Social media isn’t always about self-promotion, though. You can always follow just for fun, and BookTok really is just that – fun. It’s also a great way for an author to relax and procrastinate productively! Other Social Platforms While we’ve listed the main contenders, there are other platforms that might suit you and your needs more.   Pinterest Pinterest is the corkboard of the internet, full of tips and how-to’s on any subject you can imagine. Try searching up a topic you’re interested in and have fun ‘pinning’ all the articles to read later – you might even want to write and share your own! Many authors use social media platforms like Pinterest to create secret inspiration boards for their novels, and it’s a great way to link blogs to your website to pretty images. One of the good things about Pinterest is you don’t actually have to talk to anyone… YouTube YouTube is the platform for the hardcore videographer. Alexa Donne is a powerhouse – check out her videos for pretty much everything you need to know about anything ever.   LinkedIn LinkedIn is where you wear your suit. Professional profiles for connecting with other writers on a more business-level – basically an interactive online CV. Great for connecting with industry professionals too. Goodreads Goodreads…never mind. Probably best that no author goes on there unless they have a thick skin. But in all seriousness, many find it a great site on which to log their own reading progress, run book giveaways, and gauge the reaction to their books before they are published. Social Media Advertising All the stuff we’ve talked about so far is completely free. However, you can pay to harness the power that is the social media behemoth. Facebook and Instagram both offer paid advertising opportunities which can be very successful but do your research first! Learn how to set up audiences for your ad and how to clone audiences that other ads use. It’s much easier than staring at the back end of your ad and crying because no one is clicking through, believe me. There’s lots to consider but get it right and you’re on your way, because Facebook still remains the most targeted form of affordable advertising out there.  How To Interact With Your Audience Social media lets you directly interact with your audience. This can be amazing, but also a little scary. Here are a few tips on getting it right:  The Three E’s You might be asking yourself - ‘What the hell do I write about now I’m here?’   A rule of thumb is the three E’s: when writing a post make it either Entertaining, Engaging or Educational. Or all three if you’re clever. People want to be entertained, they want to be part of things, and they want to learn (usually).   Community Matters Basically, your vibe finds your tribe. Cultivate your community so it’s full of the people you want, preferably ones you admire and care about. For instance, there’s absolutely no reason why Twitter need be a stressful place for you if the only people you follow are those posting about books, cats, and baking!  You already know how to talk to the people important to you, so simply treat the people who now live in your phone/laptop the same way. These are the people whose feedback and opinion matters. If they like your posts, they might buy your book. If they like you too, they might tell other people to buy your book as well.   Find Other Authors One of the biggest draws to social media (especially Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) is how vital it is for finding other writers and building your own support network. There are legions of fellow writers all over the internet, on all the platforms, in all guises, at all stages of their careers. They are your people – go find them. Talk to them, ask them questions. Join groups and chats and hashtags. Writing can be a lonely occupation, but it doesn’t have to be.  The wonderful thing about the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, especially, is that everyone is just as lost as you. Don’t be shy to create a page and then post along the lines of ‘Hi, I’m new to the writing world. I’m looking to follow and chat to other writers of xyz.’ Or ask for critique partners or beta readers. You’ll be surprised how many like-minded (and just as lost) writers jump at the chance to be part of your squad.   Share New Writing Projects There’s nothing quite as exciting to an avid reader as a teaser for what you’re writing next. How are you getting on? Are you editing yet? Can we read some, pleeeease? You get the picture.  Demonstrate Audience Appreciation An author who clearly appreciates their audience is a popular one. You can demonstrate this by offering exclusive content to your advocates, by including them in discussions, and by sharing their content as well as your own. Some authors even run fun giveaways, such as ‘Follow me and you may be picked to have your name appear as a character in my next novel.’ Include your audience in inventive and engaging ways!  So, Is Social Media Useful For Authors? Undeniably, yes! Social media is very useful for authors who want to create communities, find their audience and showcase their work. There’s no direct evidence that it will increase your sales, but it WILL create positive PR and get you exposure, which all helps.  So get out there, have a quiet little chat or TikTok dance your way into the hearts of your readers. However you choose to use social media, make sure it works for you and you have fun!  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. 
Read more

Everything You Need to Know about Hybrid Publishing

Are you a writer, daunted by querying, trying to snag both an agent and a traditional publishing contract? Are you concerned about your lack time or expertise to completely self-publish? If this applies to you, please keep reading this guide, which explores a lesser-known alternative: hybrid publishing.  What is Hybrid Publishing? Hybrid publishing models blend together traditional publishing and self-publishing. Let’s compare all three publication avenues to help you better understand the positives and limitations of hybrid publishing. You\'ll determine if hybrid publishing is a viable option for you.   Differences Between Traditional Publishers, Self-Publishing, and Hybrid Publishers Traditional Publishers  Obtaining a traditional publishing contract usually means you must query multiple literary agents to find one who believes your work can be sold to a traditional publishing house. Most traditional publishing houses (often referred to in the industry as ‘trad publishers’) only negotiate with agented authors. The agent will attempt, on the writer’s (your) behalf, to sell the writer’s work to a trad house, and obtain a book deal for the writer. Once a deal is secured, you sign a contract with the trad house. This is a significant risk and investment for the publisher.   What Do They Offer? Trad houses cover the entirety of publication costs and assume primary responsibility to sell and market the book. They provide authors an advance for their intellectual property, prior to publication. The “catch” is that the advance isn’t considered “earned” until the author’s book sells enough copies to equal the advance.   Average advances for first-time fiction authors without celebrity status are somewhere between $5,000 - $15,000 (this varies considerably). Once that many thousands of dollars-worth of copies sell, the author begins to receive additional money. This is paid in the form of royalties (a percentage of total book sales). Both agent and trad house take a portion of those royalties.   Considerations: Trad houses typically own the rights to authors’ work, exercising significant control over what and how the author writes. That’s because trad houses focus principally on what will sell based on their knowledge of the publishing industry. They also value their own expertise on how best to refine, package, distribute, and market those raw ideas. All this is done to ensure the books sell - so they can recoup their investment.   Once authors have a traditionally published contract, their job is simplified. They pay no money to publish their book. Rather, they receive money from the publisher, and that amount of money can be substantial. They can ignore editorial, production, printing costs, distribution, and other complicated publishing aspects. This they leave to the publisher, while focusing their efforts on writing a bestseller.   Although the traditional publishing model is risk-averse, few new authors manage to obtain a book deal. Only one book out of five ever earns back their advance. These considerations have led many authors to turn to self-publishing. Self-Publishing  With self-publishing, the burden of the services provided for free by a trad house, are instead borne solely by the writer. The writer must not only write the book, but also prepare it for publication in terms of editing, cover design, layout, pricing, and much more.   The only alternative is to sub-contract out all (or parts) of the process, unless the writer possesses the capabilities to do it themselves. Perhaps, even more intimidating, once the book is published, the writer is wholly responsible to promote their work, without the enormous influence and advertising budget a trad house can provide.   Why Do it Yourself? One advantage to self-publishing is the quick turnaround from book completion to publication. Publication times are as expedient as the author can make them. Your book will be out there significantly quicker compared to a trad house (which can take two years from signing a book to release).   Additionally, if the author becomes a high-volume seller (more than 30,000 copies), completely self-published authors will come out ahead compared to those traditionally published. Moreover, while there are no upfront advances received, there is no quest required to secure an agent through lengthy querying (which can take years). There are also no contracts to negotiate, and no agents or publishers taking a substantial percentage of your profits.   Finally, self-published writers have complete creative freedom to write what they want, how they want it. Without interference from a trad house focusing solely on book sales, the author focuses on what they desire. Sometimes, this works out just fine.   We’ve all heard of self-publishing successes, like Fifty Shades of Grey, The Martian, and Eragon, which have far outsold many a traditionally published bestseller. But these successes are rare. Many writers are exploring their options on how to achieve their dreams of both publication and profitability.    So is there a middle ground?  Hybrid Publishers  Hybrid publishers often offer the best of both worlds.   They don’t accept just any book, so you still have quality control. But the gatekeeping is less stringent (i.e. no need for agents). They too want to represent quality writing, which enhances their reputation and increases their share of any profits.   Just as with traditional publishing, not every work submitted is accepted by hybrid publishers. The book is first evaluated to see if it meets publisher standards and their business lines. But unlike trad publishing, there’s a cost.   What Will it Cost You? Publishing fees with some hybrids can be exorbitant (averaging between $10,000-$20,000). You are paying them to do what you could do yourself as a self-published writer, but with the kudos of their name behind your book, and their expertise. Some people are happy to follow this route, but many writers get exploited. So research who you are working with before you sign anything.  Some hybrid publishers don’t charge direct, but you are expected to pay for your own editing and proofreading before submitting. You may forfeit some creative control. Each contract varies, so please be vigilant as to what you are expected to manage (and what they will) in exchange for a percentage of profits.  Is it Worth it? Once your manuscript is accepted, the editing, printing, and other stages of publication mirror those of a trad house. This leaves writers free to focus on writing. Depending on the hybrid model, many hybrid publishers also provide some level of marketing for their authors\' books, as well as distribution.   As opposed to complete self-publishing, hybrid publishing offers a “one-stop shop”. You don\'t have to slog to find editors, cover designers, and deal with getting your book onto various platforms. As well as all the other worries and expenses associated with self-publishing. And hybrid publishers can get your book published faster than trad too - often within six months. Not as quickly as one potentially could self-publish, but markedly quicker than one could ever be traditionally published.      With hybrid publishing, royalties are higher for the author than with trad houses. Yet, let’s be clear. Most hybrid companies are smaller and less prestigious than their trad counterparts, despite their ability to mass produce books. Sales will be lower and cover prices may be higher (so readership will be lower too).  Hybrid publishers seldom match the brand recognition and worldwide reading audience reach that a trad house can offer. It will be more difficult to get your book reviewed by elite reviewers if it doesn\'t come from a trad house, and it\'s challenging to make top bestseller lists outside of Amazon. One exception that stands out is author Laura Gassner Outing, whose book Limitless, published by hybrid publisher Idea Press ascended the ranks of the Washington Post bestseller list.  Different Types of Hybrid Publishers? Now that you have a better understanding of what hybrid publishing is, let\'s look at specific types of hybrid publishing, and which type may best suit your needs as an author. Some of the main hybrid publishing models include crowdfunding, assisted self-publishing, and partnership publishing.  Crowdfunding Based As the name suggests, a Crowdfunding-based hybrid publishing model means authors campaign to raise funds by asking for donations from interested parties. The hybrid press must attain a certain level of donations to move forward with publication and will ensure distribution to those who have pre-ordered the project. Should the project fail to reach that level of donations, it could be cancelled. Unbound, alias United Authors Publishing Ltd, is perhaps one of the best-known crowdfunding publishers. Assisted Self-Publishing Assisted self-publishing, formerly called vanity publishing, is another hybrid model that has suffered from an unfavourable reputation in the past. Extremely high-end self-assist publishing companies have emerged in the last decade, where authors can feel confident – if they have the funds – that their work will be professionally published.      The self-publishing assist company I publish with, FriesenPress, is well-established, with a sterling reputation for professionalism. I retain full rights for my books and the royalties I receive are 50% higher than what I earn off Amazon, where my book is also published.   FriesenPress has their own virtual bookstore which exclusively sells and advertises their published authors. FriesenPress also promotes any awards received by their authors and their authors\' professional reviews on their social media pages. Downsides? Well, one is that authors are largely responsible for their own marketing as many hybrid publishers have very little reach. Another detractor is the cost - FriesenPress’ top-of-the-line package exceeds CAN$10,000.   Partnership Publishing Partnership Publishing most closely aligns to a traditional publishing system. This model means writers split marketing and production costs with the publisher. As the author, you are primarily charged with marketing, but both author and publisher lose or make money together. Thus the publisher is heavily invested in the author’s success, and will not accept just any book, if the publisher desires to remain profitable.  Top Hybrid Publishers Some of the most reputable hybrid publishers we have found include Amplify, Forbes Books, Greenleaf Book Group, IdeaPress Publishing, LifeTree Media, Mascot Books, and Scribe Publishing. As with anything as monumental as making the decision as to where to publish your book, and how, do your homework. There are numerous hybrid publishers out there. Take your time to research and find the best one for you.   How Do I Select the Right Hybrid Publisher for Me?  We\'ve discussed some of the potential pitfalls of hybrid publishing. Hybrid publishing is not for everyone, because of these pitfalls. Yet, it is fairly easy to avoid these drawbacks by choosing the correct hybrid publisher. Here are some aspects to consider when selecting a hybrid publisher. What types of books does the publisher publish? Some hybrid publishers don’t have the experience publishing specific genres, possibly including the genre you write in. Look for one that has enjoyed success in publishing books relevant to the sort of book you write.   In the same vein, when you look at the books published, do they look professional, of superior quality? Could their books sit on the shelves of a major book chain, and look right at home beside traditionally published books, especially in terms of cover design? Speaking of major book chains, what sort of book distribution scope does the publisher have? Does the publisher have those critical relationships with outlets where you want to stock your book? Do they have their own bookstore, as another avenue to sell your books? Do they edit their books well? Does the publisher have a sterling reputation? Does the hybrid assist at all with marketing authors’ books?  If the answer is “yes” to the above questions, then you may wish to consider the hybrid publishing route for your book. Apples and Oranges Taking care of the complex and potentially confusing nuances of publishing, enhanced retention of creative control, increased royalty compensation, and other benefits combine to make hybrid publishing a potentially viable option versus complete self-publishing, or the traditional mode. Every hybrid publisher is unique, and some can curtail creative freedom in a manner like trad houses. Yet if an author can find the right hybrid publisher, they might find a more attractive method of getting their work out to the world more expediently, and ultimately, more lucratively than with one of the big five trad houses or going it completely on their own as a self-published author.  For writers who feel certain they will be consigned to self-publishing only, after lengthy unsuccessful querying trying to land a trad contract, the diversity of options available in hybrid publishing can be enticing.      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. 
Read more

A Complete Guide to Using a Pen Name

Budding writers often ask whether they should use their real name or create a pen name. The truth is pen names can be very handy. Whether you don’t want your boss to know that you spend your nights writing about peacocking lords and their throbbing members, or you don’t want your aunt Susan to find out she was the sole inspiration for your serial killer MC. Hey, it’s her fault for being a countryside taxidermist, right? In this complete guide to using a pen name we will cover the many reasons authors might consider using pen names for their work, explain why it might be right for you, and how to pick a pen name of your very own. And check out our post on the pros and cons of using a pen name to help you decide if it\'s the right move for you. What is a Pen Name? Simply put, a pen name is a pseudonym chosen by an author and used on their by-lines for their work. It’s also referred to as a Nom de Plume. Despite the words being French the expression originates from England, when the English failed to use the then common French expression Nom de Guerre (Name of War) which was used by the French at the time to describe pseudonyms. They later switched to using the catchier expression Nom de Plume (Name of Feather – as in a feathered quill). Famous pen names include Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair), Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), and even the mighty Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet.) Why Authors Use Pen Names There are countless reasons authors may choose to write under pen names - from privacy concerns, legal reasons, or preferring the sound and visual aesthetics, to the desire to choose a pen name that will better appeal to their readers. The reasons can range from the obvious to the very specific. In order to help you make your decision on whether or not you should use a pen name and how to use one, we will delve into the most common reasons pen names are used in the first place. Privacy Of all the uses pen names have, keeping your identity secret is probably the least useful. Yet, nonetheless, one of the most common. Consider this, a book will flail and burn if not properly promoted, and since we know author promotion starts with your existing network, being completely secretive about your work will probably not do you any favours in the long run. With that said, there are reasons authors would like to keep their identities secret from families, colleagues, and institutions. A few notable examples include stories inspired by true events or memoirs that depict toxic family members or dysfunctional family dynamics. Some authors may want to write about the domestic abuse they’ve experienced, but don’t want to write under their own name and have the work traced back to them. Often people will choose pen names to retain privacy from their employers. Just because an employer can look you up on LinkedIn and Facebook doesn’t mean you want them to read your violent novels, or know that you write erotica, or have access to your dark poetry collections. The truth is many authors retain their day jobs whilst simultaneously pursuing careers as authors and it makes sense to keep both worlds apart. Though the degree of anonymity you are able to retain is up for debate. As we mentioned earlier, the success of a book depends heavily on marketing – basic requirements, such as author bios and author pictures, will still give you away – but you can still retain a degree of anonymity with employers and control what they see when they google you. Pen names can also be beneficial if you are being critical of an employer or institution in your work. If you, for example, are on the police force but are writing about incompetent cops and corruption, you may wish to keep the two separate. All in all, privacy plays a large role in people choosing to use pen names. Change Gender Female authors are (whether we like it or not) more popular in the romance genre, and male readers tend to buy more crime thrillers written by other men. This is of course all very outdated, but nonetheless factually accurate. Of course, this won’t stop an author penning the book of their dreams - so those worried that the gendering of their name might affect their sales may opt for a unisex pen name, or a pen name with initials. Back in the mid-nineteenth century, when women weren’t as prolific in the world of writing, Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pseudonym George Eliot in order to be taken more seriously. And it worked! Clashing Names Some authors adopt pen names because their real names clash with, or are the same as, those of existing authors, actors, politicians or even people famous for a negative reason. Before setting off on your author career it’s probably a good idea to look at the viability of your name from a legal, practical, and even SEO standpoint (how easily Google can find you). Something I realised only a year into my career was that Sylvester Stallone’s mother was named Jacqueline, which means I (Jacqueline Silvester) often have to contend with Rambo’s mom trumping my SEO. Of course, this isn’t going to affect my writing career too much, but if your name is similar or the same as someone with a lot of internet presence, you might want to consider a pen name. You especially don’t want your name to clash with an existing author or media personality, it will just cause unnecessary confusion and you will be fighting an uphill SEO battle. Genre It’s common for authors to pick pen names or alter their current name (i.e add an initial or swap to a maiden name or deviation) when switching genres. As an author you build a personal brand, and (hopefully) a loyal following. A readership will have expectations about what sort of work you release. So if you have a following that has read your last six quirky romance books and suddenly you release a bloody psychological thriller, they might be put off and lose faith in your brand. This is especially true if you’re making a massive leap in genre (erotica to middle grade, for instance) in which case it\'s vital you change your author name. You certainly don’t want readers to be confused or auto-buy your books, or for a child who has loved your kids’ mermaid stories to end up getting a hold of your much more…umm… 18+ mermaid content. Another thing to consider is that authors often choose names that suit their genre. Names in children’s literature tend to be easy to pronounce, light and airy, with an air of magic or mystery. For example, the famous pen name Lewis Carroll sounds more delightful than his birth name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and Lemony Snicket (author of A Series of Unfortunate Events) sounds more whimsical and adventurous than Daniel Handler. Consider creating a new, more fitting, pen name when switching genres. Aesthetical Preference Some people simply don’t like their name and don’t think it will look good on the cover of a book, or the by-line of a heart-breaking poem. Sometimes authors want something with more flare, or a less common name. We can’t all have Kris Jenner’s foresight and be born into a family with perfectly trademarkable names peppered with alliteration, like the Kardashian clan. And we can’t all be born with a perfect sounding name like Stephen King. Although even King resorted to using a pen name (Richard Brachman) when he realised his incredible output required two names instead of one, so he chose a separate name for his more twisted work. Author Output and Co-Writing Speaking of Stephen King, in trade publishing authors are generally expected to release one book a year (it takes a long time for trade publishing to market and position all their books), so if your output exceeds that you may choose to use a different pen name so you can churn out more work. Stephen King did it, and so does Sophie Kinsella (who also writes under the pen name Madeline Wickham) because trade publishers will very rarely publish and market multiple books a year under one name. Co-authors will often choose to co-write under one joint pen name too. It simplifies marketing and PR, plus one cohesive name on the cover instead of both names means their new work won’t be mistaken for their previous solo backlist. How to Choose a Pen Name As outlined above if privacy is a concern, or if you would like to distance parts of your life from your work, a pen name could be just the ticket. If you don’t like the way your name looks on a book, or if you don’t think it’s easy to remember or pronounce, or if you think you’ll be fighting an uphill battle with SEO, you should opt for a pen name. Whatever your reason (you don’t even need one), here are some ways to help you pick a pen name. Did you know, like with any other trends, there are trends for author names in your genre? Romance novelists, for instance, often choose names with a romantic flare. When choosing a joint pen name for our paranormal romance series Blood Web Chronicles, my co-author and I landed on Caedis Knight. ‘Caedis’ means ‘slaughter and bloodshed.’ We write romance, and the name sounds quite modern with a heroic surname, but we also wanted to make it clear we write dark paranormal romance. Had we opted to write more floral country romance, then a name like Rose Delacourt would have been a better fit. Or had it been BDSM erotica, we may have opted for Scarlett Pane. Yes, this pen name game is a lot of fun! The first step of choosing the perfect pen name is research. Go to a bookshop (or go online) and browse your intended genre. See what trends you see in the way names look and sound. Examine the names in depth. What are their genders? Do they use full names or initials? Is there anything distinctive about the chosen names? Who is your target audience and what would they like? Ask yourself what sort of name your target audience would find memorable? When you have a shortlist, choose a name that’s easy to spell and pronounce. Make sure it’s not already used and isn’t associated with anything bad (e.g. Fred West). Check the name’s SEO viability; are you competing against the name of a popular brand? For example, Kath Kidson might sound like a great pen name but, because of the brand, you would be crazy to use it. Even if it’s your actual name. Also check whether the URL is already owned. Having your author name as your website is ideal, so if you get to choose your name choose one where the domain name isn’t already taken. Once you’ve completed all your research, start putting pen to paper and get brainstorming! In Conclusion Picking a pen name is a very personal choice, but one you can approach freely and confidently knowing that countless authors have chosen this route. Remember that a pen name is akin to a stage name - it serves a purpose and that purpose can be whatever you want it to be. Consider your genre first, your personal privacy preferences, the aesthetic appeal of your name, and make sure to check it for SEO, legal issues, commonality, and genre appeal. Lastly, make sure that you absolutely love it – because if things go well, your author name will be everywhere! 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. 
Read more

Julia Stone on managing your publishing expectations and using psychology in writing

Jericho Writers member Julia Stone has had a long and varied career, often using her background in psychology as a springboard into her writing and other creative pursuits. Her first book, a psychological thriller called \'Her Little Secret\', was published by Orion Dash in August 2021. We were honoured to talk to her about her journey to publication, and the expectations and surprises of commercial publishing. JW: Tell us about your first published book, \'Her Little Secret\'. Where did the concept come from?  JS: When doing therapy work with couples, I sometimes hear two completely different versions of events; like a mirror image. She paints him as a miser. He describes her as wasting their savings. Both believe their interpretation is ‘the truth’. But how would I know if one of them was lying about the other?  As a therapist, I don’t get to meet my client’s friends and family, I don’t see them at work or at home in the evenings. All I have to go on is what I see, hear and feel in the therapy sessions. But what if someone came for therapy and didn’t tell the truth? What possible reason could they have…?  These were the questions that got me thinking.  Cristina, the therapist in my novel, has been trusted with a lot of secrets. Her client, Leon, is being selective with the truth because he wants something - something only Cristina can tell him. The story idea blossomed from there.  JW: Had you done much writing before then? What’s your background as a writer?   JS: My earliest published work was a letter to Jackie magazine in 1974 – I pretended to be a Vulcan and not understand the concept of love! My mother encouraged us to be creative and we wrote our own stories from a young age – although I have to admit, most of them were rip-offs of \'Mallory Towers\'.   In my 30-year career as a business psychologist, I wrote professional materials for client companies and contributed to managerial text books. Then in my early forties I came back to my creative side, completing an art degree part-time and studying scriptwriting. I brought writing into my artwork, as each sculpture was always accompanied by an imagined ‘backstory\'. I also self-published an artist’s book - \'Heavy Clumping Cat Litter\' -  a flash fiction/photography collection inspired by found shopping lists.   Around this time, I was lucky enough to be shortlisted in several competitions for a script idea, a short story, and the early chapters of a novel. That encouraged me to think more seriously about novel writing. I had loads of ideas half-written in my bottom drawer but now I’d rediscovered the creative writing bug, so in 2017 I applied for the Faber Academy Writing a Novel programme.   JW: What was your journey to getting an agent? JS: During the six-month Faber course I produced a draft novel that sparked some interest from agents with three manuscript requests, but sadly no one offered representation.  In 2018 I signed up to Jericho Writers and attended every workshop I could which really fired me up with enthusiasm. An idea came to me when I was driving on a long journey and I started work on a new story. I was thrilled when it was short-listed for Best Opening Chapter at the Festival of Writing that year. That gave me the courage to enter the Blue Pencil First Novel Award. As the book went from longlist to shortlist I was amazed and didn’t expect anything more. I was on my way to London for a meeting when I heard the novel had won and Madeleine Milburn wanted to offer me representation! I was so surprised and excited I missed the train, but it was the best ever excuse to be late for a meeting.  In 2018 I signed up to Jericho Writers and attended every workshop I could which really fired me up with enthusiasm. Managing expectations and emotions JW: In what ways has your work as a psychologist complimented or contrasted with your work as a writer?   JS: My background is in management consultancy where deadlines are set in stone and ‘time is money’ – back in the 1990s we literally had to keep timesheets and account for what we were doing every half hour. So, the time lags in the writing & publishing process were a bit of a shock. For the writer, there seems to be a lot of waiting - for a response, for feedback, for edits – and no idea of when this might come. Agencies and editors are inundated and it can leave the writer in a reactive position, feeling a bit in the dark. And, as we all know, that is when the doubts creep in. I do wonder if more could be done to explain what is happening and manage expectations?  On the other hand, my work and experience in psychology helps me to cope with the ups and downs of the journey. I’m not immune but I know the tools and techniques that help manage any emotional reactions to disappointments and setbacks. Psychology has also helped me to understand personality, motivation, and behaviour. This is a great help with developing rounded and believable characters, although I don’t think you ever stop learning your craft.  For the writer, there seems to be a lot of waiting - for a response, for feedback, for edits – and no idea of when this might come. Agencies and editors are inundated and it can leave the writer in a reactive position, feeling a bit in the dark. And, as we all know, that is when the doubts creep in. The publishing industry: expectations vs. reality JW: You signed a deal with Orion Dash, a digital-first imprint. What was that experience like? Was it what you had been expecting?   JS: To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. What has pleasantly surprised me is the speed; the time scales are so much quicker than traditional publishing. The offer from Orion Dash was made in March 2021 and \'Her Little Secret\' was published in August, having been through a significant structural edit in that period. The whole thing is a learning experience for me and I’m loving it.  JW: You’ve also had work published before in your professional field of psychology as well as having experience in scriptwriting for training videos. How did this background inform your expectations of commercial publishing, and did anything surprise you?   The rounds of editing! Aside from proof edits, no one has ever given structural feedback on anything I’ve written in my professional field. It was fascinating and something I hadn’t expected, although I really see the benefit. I think it would be helpful for writers to know how many rounds of rewriting they will need to go through at all stages: before they submit to agents, then before their agent submits to a publisher, and finally, with the publishing editor.  You’ve got to love the characters to stick with them through all this!  I think it would be helpful for writers to know how many rounds of rewriting they will need to go through at all stages: before they submit to agents, then before their agent submits to a publisher, and finally, with the publishing editor. JW: What are you working on now? If you’re writing the follow-up, how are you approaching it?  I’m currently halfway through rewriting a previous psychological suspense novel, which has a totally different feel to \'Her Little Secret\'. (That said, the protagonist is once again an unmarried, child-free woman in her fifties!) As always I start by working out the key plot points and write a 2-4 page synopsis as if I am telling someone else the story. I then find images that represent the main characters and anything relating to their environment and stick them in a notebook. Obviously, the story changes as the characters take it off in unpredicted directions, but this gives me enough to get started. By the time I’ve finished the first draft, the notebook pages are bulging with scribbled notes, mind maps, sketches, quotes and articles torn from newspapers. It’s the only way I know how to do it!  JW: Any final advice to those starting out?  Obviously sign up and get involved with Jericho Writers! From my own experience, I strongly recommend taking part in workshops, writing groups, and competitions. Ideally set up or join a writing group. I wouldn’t have stuck with it had I not been part of a mutually supportive writing group that I met during the six months at Faber. Writing can be a lonely job and we need all the support and encouragement we can get from others who are on this journey.   About Julia Julia Stone applies her creativity in her work as a writer, ceramic artist, coach, supervisor and therapist. She has had a long career in psychology and psychotherapy and now works part-time. She loves learning and was recently thrilled to pass her Level 1 exams in British Sign Language. Her second book will be published by Orion Dash in 2022.  Her Little Secret is available in ebook, audio and paperback from Amazon. Website: www.juliastonewriter.com  Twitter: @julestake3  Instagram: @julia.stone.writer 
Read more

Pros and Cons of Signing with a Small Publishing House

Have you heard that we’re living in a golden age of small press publishing? Small publishers around the world are putting out a good proportion of the most exciting and innovative fiction and non-fiction, dominating prize lists and thriving in a way that means they are having an ever-increasing influence on the book world.  This guide will introduce you to some of the most important of these big-hitting small presses, as well as explaining what makes them different from normal publishing houses and investigating the pros and cons of working with a small publishing company. What is a Publishing House? Let’s start with a rough guide to the basics processes of book production that most publishers follow: 1. Submission Manuscripts are sent by agents, or, in some cases pulled from slush piles (which is to say, the collected manuscripts sent by individual authors.) 2. Acquisition Publishers make offers for books. This generally includes an advance, outlines of royalties and publication date. Once the offer is accepted this will be formalised in a more detailed contract. 3. Delivery of Manuscript Hopefully on time! 4. Editorial This is where the author and editor work on structure, characterisation, and all the important nuts and bolts of the book. Done properly, this can be a long process with lots of back and forth between editor and author. Often, it’s done to a tight schedule. 5. Cover Design This is generally done in-house, but freelance designers and illustrators are also used. The author is generally consulted about the cover - but rarely has final say. 6. Typesetting The process by which words are laid out on the page, which is actually more complicated than it sounds. Making those precious sentences flow nicely, with the correct margins and no mess, is a job that takes real skill.  7. Proofs and Publicity Proof copies are made of the book for final copy-editing checks and to send to reviewers. At this point publicity begins in earnest, although publicity often starts earlier. Most importantly, book reps should have been talking about the book with bookshops. Publicity campaigns still continue after books are released with posters, YouTube videos, social media campaigns and more. But are generally more limited… 8. Ebooks are Prepared The typeset document (usually a PDF) is converted into ebook format 9. Printing and Binding The actual physical books are printed at the publishers’ expense. Generally, at specialist print works, not in-house. 10. Warehousing and Distribution The books are sorted, stored and sent out to the shops to fulfil their orders. 11. Books Arrive in the Shops Hurray! But this isn’t quite the end of the process as (assuming things go well enough) the publishers still have to process sales figures and author royalties. What is a Small Press? In the UK and the USA most of the trade publishing industry is dominated by the Big Five presses: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster. These are multi-million-pound businesses, each controlling numerous separate imprints and employing vast numbers of staff. They also don’t accept submissions unless they come directly from an agent. Beneath that are smaller independent presses like Faber & Faber and Canongate, which are still companies with big lists and large numbers of staff. They often only accept agented submissions. And then there are small presses – publishers who are much easier to work with direct. There are different definitions for what constitutes a small independent publisher. Many define small press companies which make less than $50 million a year (which is still pretty big!).  One useful guide in the UK is the entry criteria for the excellent Republic Of Consciousness Prize for small presses which is an annual competition for publishers with fewer than 5 full-time employees. In the USA, where everything tends to be bigger, the equivalent prize instead defines small presses as those which publish an average of 18 or fewer published titles per year.  It’s also useful to think of small literary presses in terms of atmosphere and state of mind. They carry out all the publishing processes listed above - but in a different way. They are like the micro-breweries of the publishing world, producing smaller quantities of (ideally!) high-quality work favoured by enthusiasts and connoisseurs. At best, they are run with passion for people who are passionate about books. They also provide a huge range of special, and particular, flavours.  In the USA and Canada, meanwhile, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of presses catering from local to international interest and every kind of voice. Leading lights include Coffee House Press, Coach House Books, Melville House and Biblioasis. In the UK, some of the best small presses include Jacaranda Books who state they are run by “talented women of colour whose aim is to promote and celebrate inclusivity and diversity in the publishing industry”, Dead Ink who focus on “new and emerging authors”, Influx Press who are “are committed to publishing innovative and challenging fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction from across the UK and beyond”, Bluemoose Books who explicitly state they don’t want “orange headed celebrity books” but do want “brilliant stories”, And Other Stories who “aim to push people’s reading limits and help them discover authors of adventurous and inspiring writing”, Fitzcarraldo who focus on “ambitious, imaginative and innovative writing”. My own press, Galley Beggar Press tries to support writers of great literary talent writing outside the norm, who push the boundaries of form and language some of the best small publishing houses can still be more specialist. Two Rivers Press, for instance, publishes poetry as well as books about the city of Reading’s people, history, places, and culture. Pros of Working with a Small Publishing House This kind of specialisation is one of the great advantages of working with small publishing houses. If your work fits with their niche and ethos, you’re onto a winner. It’s also quite possible that fitting in well with a small house also means your work won’t work for bigger, more conservative and conventional houses. There are also several small publishers for new authors that accept unsolicited manuscripts, meaning you don’t have to go through the agent route to have your talent spotted. There are further advantages to consider: More Likely to Welcome New Authors When it comes to small publishers accepting submissions, they are often more able and determined to take risks on new writers and new kinds of writing. And they deal with you direct!  The fact that they have small lists of books with tight financial margins can be uniquely liberating. Because every book they put out is a risk, they don’t have to hedge their bets and can go all out on a book that they believe in. As a result, many of the best new writers in the UK and USA in the past ten years have emerged from small houses - and small presses that publish novels and non-fiction have won a disproportionate number of prizes and short-listings. Greater Author Involvement In large publishing houses different people tend to manage each part of the publishing process. They have established, regimented procedures which don’t enable so much author input. Most notably, your editor will be mainly responsible for the first five of those processes listed above - but once they’ve signed off your book it can often feel like that’s the last you hear from anyone. You don’t have a contact who’s working on production - and the editor will know next to nothing about this stage of the process. If you’re lucky you’ll perhaps have a meeting with someone from the publicity team, but it can often feel like most meaningful contact with the publisher finishes long before your book comes out.  Work with a Trusted Team of Professionals At smaller presses, because the teams are smaller, the people who work on your book tend to work on most stages of its production - or at least have good knowledge of what’s going on at each stage. Your point of contact will be able to tell you more - and involve you more. Authors do not tend to have the final say with a small press any more than in a larger press, but they can generally expect greater consultation and involvement.  Ideally, the best small presses will also give your book an extra level of dedication. They tend to take on books because they feel passionately about them. They don’t have books that are there to bulk out the list. They can’t rely on big name celebrity memoirs to put them in the black. So they have to get right behind everything they produce and push it as hard as they possibly can. Cons of Working with a Small Publishing House So far so great. But authors also need to be aware that a small publishing house may not be the best fit for them - and there are potential disadvantages to working with them… Poor Author Advances If you’re looking for a six-figure advance, you’re unlikely to find it with a small press. Some are philosophically opposed to giving too much money in advance because it so often means authors don’t earn out, don’t get to see any royalties, and can find themselves viewed as an unprofitable proposition as a result. Instead, small presses tend to offer more generous royalty rates because they see this as fairer.  Lower Marketing Resources Arguably, smaller publishers don’t have the marketing budgets or resources enjoyed by bigger publishers. For more writers this is immaterial, since it’s very rare that significant marketing money is invested in an individual author who isn’t already selling well - but it can make a difference as books begin to climb the charts.  Smaller Distribution Opportunities? One thing that big publishers can guarantee is a relationship with established bookstores and outlets, along with a good distribution network and a team of book reps who will work on getting books onto the shelves. Plenty of smaller publishing houses will also have good relationships with the shops (and perhaps even better relationships with some independent bookstores.) In the UK they may also use established distributors like Turnaround and Inpress who do the vital work of warehousing, distribution, and bookstore relationship management. Plenty of US independents also have excellent distribution. But it’s not always guaranteed so it is something to check before you sign on the dotted line.  Eccentricity From a commercial and authorial point of view the great strength of small houses can also be their weakness. All small presses accepting submissions are different. They all have their own personality and impact on the market. They all have different passions and beliefs. That’s fantastic if you find yourself in alignment. It’s wonderful if you’re writing the kind of book that you can work together on. But you should also be aware that this kind of relationship may not be for you or the best fit for your work. Something for Everyone Small publishing houses can provide many benefits for new authors. They are there not only to take a risk on good new work, but to love it and nurture it and give it the best possible push into the world. But you should enter any relationship with a small press with your eyes open and think carefully about the potential downsides. Confidence is a two way thing in publishing and you need to believe in your publisher as much as they believe in you.  Small presses do great things for many writers - but so do the big five and other larger independent presses. It’s a big world out there and there’s space for everyone. 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. 
Read more

Do Professional Writers Need a Website?

One of the questions writers ask most frequently is - “does an author need a website?” With so many ways to promote yourself online now, from social media to forums, do you really need to go to the expense and hassle of creating a website for you and your books? The simple answer is…yes! In this article I will guide you through everything you need to know, from what makes a good author website, to whether you need one of your own. By the end of this blog, you will understand the perks of having your own dedicated website and how it can be instrumental to building your author brand. Do Professional Writers Need a Website? Whether you are an author, journalist, poet, playwright, freelance writer, or any kind of writer, it is likely you have asked yourself the same question. As a writer there are already so many things you need to do to get your work out there, this feels like one very large and unnecessary thing to add to your to do list. Bear with me, because you’re about to find out how this may well be one of the most important things you can do for you and your future as a writer. Regardless of the industry you are in, your online presence can contribute massively to your brand and the success of your creative work. You wouldn’t set up a new business without having a website – and being a writer or author is no different.  According to Internet World Stats, there are over 4.2 billion internet users, and Google averages about 40,000 searches per second, so it stands to reason that the internet is instrumental to the success of any brand today. I’m sure even Shakespeare would have had a website if he were around today! Having your own website doesn’t mean you need to be tech-savvy, or that you need to invest in a professional designer. But when your book is in the shops and the press or a reader Googles you, you want to make sure you are able to share everything about you and your work that you can. So where do you start? Let’s look at this in more detail… Reasons Why Writers Need a Website Social Media isn’t Enough Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Tumblr are great platforms on which to promote your businesses and the perfect place to engage with your audience, but you don\'t want your business to live solely on social media. Firstly, you have very little control. Recently, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were down for around 6 hours, all at once! That’s six hours that people can’t find out anything about you. Social media platforms can also delete or restrict accounts when they wish. And even though most of these platforms are established and been about for years, neither do we know if they will be around for ever – or as popular.  Ideally, you want your brand to live on your own domain. You own and control your website; there are no rules or conditions you have to comply with. Your website belongs only to you, and you can post any kind of content you want and conduct any form of marketing or advertising on it that you wish. Personal Brand Development A personal brand is your identity – and when you are an author, that reflects on your work too. Just like any organisation’s personal brand helps convey their values and identities to its customers, your own personal brand helps you communicate who you are and what you stand for to your readers. When you control what’s on your website, you control the narrative. Your author website provides a platform to tell your story, communicate a coherent brand image, showcase your expertise, qualifications, works, professionalism, plus shout about your publishing achievements to readers, the press, and other publishing professionals. Example 1Judy Moody is a fun children’s book series by Megan McDonald. The creative style and illustration of the author’s website perfectly reflects the brand image of the author: Build a Community A professional website presents you with an opportunity to build an active community where readers can interact directly with you, get an exclusive insight on you and your work, and provide feedback that you can use for future work. You can also build a newsletter, which has a much higher ‘book sale’ conversion rate than most other forms of advertising. Visitors can subscribe to your mailing list where you can keep in touch with them weekly or monthly. These newsletters can attract a lot of interest in the long run as subscribers who are already in love with what you do are more likely to recommend your books or services to other people who are looking for great writers. Personal recommendations go a long way in promoting your personal brand. Gain Audience Trust Most people go online to search for more information about a person or brand. According to wpforms, 55% of people search the internet for a brand’s website – and that includes your book. You can lose respect and credibility with readers if you can’t be found online. A strong website that showcases your brand, your work, and you, is a great way of demonstrating that you are as reputable as you claim to be. Example 2Aside from the immersive experience Jennifer Egan’s website gives its visitors, it also showcases reviews from reputable sites which is a great way of building trust with her readers. Interaction Opportunities Just like all social media platforms, a website is a great medium for interacting with your audience. You can even create a forum on your website where members of your community can interact with you and each other. You can also set up a blog on your website where you can get feedback from visitors. Links to these blog posts or forum topics can be shared on your own social media platforms, and are also likely to be shared by your community members – helping spread the word to their like-minded contacts. Social media can also be instrumental in driving traffic to your website. Instead of creating a long thread or post on your social media personal pages, it’s always easier to share links to your website or specific pages – ensuring your marketing remains cohesive and everyone gets to hear about you. Establish a Content Hub A website also provides you with a great content platform on which you can showcase your work. Editors, publishers, press, and readers who are interested in your work can find everything they need, in one place, on your website.  Example 3Gretchen Rubin’s website provides more than just information about herself and her brand. Her website offers extra value as it’s also filled with blog posts, podcasts, quizzes, and other resources. This is highly appealing to her visitors and makes them more likely to return to her website. Be Competitive Whether you like it or not, your writing should be treated as a business if you want to succeed. You want your author name to be found on search engines when people look for you. There are thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) great writers out there - so how will your prospective readers find you? A writer website gives you a competitive advantage as not only will it help people find you, but it boosts credibility and perceived value. Put simply, people are more likely to trust a brand with a dedicated website featuring detailed information and services than a business that doesn’t offer that. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Your website doesn\'t just provide information about you and your work, it can also boost your visibility on the internet. The more visitors you have, the higher the ranking on the search engine results page. According to Forbes, 75% of people never go past the first page of search engine results, hence the need for your website to rank as high as you can on the organic search engine results page. By incorporating SEO practices into a website for an article writer there is a decent chance of it being easily accessible. Regularly updating your website with relevant content and adding keywords to your content are SEO practices you should consider. So, if you are a romance writer specialising in books about Victorian detectives – make sure you use those terms as often as you (naturally) can on your website. Because when someone Googles ‘Romance novels featuring Victorian detectives’ you want to be the first person they find! Example 4In terms of design and functionality, Austin Kleon’s website is up there with top author pages. The website demonstrates his brand, it’s easy to use, and it’s evident that he updates it regularly and is always bringing out new books. Save Time and Money Aside from the fact that websites are affordable to set up and maintain, they can also save you a lot of time and money. When querying your work with agents, many ask for your website. Likewise, when press want to write about you and your book, you don’t have to keep sending long emails or press releases to each separate media company – simply direct them to your press kit on your site featuring bios, credited author photo download, and everything they need to know about your work and where to buy it. Publication Platform Having your own author website means you are free to publish your work, on your site, for free – whenever you want. As established earlier, there are no restrictions guiding the timing and content you can publish on your website. Many authors like to publish free short stories for their readers, or run competitions on their newsletters, or use this free content as a way to get people to subscribe to their newsletter. Example 5David Sedaris’s brilliant website showcases his books in a simple fashion. The “works” section on the website is unique, creative, and tells the whole story. Also, publishing content on your blog regularly keeps your visitors engaged and helps you collect feedback.  Derive Revenue A website can also be a valuable sales platform – especially for self-published authors. As of 2021, 27.6% of the world population makes the majority of their purchases online. It’s easier, quicker, and faster to buy books online than in a bookstore (especially with those with mobility issues, living in remote areas, or unable to leave the house). And with the recent lockdowns, online book purchasing has seen its largest rise ever. The best author websites have a payment gateway feature. You can integrate a payment system on your website that allows people to place orders for your book and checkout with ease or simply connect visitors to other distribution platforms such as your favourite indie bookstore, Amazon, or your publisher’s online shop. How Much Does a Website Cost to Create? Websites are cheaper and easier to set up and maintain than people realise. Your first stop is creating a domain name – this should be your author name. Luckily most people find that the url of their name isn’t taken. If it is, you can always add the word ‘books’ or ‘author’ after your name.Next you need to design your site. If you haven’t a clue how to create your own author website, there are several DIY sites such as WordPress, Squarespace or Wix.com with a template collection from which you can choose any author website template and edit it to your style. Examples of inspiring author website design templates can be also found on Pinterest. However, if you want a unique author website design, you can always hire a professional. Get Seen I hope this guide has helped you understand the importance of having an author website, and why it’s worth the investment in time and money. Not every author wants a website, and perhaps if you write for fun or only have one book to promote, you may not see the need for it. But remember, if your work is competing against that of dozens of similar writers – it’s the one with the largest online presence who will be found first! 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.
Read more

Average Book Sales Figures: A Transparent Look into Publishing

One thing that every writer naturally wants to know is how many copies of their book they can expect to sell. But clear answers are hard to come by. It isn’t just that book sales numbers for an individual title are dependent on so many different factors ranging from what kind of book it is, to who is publishing it, via a good dose of sheer luck. It’s also that industry figures for all book sales can be opaque and confusing. Making sense of it all is a considerable challenge. But hey! That’s why this guide is here. I won’t be able to make definite predictions for you in what follows, but I will be able to give you a good idea of how book sales are calculated, and how to make sense of book sales data. Along the way, I’ll also provide some useful benchmarks. Book Sales Sources First of all, let’s look into why book sales tracking is such a difficult business and why it’s hard to get reliable book sales figures. When people ask how to work out how many books they can expect to sell, the temptation here is to invoke the old cliché about working out the length of a piece of string. But the truth is even that analogy won’t cover it, because there isn’t a single reliable measuring device for book sales data. In the UK, for instance, print book sales charts generally rely on a system called Nielsen Bookscan (the US equivalent is called NPD Bookscan), which compiles point of sale data for bookshops. Which is to say, it counts how many books go through the tills. But it doesn’t count all books sold because not all shops that sell books are signed up to the system. It also doesn’t count sales from all websites, including the increasingly numerous and successful direct sale webstores on publishers’ sites. It doesn’t count ebook sales either.  This already out-of-focus picture is made even fuzzier by the difficulty of getting reliable sales figures from major online retailers like Amazon. And that’s before you get to the problem of working out audiobook sales figures once you factor in the complexity of all the different streaming and ‘credit’ systems used by platforms like Kobo and Audible. It’s also before you get to the essential points that publishers and retailers don’t tend to make sales figures public anyway - and that you have to pay a healthy subscription fee to access Nielsen’s figures. See? I told you it was complicated. What are Average Book Sales? Now, to add to the confusion… You might come across a few websites discussing average sales figures here and there on the internet. One figure that often crops up is that the average traditionally published title can expect to sell 3,000 copies in its lifetime. Another famous figure is that the average annual sales figures for literary fiction are lower than 250 copies in the UK. Because I’m a publisher, I sometimes give talks to ambitious students on creative writing courses and have to share that melancholy figure with them. You can imagine how it goes down. And then I have to make things even worse. I don’t want to encourage too much cynicism about the average sales figures you might read online, but I do want you to think about how useful they are. Once I’ve depressed those students with the 250 books figure, for instance, I remind them that this is just the mean average. And you have to know more than that to really understand books sales statistics. The mean average sales figure is calculated from the total number of books sold divided by the number of titles. Which is to say, if 100 books were sold, and there were ten different books the average sale of each book would be 10 copies. The trouble is that different books sell in vastly different numbers. That literary fiction figure includes hard hitters like Hilary Mantel and Booker Prize winners who may be selling close to a million copies in a given year. Which makes that 250 copies start to feel like an optimistic estimate! It\'s Not All Doom and Gloom Here’s another way of thinking about it.  Let’s go back to that figure of 100 books sold. Out of those 100 books, one book might sell 10 copies. Another couple might sell five. Then, three or four might sell four copies. And so on, down the list. If you extrapolate that out into the real world, it means that while the small number of bestsellers might skew the average figures, there are other useful calculations to make. It’s often a good idea, for instance, to look at the median figures as well as the mean average. Just a reminder - the mean is the total of the numbers, divided by how many numbers there are. So, for example: (4+4+6+15+100) ÷ 5 = 25.8 To find the median, you order the numbers and find out which one is in the middle of the list. If we look at the following list: 4, 4, 6, 15, 100 then the median is six.  (Just for statistical completeness, the mode, meanwhile, is the number that appears most often. In the example just given, it’s 4. It’s harder to relate this directly to book sales since the figures vary so much - but I mention it here in case you’re ever looking at figures that can be usefully rounded up or down.)There’s a useful article written by Lincoln Michel over on Electric Lit explaining that out of the books to hit the number one spot on The New York Times bestseller list in 2014, mean sales were 737,000, a figure which was heavily skewed by the 8 million copies of 50 Shades Of Grey that were sold. The median was 303,000. Michel also notes that these books probably made up 75% of that year’s total print sales, which gives you another impression of how skewed the market can be. More Cause for Optimism Confession time. I’ve kept something back from you. So far, I’ve been talking about annual sales figures. That’s distinct from the weekly sales figures that are used to compile book charts. And also, crucially, for the lifetime sales of a book. These, you’ll be glad to hear, tend to be higher. Indeed, if you’re lucky enough to have a book that comes out in both hardback and paperback, you could find yourself selling more books in your second year than your first. And even if you don’t, you can hope for some accumulation as time goes on.  What’s more those average figures I’ve been quoting may be on their way to being out of date. The book industry has been growing. In 2020 print book sales rose by 8.2% in the USA. For the year ending on Jan. 2 2021, units rose to 750.9 million, from 693.7 million the year before. (I know! That’s a lot of books!) In the UK, meanwhile, there were also reports of increases in 2020, even if the Nielsen Bookscan system wasn’t operating as usual. The Publisher Association reported that fiction sales income rose 13% to £285m, sales of digital consumer books rose 26% up to £125m and also said \'there was a 47% rise in UK sales of audiobooks (up to £39m), while the value of consumer ebook sales rose 18% to £86m.\'  This may be a blip. 2020 was a highly unusual year after all and books became a source of comfort as well as a very good way to fill time during lockdown. But there’s hope that plenty of people will have re-acquired the reading habit. It certainly seems that shops that have reopened have been enjoying brisk sales as people have also rediscovered the joy of browsing*.  *Another interesting fact - it’s very hard to talk about overall annual sales figures until after Christmas. I’m writing this article in October 2021. Plenty of stores will still be hoping that more than half of their annual trading will be done in the next few weeks. Christmas is the big time in book world. In fact, many of the top selling books each year aren’t even released until October. So we won’t know about the top selling books of 2021 for a while. Most Popular Genres Time for another confession. Literary fiction may be the genre that most interests students on creative writing courses - but it is not the only game in town. In the UK, in 2017, Nielsen Bookscan figures showed the crime books had become the bestselling fiction books, with 18.7 million sold, compared to 18.1 million general fiction titles. Statistica have also put out research showing that the mystery/thriller/crime was most popular genre in the USA. 47% of their survey respondents said they had read a crime book up to July 2015. Meanwhile, a writer called Geoff Affleck did some useful number crunching on the US Amazon store back in 2019, for instance, and discovered that a mighty 25% of the top bestselling ebooks on Amazon were Romance, Women’s Fiction, and Teen novels (and, he noted, a good proportion of those were “the kind with ripped, bare-chested hunky men on the cover.”)  Perhaps the best way to sell books is to become a writer of ebook romance?  Meanwhile, adult nonfiction sales have also continued to grow. Affleck also provided the following top list for print books (with the number in brackets being the average Amazon ranking of the top five books in each category): 1. Biographies & Memoirs (10) 2. Self-Help (15) 3. Religion & Spirituality (20) 4. Health, Fitness & Dieting (22) 5. Politics & Social Sciences (24) He also did a breakdown of ebook sales using the same method: 1. Religion & Spirituality (61) 2. Biographies & Memoirs (96) 3. Business & Money (123) 4. Self-Help (146) 5. Cook Books, Food & Wine (171) Best Selling Books of All Time Let’s carry on in an optimistic vein and look at the top ten best-selling fiction books of all time. It’s fun to dream, after all.  1.The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien 140.6 million copies 2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher\'s Stone by J. K. Rowling 120 million copies 3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 100 million copies 4. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin 100 million copies 5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie 100 million copies 6. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis 85 million copies 7. She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard 83 million copies 8. The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le avventure di Pinocchio) by Carlo Collodi 35-80 million copies 9. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown 80 million copies 10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling 77 million copies A few caveats. These figures are estimates. This list doesn’t include older titles like Miguel De Cervantes\' Don Quixote (which some estimate at having sold 500 million copies), or Charles Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities (some say 200 million copies). JRR Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings isn’t in there either, because of the confusion over the fact it’s been sold both as a single book and with its three parts separated out. Final Numbers... Okay. Back to reality. Not everyone gets to sell 100 million books. Sometimes, you might be lucky to reach 100 people. And, okay, we don’t hear as much about those books at the lower end of the spectrum. We don’t, as this article has explained, even get to hear how many copies those books have sold without subscribing to expensive aggregators like BookScan. Publishers only really tend to share those figures with their authors and agents. Not because they’re trying to hide anything, but because there’s no real demand that they should.  There are also the feelings of the writer to consider. I can tell you, for instance, that I am not keen for anyone to know the sales figures of some of my own worst-sellers…but, I hope with time, I’ve also grown realistic about these things.  The main lesson here is that you shouldn’t just measure success in terms of hard sales. Bringing a book to completion is a victory in and of itself. It takes skill and dedication - and if you touch only one reader with your work, that still means you’ve had an impact, which has to count for something. 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.
Read more

Writing Under a Pen Name – Pros and Cons

When I used to dream about being a published author, I always imagined taking a paperback off the shelf and seeing my name on it. I’m working on book fourteen now and none of them have my full name on. Instead, I have two pen names - Rhoda Baxter and Jeevani Charika.  A great many authors use pen names (or a ‘nom de plume’ if you want to be fancy) for a whole variety of reasons.  But what are the pitfalls to look out for? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Read on to find out. Why Writers Use Pen Names Steven King is also Richard Bachmann, Nora Roberts is also J D Robb, Jill March and Sarah Hardesty, and Dean Koonz has had so many names that it’s hard to keep count. Having all these different names seems unnecessarily complicated. So why do it?  Here are some common reasons: PrivacyBrand differentiationDisguising gender or raceTo consolidate several writers under one name All of these and more are discussed below and, because this is a pros and cons article, there are some pitfalls to watch out for too. Advantages of Writing Under a Pen Name Privacy This is probably the number one reason that most people want a pen name. Being a public personality can be scary. It may be that you don’t want prospective employers (or clients) to put your name into Google and come up with all the dinosaur sci fi novels you wrote. Or perhaps you write erotica, and you really don’t want your friends and family to know (or worse, if you’re a teacher - the school to know!). If you’ve written something highly political or an exposé about real people, you might not want journalists hounding you for comment.  There is no wrong reason for wanting to maintain your privacy. In this hyper-connected age, it’s nice to be able to put some space between your public persona and your private life. Branding Some genres have expectations attached. A name like Amy Silver lends itself well to a Christmas romcom, for example, but might jar a bit on the cover of a psychological thriller. But ‘Paula Hawkins’, now that’s a nice thriller name. In case you haven’t guessed, they are the same person writing in two very different genres.  If you write in more than one genre, having two pen names helps you keep your reader groups separate. Sticking with the Paula Hawkins example - having two names stops a reader expecting a romcom and getting a thriller. Some authors write across genres under the same name, but your publisher may ask you to think about using a different pen name if your new book is a departure from your usual style, or if they want to build a new brand for you. For me, the Jeevani Charika books all feature at least one Asian protagonist, while the Rhoda Baxter ones are mostly about white protagonists. To Create a Distinct Public Persona  It can be helpful to have a distinct writer persona, especially if you’re shy in real life. One of my favourite things about having a pen name is that ‘Rhoda’ is slightly different to the real me on social media. While the fundamentals were the same, she’s more outgoing, and much more cheerful than I am. When speaking at events I always feel less self-conscious if I imagine that Rhoda or even Jeevani Charika is a completely different person to me.  Hiding Your Gender If you’re a woman writing in a traditionally male dominated genre, you might want to use a male pen name in order to sell more books. If you\'re a man writing romance or sagas, you might consider writing under a female pen name. Many writers like to keep things ambiguous and use their initials and a last name (which doesn’t have to be their real last name).  Making Your Race Less Obvious Okay, this is a contentious one. This was one of the reasons my early romcoms came out under the name Rhoda Baxter, rather than my Sri Lankan name.  My first book was about Sri Lankans. I got a lot of very nice rejections from agents with notes along the lines of ‘I like it, but I don’t know where I’d place it’. After a while, I wrote a second book - a romcom about a white heroine. I found a publisher (in the US) relatively quickly. They asked if I was going to use a pen name. I’m a microbiologist by training, so I named myself after Rhodobacter sphaeroides, the bacterium I did my thesis on). ‘Much easier to Google’, the publisher said, approvingly.  I used my own photo in the bio and talked about my Sri Lankan heritage openly - this was not a catfishing exercise - but it meant that on the shelf, my romcom looked like all the other romcoms.  That was 2011. I didn’t get a publishing contract for a book under the name Jeevani Charika until 2018. I know a few other romance authors of colour who started off using white-sounding pen names to get established and then moved to using names closer to their real ones as romance publishers became more open to the idea of non-white names on the cover. It\'s not a good idea to try this if you’re actually white. To Make Your Name More Memorable If you have a fairly unremarkable name, then you can have fun choosing a dramatic and memorable author name. To Differentiate Yourself From Another Author With a Similar Name Occasionally, you’ll find two different authors who have the same name. This is a huge pain because it confuses retailer algorithms, and it confounds readers. You can avoid this by using a pseudonym or just adding a middle initial to your name.  To Combine the Work of Two (or More) People The author Juliet Bell writes Bronte retellings set in the early 20th century. Behind the name are two authors (Janet Gover and Alison May) who write romance and women’s fiction. Sometimes a prolific pen name like Franklin W Dixon (The Hardy Boys) and Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew) can be supported by a whole host of ghost writers. As a Whimsical Touch to Enhance the Book Occasionally, you see pen names that are closely related to the characters in the book, which make it look like the book was written by one of the characters. For example, Daniel Handler’s children’s books in A Series of Unfortunate Events are presented as the memoirs written by Lemony Snickett. Because the Publisher Requested it Sometimes publishers will ask you to choose a different pseudonym - either for branding reasons, as discussed above; because you’re too prolific and they can’t publish more than a couple of books under each name in any given year; or simply because they want to market you as a ‘new’ author (especially if your last book didn’t sell very well).  Disadvantages of Using a Pen Name There are undoubtedly many advantages to using a pen name, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. Here is the counter argument. Your Friends May Not Recognise the Book as Yours Imagine you’ve just told your friend about the publication of your new book. Being a supportive and delightful person, they talk about it in the pub later ... except they can’t remember your pen name. Since friends and family can be a good way to spread the word, you could lose some word-of-mouth recommendations. More Names Mean More Marketing I found this out to my cost. When the first Jeevani Charika book came out, I excitedly set up new social media accounts and a new website. But keeping up a presence in all these places is quite hard work with one name - keeping up TWO was exhausting. In the end, I gave up and changed the name of my Rhoda Twitter account to include both names. I still maintain two separate websites, though. Despite the websites mentioning the other pen name, not many readers click through from one site to the other.  Achievements in One Name Don’t Translate to the Other As I mentioned before, readers don’t often go from one pen name to another, even in genres that appear to be closely related. So your achievements in one pen name will mean nothing to readers who read the other pen name.  In real life, you could win a major award, but none of your friends would know about it because they didn’t make the connection. Sometimes the consequences of this disconnect can be massive. An inverse example is Robert Galbraith - whose novels did moderately well, until it was revealed that Robert Galbraith was a pen name for JK Rowling. The books became instant bestsellers. Financial Complications It is usual to sign publishing contracts under your real name, despite the books coming out under a pen name (you can request that your identity is kept confidential). This makes it easier for the publisher to pay you, as they can send payment to your real name.  If you need to keep your identity secret, you can sign contracts in your pen name, but that may make it harder for you to prove that you are the owner of the copyright and there may be additional hoops to jump through to get your royalties paid. Consolidation Difficulty What if one of your pen names becomes a runaway bestseller? You might want to consolidate all the other books you have under the more popular pen name. This is difficult, but not insurmountable. Before the Shopaholic books took off, Sophie Kinsella wrote novels under the name \'Madeleine Wickham’ - they have now been remarketed as ‘Sophie Kinsella writing as Madeleine Wickham’, so that Sophie’s readers can find them easily. Being More Than One Person is Confusing Okay, this might be just me, but sometimes I forget which writer persona I’m meant to be. If you’re going on a podcast, for example, it’s good to work out which persona you’re going to be beforehand, especially if your pen names belong to very different genres. Sometimes Readers Feel Betrayed This is a strange one. Using pen names is long established in the writing world (George Elliot, George Orwell, Mark Twain are all pseudonyms), but some readers are offended by well-known authors using new pen names. They feel like the author is ‘lying’ to them, especially if an established author is being presented as an exciting new debut. There isn’t a lot you can do about this, apart from telling your followers when you’re starting a new pen name.  Legal issues to Using a Pen Name It is not advisable to use an established author’s name as a pen name. If you write a horror novel and stick ‘Stephen King’ on the cover - you will almost certainly hear from his lawyers. You can trademark a pen name.Signing a contract under a pen name does not let you get out of your contractual obligations.In the US, you can register copyright under your real name or your pen name (but the length of copyright is different). So Should You Use a Pen Name? Now that you know all the pros and cons of using a pen name, should you use a pen name? There is no right or wrong answer. Personally, I like having pen names (although I find having two hard work). The pen names provide a tiny bit of separation from my books, which helps me feel a little less awkward about promoting them. Think about the pros and cons and work out what would work best for you. Good luck … whatever you end up calling yourself. 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. 
Read more

How to Write a Story Pitch

You’ve just typed ‘The End’ and you know that this story or article is hands down the best thing you have ever written. I believe you. I do. But before you go attaching your work and bashing out an email where you will tell the recipient that this story will take the world by storm, let’s take a little time to concentrate on arguably the most important part of your road to publication: Your story pitch. With submissions in publishing at an all-time high, with most agents receiving around forty to fifty submissions a day, the job of your story pitch is to (as quickly as possible) make your story stand out from the crowd. In this guide we will look at how to grab the attention of your pitch reviewer from the minute they open your email.  In just the opening line, we are going to make your reader sit up and take notice of your submission. Not only that, but we’re also going to tell them why it will sell, why they should pick your story above all the other submissions, using the example below of a story pitch template. So, before you go hitting that send button, let’s talk about why getting your story pitch right is important and what you need to do to get it right the first time. What is a Story Pitch? A story pitch is a succinct way of explaining what your story is about, what makes it right for the person you are pitching it to, and why it will sell. Pitches are used throughout the publishing industry, be it journalists pitching to newspapers and magazines, screenwriters wanting the next hit on Netflix, or authors hoping to grab an agent’s attention with a view to bagging that all important publishing deal.  Regardless of where in the industry you are aiming to see your work, a good story pitch is vital if you’re hoping to break into this highly competitive market. Why is it Important to Know How to Pitch Your Story? As a new writer, the question I most dreaded was, ‘What’s your story about?’ I would describe what happens at the beginning of the book, waffle on using words like, ‘oh and then’ and ‘meanwhile,’ and after five minutes I would see the person’s eyes glaze over. Publishers, agents, and booksellers do not have that time. Not only do you need to be able to pitch your idea quickly, but they will also need to when they try to sell it to publishers or bookshops. The good news is that if you can show them how easily your story will grab a reader’s attention from the onset, then you’ve just made their job a whole lot easier. How to Pitch a Story Right, so you have this killer story, you know it’s something special, so how on earth do you describe this masterpiece in just one line or, at best, a short paragraph?  The easiest way is to focus on the key elements of your story (for novel submissions, forget about your side characters and subplots for now, that will all become apparent in your synopsis). To hone your pitch, you need to concentrate on the key elements of your story, why it will fit that publishing establishment and why they need you. So, what does a good story pitch include? A hooky first lineA short paragraph describing your story by focusing on the key elements. For fiction these will be your protagonist - the event that upsets their world; what they hope to achieve and what is getting in their wayA popular comparison to explain genre, setting, themeA reason why your work will fit that establishmentCredentials explaining why they should work with you Simple right? But what if you’re not sure of the answers to these questions? Know Your Story Before you begin writing your pitch, you must be able to identify the key elements of your story. For a novel submission, here are five key components you must highlight when writing a good story pitch. 1. Your Protagonist The first thing a pitch reviewer will be asking is who is your protagonist and most importantly why should we be rooting for them? You might know the answer to this, but to pitch successfully, you need to tell that agent/publisher why your readers are going to want them to succeed. Unless we are rooting for them, why should we care what happens to them? Why would we keep turning the pages? Your explanation of your protagonist can be as simple as a bubbly hard-working woman called Helen who has never caught a break, or on the other end of the spectrum, we could have Rob, a grieving father who has tracked down the person who killed his daughter. 2. The Event That Upsets Their World Now we know and are championing your protagonist, what happens to push them out of their comfort zone and into a new world? This is very important because this is often where you will find the hook of your novel, the reason that a reader will have picked up your story from the shelf, the thing that screams out from the blurb. So, does Helen, the bubbly hardworking woman suddenly get offered the job of a lifetime? Or does Rob the grieving father kill the wrong person? 3. What do they eventually want to achieve? What is their goal? Now we have your lovable protagonist thrown into a new world, what is it they want? Does Helen now want to leave the new high-pressure job? Does Rob want to atone for his mistake? 4. What is standing in their way? Next, what is stopping your protagonist from getting what they want?  Has Helen become tangled up in some dodgy dealings with her new employer? Does Rob’s victim’s family come after him? Now you know these answers, it’s time to show where your story fits in the market. 5. Compare Your Story Finally, and very importantly, what book can your story be compared to? Not sure? No problem, these comparisons can be a mix of literature, film or simply an author. It’s all about highlighting the story and the style of writing. Feel free to mix them up! The above examples could be ‘If Sophie Kinsella had written The Firm’ or ‘Dexter meets Gone Girl.’  Take some time to think about comparisons, your examples should reflect your genre, protagonist, and style.   Do Your Research Congratulations, you can now identify the key elements to your story and you have your comparisons ready - so what now? The first thing is to research the organisation you are targeting. Take some time to look at the novels on their lists, or if you’re pitching a magazine or newspaper check if they have published similar articles and when?  Follow Submission Guidelines I know you’re chomping at the bit to get your story out there, but a word of caution. Check the submission guidelines. If the agent/editor/magazine asks for a one-page synopsis, do not send them three. If they only accept email submissions, do not send them a hard copy. If you can’t find submission guidelines on their website, then contact them for clarification. Ensure A Clear Subject Line for Email Pitches Once again, make sure you comply with the submission guidelines. Often an agency will have an email address specifically for submissions; the most common format in this case would be to have your book title followed by your name in the subject line. Check what they are looking for. Engage with a Strong Opening Line Right then, here we go.  You’ve checked who you are sending your submission to and you have stuck to the guidelines - so now it’s time to grab their attention. Remember that first impressions count, so before you explain your idea in more detail, grab your pitch reviewer’s attention with the very first line. A good way to do this is by using the words ‘what if’ or ‘imagine’: ‘What if you landed your dream job only to find out that you couldn’t escape it?’ or ‘Imagine if your daughter was murdered and you knew where her killer lived.’ Within your first line you have grabbed their attention, pitched your hook, genre and shown your protagonist. Construct the pitch Now is the time to expand your story pitch in a short paragraph revealing those all-important key elements:  ‘Imagine if Sophie Kinsella had written The Firm, this is what you get in my romantic comedy THE DREAM JOB where we meet Helen who…’ or ‘With shades of Gone Girl and Dexter, my psychological thriller I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE follows Robert Green, a grieving father who is set on a path of revenge when he finds out where his daughter’s killer lives…’  Provide Compelling Reasons to Publish You have their attention, they like your idea, so why should they consider your story for publication as opposed to the other pitches in their submission pile? Easy, you tell them!  You tell them where it sits in the market, which titles are similar but what makes your story stand out: Do you have an unusual protagonist? Is it set over the course of just one week? Or in a village during a power cut?  This is your chance to show them you know what you’re talking about and how this book is going to make them (and you!) a lot of money. Tell Them About Yourself You’ve done it, you’ve intrigued them - now they need to know about you. Tell them about your qualifications, your credentials and background but keep it brief.  If you haven’t got any qualifications, explain why you’ve decided to become a writer. If you have been published before, mention this and provide a link to any relevant online resources or profiles.  Thank Them for Their Attention Last, but not least, thank the pitch reviewer for their time and attention.  Always be polite and professional.  If you have established a positive professional relationship already, they may keep you in mind for future projects.  Story Pitch Template Excited? I am!  You now have all the tools to pitch your story - so here is a basic story pitch template to help you along the way: Subject line: Follow the guidelines for story pitches to agents/publishers. This will often be your book title followed by your name. Salutation: Be sure to address this to the correct person. If you are unsure who will read your submission, a simple ‘Hi!’ will suffice.Headline and Introduction: Start with a simple and brief ‘I hope this email finds you well’ then get straight to your one-line story pitch or headline, if you are approaching magazines/newspapers.  Make this as engaging and grabby as you can! For fiction, here is where you can use your ‘Imagine’ and ‘What if…’ sentence starters.Story Summary:  Make this a short, concise paragraph where you focus on the key elements to your story.Story Relevance: Explain who this story will appeal to, why it stands out from the crowd, why it will sell. Author Bio: Add your credentials, background, qualifications, or if this is your first foray into the publishing world, explain why; be passionate about your decision.Contact Details: Give details of how you wish to be contacted.  Make sure this is all correct. One typo in an email or missing number in your phone number could mean all the difference.Thanks: Thank them for reading your pitch, be polite, friendly and professional at all times (especially if you are rejected). Writing a Story Pitch And there we have it! I hope that this guide helps you understand the importance of your story pitch and what is needed to pitch successfully.  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. 
Read more

‘Ghost Girl, Banana’: Wiz Wharton on choosing a publisher and staying true to your heart as a writer

We first met Wiz when the opening of her debut novel was longlisted for Friday Night Live at the 2020 Summer Festival of Writing. She went on to win our bursary for the Self-Editing Your Novel course, and after receiving six (!) offers, is now represented by the RCW Literary Agency. \'Ghost Girl, Banana\' was pre-empted by Hodder Studio and will be published as its major summer launch in 2023. Here, we got to chat to Wiz about staying true to your heart as a writer, the importance of a writing community, and more. JW: Tell us a little about your background as a writer. When did you start writing? WW: I was an absolutely voracious reader as a kid, and I think that naturally led me to think it would be something fun and easy to do as a job - haha! I remember when I was about six, I sent a hand-drawn children’s manuscript to Hamish Hamilton, called Tilly and the Flower People. It was about a gang of rebellious tulips plotting a coup against their greedy human nursery boss (don’t ask). One of the editors sent me the loveliest reply - a rejection, obviously, with two bits of advice: 1) Never send your original MS through the postal system and 2) Keep trying. I actually started my career in a different field, studying screenwriting at the National Film and Television School where I had the privilege of being taught by some of the greats like Stephen Frears, Mike Leigh and Ken Trodd. My graduation film won a couple of prizes on the international film circuit and from there I was picked up by the BBC. I subsequently worked on a few projects, but ultimately none of them were green-lit - another hard lesson in rejection! JW: What was the first piece of work you put through the submissions process? What was that like? WW: My first adult submission was for a novel that I believed sat firmly in the genre of literary/upmarket commercial. What I was subsequently told by two agents - who offered me representation - was that I’d written an “unintentional thriller” and could I please make it more of one! I absolutely love thrillers as a reader, but in my heart knew that this was not my natural home as a writer. I also knew that I was in this as a career rather than a one-book thing, and worried how I would follow this, having set up readers’ expectations of my work. As a result, and after much soul-searching, I turned down both offers and started again... Finding a community JW: How has having a community of writers around you helped with your writing journey? Do you have any advice for writers trying to find their community? WW: I think the best thing a writer can do - apart from reading everything you can get your hands on - is to find a group of people who understand you. For writers, that’s other writers because no one else can quite comprehend either why we do what we do, or the struggles of the journey. I was incredibly lucky to discover the Twitter writing community early on, especially the #VWG (Virtual Writing Group) who have been absolutely instrumental in keeping me going, but there are other outlets available too: in-person groups, creative writing initiatives/courses (like Jericho Writers!) Instagram and Facebook. The best way to find your tribe is to engage with others. You have to put in the effort because writing is a reciprocal act. What I mean is that it’s not just about creating; you’re always looking to find and understand your audience. It’s intimidating at first, but just say hi, offer suggestions to questions, enter competitions or things like #pitmad, #askagent and #WritersLift, or congratulate someone else’s achievements. By and large, the writing community is incredibly generous and inclusive, despite occasional pockets of unpleasantness, and you will be welcomed. You have to put in the effort because writing is a reciprocal act. What I mean is that it’s not just about creating; you’re always looking to find and understand your audience. JW: Tell us about Friday Night Live. What was that experience like? WW: I was a festival novice when I entered and didn’t think I had any chance of being longlisted, so it was wonderful to have that validation. And just entering a competition is an act of faith and bravery, so I have a lot of admiration for anyone that does it. I didn’t reach the shortlist of FNL but my experience with Jericho did lead to me winning the Self-Edit bursary that year, and being noticed in other competitions, so it’s definitely worth putting yourself out there. I will add that the quality and standard of teaching at Jericho Writers is wonderful, but if you can’t stretch to the cost of a professional assessment or a course, the Summer Festival of Writing is a brilliant, affordable alternative that gives you access to some of the greatest speakers and workshops on writing. The fairytale choice JW: You submitted to six agents and received four manuscript requests within an hour. You also received six offers! How did that feel? Was the process what you expected? WW: I’m still reeling, actually! It’s an enormous privilege and a thrill to have that response to your work, but I do think a lot of it came down to timing and a public appetite for more diverse stories. This wasn’t my first rodeo, and I’d been told previously that my writing was sound but my voice was too marginal for the market. Because of this, I was girding my loins for rejection again (and the famously long wait for a response), so to have that turnaround was a bit bewildering. I remember speaking to my friends in the #VWG and saying “X has asked for a meeting. What does this mean?” You always wonder “is this the call?” because sometimes it isn’t; sometimes it’s a request for a revise and resubmit (an “R&R”), but it just happened that all six offered representation. And as much as it was an absolute fairytale situation, I can’t even begin to describe the agony of making a final choice and having to turn people down. It felt really alien to me, and I do think it’s important to remember that agents are people, too, and they are also said no to daily - be that through editors, publishers or sometimes even writers! I do think it’s important to remember that agents are people, too, and they are also said no to daily - be that through editors, publishers or sometimes even writers! JW: Rather unusually, you’re represented by two agents. What is your working relationship with them like? WW: I am incredibly blessed in that department. I have to say that the wonderful Claire Wilson is my primary agent at RCW and helps me day to day with absolutely everything, but Peter Straus has also taken me under his wing and emails me with incredible advice, offers editorial notes, or sometimes just emails to ask if I’m okay. It’s incredibly collaborative and nurturing, as is the whole agency. Claire’s assistant Safae and all at the foreign rights team are also majorly amazing. I’m working on that “difficult” book two now and Peter and Claire have both been brilliant in terms of their insights. JW: How did the offer from Hodder come about? WW: Claire drew up a submissions list for both the UK and US. We’d spent the previous five weeks rewriting the manuscript (twice) to try and make it as strong as possible before sending it out as we wanted to catch people before the summer break. The “nos” came quickly, and quite fast, but the fact they were all for different reasons helped me view them as subjective rather than a fault with the book itself. And that’s the thing. A book lives for a long time in these early phases and for that reason you absolutely NEED an editor to be in love with it 100%. Some of the editors were incredibly passionate about the book, but it fell at the acquisitions meeting stage for one reason or another. I do think there’s this misconception that only one person has to love your book for it to be published, but it actually takes a village to get to that finish line. Luckily, we did have a fair bit of interest from both here and in the US, but when I had my first meeting with Sara Adams at Hodder I knew instinctively that she was who I wanted to work with. First of all, she’d brought her lucky cat to the meeting (haha) but secondly, her whole team was on board already and loved the book. Most importantly, however, Sara understood the story to its bones which is crucial to me as a writer. We were immediately on the same page about what might need changing/tweaking whilst maintaining the heart and integrity of the novel. That combination was irresistible to both me and Claire. And can I just add that I am so glad to have had an agent at that point; not just for the professional connections but for the negotiations that took place after the offers came through. It was stressful enough handling the phone calls, let alone doing all the figures behind the scenes! A book lives for a long time in these early phases and for that reason you absolutely NEED an editor to be in love with it 100%. JW: Finally, do you have any tips for writers working on their debut right now? WW: In much the same way as any creative field, writing is a skill acquired over many years of dedication and training, and the journey is fraught with disappointment and “almost there”s. Keep the faith, but also keep reading and learning. No one can write your story your way, so as tempting as it is to compare yourself to others it’s also counterproductive to finding and loving your own voice. Your voice is what makes you special and uniquely qualified to tell your story. Write with your heart rather than with one eye on the market (you’ll always be behind the curve) and do it as if no one is looking. Find a support network of other writers and be generous and sincere in your praise. Connect with agents professionally and courteously and don’t trash talk on social media, even when you’re at your lowest. And if you achieve your dream, whether that’s finishing a book or being published, or being successfully published, don’t pull the ladder up after you. I wish you all the very best on the journey. About Wiz Wiz Wharton is a prize-winning graduate from the National Film and Television School. Previously published in non-fiction, she has appeared on various broadcast platforms, including radio, television, and print media. Her debut novel, Ghost Girl, Banana - based on her mother’s posthumously discovered diaries - is a dual narrative examining the search for belonging and identity, set between the last years of the Chinese Windrush in 1966 and Hong Kong’s Handover to China in 1997. Wiz currently divides her time between London and the Scottish Highlands. Read more about Wiz on the RCW website; or on The Bookseller. Connect with Wiz on Twitter: @Chomsky1
Read more

What is Copyediting?

What is Copyediting? - A Complete Guide What is copyediting, and why is it a vital part of the writing process? Before I was a traditionally published writer, I thought that you had one editor. I imagined this editor would give me structural feedback, fix all of my spelling and grammar, and ta da! It would all be ready for the printers. I was wrong, very wrong. Editing isn’t one process; it has several levels to it. In traditional publishing you will receive a structural edit from the editor who has commissioned your work, often a line edit, to check every line to make sure that each sentence is as effective as possible, a copyedit, and finally a proofread. But whether you are hoping to be traditionally published or are self-publishing your own work, a copyedit can mean the difference between a good book and a great one. So what is a copyediting and why do you need it? Below you will find information on why a copyedit is so important, how a copyedit differs from proofreading, and exactly what a good copyedit involves. What is Copyediting? Copyediting is a process of revision, which focuses on eliminating grammatical and factual errors, ensuring consistency and improved readability. That sounds straight-forward, yet a copyeditor does more than fix your grammar and dodgy formatting. Yes, they can spot when you’ve written ‘weather’ instead of ‘whether’ and when you’ve accidentally popped an apostrophe for possession in the word its (we’ve all done it!), but they also do so much more. A copyeditor will notice if you are repeating words. They will spot if in one paragraph you’ve spelled your drink as ‘whiskey’ and in the next chapter it’s ‘whisky’; they might even stop you from writing a sentence that is running on without any punctuation whatsoever so that if you tried to read it out loud your face would be turning blue and you would be on the verge of passing out (see what I did there?). Consistency also plays a huge part in the copyediting process. Your copyeditor will scour your manuscript to spot if your character’s eye colours change from a glacial blue in the first chapter to a muddy brown in the thirtieth, and those all-important moments where you’ve slipped from first person to third person, then back again. And then, of course, there’s the dreaded timeline. The word a lot of us flinch at the mere mention of! Yes, your copyeditor will be there, calendar in hand, to tell you that those dates don’t fit correctly with events you have described. So, let’s look at the copyediting process in more detail. What a Copyeditor Does The role of a copyeditor will largely depend on the condition of the manuscript in front of them, where it will be published, and the time/budget available. Their job is to offer revisions of the following key elements: Align title order and apply consistency in fonts and headings sizesCheck and amend spelling and grammar errorsCheck continuity of place/character names Check continuity of character and setting cosmeticsImprove clarity of language, ensuring the narrative runs smoothlyEnsure that the correct captions are with the appropriate photographConfirm citations match the content of the reference sectionHighlight potential legal liability, with a view to keeping you and your manuscript safe from possible legal action against youHighlight overuse of jargonSuggest changes for repetitionRaise discrepancies in the timeline When you receive your copy edits back, for the most part, your copyeditor will correct your manuscript digitally with track changes on so you can see exactly where you have made (often laughable) mistakes; remember that character, Brian? Well, you have called him Brain for most of your manuscript, but look, your wonderful copyeditor has ironed out all those Brains for you. Phew! There are times when your copyeditor will need your input if they are unsure of your meaning, or think rewording a sentence would help make your manuscript run smoothly. They will add a comment on your document to bring this to your attention. It’s considered quite rare by today’s standards, but should they find themselves working on a paper copy you may find that a copyeditor will use copyediting symbols which a proof-reader may use. In this case, the hard copy would be passed to another editor before it comes to you. At this point some of you may be saying - hold on, I thought a copyeditor was a proofreader? Fear not, my friends, I shall explain all… Difference Between Copyediting and Proofreading Remember how I said at the beginning that there are several levels of editing? Well, proofreading is the last one. Once your manuscript has been copyedited, you will now have a revised version of your manuscript. You have agreed/declined their amendments (yes, you can disagree, it is still your book!) it is then time to have a proof-reader examine your work. You may be thinking - why do I need a copyeditor if it then has to be proofread anyway?  As we’ve already discussed, a copyeditor’s job is to not only look at spelling and grammar but offer an in-depth scrutiny of your manuscript. By the time a proof-reader receives a manuscript, it will be an almost finished piece of work; it will have been to typesetting and the pages in front of them (a PDF if it’s a digital copy) will look like the pages in your book. The job of the proof-reader is to correct any errors that have fallen through the net and they will be focusing on the finished product that is about to go to print. A proof-reader will be ensuring that the house style of the publisher is met. For example, you may have written okay, but your publisher’s house style may be OK. They will look at your page numbers, ensure no pages are missing and even check for repetition of words that sit above each other – often referred to as stacking — in the text.   At the proofreading stage, there should be no major changes in the text, just the odd one-word correction or possibly a paragraph if it’s deemed necessary. If there are too many errors, a proof-reader may return the proof and request further copyediting.  In short, a copyedit will contain a vast number of revisions based on the quality of your writing, the content of your story, as well as the layout and any syntax errors. A proof-reader’s corrections are often minimal as they are working on the final draft of your work. They are there to put the icing on the cake, to straighten your tie, to make sure your knickers aren’t tucked into your dress before you leave the house. Why Copyediting is Important Copyediting is an invaluable part of the publication process. Without it, you may be sending out a manuscript where your main character is called Brain not Brian, where your characters have the ability to change eye colour at any given time in your novel, and where a year in your work may actually be fourteen months long. You may think your manuscript is ready to be published without a copyeditor, but even the most established and experienced writers make mistakes. Copyeditors are the quality gatekeepers of the publishing world and may well hold the keys to your success. How Long does Copyediting Take? Writers by and large are an impatient bunch, so how long will you have to wait to have your work copyedited? For a fairly clean manuscript by a professional author, a copy editor will read approximately 1500 words an hour. For a less experienced writer on average it would take 1000-1250 words an hour. If you are thinking of taking the plunge, all reputable copyediting services will be able to provide a quote and an expected delivery date. Do I Need a Copyeditor? Whether you are self-publishing or hoping to be traditionally published, copyediting is a vital part of the publishing process. Without it, the quality of your work may suffer and the wonderful story you are telling may be put aside in favour of the enigmatic blue-eyed Brian whose exciting story unfolds over the course of just one year... not a year and two months. As my own work is currently off to be copyedited, I would like to thank copyeditors everywhere; you are my heroes, and Brian and I are forever in your debt. 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. 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.
Read more

How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book?

How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book? As a writer, your passion is your writing—you care about getting your ideas out there. But as you near the end of your writing process, the question of publishing costs pops up with all the tact of an uninvited party guest. Suddenly, there are decisions to make—important ones, and they can be daunting. How much is this really going to cost? How do I know if this quote is reasonable? Do I really need this service? The temptation to ignore the business side can be strong, but don’t give in. Your book’s success depends on you giving it a solid business foundation, and that starts with a sane budget. After reading this article, you’ll feel confident creating a budget for your book. You’ll know which factors affect prices, how much you should expect to pay for each service, and a reasonable ballpark for your total budget. Book Publication Costs A budget is more than just a list of prices—it’s about priorities. This article will familiarise you with what various services cost. Allocating your money wisely and planning your launch are topics of their own, and you can read about them here: How to Self-Publish Your Book on Amazon KDPHow Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?Literary Agent Fees Meanwhile, if what you’re really interested in is traditional publishing, you’ll want to read How to Get Your Book Published in 2021. And if you’re not sure of which route to take, Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing is the article for you. Still here, and still ready to talk prices? Let’s go! Production Costs Almost all publishing budgets include editing, layout, cover design, and ISBNs. For certain non-fiction books, indexing will also be a significant expense. What do each of these services cost? How are the fees typically structured, and which factors influence the final price? Let’s take a look at each one in detail. Book Editing Costs and Proofreading Costs For most self-published books, the biggest non-marketing cost is editing, accounting for around half the production budget. And rightfully so! Ask any successful author and they’ll tell you: never skimp on editing. Even if you’re a professional editor yourself, there’s no substitute for the perspective of a trained professional who lives outside your head. What Influences Editing Costs? The length of the manuscript. (You want them to check every word, right?)The difficulty of the manuscript. If you’re the type of writer who can weave a great yarn, but is a little “loose” with their text, your editor may charge a higher rate. Meanwhile, technical non-fiction content will require a specialist editor, also at a higher rate.The depth of the edit. Editing that reviews elements of style (phrasing, tone, word choice) is more costly than editing strictly for correctness (grammar, spelling, typos). The experience of your editor. An experienced editor won’t necessarily catch more mistakes, but they will have established work habits that allow them to be more efficient, reliable, and consistent. How Do Editors Structure Their Fees? There are two common fee structures: per-length or per-time. In a per-length scheme, the editor quotes a guaranteed cost based on the number of words or pages in your manuscript. In a per-time scheme, the editor quotes an hourly rate, and usually provides an estimate of the number of hours required. Per-length rates are more common in the modern self-publishing community, probably because they provide cost certainty to the author. However, there’s nothing wrong with a per-hour rate. If your editor can provide a reliable estimate of the time your edit will require, it boils down to almost the same thing. A Note on Terminology: Editing terms can be confusing because they vary between countries and between writing communities. Is it a copy edit, or a line edit? A line edit, or a stylistic edit? When requesting quotes, it’s best to specify the scope of editing you need, instead of assuming a common vocabulary. For example, you might ask for an editor to correct “grammar, spelling, and typos, but not matters of style or flow”. (If an editor’s website gives you their definition of terms, you can safely use those.) What Does Editing Actually Cost? Here are typical ranges, using all three price structures, in US dollars: Type of editPer-wordPer-page (300w)Per-hourStyle + correctness$0.015-$0.020/word$4.50-$6.00/page$15-20/hrCorrectness only$0.010-$0.012/word$3.00-$3.60/page$10-12/hr The lower end of this range would be for a less experienced editor and a less difficult manuscript; the higher end would be for the opposite. A Note on Structural / Developmental Edits: The editing we’ve described here is what’s sometimes referred to as final edits, meaning that you’ve finished making structural changes to your manuscript, and are now focused strictly on making the text the best it can be. There’s an entirely separate service known as “structural editing” or “developmental editing”, whose purpose is to make higher-level suggestions about your manuscript, such as restructuring chapters or cutting or adding content. If you plan to pay for a structural edit, make sure you budget for it separately from final edits. Book Formatting Costs With a number of do-it-yourself layout tools available, it’s tempting to try this step yourself. However, book layout is about more than just “converting” a manuscript into PDF or EPUB format. The wrong choice of font, font size, line spacing, or margins will reduce readability and cause reading fatigue. Unresolved widows, orphans, and rivers will distract the reader. If your book also contains tables, images, footnotes, or other rich content, the decisions are multiplied. What a designer offers is the judgment and best practices to make those decisions correctly. This is why, for most books, the right choice is to hire a professional. Fortunately, layout is often one of the less costly services you’ll need. What Influences the Cost of Layout? The formats you’re publishing in. An e-book layout is an entirely different thing than a print layout. If you publish in two print formats (e.g. hardcover and paperback), those may require separate layouts as well.The length of the manuscript. Sometimes this is only considered if it exceeds a certain threshold, such as 100,000 words.The complexity of the content. A novel is usually composed of what’s called running text—simple paragraphs. Meanwhile, a textbook or recipe book would include diverse elements, such as footnotes, tables, images, captions, headings, and so forth. How Are Fees Structured? For a running-text book, it’s common to see a single, fixed price. For books with more complex content, expect a custom quote. You may be asked to fill out a form identifying the number of images, tables, footnotes, and so on; or the designer may ask to review your manuscript. What does it cost? Here are some typical costs in US dollars: Running text, one format (e-book or print): $300-500.Running text with some images or diagrams (memoir or simple how-to book): $500-1000.Rich content (recipe book, textbook, technical how-to): $1500-2000 or more.Multiple formats: For one print and one digital format, expect to pay a bit less than the sum of the individual prices. For multiple print formats, there may be larger discounts. (Always let your designer know all the formats you’re considering.) Book Cover Design Costs Your cover is the centerpiece of your marketing; as with editing, this is an area where you shouldn’t skimp. A good cover designer doesn’t just create an image, they also give you valuable insight into the visual language of your genre or category. Book cover design costs vary considerably, and represent much more than just the technical quality of the final image. Careful research is essential. What Influences Book Cover Design Costs? The source of the content on which the design is based. Licensing fees for a stock photo may be as little as $20, while the cost of an original photo shoot can easily exceed $1000. In both cases, the final cover would be based on a photo, but the creative flexibility and licensing restrictions would be different.The labor-intensity of the work. The more detailed a cover is, or the more precisely some part of it must be executed, the more it will cost.The depth of the design consultation. This ranges from no process at all (buying a pre-made cover) to multiple drafts and revisions plus audience testing. How Are Fees Structured? Many designers offer packages at fixed prices, in exchange for limiting the design parameters. For example, it’s common to see a package in the $400US range that offers a cover based on a stock photo, with one or two rounds of revision. These package prices give both you and the designer a degree of certainty. Other designers, meanwhile, operate on a more open-ended process. They’ll provide a quote after receiving a brief or discussing your project with you. The quoting process itself takes time and effort, so this is uncommon at lower price ranges. A Note About Add-Ons: When dealing with package prices, you’ll often see “extras” included, such as a 3D render of your book, pre-made ad banners, or the source files for the design. Don’t compare packages based on a bullet list of “items” you’re getting—instead, focus on the design process and the designer’s skills and experience. (If you need specific extras, just ask for them.) What Does a Book Cover Design Cost? Keeping in mind that there’s a wide variation, here are some reasonable benchmarks: $400-600US is a typical price for a cover based on a stock photo, using a more “assembly line” design process. This price is typically a sweet spot for first-time authors who need a cover that conveys a sense of quality, but are on a tight budget.$500-800US is a typical range for an established designer using a more interactive process, but without any original illustration or photography.$800-1500+US is common for in-depth design processes, veteran designers, and covers that incorporate original illustration.For a print cover, expect $50-100 more compared to the e-book cover price. (This is for layout of the spine and back cover, plus meeting the printer’s specifications.) For both formats together, the price should be only slightly more than the print format on its own. Don’t Forget Genre... Every genre or category has certain conventions for cover design, and this can tie your hands with regard to some costs. For example, a space opera cover will typically be illustrated (where are you going to get a real-life photo of an alien planet?). That illustration will cost more than licensing a stock photo for a steamy romance cover. Book Indexing Costs If you’re publishing a non-fiction book in print, you may need indexing. (E-books are searchable, so are not normally indexed.) If you do need indexing, expect it to be a significant part of your total budget. What Influences the Cost? Length of the book, measured by the number of “indexable pages” (any page with text that needs to be indexed).Density of index entries (number per page).Difficulty of the text (degree of technicality or specialization). How Are Fees Structured? The most common model is a fixed cost per indexable page. However, some indexers may charge per index entry, per hour, or even a flat rate per book. What Does Book Indexing Cost? Generally, from $2.50-6.00US per indexable page. The low end would apply to the least dense and least technical books, such as business, political, popular science, and memoir. The high end would apply to the most dense and most technical books, such as textbooks, academic books, and technical manuals. ISBN Number Costs An ISBN is a stock-keeping number used by retailers to track inventory and/or sales. (It’s not a license to sell, and doesn’t affect your copyrights.) Although not strictly obligatory, the world’s book distribution infrastructure is built around ISBNs, so serious authors always use them. Each country has one national agency that manages ISBNs—sometimes this is the government, and sometimes this is a private entity that has been granted a monopoly, so prices vary. You need a separate ISBN for each format of your book. Below are some sample costs: CountryISBN agencySingle ISBN10-packUKNielsen£89£164USABowker$125 US$295 USCanadaCanadian governmentFreeFree A Note About “Free” ISBNs From Distributors: Some distributors or retailers offer “free” ISBNs as part of their service. However, these come with limitations. Typically you won’t be listed as the publisher in the ISBN registry, which can look unprofessional. And you’re usually not allowed to “take the ISBN with you” if you stop using that distributor or retailer. (This doesn’t affect your copyrights, but it can create a huge administrative hassle.) We recommend you buy your own ISBNs. A Note About Barcodes: When you buy ISBNs, you may be offered barcodes as well. A barcode is a way of representing your ISBN so a scanner can read it—you’ll see them on the back of every book.This is generally not something you need to pay for. If you’re using a mainstream print-on-demand service, such as IngramSpark, your barcode is automatically generated for you. If you need barcodes in other situations, there are free barcode generators on the web that you can use. All-in-One Packages The appeal of an all-in-one package is that it removes the entire process of comparing quotes from multiple contractors… and the risk is that it removes the entire process of comparing quotes from multiple contractors. Package Deals Commonly Come in Two Flavours: An “assembly line” package is focused on reducing your costs. It achieves this by streamlining the administration that would be duplicated across services, and through pre-existing relationships with specific contractors. You can save money this way, but watch out for unneeded services, and expect a more cookie-cutter result than you might get from hand-picked professionals.A “project management” package is focused on integrating the whole project under a consistent vision, selecting professionals suited to your project, and providing you with advice to make smart publishing decisions. With this approach, you pay more money than doing it yourself—in exchange for consistency, convenience, and advice.  When looking at costs, refer to the benchmarks for total costs later in this article. Expect an “assembly line” package to cost less than our benchmark, and a “project management” package to cost more. In all cases, investigate package deals carefully—remember you’re effectively making several hiring decisions at once. Book Marketing Costs Marketing is Different From Production in Important Ways: Production is a one-time expense to create a product. Marketing is an ongoing process, with no limit to total spending.Certain production tasks apply to almost every book (editing, cover design), while marketing plans are unique to each title.Production is about achieving quality and suitability while controlling costs. Marketing is about experimentation, and focuses on return on investment. Unfortunately, This Means There’s No “Average” Cost for Book Marketing. However, Here Are Some Useful Benchmarks:  “Deal” newsletters are a tried-and-tested promotional method, and there are effective options at prices from $20 to $1000. Remember to compare cost and audience size.Editorial review services can provide you with credible, positive marketing quotes for $200-400.Many authors achieve positive return with Amazon ads and/or Facebook ads. These systems are too complex to describe here, but as a rule, at least $100 (preferably more) is needed to properly test per-click ads for your book.Your author portrait is a useful marketing asset and can boost your credibility. $200 is a reasonable investment for a professional portrait that will last you several years.When you’re starting out, it’s safe to DIY your author website. Keep it simple, include links to your books and your social media channels, and revisit it over time.NetGalley is a service for generating buzz, media, and reviews. Although very useful for books with a larger marketing budget, it needs to work in conjunction with other efforts, so it should never take up the majority of your marketing budget. Costs range from $450-850US for a listing.Copywriting for your book description and marketing text provides a high return on investment. For as little as $50 you can obtain a strong marketing text that will generate a much better response than something self-written. As Far As How Marketing Fits Into Your Overall Budget, Again, Every Book is Unique. But Here Are a Few Rules of Thumb to Follow: A $0 marketing budget is almost always a mistake. At minimum, include $100 for inexpensive options.For a book with a budget of $2000 or less, allocating a quarter of your budget to marketing is reasonable.As your budget rises, the fraction allocated to marketing should also rise. For budgets $2000-$10,000, about a third of your total budget for marketing is reasonable. Above $10,000, most of each new dollar should go to marketing rather than production, as you should already have a top-quality product. Average Cost to Publish a Book So, with everything taken into account, what does it cost to publish a book? It should be clear by now that this question doesn’t have a single answer, and it would be unhelpful if we simply gave a range without any context. Instead, here are three sample budgets, each with a breakdown of costs: Example #1: Romance Novel. E-book and Paperback; 60,000 words. Editing for correctness and style: $0.02/w = $1200Book layout, e-book and paperback, running text only: $550Cover design based on stock photo: $400Total $2150 + ISBNs + marketing. Example #2: Epic Space Opera Novel. E-Book Only; 120,000 words. Editing for correctness and style: $2400Book layout, e-book only, running text only, extra cost for length: $320Cover design based on original illustration: $800Total $3520 + ISBNs + marketing. Example #3: Academic Text on the History of Steam Engines. Hardcover and Paperback; 85,000 words; Numerous Images, Diagrams, Tables, and Footnotes. Editing for correctness and style: $0.02/w = $1700.Book layout, hardcover/paperback with same dimensions (one layout), complex content: $2300.Cover design, based on historical photo: $400Indexing: $5.00/page @ 270 indexable pages = $1350.Total $5750 + ISBNs + marketing. As a general rule, you would rarely spend more than $5000 to produce a novel, and only the most complex non-fiction would exceed $15,000. At the low end, spending less than $1200-1500 on book production likely means you’re cutting corners. There are exceptions to every rule, so always base your decisions on an analysis of what your book needs to succeed. Compare with other authors wherever possible; budgeting and planning your book can be daunting, so why navigate these waters alone? 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. 
Read more

30 of the Best Book Publishers in 2022

Ever been to a bookstore and wondered what all the little logos on the book spines are? Chances are you\'d have spotted depictions of the Big 5 publishers - and seen at least a few familiar penguins and sowers lining the shelves. There are countless publishing houses out there that are poised to promote you and your book, and yet you may not know about many of them. Let\'s remedy that! Do I Need to Look For a Publisher? Finding a book publisher can be a tricky process, especially if you are hoping to be published by some of the top publishers in the business. Where do you begin, and what information is important for you to know before you start submitting your manuscript to some of the largest book publishers? Is there anything to be said for self publishing, and what types of publishing should you avoid? Remember, you will most likely need to be represented by a literary agent before you (via your agent) can start submitting to publishers. Nevertheless, there\'s no harm in window shopping; it might even provide you with a focal point if you are still working on getting an agent.If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of book publishers out there, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best book publishers working today. I’ll go over the top five biggest publishing houses, some of the best publishers for both education and children’s books, as well as some of my personal favourite independent book publishers.Read on to discover what these publishers have to offer, as well as some of their top titles and divisions. You never know if your manuscript is exactly what a publisher has been waiting for! The Big Five Book Publishers While aiming high can be daunting to some authors, trying to submit your manuscript to some of the top publishing companies out there isn’t a bad idea. I’ve brought you a list of the top five book publishers, which essentially refers to five power house trade publishing houses which are well known and widely recognised. Let’s dive into them now. Simon & Schuster Simon & Schuster is where we begin our big five journey, as this publishing company holds an annual revenue of $830 million. They have a few notable imprints, such as Howard Books, Scribner, and Touchstone, and they release over 2,000 books a year! Some of their biggest titles as of late are Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat and The Institute by Stephen King. Founded in 1924, Simon & Schuster remains a prominent publisher today, with many names and genres, and opportunities behind it. HarperCollins With an annual revenue of $1.5 billion, HarperCollins has no shortage of good books and authors. Their notable imprints include Avon Romance, Harlequin Enterprises, Harper, and William Morrow, and their titles range broadly. Some of the top books as of late are Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis and The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin. With over 100 imprints, this publishing powerhouse no doubt has a niche for your book, and has no shortage of chances to learn about the industry from the best. Macmillan Publishers From 1843 to now, Macmillan Publishers is still going strong. With $1.4 billion in annual revenue, there are many publishing routes and imprints available through them, namely Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Picador, and Thomas Dunne Books. Some of their biggest titles from the recent past that you may have heard of include The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and Me by Elton John. With a global market and countless possible genres to publish under, you’d be wise to consider them an ideal place for your book to end up. Penguin Random House With over 15,000 books published a year, there’s no doubt in my mind that Penguin Random House is one of the top five, if not the top of the top five. Their annual revenue exceeds $3.3 billion, and they have countless notable imprints such as Knopf Doubleday, Crown Publishing, and Viking Press. They have many famous authors under their wing, and books like The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, and The Guardians by John Grisham. With over 200 imprints and divisions, you’ll no doubt find a home for your novel here, and maybe also your career. Hachette Livre Looking for a European based publisher with more published books a year than Penguin? Hachette Livre has an annual revenue of $2.7 billion and nearly 200 imprints. Some of these include Grand Central Publishing, Little, Brown and Company, and Mulholland Books. Their biggest titles in the recent past include Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell and Little Weirds by Jenny Slate. Growing steadily since their merger in 1992, Hachette Livre has a lot to offer both you and your book. Best Educational Book Publishers Looking for a reliable and quality educational book publisher? This can be more difficult than you think, but thankfully I’m here to shorten the list a bit for you. These publishers are looking specifically for educational books, quality hardback textbooks and the like. This may not apply to your manuscript, but if it does, read on! Bertelsmann Education Group Bertelsmann is a media, services and education company that operates in about 50 countries around the world. The online education and service offerings are primarily in the healthcare and technology sectors, as well as in higher education. With an annual revenue of around $300 million, this group has no shortage of educational texts, resources, and reliable online connections. Scholastic I can’t recall how many Scholastic book fairs I went to as a child. Perhaps you went to some as well, given that Scholastic is both an educational publisher and a popular children’s publisher. Their annual revenue is roughly $1.7 billion, and their notable imprints include Arthur A. Levine, Klutz Press, and Orchard Books. While their educational books are extremely popular for grades K-12, their YA fiction remains the most popular (no doubt you’ve heard of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, right?). Pearson Education Have you ever used DuoLingo for your language learning needs? Did you know that Pearson Education has recently partnered with them? There’s a lot of other notable mentions surrounding Pearson, such as their annual revenue of $1 billion, and their well-known imprints (Adobe Press, Heinemann, Prentice Hall, Wharton Publishing). Their most popular publications are always subject textbooks for higher education, and for good reason. McGraw-Hill Education One of the largest publishers in American education is Mcgraw-Hill. Their annual revenue often exceeds $1.7 billion, and they are well known for their many editions of test prep books (SAT and ACT) and elementary school math textbooks. Their most notable imprints include Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, and McGraw-Hill Higher Education, no doubt familiar to you if you’ve been involved in any American education system. Wiley While Wiley has a lot to offer in terms of non-educational publishing, their For Dummies series of educational books has got to be their top seller. With an annual revenue of $1.7 billion, their various instructional titles are big hits in the publishing world. Their most notable imprints include Bloomberg Press, Capstone, Hungry Minds, and Wiley-Blackwell, and they continue to publish a large variety of titles, both educational and otherwise. Cengage Learning Publishing both hard cover print books and maintaining a dedicated digital library can be difficult, but Cengage learning can do it all. From imprints that publish specifically for grades K-12 as well as books for higher education learning, Cengage is a wonderful publisher to consider. Cengage is the owner of the National Geographic Education division as well, made to bring excitement to classrooms worldwide. With an annual revenue of $1.7 billion, it’s safe to say that this publisher is a powerhouse. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt You may have already heard of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, or HMH for short. This publisher specializes in different disciplines including business and economics, biography and memoirs, children’s books, cookbooks, health and wellness, and more. They made more than $1.4 billion annually, with many notable imprints: Clarion, Graphia, John Joseph Adams Books, and Sandpiper among them. Their largest and most recent titles include elementary school textbooks in all subjects, as well as cookbooks. Best Children’s Book Publishers Some of the top selling books published today are for children or young adults. However, writing and publishing for children and young adults can be difficult if not impossible. Here are some of the best choices for children’s book publishing today, and how you can reach out to them. Bloomsbury With offices around the world and prominent publishing houses in both the US and the UK, Bloomsbury Books is a top contender for children’s book publishing. Established in 1986, Bloomsbury has many popular children’s book authors across every age group. With an annual revenue of $150 million, Bloomsbury USA Books for Young Readers was established in 2002. Their YA fiction has grown increasingly popular, their authors often topping the New York Times Bestseller list. Ladybird Books UK-based and another division of the Penguin Group, Ladybird books is perfect if you’ve got a bedtime story to tell. Their lineup of children’s books is primarily geared toward younger audiences, from toddlers to roughly age ten. They have many award winning series published under their name, including many Peppa Pig books. Their annual revenue is roughly $17 million. Chronicle Books San Francisco-based favourite Chronicle Books, with a $10 million revenue, has a wonderful eye for the unique and aesthetic storyteller. Their children’s books are beloved and unique, and this small independent publisher receives more than 1,000 submissions a month for their YA department alone! They publish most children\'s books ideas, including activity books, art books, board books, picture books, chapter books, young adult, games, and gift and stationery items. Hogs Back Books Hogs Back Books publishes fiction books aimed at children up to 10, as well as early readers for children up to 14, and teenage fiction. Amongst its most notable titles, Boris the Boastful Frog was recommended by The Telegraph in 2013 as one of the best books of the year for young children. They are a small family-owned and independent publisher, and the small selection that they choose to publish is beautiful and heartfelt. Arbordale Publishing With just about $1 million in annual income, Arbordale Publishing isn’t the largest in US children’s publishing. However, their books are aligned to Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), as well as state education standards. Arbordale books are vetted by experts and professionals from a variety of organizations including NASA, JPL, Project Learning Tree, USFWS, SeaWorld, the Cherokee Nation and others. They publish an average of 20 books per year. Immedium Based in San Francisco, CA, Immedium is influenced by an increasingly diverse world. While they are a small company and make an average of $150k in annual revenue, they have wonderful illustrations and ideas for children’s books. Immedium publishes subjects ranging from eye-catching children\'s books to contemporary non-fiction, including commentaries on art, popular culture, and multicultural issues. Kids Can Press Kids Can Press is a Canadian-owned publisher of children\'s books, with a list of over 500 picture books, non-fiction and fiction titles for toddlers to young adults and an estimated annual revenue of over $10 million. The Kids Can Press list includes characters such as Franklin the Turtle—the single most successful publishing franchise in the history of Canadian publishing, which has sold over 65 million books in over 30 languages around the world. Quirk Books Looking for a smaller publishing agency for your unique and captivating children’s book? Publishing only around 25 books a year, Quirk Books is based in Philadelphia and is searching for the most original, cool, and fun ideas out there. Is your book creative enough for Quirk? It’s one of my favourite publishing companies, having taken the helm on series such as the Miss Peregrine anthology by Ransom Riggs. August House Publishers A more traditional publishing company, August House Publishers are seeking children’s book authors committed to folktales, diverse and memorable. They enjoy stories from many diverse backgrounds, as well as stories that work well as oral tales, stories meant to be passed on from generation to generation. They also have a soft spot for scary stories and stories that can be used in a classroom environment. With an annual revenue of roughly $10 million, they produce beautiful children’s books. ABDO Publishing With almost $50 million a year in revenue ABDO is a formidable children’s book publisher. Based in Edina, Minnesota, this family-owned book publishing company specializes in non-fiction books for the school library market. From engaging nonfiction to illustrated titles, ABDO has both educational and fantastical book titles for children of all ages. Best Independent Book Publishers Are you looking for a smaller company to publish your book? You may consider publishing under an independent book publishing company, as there are many benefits. Smaller companies often accept unsolicited submissions, especially if the submission is more unique and experimental in nature. Plus, independent publishers often offer a more hands-on approach for new and inexperienced authors. Let’s check out some of the best in the business! Autumn House Press Autumn House Press is an independent, non-profit literary publishing company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that was founded in 1998. They began as a publishing company strictly for poetry, but they have since expanded to include fiction and nonfiction. Autumn House Press\'s especially notable titles include Anxious Attachments by Beth Alvarado and Not Dead Yet and Other Stories by Hadley Moore. Tupelo Press Tupelo Press is an American not-for-profit literary press founded in 1999. It produced its first titles in 2001, publishing poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Tupelo Press publishes the winners of its national poetry competitions, as well as manuscripts accepted through general submission. Awards given by Tupelo Press include the Dorset Prize, the Berkshire Prize for a First or Second Book of Poetry, and the Snowbound Series Chapbook Award. They have a lot to offer as an independent book publisher. Graywolf Press Graywolf Press is an independent, non-profit publisher located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They publish fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Graywolf Press currently publishes about 27 books a year, including the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize winner, the recipient of the Emily Dickinson First Book Award, and several translations supported by the Lannan Foundation. Their published work is bold and award winning. New Directions New Directions was founded in 1936 and they publish about 30 new titles a year. They publish anything regarding literary fiction, poetry, memoir, nonfiction, and their annual revenue is roughly $1 million per year. It was the first American publisher of Henry Miller, Vladimir Nabokov, and Jorge Luis Borges, among others. Tin House Books Publisher of award-winning books of literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; home to a renowned workshop and seminar series; and partner of a critically acclaimed podcast, Tin House champions writing that is artful, dynamic, and original. While they only publish about two dozen books per year, they are all astounding, and you can learn more about their small operation here. Europa Editions Europa Editions is an independent trade publisher based in New York. The company was founded in 2005 by the owners of the Italian press Edizioni E/O and specializes in literary fiction, mysteries, and narrative non-fiction. They have a few imprints, namely Tonga Books, and a series for mysteries known as Europa World Noir. City Lights Publishers Known for publishing Howl and other poems by Allen Ginsberg, City Lights Publishers is a great independent publishing option. Founded in 1955, with nearly 300 books in print, City Lights publishes cutting-edge fiction, poetry, memoirs, literary translations and books on vital social and political issues. For over fifty years, City Lights has been a champion of progressive thinking, fighting against the forces of conservatism and censorship. Forest Avenue Press Forest Avenue Press, founded in 2012 in Portland, Oregon, publishes literary fiction on a joyride and the occasional memoir. While they are currently a small-scale operation, they are growing in popularity in the Pacific Northwest. A Publisher For Every Writer While I hope you found a few excellent book publishers from this list, do keep in mind that there are many more that are worth your consideration. Whether you have an agent or not, there are always publishers seeking the best new stories out there. Yours could very well be one of them! 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. 
Read more

Natalie Chandler’s debut two-book deal with Headline Accent

Natalie Chandler began researching and writing her debut novel, \'Believe Me Not\', in 2020, and attended the Summer Festival of Writing to build up her confidence before seeking agent representation. She\'s now represented by Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment, and recently signed a deal with Headline Accent. Natalie kindly shares her story and some words of wisdom here.  JW: Tell us about finishing your book – where did the idea come from, and how did you go about turning that idea into words on a page?   NC: ‘Believe Me Not’ was born from a dream, believe it or not (delighted to have got a pun in so early on). I woke up thinking about a disorientated woman trying to find her baby son despite everyone she trusted insisting she didn’t have a child - and the idea just wouldn’t be quiet until I sat down and started writing.  I’m very much a pantser so I had no idea where the plot was going or what was going to happen. But my protagonist, Megan, was already fully formed and she drove the early chapters. I did a lot of research – I hate getting details incorrect – and was fortunate that one of my best friends works in the NHS and she not only patiently answered my countless questions but also put me in touch with other mental health professionals.  For the first time, I had no other distractions, due to the small matter of the world coming to a halt with a global pandemic. No lunch invites, no exhortations for ‘just one drink’ or weekend getaways. I was writing practically full-time and it was flowing like never before. I had nearly finished the first draft when I saw an advert for the Summer Festival of Writing and decided, since I was Doing This Properly, it would be a sound investment. It turned out I was right. I came away feeling empowered, knowledgeable, no longer a complete amateur – and ready to edit until I could edit no more.    JW: How did you land your agent? During the 2020 Summer Festival of Writing, I attended every webinar led by an agent. I wanted to learn as much as I could about submissions before jumping into the fray again, having previously tried to find representation for two earlier novels and been unsuccessful. Jericho Writers provided such wonderful opportunities to, for the first time, really discover the secrets of the industry and I felt much more confident in my submissions package after applying everything I’d learnt. I also booked several agent one-to-ones, which were nowhere near as terrifying as expected! One of the early ones was particularly brilliant. She ripped my opening pages to shreds and it really stung at the time, but when I sat down to work through her deeply perceptive notes, I realised she’d helped me improve tenfold and I was so grateful to her. From then, I had a stronger package to present at one-to-ones and I gained three more full requests from subsequent sessions.   By this point, I already had six full manuscripts on submission and was prepared to wait to see what the feedback would be when, out of the blue, I saw on Twitter that Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment had opened her submissions that morning. I’d followed Liza for a while and really liked her style so I decided there was nothing to be lost in contacting her. She replied within hours asking for the full manuscript and just over a week later, I was signing on the dotted line in a state of wonder, disbelief and sheer joy.  It had been nearly a decade since I sent out those first tentative letters (no email back then!) seeking representation and I was so thrilled by the opportunity to become part of the Mushens Entertainment family – a dream agency I had followed since its creation – that I didn’t quite dare to believe it was finally happening.   JW: What was the process of choosing an agent after a number of full manuscript requests?   Liza was the first agent to call – she read the full manuscript in 48 hours and left me the most wonderful voicemail telling me how she loved it so much she’d stayed up half the night to finish it, which I intend to keep forever! As soon as we got talking, I was amazed by her excitement and her sheer passion for ‘Believe Me Not’. She already understood the characters and themes and we were completely on the same page regarding edits and improvements. I knew we’d clicked but Liza encouraged me to continue talking to the other agents who had the full manuscript and see what their thoughts were. They were all lovely and so encouraging but my gut was telling me I was going to accept Liza’s offer. My partner told me to listen to the voicemail again and said ‘anyone that enthusiastic is going to be your most valuable ally. She’s 100% committed to you and the book and you can’t ask for anything more’. That sealed it for me.  JW: What is your relationship like with your agent now?   Wonderful! Editing together was the best experience – the book grew stronger and I learned so much working alongside a talented professional for the first time. Liza’s cup is always half-full and she approaches everything with positivity. She checks in regularly whilst still giving me total autonomy in the writing process, and she always has time for me despite being super busy. I can discuss any problems or concerns with her and know I can trust her advice and guidance.   My partner told me to listen to the voicemail again and said ‘anyone that enthusiastic is going to be your most valuable ally. She’s 100% committed to you and the book and you can’t ask for anything more’. That sealed it for me.  JW: So you got your agent, but then what? What was the submissions process like?   ‘Nerve-wracking’ is probably the best description. There had already been interest from a number of editors when I gained representation so we started with a list of twenty initial submissions to mostly Big 5 houses after we’d done two rounds of edits. I knew there are always rejections so I’d steeled myself but we were getting fantastic feedback and after three weeks, the magic word ‘acquisitions’ was whispered. Days later, Liza called with the news that Headline Accent wanted to meet me and was offering a two-book deal – I was really going to be a published author!  JW: Has everything met your expectations so far, or have there been a few surprises?   As a debut, I didn’t expect to be given the level of autonomy and control I have.  Even though I’m learning fast, I’m still inexperienced, therefore I’d anticipated more instructions and fewer discussions. I was impressed that my thoughts and opinions are valued and how it has been constantly emphasised that it is my book and I am free to decide what works best.  Editing together was the best experience – the book grew stronger and I learned so much working alongside a talented professional for the first time. Liza’s cup is always half-full and she approaches everything with positivity. JW: Has this experience taught you anything about the publishing industry and pursuing your goals? Primarily, I’ve learned how lovely people in the publishing industry are! Everyone I’ve met has been so generous with their time, advice and encouragement. I’m very grateful. Don’t be scared to ask questions and take every opportunity to learn and network. If being an author is what you really want, understand it won’t happen overnight – sometimes it takes a decade. Stay committed through all the rejections and keep going – write anything, write everything, but keep honing your craft and growing as an author. You’ll feel like giving up many times but never forget you write, above all else, because you love it.  It’s all worth it the moment you get the voicemail that will change your life!  About Natalie Natalie Chandler was educated at the University of Durham and currently works in behavioural education, specialising in social, emotional and mental health issues.  Her debut psychological thriller \'Believe Me Not\' was written during lockdown and delves into the fractured mind of a woman abruptly diagnosed with psychosis, as she fights to prove the existence of her baby.  \'Believe Me Not\' will be published by Headline Accent in March 2022. Natalie is represented by Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment and divides her time between London and the rural North of England. 
Read more

Jan Cavelle’s Achievements in Business and Books

Entrepreneur and Jericho Writers alumna Jan Cavelle is phenomenally successful, having grown her own 20-year-strong business from scratch and published a book of expert insights into growing a business, ‘Scale for Success’, with Bloomsbury in 2021. Whether it’s a business or a book, the journey is never easy - and Jan kindly shares her experience of non-fiction publishing with us here.   January 2020 seems a different world away for all of us.  I was paying little attention to tales of an old lady dying of some unknown disease in remote China.  In fact, I had gone off-grid, telling no one what I was doing.  It was too big, too heart-stoppingly important to me.    One chilly day that January,  I hauled myself upright at around three in the morning and drove to London, terrified of missing my appointment.  I spent most of the four-hour wait in a tourist hotel pushing congealed eggs around my plate and wondering just how many cups of tea it was possible to drink.  Finally, I walked around the corner to the hallowed offices in Bloomsbury Square to stare in awe at the Harry Potters on display in reception.   I had gone off-grid, telling no one what I was doing. It was too big, too heart-stoppingly important to me. But let me take you back a little.  My childhood dream was to write a book, but life and, as a single parent, an abrupt need to make a living took over.  I started a business on a shelf under the stairs in our tiny Victorian cottage and, from non-auspicious beginnings, grew it to something mid-size.  Single parenthood and solo-entrepreneurship are both a recipe for isolation, so it would be years before I met other entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs are an interesting bunch.  They come from all sorts of backgrounds and work in virtually every sector.  They are hugely driven, often obsessive, yet the majority are far less judgemental, far less worried about who they are talking to, and more interested in the quality of what is being said.  Most – definitely not all, but most - are highly intelligent and have great stories to tell.  By chance, I saw a business publication advertising for a blog writer. Remembering my writing dreams,  I answered, and thus started a decade of writing for a digital publication called Real Business.  I also joined Jericho Writers.  When I finally parted company with the business, my first thought was retirement.  It took about two weeks for me to miss writing.   I went back to writing articles, but the dream of a book still niggled.  I started working my way through the Jericho Writers resources, focussing on the merits of attempting either self- or traditional publishing.    It took about two weeks for me to miss writing. I had decided to write about sales, my strength - and with the confidence I gained from the articles, I was somewhat cavalier about the writing.  However, to play safe, I submitted my first draft to be assessed by one of the Jericho Writers team.   My editors had always been rather nice to me, so I was unworried when it came to the feedback phone call.    By five minutes in, I was having to ask for a couple of minute\'s break because I was crying so hard that I couldn\'t actually hear. The expert tore it to shreds.  The concept was wrong, the writing careless on fact and atrocious on style.  It was the very definition of tough love.  It says much for my love of writing that I kept going, and much for his judgment that when I re-visited the manuscript a few months later, I was beyond appalled that I had even considered anyone reading it.    Chastened, I wrote another manuscript.  I followed all the instructions on the Jericho Writers website and researched likely agents and publishers.  I treasured the reply that told me it was well written (but not for them).  Elsewhere it was silent.    Relaxing in the glorious summer of 2019,  I had another idea.  People often advise you to write about what you know, and what I know best is how hard it is to scale a business.  I also knew that it is a business stage that many people struggle with.   Suddenly, I realized I had a subject that could potentially be of genuine use to a reader, unlike my somewhat self-interested previous attempts.  My problem was that I was no expert.  But I did know other people who had achieved the leap successfully.  I started off by attempting to interview friends and get their expertise.  Not an easy experience, with both parties in unfamiliar roles and keen to get back to the usual bottle of wine.  I dug out old contacts, people who I barely knew.  I trawled the net endlessly for businesses that looked on an upward curve.  A massive hulk of a book, going from start-up through scale-up, started to take shape.  People often advise you to write about what you know... Suddenly, I realized I had a subject that could potentially be of genuine use to a reader. At around three-quarters of the way in, I realized that I had forgotten the trad vs self-publishing quandary, and worse, I now had an obligation to do something with this thing to the people who had kindly given their time.  Back to my Jericho Writers knowledge bank, I went.  I knew that many of the people interviewed would be less than impressed unless it was traditionally published.  Old school, perhaps.  I spent a month putting together three submissions.  The one to Bloomsbury bounced back on my email.   That bouncing email was the wild piece of luck that we all need from time to time.  Tired and frustrated, I sent a quick tweet off to Bloomsbury to tell them the email was down. It was just before Christmas, so perhaps it was the festive spirit,  but I received a charming reply suggesting I send a brief outline of what I had been trying to send through to the respondee\'s personal email.  I thought no more about it.  Other publishers, too, were notably silent.   I was dumbfounded over Christmas to receive an invitation to come into Bloomsbury\'s offices. Hence finding myself pushing around the congealed egg in January.  The initial meeting was held in a room full of would-be writers, all of them having the weaknesses of their proposals pointed out to them by the editors.  The size of my project was demolished as being far too broad and my use of UK entrepreneurs was no use to a global publishing house.  I argued - I can split it.  I can get other entrepreneurs.  I was packed off to the country to form a submission.  Luckily I could still draw upon Jericho for it.  I muttered \"possibly for Bloomsbury\" into the ears of overseas entrepreneurs and found it a magic key to get them talking.  Hearing back is not a quick process.  The book had to be approved by several layers of international hierarchy.  At each stage, I was genuinely stunned and delighted to have got that far.  Finally, however, a contract was offered, and I was on my way to being (magic words) a published author.  I muttered \"possibly for Bloomsbury\" into the ears of overseas entrepreneurs and found it a magic key to get them talking. \'Scale for Success\' came out in February 2021 in the UK and July in Australia and America.  It contains the stories and wisdom of 30 genuinely amazing people from across the globe.  I didn\'t want to go for the Bransons or the Musks (not that they would have talked to me either), but I wanted relatable people, and I am still stunned by their stories.  Working with a range of people meant a vast amount of extra work.  They all had to be found, convinced that the idea was good, interviewed, and their approval of what I had written obtained.  If I hadn\'t so loved hearing their stories, it would have been a nightmare.  Non-fiction is unbelievably overcrowded.  The self-publishing market has gone wild under the \"a book is your business card\" mantra.  Looking for a backup plan, I spoke to a few of the publishing coaches who take a fat fee for helping you self-publish.  All were confused by my expressed desire to write \"a good book.\"  Entrepreneurs of decidedly mixed-level writing skills are employing hugely expensive PR companies to tout them as the next Tolstoy.  There is little chance to compete in the sunshine with that if you are writing for the love.   Reviews on Amazon are so precious – I can read the stars but haven\'t got the nerve to read the words.  As for the future, I am having a bit of a ‘what-now’ moment.  I produce a stream of business interviews and articles for my website and other publications, but I would love to do another book. Whether Bloomsbury or any other publishing house would love me to do another book is something for the future.  About Jan Jan Cavelle is a writer and entrepreneur who successfully grew and ran her own business for over 20 years. She was chosen as one of the first 50 Female Entrepreneurial Ambassadors to represent the UK in Europe and has been invited to speak on Newsnight. Jan contributed to Real Business for many years and her first book, ‘Scale for Success’, was published by Bloomsbury and cited by publications such as Elite Business, Irish Tech News, Medium, and the Undercover Recruiter.   Find out more about Jan here. Buy ‘Scale for Success’ from Bookshop.org here. Interested in Creative Non-Fiction? We offer a six-week crash course that could be the perfect way in to your new project, taught by Galley Beggar Press\' Sam Jordison. Find out more here. Read about finding an agent for your non-fiction here. Learn how to write a non-fiction book proposal here. Getting rejected by literary agents? Here\'s what to do next.
Read more

The 10 Best Children’s Book Publishers in 2022

It isn’t easy, becoming a children’s book author. From deciphering endless submission requirements to learning that your dream publisher doesn’t accept submissions from authors without an agent, it can be difficult finding the right home for your work. In this article, I will endeavor to make the process of getting a children’s book published a bit clearer for you, as well as include my top picks for children’s book publishers. Because let’s face it, there are a lot of options out there, and you should be armed with the best possible knowledge out there. You’ll learn the submission requirements for some of the top children’s book publishers, as well as some examples of children’s books these companies have already published so that you can choose a publisher that aligns with your current book.  Still plotting your next book and unsure if you are writing at a level that’s optimal for children? I encourage you to read our existing post regarding everything you need to know about creating a children’s book, from start to finish! Now, onto the publishers. Best Children’s Book Publishers Before I discuss some of the top children’s book publishers and their most successful children’s books, I should note that not all children’s book publishers accept submissions directly from authors. Some only accept submissions from literary agents, and you should keep this in mind before falling in love with any one publisher. It is also important to know which category your work falls under. While this may not seem necessary right away, some publishers may only be looking for certain submissions at certain times. And some kid’s book publishers may not even accept certain varieties of children’s books.  The most common submission types are as follows:  Children’s fictionChildren’s non-fictionChildren’s picture books If you are unsure if your current manuscript meets any of these categories, you may wish to consider our Children’s Manuscript Assessment program. Through this editing service, our  team of editors will read your entire manuscript and give you structured editorial feedback that you can use to craft your work into shape. If your editor thinks your work is ready, we’ll also help you find the right agent, for free. Now, let’s get onto the publishers. Keep in mind that the following is only a summary list of some of the best children’s book publishers, and that many more exist. I do hope that one of these choices suits your publishing needs perfectly! Bloomsbury Children’s Books USA With offices around the world and prominent publishing houses in both the US and the UK, Bloomsbury Books is a top contender for children’s book publishing. Established in 1986, Bloomsbury has many popular children’s book authors across every age group. Their YA fiction has grown increasingly popular, their authors often topping the New York Times Bestseller list. Their kid’s division covers all books for any age, from picture books to young adult novels. Bloomsbury is known for publishing high fantasy YA fiction and heartwarming tales that help provide kid-friendly entry points into emotional intelligence topics. Some of their most popular authors and series are Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival and Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer.  The unfortunate news is that, unless you have a YA book ready to go, Bloomsbury only accepts submissions from a literary agent. However, feel free to take a look at their website for any more useful information, including their various adult and children’s book authors. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, known as HMH for short, has gone through a few changes in its recent past. Now known as either Clarion Books or Mariner Books, this company has been a mainstay in children’s publishing since 1832. From board books to graphic novels, HMH publishes just about any children’s book you can think of. HMH has worked hard to develop programs for more unique voices in publishing, including new authors in their children’s publishing division. Entitled VERSIFY, this fantastic publishing program reflects a need for accessible and powerful prose and poetry—in children’s picture books, novels, and nonfiction. HMH strives to publish work that can celebrate the lives and reflect the possibilities of all children. For the most part, HMH is an agent-only submission publishing house. However, their VERSIFY program does accept unsolicited submissions during certain parts of the year. Learn more about HMH and its various submission opportunities here.  Holiday House Established in 1935 as a publishing company for young readers, Holiday House is a wonderful organization to submit your children’s book to. Their books are processed and distributed as a division of Penguin Random House, and they publish children’s books from ages 4 and up. From picture books to nonfiction informational handbooks, they are publishing some of the most creative and educational children’s books out there. Given their commitment to education and teaching children about major childhood themes, their website’s search engine for currently published books is in-depth and informative. From young readers books such as Lunch Box Bully by Hans Wilhelm to riveting and humorous YA fantasy like the Devil series by Donna Hosie, Holiday House no doubt publishes something for every kid in your life. Holiday House does indeed accept unsolicited submissions, which is great news for those of you without an agent. They don’t have the time to respond to every submission that they receive, but they will of course reach out if your manuscript interests them. You can learn more about their variety of books, list of awards received, and their submission process here.  Chicago Review Press An independent publisher founded in 1973, the Chicago Review Press strictly publishes nonfiction, including an award-winning selection of children’s nonfiction. They are firm in their desire when it comes to children’s picture books: they do not accept them, whether fiction or nonfiction. However, that doesn’t mean you are completely out of luck. If you have a fantastic nonfiction book for children, their submission process is clear and easy to follow on their website! While nonfiction children’s activity books are their bread and butter, their topics range broadly, from the history of American environmentalism all the way to Salvador Dali. There are a lot of perks to publishing with a small independent publisher, including the fact that they accept unsolicited submissions without an agent. If your book fits the niche that is the Chicago Review Press, they are an award-winning publisher that would be happy to have your nonfiction children’s workbook! Flashlight Press Looking for another publisher searching for very specific submission guidelines? Check out the specificity needed from Flashlight Press, a children’s book publisher hunting exclusively for books that explore and illuminate the touching and humorous moments of family situations and social interactions through captivating writing and outstanding illustrations. What does this mean, exactly? Well, if your book targets 4–8 year olds, is under 1000 words, and has a universal theme fitting with many other Flashlight Press titles, you may have found a home for your book! Their titles vary wildly in themes, but all of them have to do with childhood themes and concerns. All of the books tend to tackle these themes with a sense of humor, such as I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll, and Carla’s Sandwich by Debbie Herman.  So long as you are familiar with the rest of Flashlight Press’s work and think your book has a similar thematic feel, their submission process is easy. Feel free to submit without an agent too, and check out Flashlight’s website here. Simon & Schuster Children\'s Publishing An American publishing company started in 1924, Simon & Schuster is a powerhouse, capable of publishing 2,000 titles annually under 35 different imprints. Their children’s publishing division is just as lauded and award winning, and they publish just about anything ages 0-12 as well as everything young adult.  There’s no shortage of award-winning selections published by Simon & Schuster, including the ever-popular To All the Boys I\'ve Loved Before series by Jenny Han, and the City Spies series by James Ponti. Simon & Schuster may not be the easiest publishing company to publish with for your first book, especially because they don’t accept submissions without an agent. However, they should definitely be a publishing company to reach for as you grow as a children’s author! Learn more about them here. Chronicle Books San Francisco-based favorite Chronicle Books has a wonderful eye for the unique and aesthetic storyteller. Their children’s books are beloved and unique, and this small independent publisher receives more than 1,000 submissions a month for their YA department alone! They publish most children\'s books ideas, including activity books, art books, board books, picture books, chapter books, young adult, games, and gift and stationery items. While they accept a wide variety of children’s publishing themes, it is important to note that, since Chronicle receives so many submissions, they are hoping for the most unique and innovative stories out there. No pressure, right? At any rate, check out their submission process and desires here! Ladybird Books UK-based and another division of the Penguin Group, Ladybird books is perfect if you’ve got a bedtime story to tell. Their lineup of children’s books is primarily geared toward younger audiences, from toddlers to roughly age ten. They have many award winning series published under their name, including many Peppa Pig books.  Their offerings also include a long list of informative nonfiction titles, such as books about the human body and our natural world. While publishing for any division of Penguin may seem complicated at first, they have provided an easy to read guide regarding their submission process. I believe having an agent would be useful if you are hoping to submit to any Penguin Group.  Quirk Books Looking for a smaller publishing agency for your unique and captivating children’s book? Publishing only around 25 books a year, Quirk Books is based in Philadelphia and is searching for the most original, cool, and fun ideas out there. Is your book creative enough for Quirk? It’s one of my favorite publishing companies, having taken the helm on series such as the Miss Peregrine anthology by Ransom Riggs. Quirk Books has a very informative and helpful submission page, found here. They have clearly outlined books that they are interested in, as well as appropriate emails for your submissions. From popular YA series to nonfiction books for young readers, Quirk publishes just about anything, so long as it’s quirky. August House Publishers A more traditional publishing company, August House Publishers are seeking children’s book authors committed to folktales, diverse and memorable. They enjoy stories from many diverse backgrounds, as well as stories that work well as oral tales, stories meant to be passed on from generation to generation. They also have a soft spot for scary stories and stories that can be used in a classroom environment.  August House is committed to children’s publishing, and there’s no shortage of awards gifted to them for such a commitment. If you have a picture book made especially for young readers or a story related to folktales, stories from the oral tradition, stories from diverse cultures, scary stories and resource books about using stories or storytelling in the classroom, August House Publishers may be the right choice for you. You can email them and learn more about their submission process here. Conclusion While I hope you found a few excellent children’s book publishers from this list, do keep in mind that there are many more that are worth your consideration. Whether you have an agent or not, there are always publishers seeking the best new stories out there. Yours could very well be one of them! What are some of your top publisher picks for your children’s book? Are you still crafting your book? I encourage you to take some time exploring our website for many publishing resources, and perhaps consider joining the world’s leading online writers club! Happy writing! Author Bio Autumn Buck is a full-time freelance writer based in the Pacific Northwest. They have written five full length plays and are currently working on a young adult fantasy novel. They also enjoy writing about herbalism, asexuality, and tiny home living. They live with their childhood sweetheart and chihuahua mix, Sonny.
Read more

Aliya Ali-Afzal on working with her agent & choosing a publisher at an auction

Aliya Ali-Afzal became a member of Jericho Writers in 2019, signing with her agent in 2020. Aliya’s debut novel, ‘Would I Lie to You?’, will be published by Head of Zeus in the UK and Grand Central Publishing in the US in July 2021. Having already proven to be in-demand at auction, it looks set to be incredibly popular. Aliya is represented by Juliet Mushens of Mushens Entertainment. We spoke to her about the working relationship between author and agent, and the surreal experience of choosing a publisher from an online auction.   JW: Hi Aliya! Great to talk to you. We’re really intrigued by the concept of your debut - where did the inspiration for ‘Would I Lie to You?’ come from?  AA: The initial inspiration came from something that happened in my own life. I had been on a big spending spree, and when I got home, my husband called to say he had lost his job. I felt a surge of panic - then guilt - as I thought about all the money I had spent, especially as my husband didn’t know about it. This sparked the idea about what would happen if someone had spent a lot more in secret, and unless they could put that money back quickly, they risked losing everything.  I’m fascinated by human nature and when I worked in London as a career and life coach, I saw how people’s sense of self can sometimes get caught up with how much they earn and what they have, rather than who they are. I also wanted to explore what happens after someone makes a terrible mistake. Can we ever put things right and can others ever forgive us?   JW: How did Jericho Writers membership help you with your writing journey?  AA: I became a member of Jericho Writers in the Spring of 2019, when I had just started editing my novel. I listened to every single podcast and video in the resource library! There’s a really broad range of topics covered including plot, characterisation, editing, writing cover letters and synopsis. I also loved watching Slushpile Live.  In September 2019, I attended the Festival of Writing in York for the first time and loved the panels and workshops. In my one-to-one session the agent asked for the full manuscript, which was an incredible boost for my confidence. It was also very helpful meeting other writers who shared their experience and tips about the submissions process. I felt inspired by hearing stories about writers who had found agents, after countless rejections!  All these things helped enormously when I started submitting in November 2019 - which resulted in me signing up with Juliet Mushens in January 2020. I would recommend that writers sign up with Jericho Writers immediately!  \"I became a member of Jericho Writers in the Spring of 2019, when I had just started editing my novel. I listened to every single podcast and video in the resource library!\" JW: In what ways have writing groups helped you along in your journey to publication?  AA: Our group meets every fortnight to give honest feedback, help with plot ideas, synopsis, advice on cover letters, agents, and publication. We also provide each other with that other vital ingredient for writers- moral support! The group has been invaluable and feels like having my own personal hotline whenever I need help!  Knowing each other’s work intimately, we feel comfortable enough to point out things that could be improved or are not working. By workshopping regularly, we also shift the focus from writing being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, to work that is simply being edited and improved. This is an important distinction. As well as learning how to give clear, productive feedback, it is important to know how to receive and process feedback too. Over the years, I’ve almost developed an intuition about which feedback I want to take on (often something that most people in the group agree on), and which elements of the feedback I disagree with. After a while, you learn to trust your own instincts as well, and it is important to be able to reject feedback sometimes too, even if you value and accept it most of the time.  \"[We] provide each other with that other vital ingredient for writers- moral support! The group has been invaluable and feels like having my own personal hotline whenever I need help!\" JW: Can you tell us about how you found representation with Juliet Mushens?  AA: Juliet was my dream agent and there were several reasons why she was at the top of my list. I knew that she represented some incredible writers, who all raved about what a great agent she was. She was super successful and brilliant at her job, but also seemed very passionate about it, which I admired. I followed her on Twitter and found that we shared a similar sense of humour and a love of beautiful dresses, which also convinced me that she would be my perfect agent!  I attended an excellent Guardian masterclass that she presented on how to find an agent, but was too shy to go and introduce myself or even ask a question. I did, however, take lots of notes! By the time I submitted to Juliet via the slush pile, I had done months of research about her wish list and wrote a targeted and personalised cover letter. Juliet asked for the full manuscript the same day that I submitted to her. Five days later, she emailed me to offer representation. It was, without doubt, the best email I had ever received in my life!  In total I submitted to five agents and it took me seven weeks to find representation. I had expected it to take months, even years, so I was blown away at the speed at which it all happened. Some of this was of course down to luck and timing too, but I think it also helped that I did months of research, preparation and hard work before I started to submit. JW: What’s your working relationship with your agent like? What do you think are the benefits of having an agent?  AA: Juliet is an incredible, extraordinary agent. Despite being insanely busy, she is always available for me and makes me feel as if I am her only client! She is direct and honest in her communication and I love that – I\'m the same and I feel comfortable saying what I think to her. We also instantly got on when we met, so I really enjoy working with her too.  The most valuable aspect of having Juliet as my agent is that I absolutely trust her opinion on both business and creative matters. I have consulted her throughout the publication process and value her advice. This is especially important as a debut, when you can feel out of your depth.  Juliet is also a brilliant editor, and gave me extensive editorial feedback. I love brainstorming with her, and it helps that we are both obsessed with working on the manuscript until it\'s perfect, however many rounds of edits it takes!  \"Juliet asked for the full manuscript the same day that I submitted to her. Five days later, she emailed me to offer representation. It was, without doubt, the best email I had ever received in my life!\" JW: Can you describe the auction?  AA: It was a surreal and very exciting experience. Under normal circumstances, we would have visited each publisher’s offices for the auction, but under lockdown, everything took place on Zoom. Each publisher’s entire team- editorial, marketing and publicity - pitched to me and Juliet, showing us presentations about their publication plans and creative visions for ‘Would I Lie to You?’ We also chatted to see how we got on.  After years of wondering if I would ever get an agent or any interest at all from a publisher, I suddenly had three publishers, each wanting me to choose them! It was a great feeling to have these amazing publishers telling me how much they loved my writing and discussing my characters with me. It boosted my confidence enormously, both in my writing and in my story. Juliet debriefed me after each pitch and outlined all the factors I needed to consider before making my decision.  JW: Do you have one last piece of advice for the JW members?  AA: Prepare, prepare, prepare, before you start to submit!    About Aliya   Aliya Ali-Afzal is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, and studied Russian and German at University College London. She is an Alum of the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course. Aliya lives in London and is a career and life coach.   Get ‘Would I Lie to You?’ from Waterstones From Bookshop.org From Amazon Follow Aliya on Twitter: @AAAiswriting 
Read more

How to Write a Great Query Letter (with Hints + Tips)

Sample query letter + template included You\'ve edited the daylights out of your novel, you know it\'s ready to take the world by storm... and so now, it\'s time to find an agent. A great query letter will help your submission stand out in an agent\'s inbox -- and we\'re going to show you how to write the perfect letter. We\'ll get started with an example -- a real example, from a real author describing a real book (me, describing one of my books, although I\'m pretending a number of things here: that it\'s a first novel, that I have no track record within the industry, that I finished writing it just this year) -- and then we\'ll show you all the steps you need to make your letter sing. Tiny digression: this isn’t a complete guide to getting your book published. You can get that here. Nor is it a full guide to getting an agent – more info here, and here.) Write A Query Letter In 3 Easy Steps: Introductory sentence – include your purpose for writing (you’re seeking representation!) book title, wordcount, genre.1-2 paragraphs about your book – what your book’s about and why a reader will love it.A brief note about You – who you are and why you wrote the book. Here’s What A Query Letter Should Look Like First up, here’s a query letter of a sort that would make any agent want to start reading the manuscript in question: Dear Agent NameI’m writing to seek representation for my first novel, TALKING TO THE DEAD. It\'s a police procedural in the mold of Tana French\'s DUBLIN MURDER SQUAD novels and it is complete at 115,000 words. The book opens with news of a murder: a young woman and her daughter have been found dead in a rough area of Cardiff. The house where they’re found is in poor condition, but in the corner of the room is a platinum bank card belonging to a local millionaire. A millionaire who died in a plane crash some nine months previously. New recruit, Detective Constable Fiona Grifffiths is assigned to the investigation.Puzzling as this crime looks, it’s not the heart of the book’s mystery. It becomes rapidly clear that Fiona Griffiths herself is a very peculiar woman, who is withholding crucial secrets from the reader. Who exactly is her father? What was her childhood illness? And what is it with her and corpses?I currently run my own small consultancy business, and this is my first novel. I look forward to writing further novels in the series. I\'m writing to you because I know you represent Jo Nesbo and Chuck Wendig, two authors I deeply admire and whose work was absolutely an inspiration to this book.I enclose the first three chapters and a synopsis. I hope you like what you see and look forward to hearing from you.Yours,Harry Bingham Simple right? And you can do it, no? Here’s that query letter again with my comments highlighted in bold: I’m writing to seek representation [the purpose of you getting in touch] for my first novel, TALKING TO THE DEAD. It\'s a police procedural in the mold of Tana French\'s DUBLIN MURDER SQUAD novels and it is complete at 115,000 words. [title, genre, comp title, word count – all defined fast and clearly.]The book opens with news of a murder: a young woman and her daughter have been found dead in a rough area of Cardiff. The house where they’re found is in poor condition, but in the corner of the room is a platinum bank card belonging to a local millionaire. A millionaire who died in a plane crash some nine months previously. [This sets up the basic premise of the crime story. Already, the agent has the basic co-ordinates she needs to navigate.] New recruit, Detective Constable Fiona Grifffiths is assigned to the investigation. [Introduce main character – clearly and succinctly.]Puzzling as this crime looks, it’s not the heart of the book’s mystery. It becomes rapidly clear that Fiona Griffiths herself is a very peculiar woman, who is withholding crucial secrets from the reader. Who exactly is her father? What was her childhood illness? And what is it with her and corpses? [This hints nicely at the book’s mood and USP. It starts to suggest the emotional payoff – a mystery to do with the book’s central character.]I currently run my own small consultancy business, and this is my first novel. I look forward to writing further novels in the series. [A line or two about me. Confirmation that I understand I’m writing a series – an important touch for this kind of fiction.] I\'m writing to you because I know you represent Jo Nesbo and Chuck Wendig, two authors I deeply admire and whose work was absolutely an inspiration to this book. [An acknowledgement as to why you\'ve written to this agent, something showing that you\'ve done your research.]I enclose the first three chapters and a synopsis. I hope you like what you see and look forward to hearing from you. [Wrap it up. The whole letter easily fits onto one page. And yes, I know you’ll be sending an email, but you know what I mean.] Now you know what you’re doing, we’ll get into a slightly more specific analysis. What To Include In Your Query Letter So, let\'s recap what your letter needs to include: Avery brief 1-sentence summary of the book and your purpose in writing itA somewhat longer, 1-2 paragraph, introduction to the book. (Not a full-scale plot summary, that’s for the synopsis).A brief introduction to you.Your materials, tailored to the submission guidelines for that particular agent. It also needs to be short: no longer than a page, and ideally even less than that. I\'d also recommend you include some comparative (or \'comp\') titles and perhaps a note about why you\'re reaching out to this particular agent -- but we\'ll get to that. The One-Sentence Summary Consider this your thesis statement, your whole reason for writing this letter. You need to say why you’re writing. (You’re seeking representation, right? So say so.)You need to give the title of your book -- in italics, please.You need to give the word count of your book, rounded to the nearest hundred words. (An additional word of advice: check out our handy guide to word counts to be sure yours is approximately right for your genre\'s market.) You need to give the approximate genre or territory of your book. If you do those things, the agent can instantly understand what you want and what you’re offering. You will also, by the way, prove yourself to be a swift, professional writer. The One-to-Two Paragraph Introduction First, it’s important to say what this is not. You are not writing a back-of-book blurb. Nor are you writing a detailed outline of your story. (That’ll come in the form of your synopsis – more synopsis help right here.) What you are doing is explaining what your book is and why a reader will feel compelled to read it. That ‘what’ element will typically be a matter of presenting some facts. You need to give some more information about your settings, your premise, your characters and so on. You don’t need to be as salesy as a cover blurb, and you don’t need to be as dry as a synopsis. Think about it almost as though you were chatting to your best friend and telling them about the book you’ve just been reading. The ‘why’ element is equally crucial. Here, you are conveying something about emotions. What is a reader going to feel as they read the book? What kind of atmosphere will they inhabit? What kind of emotional payoff or challenge is likely? A Brief Introduction to You, the author There are a few elements to this, from which you can pick and choose depending on whether or not they apply. About youLuckily, agents don’t care too much about you. Nor should they. They should care about the book, and only the book. That’s a fine, honest, meritocratic approach. May the best book win! That said, agents are obviously curious about the person behind the manuscript. So tell them something about yourself. It’s fine to be human here, rather than resume-style formal. It’s also OK to be quite brief. For example: “I am a 41-year-old mother, with three children, two dogs, one husband, and the finest vegetable garden in the southwest.” Why you wrote the bookIf there is a real connection between who you are (a shrimp fisher, let’s say) and the book you’ve written (something to do with the sea and fishing) then it’s worth another sentence or two to tease that out a bit. But don’t feel compelled to do that. In my case, I wrote a crime novel, just because I wanted to write one. I’m not a cop or ex-cop. I have no forensics expertise. I have no legal expertise. Or anything else relevant. And that doesn’t matter, of course – what matters is the quality of the book. So if you have something good to say, say it. If you have nothing to say, then say nothing and don’t worry about it. Your previous writing historyIf you have some real background as a writer, then do say so. For example, you might have written a textbook or similar on a topic relevant to your own professional area. Or you might have won or been shortlisted for a major short story prize. Or perhaps you work as a journalist or copywriter. Or something similar. If anything like that is the case, then do say so. But if it’s not – don’t worry! We’ve seen a lot of agent query letters that say things like “I haven’t had much writing experience, but my English teacher always used to say that I would be a writer one day . . .” And, you know what? It just sounds feeble. So don’t say it. Agents know that most slushpile submissions will be by complete newbie authors. And that’s fine! Writing a series?If you are thinking that this book wants to be the first in a series, it\'s okay to say so, like I did in that sample letter above. But you don\'t want to be too rigid or arrogant, eg “I have completed the first four novels in my Lords of the Silver Sword series, and have got complete chapter outlines for the next 11 titles. I am looking for a publisher who will commit fully to the series.” Agents will almost certainly reject you out of hand for that sort of thing. Remember, you\'re still working on getting your first book picked up -- so keep the focus there. Your Materials Every agent is looking for something different, so be sure to check (and double-check) their submission guidelines. These are helpfully posted on the agency\'s website -- but they can sometimes even differ between agents at the same agency. Some may want to read the first twenty pages; others, the first three chapters. Some may ask for a synopsis, some might not. Pay careful attention to specific formatting requests, as well. Don\'t miss your shot by sending a PDF when they\'ve requested all materials to be sent as a Word Document! A Note on Comparative Titles In today’s competitive publishing environment, it’s imperative that you prove that your book has market potential. The best way to do this is to include comparison titles that closely align with your book’s genre and tone. We recommend comparing your manuscript to at least two titles that were published in the last few years. While you might be inclined to compare your fantasy trilogy to that all-time best-seller The Lord of the Rings, a comparison like that won\'t demonstrate any knowledge of the current fantasy market -- whereas a comparison to N.K. Jemisin\'s The Broken Earth Trilogy or Christelle Dabos\' The Mirror Visitor Quartet will show that you\'re presently reading in the genre you\'re writing. A great way to think about this is also the classic \"X meets Y\" formulation, or the elevator pitch. I know your book is far more complex than a cross between, oh I don\'t know, Beowulf and The Hurt Locker except with a female protagonist... but aren\'t you hooked by that brief tease all the same? Why This Agent? There are a sea of diverse agents out there with a wide variety of specializations and genre preferences. This is good news for you because it means that there’s probably an agent who specializes in the specific genre you write for! It also means that it\'s crucial that you do your research before finally sending your query letter. Tailoring your letter to an agent is the perfect way to demonstrate that you know your stuff and are serious about achieving agent representation. Make sure to look at the agent’s website to narrow down what sort of books they’re looking to represent. Try to really dig into their agent wish list and who they’ve represented in the past. Are they simply interested in fantasy? Or is it something more specific like epic fantasy with a strong female lead? Explain why you’re reaching out to them specifically and why they’re the right agent for you, whether that\'s because they represent authors you love or because they\'re specifically looking for a book that\'s just like yours. This doesn’t need to be a long section and it fits conveniently in your introduction or conclusion.   We can help YOU get published.Did you know, we have a complete course on getting published? The course covers absolutely everything you need to know: how to prepare your manuscript, how to find agents, how to compile your shortlist, how to write your query letter and synopsis – and much, much more besides.That course is quite expensive to buy . . . so don’t buy it. The course is available completely free to members of Jericho Writers. Not just that course. You get our Agent Match tool for finding literary agents. You get our awesome How To Write course. Plus our members get regular opportunities to pitch their work live online to a panel of literary agents.Sounds good, doesn’t it? So hop over here and find out more about joining us. Some Exceptions in Query Letters There are, as ever, exceptions to any rules. Of those, the two most important ones you need to know about are: You Have A Personal Hook This will usually apply to those of you writing high-end literary fiction: you have, if you\'d like it, a little bit of room to strut. For example, let\'s say you were writing about a fictional nun in 14th century Florence, you might talk a bit about the themes of your work and what inspired you to pick up this story. \"While I was living alone on an island off the Scottish coast, I began reading about female monasticism and soon found myself, when I wasn\'t tending to the sheep, compelled by the stories of...\" or something like that. If you\'re aspiring to be the next Lauren Groff or the next Orhan Pamuk, it\'s okay to not only sell the book but yourself too. Don\'t get too carried away -- remember, agents are looking for good writing more than anything -- but if you have a personal or interesting stake in what you\'ve written, share it! You Are Writing Non-fiction And You Have A Remarkable Platform Let’s say you are writing a cookbook and you have a couple of million people who subscribe to your YouTube channel. Or you are writing a book about motorcycle repair and you have a motorbike-themed blog with 250,000 monthly readers. In those cases, you have to delineate your platform in enough detail to convince an agent (and ultimately a publisher) that you are the right person to write this manuscript. In such cases, you\'ll want to be honest about such a thing. Add a few sentences to your \'brief\' introduction and lay out just how incredible you are. Just keep in mind that having a website or 10k Twitter followers does not a platform make -- this is an exception for those of you who are true authorities on the topic, whether that means you\'ve got six or seven figures following your output or you\'ve recently won the Nobel Prize in Economics and are ready to publish a book distilling your genius for the masses. But you know what? Still keep it concise. That one-page-or-less rule still matters, because it\'s the 21st Century and if you write that you have the fastest-growing newsletter subscriber base on Substack... agents can look you up. And they will, so make sure you aren\'t fudging those numbers. What To Do If You Don’t Hear Back From Literary Agents So.You\'ve got your shortlist of at least 6 / preferably something like 10-12 agents and you\'ve checked their submission requirements.You\'ve your own perfect query letter, avoiding any weak language, misspellings, or grammatical howlers.You\'ve used our advice to put together your synopsis, which you haven\'t spent too long writing because, if you\'re using our techniques, the process is simplicity itself.You\'ve followed our simple rules on manuscript formatting. Time to send off your queries! Go ahead and light some candles, pray to your favorite saints, throw a mirror over a ladder. (...or is it under? Or maybe the mirror goes into a wishing well? Whatever works for you, honestly.) And now... you wait. Sometimes you\'ll be waiting only a few days (rarely), sometimes you\'ll be waiting for three months. Expect that, on the whole, it\'ll easily be 6-8 weeks before you hear a response. When that email does come in, what happens next? They might ask to read more -- or they might reply with a rejection. Now keep in mind: rejections do happen, and are likely to happen even if you’ve written a great book. Agents take on maybe a handful of new clients a year, or they might already have an author who writes something too directly competitive to your book, or they just like a different sort of thing. It isn\'t necessarily about you or your book! But if you send your material out to 10-12 agents, and find yourself being rejected by all of them, then you have to ask yourself: Am I being rejected because I’ve chosen the wrong agents?Am I being rejected because my query letter / synopsis are poor?Am I being rejected because my book isn’t up to scratch? And truthfully, the third of these issues is by far the most common. If you’ve written a great book, and a rubbish query letter, you can still find an agent. The other way around? Never. If you are confident that you’ve gone to the right agents, and have been rejected by 10+ people (or heard nothing after 8 weeks, which amonts to the exact same thing), then the probable truth is that your book is not yet strong enough for commercial publication. And, you know what? That’s not a big deal. All books start out bad. Then they get better. So getting rejected is really just a signal that you still have further to travel down that road. The right agent will be there when your book is read, so get to writing! And good luck! Also, remember that getting third party editorial advice is the standard way of improving your work. We offer outstanding editorial help and you can read all about it here. Alternatively, join the Jericho Writers family, and you can get a ton of help absolutely free within your membership. Free courses on How To Write. Free courses on Getting Published. Free access to AgentMatch. And so much more. Find out more here. About the author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
Read more

Paul Braddon’s journey to publication & the speculative fiction market

Paul Braddon discusses the publication process for his debut sci-fi/speculative fiction novel, ‘The Actuality’, published by Sandstone Press in 2021 and optioned by BBC Studios. Paul’s connection with Jericho Writers began with a series of manuscript assessments by Liz Garner. Paul also attended our Festival of Writing for several years and was shortlisted for Friday Night Live in 2013. He got his agent in 2018, and you can read about his journey to finding representation here. Set in a crumbling future England where human life has been bioengineered and subsequently outlawed, ‘The Actuality’ follows Evie, an example of near-perfect AI, as her hiding place is exposed and she is forced to take to the streets and make critical judgements about who she can and can’t trust. We loved that alongside explicit sci-fi themes, ‘The Actuality’ has notes of philosophy and human psychology which invite the reader to question what sets humans apart from machines. Its pace and journey-led structure would make it ideal for television. We sat down with Paul to discuss his debut, his experience working with his publisher Sandstone Press, and what it was like to have his work optioned by BBC Studios. JW: Hi Paul! When we last spoke, you had recently been signed by your agent. What role has she played since she took on ‘The Actuality’? The first thing Joanna (Joanna Swainson – Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency) helped with was making the manuscript as attention grabbing as possible. One of the challenges was ensuring that none of the tension dissipated during the opening chapters. To achieve this, I made sure that a reference to accumulating events appeared on every page. We also added a prologue to provide a foreshadowing of events and a chilling strapline (‘Fear makes her human / Humans make her fear’), which is now on the front cover of the hardback. Once the manuscript was ready, Joanna drew up a list of editors to approach and sent it out. We had favourable feedback from quite a few but Sandstone Press was first to the table with an offer. Joanna called to let me know in April 2019 – it was my birthday and the best birthday present I could have had. We were very happy to go with Sandstone. They’re a great indie publisher and having recently won the ‘Not the Booker’ with the dystopian ‘Sweet Fruit, Sour Land’ by Rebecca Ley, were keen to build a thread around speculative fiction. They had great ideas on how ‘The Actuality’ could be given a final polish and their enthusiasm was infectious. It took a few weeks to finalise the contract, with negotiations handled by Joanna, and then it came through to me to sign. JW: What has been the subsequent process of working with your publisher? Once the UK and Commonwealth rights had been acquired by Sandstone, the editorial work began. My editor, the talented Kay Farrell, gave me as the main challenge the reordering of section 4 (the novel is in five sections). She was absolutely right – the flow here was not working as well as it could. After spending a few weeks on a revised draft, I returned it and to my huge relief, had nailed it. The manuscript was then passed back and forth a half dozen times. It was all small things, like she’d challenge why a character was behaving in the way they were and I’d go back into a scene and try to understand her concerns. It was down to me to find solutions and make the changes. Kay’s role was to challenge but I’d usually find that she was right, and an improvement could be made. By October 2019 we had an agreed draft ready for proofreading. The proofreader – Georgie Coles – did an excellent job tidying the punctuation and ensuring consistency. Her changes were largely invisible – just as they should be – but afterwards the novel felt slicker and smoother. The cover then went out to the designer. I was asked to contribute ideas but had no expectation of what the creative mind of Heike Schüssler would come up with. The trade loves ‘different’ and her eye-popping, all-the-best-colours-from-the-children’s-paint-box design has garnered praise from all quarters and has been successful in heralding the novel’s literary ambitions. Christina Dalcher – author of the bestselling ‘VOX’ – submitted a lovely review and from it, the word ‘Exquisite’ was taken and added to the front cover. Next came typesetting and I was sent a pdf to check. Whenever I read the text through, I saw little things I wanted to change and although at this stage I wasn’t meant to be doing anything other than checking for typesetting errors, I persuaded Kay to allow me a few more tiny edits. Arrangements for the audiobook were also now completed. Sandstone don’t publish audiobooks themselves but sold the rights to W.F Howes – the audiobook specialist. The audiobook for ‘The Actuality’ is now complete and is read with great sensitivity by the actress Eva Feiler. Having been used to only hearing myself read my words, it’s such a pleasure to hear them spoken so movingly. In January 2020, I met with Ceris Jones, the Sandstone marketing exec, to discuss promotional plans, including the venue for the launch event – we were assuming a central London bookshop – and in the background I was compiling a list of attendees… …which is when the virus struck! Initially Sandstone tried to stick with July but when it became clear that bookshops would be closed, deferred publication to February 2021. The delay was a disappointment but also a silver lining, as it allowed time for an option for the TV/Film rights to be sold to BBC Studios, helping create a buzz ahead of publication. In the leadup to publication, social media activity has mounted. ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) have been sent out to reviewers to drum up excitement. One highlight is a piece on the BBC Culture website which positions ‘The Actuality’ in the footsteps of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’. I think this is lovely and works on so many levels, not least in that there is indeed something of the gothic heroine in my ‘electric’ character Evie. The revised date for publication – Thursday 18th of February 2021 – is now upon us. As before, bookshops remain closed, but Sandstone have gained experience with online events and we have a Q&A on Twitter planned for lunchtime – plus hopefully an evening event to follow soon. I will also definitely have a proper launch party when circumstances allow and the wine can be safely shared around! ‘The Actuality’, Paul Braddon. Sandstone Press, 2021. JW: How would you place ‘The Actuality’ within the sci-fi/speculative fiction market?  ‘The Actuality’ straddles sci-fi / dystopia and literary fiction. What is rare about it, is that the story is presented through the point of view of the AI and maybe because of this, reviewers have engaged. In the words of The Publishing Planet: ‘As an exceptionally designed and advanced AI, Evie is outside the category of human but feels like the most human character in the book. Braddon’s ability to write about this rough and brutal world through the eyes of such an elegant and honest character is beguiling.’ I love that they love her. JW: The world in the novel is quite bleak – does this reflect your perception of what the future could be like or are you more optimistic? The setting of ‘The Actuality’ is 2135 and the impact of climate change has taken its toll on the environment and society. The UK has fragmented, suffers bitter winters and baking summers and the population has drastically shrunk as a result of a decline in fertility caused by unchecked pollution. All of this is completely plausible. However, our potential saviour is science – technological advance has created this mess, but it is quite within our wits to use further advances to find our way out. The rapid growth of electric vehicles is testament to this and the implementation of artificial intelligence will enable machines to aid us in the quest. JW: In very exciting news, ‘The Actuality’ has been optioned by BBC Studios! Can you explain what the process has been like so far?  It was amazing getting the news that we had an offer for the TV and film rights from BBC Studios. Joanna spotted the screen potential of ‘The Actuality’ right from the start. Her agency works with a specialist dramatics rights agent called Marc Simonsson who has all the studio contacts here and abroad and had been championing it, albeit the crucial lead came from a pitch made by Sandstone, with Marc expertly negotiating with BBC Studios to close the deal. The great thing about being optioned at this stage is that it gives us valuable pre-publication publicity. JW: What’s next for you, and how are you approaching new projects? ‘The Actuality’ was written as a standalone novel but the potential to develop the story is part of the appeal to BBC Studios and if a TV series is commissioned I might well revisit Evie’s world. I love dystopian/speculative themes and hope to work more in this genre. The novel I am currently working on however is a bit different – I’d love to say more because I’m very excited by it, but it’s early days and I can’t risk jinxing it! From Paul’s Agent, Joanna Swainson (Hardman & swainson Literary Agency) JW: Hi Joanna! Thanks for chatting to us. What was it about Paul’s manuscript that originally drew you to it? JS: I was initially drawn to Paul’s manuscript by the prospect of reading a novel set a hundred years in the future, in a ‘broken down England where technology has lurched forward then all but seized up’. This was how Paul described it in his pitch and although it sounds depressing, I immediately saw a vivid backdrop to a story with wonderful potential for exploring human nature. And then as soon as I started to read, I was hooked in by the atmosphere he creates and the protagonist, Evie, a beautifully drawn character who kept surprising me. JW: As an agent, what kind of thing are you looking for right now? JS: As an agent, I’m genuinely open to representing a wide range of fiction and non-fiction. Particular areas of interest in fiction are novels which explore the darker side of human nature, so crime and thrillers and horror (and folk horror). But I do also like funny and uplifting, too! And in fact, I think a book should put a smile on your face, whether it’s through humour itself, or irony, or sheer ingenuity of character or writing or whatever it is. We’re here to marvel and be entertained. I’m also a big fan of history and folklore, whether in fiction or non-fiction. JW: Could you comment on what it’s like pitching work in the sci-fi/speculative fiction market right now? JS: There are possibly slightly fewer editors you can approach for sci-fi/speculative fiction but pitching into this market is much the same as pitching in any other – it’s tough out there, but if the work is amazing then it should get the deal. If it’s speculative with cross over (i.e. book group or literary or other categories) appeal, then all to the better. But then sometimes you don’t really know if it will cross over until it’s published and embraced by the masses and it very much depends on how a publisher positions a book too. About Paul Braddon Paul Braddon lives in London with his wife Mary and son Thomas. He got the writing bug after coming runner-up in an essay competition as a teenager and went onto study English Literature at Reading University. You can check out Paul’s website here and follow him on Twitter here. Links to buy ‘The Actuality’: From Sandstone Press From Amazon From Bookshop.org Hardman & Swainson Literary submissions information here. Got a manuscript ready to submit? Our renowned AgentMatch database has up-to-date information on every agent in the UK and US – perfect for compiling your shortlist.
Read more

How Steffanie Edward went from 28 rejections to a two-book deal

We first met Steffanie Edward in 2018 when she became the first recipient of our Self-Edit Your Novel Course bursary. Two years later, we caught up with Steffanie to find out what it’s been like to sign her debut contract with a digital-first publisher, without the help of an agent, discuss writing for oneself, getting past the first draft, and, of course, her fantastic achievement with Bookouture. JW: Lovely to chat with you. Where are you at with your writing process right now? S: At the moment I’m doing structural edits – it’s all new to me. I’ve had my work looked at through manuscript feedback, but it’s nothing like this. Structural edits are much more detailed, and all in your hands. Rather than being given specific suggestions on where and how to make changes, you’re tackling specifics where you have to read the whole novel again and again to tweak and implement changes. It forces you to go deeper into your characters, makes you interrogate who they really are and why. JW: Your debut, ‘This Other Island’, comes out in May 2021. What can readers expect from it? S: It’s fresh, it’s different. It has lots of twists, turns, and surprises. Working with my editor, Isobel Akenhead, is helping me produce a novel which will have the biggest impact on readers it can possibly have, and I’m loving it. JW: How did you land your book deal? S: I was submitting to so many agents and just getting nowhere. Three or four of them said nice things in their rejection, but it was still a rejection. Then I signed up for a book surgery offered by Peepal Press. It was suggested that mine was quite a common journey for black writers – they often end up at independent presses because they can’t get an agent, and so it was suggested that I tried submitting to independent presses, like Peepal Press. I felt quite demoralised, but I submitted to a few independents. And then the Jericho Writers Summer Festival of Writing came up. I watched the Bookouture interview with Jenny Geras, and thought, ‘I really like this woman.’ Sometimes you just get a really good vibe. Jenny was saying all these nice things about how they don’t believe in slushpiles and you don’t need an agent to submit to them. I still didn’t submit – I thought I’d just get another rejection. Then the Jericho Writers newsletter came out and Harry did a write-up on Bookouture. He was very encouraging. He mentioned that if you do the maths, you’re more likely to get through with Bookouture than you are with an agent, just based on the number of submissions they accept per year. And there was another Jericho Writers piece about Bookouture encouraging black writers to submit to them. So, in the end, I submitted twice! JW: How did you feel when you found out Bookouture wanted to publish your novel? I was so overwhelmed. I’d had so many rejections from agents, I think I’d had 28 rejections. But then Isobel’s email said she was so pleased my book was assigned to her because she ‘absolutely LOVED IT’. I couldn’t believe it – it was an amazing moment. Debi Alper [who runs our Self Edit Your Novel Course] was the first person I told because she was always there with me. Every little disappointment, every time I had doubts, she’d say ‘just keep going!’ Every time I contacted her, she came swiftly back and really helped to prop me up. JW: That’s a lovely relationship to have. Do you think you’ll contact Debi for the draft of your second book as well? S: Yes, I’ll always be running things by her! I feel really blessed that I’ve met her, that she believed in me and that she kept encouraging me to hang in there. ‘Keep submitting,’ she’d say. ‘You just need to find the right person at the right time.’ JW: How did you discover our Self-Editing Course in the first place? S: I joined Jericho Writers in August 2018 mainly because I’d get access to loads of webinars and other things that I could tap into to learn more about writing and getting published. Then I saw the Self-Editing Course advertised and I thought, ‘well, I’ve got this novel I’ve been working on for the last ten years. Let me see if I can get moving on it.’ I’m not working – well not paid work anyway. I look after my mum who has Alzheimer’s, so I applied for the bursary and thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained. When Jericho contacted me to say I’d been successful, I couldn’t believe it. That was my first opening door. “I feel really blessed that I’ve met [Debi Alper], that she believed in me and that she kept encouraging me to hang in there.” JW: What has it been like to work with Bookouture? S: So far, I’ve found everyone to be very on the ball, easy to talk to and efficient. When I was submitting to agents, I noticed how young many of them were and I remember saying to Debi, they’re not going to get me, they won’t get my story. Not only am I a mature writer, but I am also a black writer. She told me I should just go for it. My editor, at Bookouture, Isobel Akenhead is young enough to be my daughter, but she knows her work and has a good eye for what works and what doesn’t. Also, she loves my work and actually gets it. JW: That’s exactly what you need. Sometimes, especially for a debut author, the publishing process can be really daunting. What was it like to negotiate the deal without an agent there backing you up? S: I didn’t like it. It took me away from the creative process to something more business orientated. On Debi’s advice, I joined the Society of Authors, and I sent the contract to them for feedback and advice. They gave advice on things I should query, but very little changed at the end I thought I’d take a chance and be positive about Bookouture because this is the contract that would launch my career, and they seem like a great fit. Everything moved quite fast. I just couldn’t believe this was happening to me, or that I was the person this was happening for. JW: It must be very overwhelming. Bookouture do things like royalties slightly differently don’t they? S: They don’t do advances, but they give you 45% of your sales. It really suits me. JW: They’re doing a few things that are quite radically different, which I think is so intriguing. Are there any challenges that you’re facing right now as an author, and how are they different to challenges you might have faced in the past? S: I feel now that I’ve signed a contract, I’ve joined the big league. So, I can’t get demoralised, or say, ‘I can’t be bothered to write today.’ But the great motivating thing about it is that I’m not writing in the hope that a publisher or an agent will take me on. Things are clearer, I know the stories I’m writing will be published. I love writing, find it satisfying all my efforts are being rewarded and it’s exciting, so it’s all great. JW: How long have you been writing for? S: I started writing seriously in my thirties. I wrote a novel when I was living in Abu Dhabi, despite knowing nothing about writing. I sent it off to all these agents in England, and all of them said ‘get stuffed,’ basically. I abandoned it, and then when I came back to England I started going on courses and getting my short stories published. I was really into Octavia E. Butler, who wrote sci-fi. All her main characters were black, and I liked that about her – I liked that they were women as well. I thought perhaps I could write a story like that. My first novel, which was the one I submitted to the Self Edit Your Novel course, was literary fiction with Caribbean magical realism (there are lots of myths and legends in the Caribbean). I’d been writing that for so many years and couldn’t get past a certain point, and the course helped me to get past that point and actually finish it! JW: Let’s talk about first drafts. Do you have a method that you stick to? For example, do you give yourself a certain amount of words to write each day or set deadlines? S: That’s exactly what I do. For my second novel, which I’m writing now, as part of the Bookouture deal, the target is 1500 words each day. Sometimes I even manage 2000. For my previous novel, the target was 500 but then I realised I could do much more! You definitely have to have an element of planning. I didn’t do enough of that for my first novel. But as you’re writing it’s like some magic happens in your brain – ideas just come to you. Things just happen! You just have to keep going until you’ve got that first draft completed. Put it down for a bit, then come back to it for a second draft, which is likely to be more challenging than the first because that’s when you change things, find certain things don’t fit well into the plot; some characters disappear, another might enter etc. “That’s the writing process. It just has magic in it.” JW: How different is your final draft to your first? S: With ‘This Other Island’, I started the first draft thinking I’d only have one point of view and one protagonist. My final draft has three points of view and the plot itself has become much more intertwined – with more twists and surprises. Having to write a synopsis, query letter and pitch, helped me to identify the main theme in the novel. When I was submitting to agents, some asked which novel or author your novel would sit comfortably next to. Though irritating at the time, that helped to get me focused on the themes in my novel too. With the help of Isobel, I’ve identified more themes running through ‘This Other Island’. And I feel even more proud of the novel. I have always been fascinated by the consequences of not knowing who your parents are. JW: That’s interesting, where do you think that fascination comes from? S: I think it comes from my culture – perhaps a historical thing from slavery when many children were sold off and didn’t know their parents. Parents had children they had to say good-bye to and never see again. I think it’s important to know who you are, who your people are, and who you’re connected with biologically If you don’t, it could lead to dire consequences. JW: Of course. Do you feel like writing became a kind of catharsis in that sense? S: Maybe, but unplanned. The idea for this novel actually came from my mother, when I listened to her talking about her journey to England on a ship. Then whilst plotting and getting the story out, things came through and eventually the whole thing worked. That’s the writing process. It just has magic in it. JW: Do you have any tips for writers who might be working on their first draft? S: Have a plan – you don’t necessarily have to know the end, but make sure you know what the characters are going to go through and have a rough idea of what you want to happen. Many seasoned writers say write the first draft for yourself. Don’t worry about the reader yet. I agree. It’s the best method for me. From Isobel Akenhead, Steffanie’s Editor At Bookouture JW: You must see a lot of submissions at Bookouture. What was it about Steffanie’s novel that stood out for you? Isobel: From the moment I started reading Steffanie’s novel, I was captivated by the story she was telling, the characters she’d created, and her entirely distinctive voice. It was a book I couldn’t stop thinking about! In talking to Steffanie, it became clear that we felt the same way about this beautiful novel, and shared a vision on publishing and readership, that made the editorial partnership feel strong right from the outset. JW: What are you currently looking for at Bookouture and how can writers help their chances of success? Isobel: [At Bookouture] we have an open submissions portal, and are equally delighted by direct and agented submissions, which we endeavour to respond to within a matter of weeks. Writing a compelling synopsis, and enclosing the entire manuscript are practical things you can do to help its success, but in terms of content, we simply want powerful, gripping stories that readers won’t be able to put down. Whether that’s romance, crime, historical fiction, or more book club reads, broadly at Bookouture we’re just looking for commercially written stories that we think a large audience of readers will love. With two books already on the way, Steffanie Edward is a Self-Edit Course alumna to watch. We’re so glad Steffanie found our resources useful and can’t wait to see the debut of this exciting new author on our shelves. You can follow Steffanie on Twitter at @EdwardsaEdward. Don’t forget to view our bursary opportunities here. See more success stories from the Self-Edit Course for yourself at #SelfEditAlumni on Twitter. More about Steffanie’s deal with Bookouture here. Submit your work to Bookouture here. About Steffanie Edward Steffanie Edward was born in St Lucia but brought up in London. Her writing career started with short stories, five of which have been published. Two of them came runner-up in a Darker Times Fiction flash competition. Her novel ‘This Other Island’, was longlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize. Her first attempt at writing a novel was over twenty years ago, whilst living and working in Abu Dhabi. That novel, ‘Yvette’, didn’t make it into print, but the main protagonist, has muscled her way into Steffanie’s debut novel, ‘This Other Island.’
Read more

Neema Shah on her two-book deal with Picador

Neema Shah talks to us about her experience with Jericho Writers and her debut novel ‘Kololo Hill’. We were first introduced to Neema Shah on our Self-Edit Your Novel Course, and then at the Festival of Writing in 2017, where she was longlisted for two out of our three competitions that year. Her work was noticed by agents who were keen to read more, and now we can’t wait for the release of her debut novel ‘Kololo Hill’ (18 February 2021), the first in a two-book deal with Picador. We chatted to Neema about how she got her agent, balancing writing with other commitments and telling underrepresented stories.  JW: Hi Neema, lovely to talk to you! Could you start by telling us about your background as a writer? When did you know you wanted to be an author?  N: I actually started off doing a law degree and then went into marketing as a career. I only decided to take up a short creative writing course because my work offered us the chance to do an extra-curricular thing – and I was just hooked. I remembered how much I loved writing as a child, and now I just can’t imagine my life without it.   JW: It’s really strange how life can work out like that! Your debut novel, Kololo Hill, is coming out in February 2021 with Picador – where did it begin? Did you start with a particular character, or maybe a concept?   N: I grew up reading lots of fiction about other places and times, but I found that although there was fiction about the British-Asian experience and the Indian experience, there was nothing about people like my family. I also knew a bit about the expulsion of Asians from Uganda by Idi Amin in the 1970’s – I was always astounded that people could be sent out of their country in just three months. Those two things were really interesting to me, and that’s really what sparked my story. I wanted to explore different viewpoints, because people like my family aren’t necessarily that well represented in fiction.   JW: How did you discover Jericho Writers?   N: I found out about both the Festival of Writing and the Self-Edit Your Novel course back when Jericho Writers was called the Writers’ Workshop, and I used both in my early stages of writing. I had heard really good things about the Self-Edit course – all of which turned out to be absolutely right. Not only did I meet Debi Alper and Emma Darwin but I also met a really great writing friend, Daniel Aubrey, who continues to beta read for me. There are so many great things that come out of the Self-Edit course and I just love it. I’ve recommended it to so many people since.  Off the back of that, I decided to go to the Festival of Writing. That was such an incredible, intense day with lots of workshops – I also did the agent one-to-ones. There were three competitions that year – I came runner up in ‘Best Opening Chapter’ and was longlisted for ‘Pitch Perfect’. I’ve used those on my submission letters since and they’re really well-recognised!  I’ve had loads to do with Jericho Writers and you‘ve been a really key part of my journey.  JW: Do you have any tips for writers working on their first draft?  N: I really feel that a lot of writing is psychological. We spend so much of our time having doubts (which are natural), and you have to push those aside. In an early draft, it really is ‘just keep writing.‘. I’ve been thinking a lot about psychology through my day job in marketing, and the idea of the rational and emotional sides of the brain. When you’re writing, you want to ignore the rational side (which is telling you it’s awful) and access the emotional side. I know there are some writers who will write the first paragraph and edit it straight away, but I find it easiest to write a draft without looking back at all.  Keep on going past the next few drafts and accept that to get a novel finished it can sometimes be boring. It’s just keeping going that’s really important. You also have to have space away from your draft, because you’re far too close to it when you’ve just read over it.  JW: Can you tell us about your journey to finding an agent?   N: I did lots of research – I even made an Excel spreadsheet because I knew I was going to contact quite a few agents and would need to keep track of it all. I also went to events where agents were talking and read blogs so I could get a sense of what agents were like. I made a shortlist and starting by submitting to about 10-12 agents. I was lucky because some of the agents had been on competitions I’d been listed in, including the Festival of Writing, who had said they wanted to read more when it was ready.  I had a lot of rejections, but quite a few manuscript requests, which was brilliant. I ended up with two great agents offering to represent me and I was really spoilt for choice.  JW: I also wanted to ask about your gorgeous book cover – what do you think of it? I noticed that it’s modern Batik print – was that an idea that came from you?   N: I love it so much! It wasn’t the first version – the designer had come up with a few concepts based on fabrics and she wanted them to be related to the story. If you look closely on the cover you notice that as well as the Batik print, which is common to Uganda and India, there’s also an imprint of an Indian passport. There are so many little details working together which you might only see on a second look. I was blown away because I love looking at covers but I never considered how much thought and conscious choice goes into it.  ‘Kololo Hill’ by Neema Shah. Picador, February 2021 JW: How are the challenges you’re facing as a published author now different to challenges you might have faced in the past?   N: When I first started out, I didn’t know any writers at all. Doing the courses definitely helped, as I’ve kept in touch with quite a few people I met there. Twitter was also great for finding other writers, particularly ones to beta read for. There’s a massive writing community there, and the #bookstagram community is also huge.  I do think the publishing industry is getting much better for underrepresented writers (I’m an example of that), but I did have few experiences that I was quite taken aback by. There’s still a way to go, but it is better than it was even five years ago.  I also find there is a slight lack of transparency about what it’s like to be an author. Advances are all different and the way you’re treated in terms of marketing can be very different. Picador are brilliant and they’ve been really transparent with me, but from my understanding that’s not always the case. So, I think finding communities or people going through similar experiences is such a big help, and that’s a piece of advice I would give whatever stage you’re at with your writing.  At the one-to-ones with Jericho Writers, I got really detailed feedback on my opening chapters and my covering letter – that kind of thing can be quite hard to come by and looking for those resources can be really helpful.  JW: How do you organise your time between writing and generating free content for your online platforms (blog and YouTube channel) and having a day job in marketing?   N: The funny thing is that I wrote ‘Kololo Hill’ on my commute, on my smartphone! So, just making use of what would otherwise be dead time really helps. I’m lucky enough to have a good work/life balance as my job is quite flexible. That said, it’s only now that I’m promoting ‘Kololo Hill’ and starting book two and working a day job that it’s starting to feel like a bit much, so I am trying to get better at organising myself. It’s so important to save energy for your creativity – just being creative takes a lot out of you! I try to write early in the mornings before other things get in the way.   “There is a slight lack of transparency about what it’s like to be an author… Finding communities or people going through similar experiences is a big help, and that’s a piece of advice I would give whatever stage you’re at with your writing.”  JW: You mentioned that you’re a big fan of books on the writing process. Are there any other books, perhaps works of fiction, that particularly shaped your writing?   N: One of my favourite books is ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy (based on the Windrush generation, which definitely inspired me). My other favourite books aren’t necessarily the kind of thing that I write about but are things I’d love to write more of – ‘Fingersmith‘ by Sarah Waters is amazing – it has an amazing twist and I’d love to write a book with a proper twist because it’s so hard to do.  For ‘Kololo Hill’ I used a lot of blogs, online photography and a couple of TV shows. I also went on a research trip to Uganda. In terms of first-person experience there wasn’t that much available in writing though. That’s another reason why it was important to me to make sure that story was told, even if in fiction.  JW: Are you reading anything good right now?   N: I’ve been getting into audiobooks, and I’m listening to ‘Elevator Pitch’ by Linwood Barclay. I’m reading a proof I was given of ‘The Smallest Man’ by Frances Quinn, which comes out in January, and I also just finished ‘If I Can’t Have You’ by Charlotte Levin, which is a really good debut from 2020.  From Jenny Savill, Neema’s Agent (Andrew Nurnberg Associates) JW: Hi Jenny. What drew you to Neema’s work, and in what ways was it a strong submission?   JS: Where do I start?!  Her manuscript had a strong opening. The action was firmly rooted in a terrific sense of place and time – a place and a time that I knew a little about from TV as a child but had never really understood. Seeing the 1972 expulsion through the lives of one particular family and their friends was such a brilliant lens through which to show a massive political and social upheaval. That coupled with distinctive, flawed characters whose story I felt compelled to follow, and whose lives continued in my imagination long after the last full stop, made for an impressive submission.  I do love a novel that illuminates a life or lives in a way that does away with preconceptions or conventions. I love to be surprised by characters and by the turn of events in a story. ‘Kololo Hill’ does this beautifully.  As an agent, Jenny is always keen to find new voices in 7+, Middle Grade and Young Adult writing. Jenny also represents authors writing for adults. She is on the look-out for writers of literary fiction, commercial and literary women’s fiction, well-written thrillers and psychological suspense, historical fiction (the whole gamut – including alternate histories), memoir and narrative non-fiction. She welcomes originality, depth, and the ability to move and surprise in submissions.    If you’re interested in submitting your own work to Jenny or other agents, AgentMatch is a great tool to refine your search and develop your perfect shortlist. Find out more here.    If you can’t wait until 18 February to read some of Neema’s work, take a look at her website here for more insightful writing tips.    More about Neema Shah here.    Submit your work to Andrew Nurnberg Associates here.    About Neema Shah Neema Shah is an author, blogger and marketer. Her debut novel ‘Kololo Hill’ will be published by Picador on 18th February 2021. She came runner-up in the ‘Best Opening Chapter’ and was longlisted in the ‘Pitch Perfect’ competition at the Festival of Writing in 2017. She has also been shortlisted for the DGA First Novel Prize and Bath Novel Award, both in 2018.
Read more

How to Write a Great Query Letter (with Hints + Tips)

Sample query letter + template included You want to know what a great query letter to literary agents should look like? We’re going to show you a perfect sample letter in a moment. But we’re also going to figure out what your query letter needs to do – and how you’re going to write it. This blog post will give you everything you need – and I promise that if you are talented enough to write a book, you are EASILY capable of writing a strong, confident query letter. OK. We’ll get stuck in in one second. But I should probably tell you that I am a real author describing a real book. The query letter below pretends that this book is a first novel and I have no track record in the industry. Tiny digression: this isn’t a complete guide to getting your book published. You can get that here. Nor is it a full guide to getting an agent – more info here, and here.) Write A Query Letter In 3 Easy Steps: Introductory sentence – include your purpose for writing (you’re seeking representation!) book title, wordcount, genre.1-2 paragraphs about your book – what your book’s about and why a reader will love it.A brief note about You – who you are and why you wrote the book. Here’s What A Query Letter Should Look Like Remember that your query letter needs to accomplish the following goals: Introduce the purpose of your letter (ie: to secure representation).To define in a very concise way the manuscript that you’ve written (ie: title, genre, word count)To introduce your work at slightly more length – so you say what it is (setting / setup / premise / main character)To give a sense of the emotional mood of your work – what is the emotional payoff for the reader?To give a hint of your book’s USP or angleTo say something – not much – about you We’ll say more about all that shortly. But first up, here’s a query letter of a sort that would make any sane agent want to start reading the manuscript in question: Dear Agent NameI’m writing to seek representation for my first novel, TALKING TO THE DEAD, a police procedural of 115,000 words.The book opens with news of a murder: a young woman and her daughter have been found dead in a rough area of Cardiff. The house where they’re found is in poor condition, but in the corner of the room is a platinum bank card belonging to a local millionaire. A millionaire who died in a plane crash some nine months previously. New recruit, Detective Constable Fiona Grifffiths is assigned to the investigation.Puzzling as this crime looks, it’s not the heart of the book’s mystery. It becomes rapidly clear that Fiona Griffiths herself is a very peculiar woman, who is withholding crucial secrets from the reader. Who exactly is her father? What was her childhood illness? And what is it with her and corpses?I currently run my own small consultancy business, and this is my first novel. I look forward to writing further novels in the series.I enclose the first three chapters and a synopsis. I hope you like what you see and look forward to hearing from you.Yours,Harry Bingham Simple right? And you can do it, no? Here’s that query letter again with my comments highlighted in bold: I’m writing to seek representation [the purpose of you getting in touch] for my first novel, TALKING TO THE DEAD, a police procedural of 115,000 words. [title, genre, word count – all defined fast and clearly.]The book opens with news of a murder: a young woman and her daughter have been found dead in a rough area of Cardiff. The house where they’re found is in poor condition, but in the corner of the room is a platinum bank card belonging to a local millionaire. A millionaire who died in a plane crash some nine months previously. [This sets up the basic premise of the crime story. Already, the agent has the basic co-ordinates she needs to navigate.] New recruit, Detective Constable Fiona Grifffiths is assigned to the investigation. [Introduce main character – clearly and succinctly.]Puzzling as this crime looks, it’s not the heart of the book’s mystery. It becomes rapidly clear that Fiona Griffiths herself is a very peculiar woman, who is withholding crucial secrets from the reader. Who exactly is her father? What was her childhood illness? And what is it with her and corpses? [This hints nicely at the book’s mood and USP. It starts to suggest the emotional payoff – a mystery to do with the book’s central character.]I currently run my own small consultancy business, and this is my first novel. I look forward to writing further novels in the series. [A line or two about me. Confirmation that I understand I’m writing a series – an important touch for this kind of fiction.]I enclose the first three chapters and a synopsis. I hope you like what you see and look forward to hearing from you. [Wrap it up. The whole letter easily fits onto one page. And yes, I know you’ll be sending an email, but you know what I mean.] Now you know what you’re doing, we’ll get into a slightly more specific analysis. What To Include In Your Query Letter All the letter must do is: Give a very brief 1-sentence summary of the book and your purpose in writing itA somewhat longer, 1-2 paragraph, introduction to the book. (Not a full-scale plot summary, that’s for the synopsis).A brief introduction to you.Not be badly written. That’s it. If you can write a novel, you can write that letter. And each of those elements is simple enough. The 1 sentence summary You need to say why you’re writing. (You’re seeking representation, right? So say so.)You need to give the title of your book, either underlined or (better) in italics, please.You need to give the word count of your book, rounded to the nearest 5,000 words. (And one word of advice: just be sure your word count is approximately right for the market. Advice here.)You need to give the approximate genre or territory of your book. If you do those things, the agent can instantly understand what you want and what you’re offering. You will also, by the way, prove yourself to be a swift, professional writer. The 1-2 paragraph introduction to the book First, it’s important to say what this is not. You are not writing a back-of-book blurb. But nor are you writing a detailed outline of your story. (That’ll come in the form of your synopsis – more synopsis help right here.) What you are doing is explaining what your book is and why a reader will feel compelled to read it. That ‘what’ element will typically be a matter of presenting some facts. You need to give some more information about your settings, your premise, your characters and so on. You don’t need to be as salesy as a cover blurb, and you don’t need to be as dry as a synopsis. It’s almost as though you were chatting to your best friend and telling her about the book you’ve just been reading. The ‘why’ element is equally crucial. Here, you are conveying something about emotions. What is a reader going to feel as they read the book? What kind of atmosphere will they inhabit? What kind of emotional payoff or challenge is likely? A brief introduction to you, the author About youLuckily, agents don’t care too much about you. Nor should they. They should care about the book, and only the book. That’s a fine, honest, meritocratic approach. May the best book win! That said, agents are obviously curious about the person behind the manuscript. So tell them something about yourself. It’s fine to be human here, rather than resume-style formal. It’s also OK to be quite brief. For example: “I am a 41-year-old mother, with three children, two dogs, one husband, and the finest vegetable garden in the southwest.” Why you wrote the bookIf there is a real connection between who you are (a shrimp fisher, let’s say) and the book you’ve written (something to do with the sea and fishing) then it’s worth another sentence or two to tease that out a bit. But don’t feel compelled to do that. In my case, I wrote a crime novel, just because I wanted to write one. I’m not a cop or ex-cop. I have no forensics expertise. I have no legal expertise. Or anything else relevant. And that doesn’t matter, of course – what matters is the quality of the book. So if you have something good to say, say it. If you have nothing to say, then say nothing and don’t worry about it. Your previous writing historyIf you have some real background as a writer, then do say so. For example, you might have written a textbook or similar on a topic relevant to your own professional area. Or you might have won or been shortlisted for a major short story prize. Or perhaps you work as a journalist or copywriter. Or something similar. If anything like that is the case, then do say so. But if it’s not – don’t worry! We’ve seen a lot of agent query letters that say things like “I haven’t had much writing experience, but my English teacher always used to say that I would be a writer one day . . .” And, you know what? It just sounds feeble. So don’t say it. Agents know that most slushpile submissions will be by complete newbie authors. And that’s fine. JK Rowling was a newbie once . . . Writing a series?If you are writing a series, then you should say so, much as I did in that sample letter above. Agents will like the fact that you recognise the series potential of your work and that you are committed to taking the steps needed to develop it. What you don’t want to do, is sound overly rigid or arrogant. (“I have completed the first four novels in my Lords of the Silver Sword series, and have got complete chapter outlines for the next 11 titles. I am looking for a publisher who will commit fully to the series.” — if you write something like that, agents are likely to reject you out of hand.) How long should your query letter be? Your overall letter should not run to more than one page. (Except that non-fiction and literary authors can give themselves maybe a page and a half). And that’s it. We can help YOU get published.Did you know, we have a complete course on getting published? The course covers absolutely everything you need to know: how to prepare your manuscript, how to find agents, how to compile your shortlist, how to write your query letter and synopsis – and much, much more besides.That course is quite expensive to buy . . . so don’t buy it. The course is available completely free to members of Jericho Writers. Not just that course. You get our Agent Match tool for finding literary agents. You get our awesome How To Write course. Plus our members get regular opportunities to pitch their work live online to a panel of literary agents.Sounds good, doesn’t it? So hop over here and find out more about joining us. Query Letters: The Exceptions OK, there are a few exceptions to the above rules. Of those, the two most important ones you need to know about are: You Are Writing Literary Fiction If you are writing genuinely high end literary fiction, agents will want you to strut a little, even in your query letter. So if you were writing about (Oh, I dunno) a fictional nun in 14th century Florence, you might talk a bit about the themes of your work and what inspired you to pick up this story. This kind of thing: “I got the idea for this story, while working as a game warden one winter on the Hebridean island of Macvity. I was all alone and with a deeply unreliable internet connection. It occurred to me that my solitary life had its religious aspect and I became very interested in female monasticism. Blah, yadda, yadda, blah.” (Sorry for the blahs, but personally I like books that have corpses in them.) The idea of this kind of approach is that you are selling the book (its themes, its resonances), but also you’re selling yourself – you’re showing that you can walk the talk as a literary writer. You Are Writing Non-fiction And You Have A Remarkable Platform Let’s say you are writing a cookbook and you have a couple of million people who subscribe to your YouTube channel. Or you are writing a book about motorcycle repair and you have a motorbike-themed blog with 250,000 monthly readers. In those cases, you have to delineate your platform in enough detail to convince an agent (and ultimately a publisher) that you are the right person to write this manuscript. In those cases, then your query letter does need to outline your platform in sufficient detail. You may even want to kick that outline over into a separate document. However you handle it, the “one page query letter” rule can safely be binned. Your prospective agent wants to know what kind of platform you can supply – so tell her. Oh yes: and having a website is not a platform. Having 10,000 followers on Twitter is impressive, but means nothing in the context of national or international marketing. In short: if you are going to make a big deal of your platform, your platform itself needs to be a big deal. That means having six- or seven-figure numbers to boast about. Nothing else will really cut it. You Are Writing Non-fiction And You Have Extraordinary Authority Much the same goes if you are (let’s say) writing a book of popular psychology and (like Daniel Kahnemann) just happen to have a Nobel Prize to wave around. If you bring amazing authority to a topic, then you need to cover that, either in your query letter or a separate bio. Again, the one page rule just doesn’t apply. What To Do If You Don’t Hear Back From Literary Agents So. Let’s say you’ve got a shortlist of agents. You’ve checked those agents’ websites for their specific submission requirements – probably opening chapters + query letter + synopsis. You use our query letter sample and write your own perfect query letter. You avoid any weak language, misspellings or grammatical howlers, of course. You use our advice to put together your synopsis (advice right here.) You don’t spend too long on writing the synopsis either, because if you use our techniques, that process is simplicity itself. You read the opening chunk of your manuscript one last time – and follow our simple rules on manuscript formatting. And then – well, you send your stuff off. You light some candles, pray to your favourite saints, tie a black cat into a knot and throw a mirror over a ladder. (Or under it? Or something to do with a wishing well? I’m not sure. Superstition isn’t my strong suit.) Anyway. You get your stuff out to at least 6 agents and preferably more like 10-12. You wait an unfeasibly long amount of time – but let’s say 6-8 weeks as a rough guide. What happens next? Well. Rejections do happen, and are likely to happen even if you’ve written a great book. (Because agents have their hands full. Or just like a different sort of thing. Or have an author who is too directly competitive. Or anything else. It’s not always about you or your book.) But if you send your material out to 10-12 agents, and find yourself being rejected, then you have to ask yourself: Am I being rejected because I’ve chosen the wrong agents?Am I being rejected because my query letter / synopsis are poor?Am I being rejected because my book isn’t up to scratch? Truthfully? The third of these issues is by far the most common. If you’ve written a great book, and a rubbish query letter, you can still find an agent. The other way around? Never. If you are confident that you’ve gone to the right agents, and have been rejected by 10+ people (or heard nothing after 8 weeks, which amonts to the exact same thing), then the probable truth is that your book is not yet strong enough for commercial publication. And, you know what? That’s not a big deal. All books start out bad. Then they get better. So getting rejected is really just a signal that you still have further to travel down that road. Remember that getting third party editorial advice is the standard way of improving your work. We offer outstanding editorial help and you can read all about it here. Alternatively, join the Jericho Writers family, and you can get a ton of help absolutely free within your membership. Free courses on How To Write. Free courses on Getting Published. Free access to AgentMatch. And so much more. Find out more here. Happy writing, and good luck! About the author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
Read more

How to Copyright Your Book – Fast ׀ Jericho Writers

Fast, easily and cheaply It’s easy to copyright your work. We explain exactly how to do it and what you can hope to achieve in this article. What Is Copyright? You’re reading this because you’ve created something – a book, a novel, a story, a play. Whatever. Good. You now own the copyright in your work, which means that you have the absolute right to control its use and distribution. If someone tries to copy your work without your permission, you have the legal right to stop them. If you wish to license or sell your work to a third party on defined terms – such as a book deal with a publisher – then you have the right to do that too. That all sounds simple, right? And in essence, it is. Unsurprisingly, though, there are some twists and turns, so it’s worth reading all the way to the end of this post before deciding what to do. How To Copyright A Book? Is Copyright Automatic? The first surprise, for some readers, is that copyright protection is automatic. In other words, you acquire copyright protection for your work simply by writing it down. As soon as the words have left your fingertips – as soon as they’re marks on a page or screen – they belong to you and no one can copy them. The trouble is that there are two ways in which it is, in theory, possible to copy someone’s work. Direct copying of text. If someone just takes all or part of your text and copies it out word for word, that’s a breach of your copyright. In the most egregious cases – like e-book pirates simply stealing your book and selling it online – the offence is utterly obvious and beyond dispute. But that’s not the only way that illicit copying can occur …Copying of ideas, characters, sequences, concepts. But it’s also possible for a breach of copyright to take place even without direct copying of text. For example, suppose I decided to take Delia Owens’ smash hit Where the Crawdads Sing and rewrite it in my own words. I might decide to use my own words and a new set of character names, but to leave every single plot incident, emotional moment, and so on exactly as in the original. In that case, I would be breaching Owens’ copyright as surely as if I’d just written the whole thing out word for word. If Owens chose to sue me in a court of law, I’d most certainly lose. You can read more on that, here. Now, all that seems pretty damn obvious, but there’s an ugly little legal loophole that remains open. If I’d copied Crawdads out word for word, everyone would know that I’d copied and where I’d copied it from. There’s just no possibility that my copying was a remarkable coincidence. But what if the themes / characters / plot twists seemed very similar, but had some differences? You might say my version of the book looked eerily familiar … but there are supposedly only seven plots in the world anyway. Themes of death, parenting, coming of age, self-expression and so on (all themes to be found in Crawdads) are common enough. Maybe two different authors just happened across the same basic set of ideas. Now if you were Delia Owens and wanted to prove that my version of the Crawdads story was a deliberate knock-off of your own, you’d have to prove, in court, that I had read your book before composing my own version. If you could achieve that level of proof, you’d probably win the trial. Fail, and you’d probably lose. That feels like a really tricky problem to solve … but it’s the problem that copyright registration was born to solve. Why Register Copyright In Your Work? Registering copyright can solve two problems for you. They are: How can you easily and simply prove that you are the author of a given work? And how can you easily and simply prove the date on which your manuscript was complete?How can you get around the issue of having to prove that a given plagiarist had accessed your story before their copying began? Fortunately, there are solutions to both of these conundrums. There’s a cheap, easy version that does a bit less for you. And there’s an annoyingly bureaucratic and pointlessly expensive version that does more. Here are the options: How to register authorship and date of production If all you want to do is prove that you are the author of a given work and that your work was completed by such-and-such a date, then you can just use an online ‘copyright vault’ service, such as Protectmywork.com. Using such a service will solve the “whose work, what date?” issue. It will not solve the second issue highlighted above. If someone copies your ideas and plot, but doesn’t snatch your exact wording, you would still have to prove that the plagiarist had read and used your work. That’s going to be tough. For that reason, anyone really serious about copyright, will take the more complicated – and official – action below. The advantage of this cheap and cheerful version of protection, however, is simply that it’s cheap and cheerful. So for $50 / £30, you can copyright-protect not just one document, but many. If you’re prolific and want the assurance of proper legal documentation of your authorship, this is a very low-cost way to achieve what you need. But let’s say you want to do things properly, in that case you’ll want to register copyright with the US Copyright Office, part of the Library of Congress. How to register your work with the US Copyright Office If you register your work with the US Copyright Office, you will prove that you are the author of a given work. And the date of production will also be proved. But better still, if you register your work with the Copyright Office, anyone copying your work will be automatically deemed to have read it. So Delia Owens no longer has to prove that I’ve read her Crawdads book. If she (or more likely her publisher) has registered her work, then any court will simply assume that I have read it. Then the legal argument will simply revolve around whether my version is or is not too close to her version to constitute copying. That’s a win, right? The trouble is, the cost is a lot higher ($100 per document registered) and the process is annoyingly bureaucratic. The form you need to fill in is here. You need to print out that form, fill it out, and send it off with cheque for $100 and a paper copy of your work to: Library of Congress Copyright Office-TX 101 Independence Avenue SE Washington DC 20559-6000 And yes, I know. A printed form! And a paper copy of your work! And this is in the 2020s, not the 1920s or 1820s. But there you go. Bureaucrats just wanna bureaucratise. If you’re really serious about protecting your work, that’s the route you have to take. But before you start printing forms and scribbling out cheques to the government, just pause a moment to think what you will achieve and whether it’s worth it. Will Copyright Protection Defeat Plagiarists? Arguably, the big question is simply whether copyright protection serves any practical purpose at all. And that means considering the world as it is. (You might want to peruse this list of plagiarism scandals as a reminder of how these things actually operate.) And here’s what we learn: Are publishers or literary agents likely to steal your work? No. Because their business would come to an abrupt, juddering, nasty halt as soon as they were caught, which would be pretty damn soon. I’ve read around a little bit and can’t find any bonafide case of an agent trying to steal and profit from an unpublished author’s work. OK, maybe there’s a case somewhere that I’ve missed, but the literary agent community receives hundreds of thousands of manuscripts a year. Stealing just basically doesn’t happen. You should worry about lightning strike or asteroid falls before you start to worry about those things. Are professional book pirates likely to steal your work? Yes. Or rather: no, if your book never really achieves any sales. But yes, definitely, if your book sells enough copies to seem worth thieving. I’m not going to dignify any of those plagiarism websites with a link, but they exist. And they are there to steal books. So if your book is selling well on Amazon at $7.99, there’ll be a plagiarist selling the exact same text at $0.99 or less. They don’t have to actually copy out your text to do that. They just have to break the DRM lock on your ebook (easily done; it takes two minutes), then they copy the file. I don’t know any properly bestselling author (including me) whose work has not been pirated. Will copyright protection defeat the pirates? No. Of course, it won’t. They’re thieves. They steal stuff. Those websites are commercial enterprises which exist to profit from theft. So what about you send those guys a cease and desist notice? What about you actually hire a hotshot, $600-an-hour lawyer to go after them? Well, here’s a guess: they laugh at you. Wherever they are, you can be damn sure they’ll base their horrible website in a jurisdiction which really, really doesn’t care about your copyright issues. Is there practically speaking any way to defeat plagiarism? No – and I can prove it. Here’s my argument: I am willing to bet that your resources are less than those deployed by, say, Penguin Random House.PRH’s authors are routinely plagiarised.Yes, PRH chases the thieves around the internet and uses hotshot lawyers wherever it’s plausible those guys will make a difference, but …PRH’s authors are still routinely plagiarised. That’s probably true of pretty much all their top-selling authors.You can afford $100 to register your work with the Library of Congress. That’s true.But you probably can’t afford a lot of hours that are charged at $600 an hour, and you certainly can’t afford them if the likelihood of that spending making a difference is close to nilNo government agency or law enforcement body anywhere in the world is going to care that a plagiarist is stealing your work.So there is nothing you can do. Conclusion Honestly? My advice? Look register your copyright if it’ll make you feel better. But you aren’t ever going to go to court to enforce your copyright and you’ll probably bankrupt yourself if you do. So write a great book. Sell it. Then write another. If you do well – if you do really, really well – book piracy sites will steal a tiny bit from your sales. (Or maybe not: because maybe the people who take books from those sources would never put an honest dollar in your pocket anyway.) But there’s nothing you can do about it, so just write another book, and sell it, and be happy because you are doing a hard thing well. And you feel good about doing it. Oh, and if you meet a book pirate? Well, as far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to thump them. Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
Read more

How to Get Your Book Published in 2021

The all you need to know guide. Getting a book published, even your first book – sounds pretty do-able, right? And so it is, but the publishing industry is (inevitably) pretty complex, and can generate massively different outcomes depending on the choices you are about to make. In the same way, you might want to be a professional musician … but does that mean you do a paid gig in a local bar? Or get signed by a massive record label? In this blog post, we will weigh up the options and show you how you could get your book published. It’s possible to get published for free, and it’s also perfectly achievable even if you are a first time author. It’s also true that the publishing industry has got way more complex since the rise of Amazon and all that went along with that. That complexity is confusing, for sure, but it’s also good. The fact is there are more routes to publication than ever before in history. You just need to pick the route that works for you. And that’s what this post is all about. We’ll tell you: What your options areWhich option is right for youWhat the pros and cons are, andHow to access the particular publishing route of your choice If you need extra info on any topic, we’ll direct you to a resource that gives you everything you need. Oh – and you probably want to know about me. Well, I’m Harry Bingham. I’ve been traditionally published all over the world, with in the company of the world’s top #3 trade publishers. Furthermore, I’m the founder of Jericho Writers, so I’ve helped literally hundreds of writers just like you through to publication, so I know exactly what’s involved for a writer like you. But I’m not just about traditional publishing. I’ve also self-published (and love it.) I’ve sold fiction and non-fiction. I’ve sold full-length manuscripts and skinny-as-you-like book proposals. I’ve also had experience of plenty of other publishing routes. And this post is going to tell you EVERYTHING. How to get your book published in 2021: So: Traditional publication, via a literary agentTrad publication, but without an agentTrad publication, via a book proposalTrad publication, via a micro-publisherSelf-publishing on AmazonPublishing via a digital-first publisherPublishing via APub, Amazon’s publishing armPublication via a vanity publisherPublication via a print/design companySelf-publishing leading to a trad dealCrowd-fundingPublishing via a social platform That’s a lot to get through, so buckle up and read on … Option 1: How To Publish A Book Via A Literary Agent And A Large Traditional Publisher What\'s Involved? The “Big 5” traditional publishers (outfits like Penguin RandomHouse or HarperCollins) dominate the world of trade publishing. They have huge financial resources. They have huge marketing and sales reach. They already publish a stellar list of names. And they reach right across the English-speaking world – so in that sense getting published in the US is much the same kind of process as getting published in the UK or Australia … and quite likely with the same group of firms involved as well. Obviously, those big publishers need to acquire material to publish, so they go out and buy it. They buy manuscripts (ie: novels or non-fiction which haven’t yet been turned into actual books). They buy those manuscripts off authors in return for an upfront cash advance. That advance is highly variable – think anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000+ for a book – and will be supplemented by royalties if sales are sufficient to ‘earn out’ the advance. And the publisher isn’t just there to write the checks. They are also there to sell your book, which they do by: Working on the manuscript editorially. That’ll normally involve a structural edit, a copy edit, and a proof read – layers of editing that in turn fix story, then typos/clarity, then a final check before printing. (More on types of editing.)Designing cover art and preparing the book for production. Books are normally produced in four formats (hard cover, paperback, e-book, audio)Selling the book to bricks & mortar retailers. Retailers – such as Barnes & Noble in the US or Waterstones in the UK don’t automatically stock all books that are printed. Far from it. So arguably the key part of a publisher’s job is to convince specialist retailers (basically bookstores) and generalist ones (notably supermarkets) to order and stock the book. Ideally, your book will be entered into promotions, that place your book in the most visible store locations and with an attractive price reduction.Selling the book via online retailers. Although Amazon pretty much does stock every book out there, publishers still have to persuade Amazon (and Apple, and Kobo, and so on) to promote your book as much as possible. That means your book will start popping up in “deal of the day” or “recommended for you” type promotions.Marketing the book. That will probably involve a mixture of traditional publicity (such as newspaper interviews and book signings) and digitally driven campaigns, probably involving social media, email marketing and perhaps some use of pay-per-click advertising. To most writers, all that sounds pretty good, but – no surprise – there’s a catch. The catch, quite simply, is that your book has to be pretty damn good, because there’s a hell of a lot of competition out there and publishers are only interested in buying the very best crime books / romances / diet books and whatever else. So how to publishers find those amazing books in the first place? Well, the shortest answer is that they focus nearly all the efforts on the manuscripts that come to them via a literary agent. Literary agents are basically salespeople whose main role is pitching book ideas to publishers. They don’t charge any kind of upfront fee for that service; they take a commission on sales made, typically 15%. Just to emphasise that point: agents cost nothing until they make you money. So (setting aside all your trouble and effort in writing the damn thing), with the agent/publisher route to publication you will get your book published for free. Not even free actually: you’ll be paid. You won’t be expected to buy your agent coffees or fund the cover illustration or anything like that. When I wrote my first novel, I didn’t spend a single penny (other than for paper and ink and stamps – we used all those things in those days.) Next thing I knew: people were offering me six-figure sums for my work. OK. So agents are good; they make sales; they work on commission. But it gets better. In addition to that basic sales activity, literary agents also: Offer you editorial advice to help you get your manuscript in shape for saleRun the auction processNegotiate the resulting contractSupervise the publishing  process, advise you on it, and act as your bull terrier if any conflicts ariseSell other rights, such as foreign language rights, audio (if not part of the original deal), and film and TV rights. In short, a good literary agent will end up making you far, far more than the cost of that 15% commission, so you should have no hesitation in working with an agent, if you get the chance. Because the Big 5 publishers publish all types of work – adult novels, children’s novels and plenty of non-fiction too – literary agents work with all these things too. Most agents aren’t that specialist either. Yes, a children’s literary agent may exclusively work with children’s books, but most literary agents for adult work will work with novels and non-fiction. In that sense, how your publish a novel (for example) works exactly the same as publishing any other type of book. How Do You Get An Agent? If you’re submitting a book idea to a publisher for the first time, you need an agent. And the only really difficult step in getting an agent is the very first one: you have to write an absolutely superb book. Remember that, as a rough guide, a literary agent is likely to take about 1 manuscript in every 1000 that they come across. If you’re writing a spy story, your work will be competing head-to-head against John Le Carre, Tom Clancy and every other great spy novelist out there. So your manuscript has to excel. It has to dazzle. It has to be wonderful. But let’s assume you’ve already got a great manuscript, what then? The steps you need to follow are these: Generate a longlist of literary agents. You’re looking for agents who are taking on new clients and who are interested in work in your genre. You can find a full list of literary agents here for the US and here for the UK. If you sign up for AgentMatch (free trial here), you can use simple tools to filter by genre, client, and more.Whittle that down to a shortlist of 10-15 names. To generate your shortlist, just go through your longlist and look for possible points of contact. An agent represents one of your favourite authors? They’re a keen rider and your book is set in a racing stable? The agent has Irish ancestry and your book is about Irish emigrants in the 1920s? Any of those gives you a good reason to pop the agent onto your shortlist. (Oh, and why only 10-15 names? If you send your material out to about a dozen agents and don’t get a positive response, that’s a pretty damn good signal that your manuscript is not yet strong enough to get a book deal – in which case, getting third party editorial feedback probably needs to be your next step.)Write a query letter. That tells that agent why you’re writing (you’re seeking representation), what your book is and who you are. It’s easy to write a great query letter. Just follow the advice and look at a sample query letter here.Write a synopsis. A synopsis basically summarises your story, and it’s a quick way for an agent to get a handle over whether the basic structure of your story feels OK. A synopsis can be a nightmare to put together, but it doesn’t have to be that way. All the advice you need, plus a good example of a synopsis, can be found right here.Double-check your opening chapters. Most agents want you to send them some sample chapters along with the query letter and synopsis. Typically, those sample chapters will need to be the first 3 chapters of your book, or about 10,000 words. So make sure that opening chunk is looking great. Tips on presenting your manuscript right here. Tips on the commonest errors in first time novels can be found here.Send your submission pack out to your shortlisted agents. You need to allow about 8 weeks for agents to read and decide on your submission. And, sorry to say, but loads of agents don’t even have the courtesy to send out a “sorry, but no” email if they are rejecting a manuscript, which means that you have to work on the assumption that, after 8 weeks, no news is tantamount to rejection. At this point, you have either won – you’ve been offered representation, in which case, congratulations. Your path to publication is now in the hands of a very experienced professional, and you should be fine from here. If there are problems en route to getting published (and, believe me, there will be), your agent should be able to guide you. (For what it’s worth, I’d guess that agency representation leads to a publishing deal in about two thirds of cases. Your mileage may very though – this number varies widely.) Or you’ve lost – that is, you have no offers of representation, and not even any close misses. In that case, you really need to go back to your manuscript, figure out why agents aren’t getting excited by it, and then fix whatever needs fixing. The best way to do that is by getting pro editorial help, of the sort that we at Jericho Writers can offer. But there’s a middle ground too, where you haven’t quite won but you haven’t quite lost either. That’s the ‘nice rejection’, often where an agent asks for your full manuscript but ends up, reluctantly declining. If you’re in that category, then it’s GOOD NEWS. The fact is, you’re in a zone where some editorial work really should ping you over the line. Again, we can help. We have a whole bunch of resources available if you want to pursue these topics further. (Clue: yes, you definitely do.) Free resources: List of all literary agents in the US List of all literary agents in the UK How to get a literary agent Do literary agents charge fees? Do literary agents edit manuscripts? How to write a query letter How to write a synopsis All your literary agent questions answered Additional resourcesWe have a complete course on how to get your book published – and not just published, period, but published well, published successfully. That course (here) is costly to buy but it’s free to members. Do consider joining us if you need that further help. What Kind Of Writer/Book Is Right For This Publication Option? The first question is whether or not you want to pursue traditional publication. Trad publication will suit you, if: You are writing literary fiction or one-off non-fiction (eg: memoir)You are writing genre fiction but aren’t super-prolific (eg: you don’t want to write more than a book or two a year)You want the kudos of traditional publicationYou want to be sold via physical bookstores, as well as via AmazonYou want a shot at newspaper book reviews, book signings, radio and newspaper interviews etcYou don’t want the hassle of self-publishing If that sounds like you, then traditional publishing should certainly be your goal. The next question is whether you need an agent. You basically have to have an agent, if: You are writing fiction, for adults, young adults, or childrenYou are writing mainstream non-fiction (of the sort that might sit on those front-of-store tables in a large bookstore)You are writing specialist non-fiction in a big, rich category (such as diet or cookery, for example) If your book is very niche, your likely advance is small, which means an agent’s 15% won’t be especially tempting. In all those cases, you can forget about getting a literary agent and just proceed to option 2, which is traditional publication, but without a literary agent. Pros And Cons The advantages of trad publication are: You get an advanceYou get some experienced professionals handling the production, sale and marketing of your workYou have a literary agent to guide your journeyYou have all the kudos and other pleasures of traditional publication: you will have become a published author and will have earned all the respect of your new role. I bow to thee. The disadvantages are: You lose control over your intellectual property – you’ve sold it, remember? The book now belongs to the publisher, not to you.It’s harder to make a living as a trad author than it is as an indie one. Watch our YouTube video on author incomes here.Traditional publishing is a bit of a crap-shoot. Most bestsellers are made via huge supermarket sales, but there are many fewer supermarket slots than there are books, and the process by which supermarkets choose which books to stock is scarily random (for newbie authors, at least.)Traditional publishing isn’t so great at publishing on Amazon. You can see my thoughts on that (via Publishers Weekly) here. Option 2: Get Published Via A Traditional Publisher, But Without A Literary Agent What\'s Involved? The actual publication process is exactly the same as for Option 1 – so everything I’ve said above applies here too. The big difference with this route is that you’re not going to send your work out to literary agents; you’re going to send it direct to publishers. Obviously, the publishers you choose will need to be carefully chosen. So if you are looking to sell a volume of military history or something on Early Colonial interiors, you’ll need to approach the publishers who work in that field. Otherwise, the basic approach is the same. You locate your targets. You send a query letter. You include enough sample material that the publisher can make up their mind. And that’s that – you see what responses come back to you. (The big difference: agents are slow, with response times often around 6-8 weeks. But publishers are way slower: you need to allow 4-6 months to get a proper response. That’s crazy, I know, but …) How Do You Find A Publisher? Not easy. Services like Jericho AgentMatch don’t really exist in the same way for publishers. Yes, you can trawl through the membership pages of the American Association of Publishers or (in the UK) the Publishers Association … but those guys have a lot of members, the vast majority of whom will be irrelevant to your needs. So, when you\'re thinking about how to present a book idea to a publisher, specifically the right publisher for you, the best way is to find other titles in your niche. That should be easy for you, because it’s your niche. So if your book is about motor maintenance, look at the other engine-related books on your shelves. If you’re writing about bonsai growing, look at who publishes books about bonsais. How to find who publishes a book is simple – just look inside the front cover. That page with all the tiny, boring print about copyright and that kind of thing will also tell you who the publisher is. Note that publishers (eg: “PenguinRandomHouse”) generally operate through a multitude of imprints, eg, Bantam, Ballantine, Doubleday…). You need to identify both the publisher you want and, where relevant, the imprint in order to wriggle through to the right desk in the right office. Make a list of those publishers – then approach them direct. They’ll welcome your submission and they won’t expect you to have a literary agent. (In fact, they’d be mildly frightened if you did have one.) What Kind Of Writer/Book Is Right For This Publication Option? Assuming you definitely want traditional publication (and again, see Option 1 for more on this), you should only really avoid using a literary agent, if: Your work is in a small subject-led, but consumer-oriented niche (eg: “How to Maintain Your Motorbike” or “The Complete A-Z of Roses”)Your work is academic and destined for an academic publisherYour work is business or professional, and destined for the kind of publishers that handle that kind of thing Agents don’t want those kind of books and they don’t add much value to the publication process either. For those reasons, direct submissions to publishers make the most sense. Pros And Cons The advantages of this route are that: You get the pluses of trad publicationYou get to publish work that’s too niche or specialist to warrant an agent’s involvement The downsides are simply that: Bookstores don’t shift very many copies of niche books – they’re mostly sold via Amazon. But in that case, self-publishing looks like a particularly attractive option, because you can retain all the proceeds from sale for yourself. If you have a mailing list or other platform – for example, you have a popular blog on rose growing, and your book is all about growing roses – then self-publishing should be very simple and immediately lucrative. Option 3: How To Get Published Via A Book Proposal What\'s Involved? When we talked above about trad publication and literary agents, it was kind of assumed that you’d already written your book. If you are looking to sell a novel, then you basically have to have written the book and edited it until it sparkles. But that sounds like a hell of a lot of work for a project that might never sell, right? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just outline a project, see if anyone wants it, then complete it only if a sufficiently attractive deal is laid under your nose? Well, luckily for you, that option certainly exists. It exists only for non-fiction, and not even for all types of non-fiction, but yes: you can offer literary agents a book proposal in place of an entire book. That book proposal might in total amount to only 10,000 words, and should include: A query letterA personal bio, including any platform or authority you bringAn analysis of the market and audienceAn introduction to the bookApproximately three sample chapters. Unlike with fiction, it isn’t always necessary that these chapters form the first three chapters of your work, You can read much more about what’s needed right here. What Kind Of Writer/Book Is Right For This Publication Option? The book proposal approach will work, if: You are writing non-fictionThat non-fiction is not narrative-led (in which case, an agent or publisher might need to read the whole book before making a decision)It will work especially well if you bring significant authority (“I’m a top physics professor”) or terrific platform (“I’m a teenager with 2,000,000 Youtube followers.”) Read more about author platforms here. 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. 
Read more

How to Write a Non-fiction Book Proposal (with Examples)

I’ve written and published four works of non-fiction – and have been involved as a ghost or behind-the-scenes editor on a couple of other things too. Every single one of those books sold off the back off a simple book proposal. In no case, had I written more than about 10,000 words of text prior to the sales process. Two of those books, I sold for £4000 (about $6,000) each. The books sold reasonably well, given their fairly niche material, and they continued to generate an income of about £2000 a year for years afterwards. Nice outcome, right? But those were fairly niche books. (They were on the subject of writing and publishing, which, as proprietor of this website, I ought to know a bit about.) I also sold a book off the back of a non-fiction book proposal that had multiple publishers bidding for the rights, and ended up being sold to HarperCollins for £175,000 (or about $250,000). That was a two-book deal, admittedly, so you can divide the numbers by two to get a per book amount. But still: $250,000 for a proposal of less than 10,000 words? That’s crazy. Now, I’m not guaranteeing that kind of outcome for you. Assuming you can write really well, the ceiling price for your book proposal will be determined by its subject matter. My book on “How To Write” was a niche-type book for a niche-type audience and it earned a niche-type advance as a result. The book I sold for a lot of money had to do with British history, and was presented as the kind of book that you could give your dad for Christmas. The potential audience for that book was very much greater, so the advance was correspondingly greater too. But although I can’t guarantee outcomes, I can guarantee to show you how to write a book proposal that will really work for a literary agent and a publisher. I’ll provide a sample proposal and give you examples of what to do (and what not to do) as you put your proposal together. And we’ll start off by considering what publishers actually want from you. Their wants drive what you need to give them. In effect, we can just build a template book proposal where all you have to do is fill in the blanks. Easy, right? Write A Non-fiction Book Proposal In 4 Steps: Prepare a query letter – include a book overview, target audience, USP, writing CV, and motivation for writing.Add a bio – including a professional resume and platform, i.e. social media, blog, mailing list etc.And a market overview.You’ll also need to send sample chapters, book outline, and introduction. What Is A Book Proposal? And what do publishers want from it? A book proposal is a pitch to a publisher. Quite likely you reach that publisher via a literary agent, so the first pair of eyes on your work will be those of an agent, but either way, your final target is a publisher. So when you\'re writing a non-fiction book proposal you need to think about what makes your book stand out. Your pitch offers the publisher the opportunity to acquire a non-fiction book, authored by you, on the subject set out in your proposal. In exchange, the publisher will (assuming they’re keen to proceed): agree to publish your workpay you an advancepay you royalties if and when your advance is ‘earned out’ by book sales. You will receive a slice of that advance payment once a contract is agreed. The remainder of the advance will be paid out, typically, (a) on acceptance of a complete manuscript, (b) on hardback publication, and (c) on paperback publication, if you have one. If the book only comes out in one edition, the last two chunks will come as one. Clearly, publishers make their money by acquiring books with commercial potential, so it makes sense to pitch them with interesting ideas. But will your idea make any money for the publisher? Maybe, maybe not. There are dozens of dud proposals for every one good one, so any publisher will want to know: Subject: What do you want to write about?Audience: Why do you think anyone would be interested?Competition: What other titles are there in your area? Or, to be rather more accurate: what titles in your area have made money? That’s important, because those comparable books will form an important part of any acquiring editor’s in-house pitch at the time of acquisition.Angle: How does your book differ from everything else that’s out there? Why is the particular angle you bring feel urgent, necessary and compelling?Authority: What qualifies you to write on this topic? Why should anyone listen to you?Platform: What platform do you have to generate publicity or visibility for your book? Answers might include large followings on social media, or a regular broadcast presence, or a position as columnist on a major national newspaper or magazine.Title: It’s almost possible to overlook the title, just because it’s so damn obvious. But a great title counts for a huge amount. A good title should do two things. It should communicate what the book is about, but it should also do that in a sexy, edgy, novel, exciting way. A book called A Journey of Self-Discovery would be unpublishably bad. A book called Eat, Pray, Love could just be an international hit. Or just think how many extra sales Yuvral Noah Harari achieved by calling his first book simply Sapiens. That’s a huge subject with an utterly enticing one word hook. Perfect! Do likewise.Intended word count: Honestly? You won’t know this until you’ve written your book. But say something. 70-90,000 words would be about right for most memoir. A 100,000 word book would be about 350 pages in print, so think roughly how long you want your finished book to feel. Anything over 120,000 words will have a slightly epic quality for the reader (and be more expensive for the publisher to produce), so only aim for high or very high word counts if the subject matter is really worth it. (The American Civil War: yes. One somewhat interesting murder in Minnesota: no.) All that is to look at your proposal from a publisher’s point of view, but they have to think about things from a readers’ perspective as well. So they will also want to know: The pitch to the reader: How would you go about pitching the book to a reader, rather than to a publisher? Does that pitch feel compelling, or a bit flat?Writing skills: Can you write decently? What is the actual experience of reading your book going to be like?Detailed subject matter: What is your book actually about? It’s all very well to say (for example), that your book will be a history of Rome. And good – that’s clearly the kind of subject matter for which there is a perennial market. But what will be the actual, detailed, chapter by chapter content? You need to be able to outline that content, and do so in a way that will make sense to someone who has little prior knowledge of Rome’s history. Those questions have to be answered by the proposal you offer to the publisher or (normally, in the first instance) to a literary agent. In effect, your proposal will simply go through these questions one at a time and answer them in a way that will give the strongest possible reassurance to the people holding the checkbook. What Should Be In Your Book Proposal:A Template A non-fiction book proposal template might run roughly as follows. (Why only “roughly”? Well, several reasons, really. First, non-fiction is a very varied field, and the basic template will need to bend a bit depending on what’s on offer. Secondly, there’s no required industry-standard format, the way there is with screenplays. That gives you some wiggle room. And third, you may be stronger in some areas and weaker in others. There’s nothing wrong with constructing your proposal so as to make the most of your assets!) Right. So things may vary, but a good place to start is as follows: 1. A Covering Letter (Or Query Letter) Your covering letter will deal with the following elements: Purpose: Explain why you’re writing in the first place.Example: “Dear Annie Agent, I am writing to seek representation for the attached book proposal, A Puzzle in String”Subject matter: Explain what the book is about.Example: “My book is a popular science book that explains string theory in terms that laypeople can understand [etc etc].”Audience: Explain who you think will be interested.Example: “The book will appeal to anyone interested in understanding the most fundamental aspects of the universe we live in. It will appeal to broadly the same people as bought Steven Hawking’s Brief History of Time . . . etc, etc.”Angle: The world mostly doesn’t need more books. So why does it needs yours? Why is yours the one that readers will want to pick up, given the vast range of options they already have?Example: “My book differs from the other books on the market in that it …”Personal background: Explain (in brief) who you are.Example: “I am the Professor of Physics at XYZ University . . .”(Optionally) Motivation: In some cases it can help to explain why you felt driven to write this book.Example: If you were writing a book on silence, you might want to mention (say) that you had spent six months living, in silence, as a hermit.Documents: Explain what documents you are presenting.Example: “I attach the following documents . . .” A good letter will run to no more than two pages. (If you were a novelist, we’d suggest your letter run to no more than a single page, but the rules are a bit different for non-fictioneers. You have a little more room.) 2. A Professional Bio Your self-description needs to cover (usually) two elements: Here’s where you set out something like a professional resume. Even here, do bear in mind your audience. So let’s say you are a professor of physics. If you were applying for a job at the Harvard physics faculty, you’d presumbly list out your scientific papers in some detail. But you’re not. You’re talking to laypeople, so you can just say, “I have authored more than 70 scientific papers . . .”You should also set out your platform, assuming that you have one. That platform will include any way you have of reaching your target audience: social media, broadcasting, journalism, a blog, a mailing list – anything. Do note that publisher have pretty high standards here. Have 15,000 Twitter follows? OK, that’s impressive. That’s a lot more than I have. But you’d need several hundred thousand to move a publisher’s stony heart. Typically, you will either bring significant authority (“I’m a physics prof”) or a significant platform (“I have more than 2,000,000 followers on Instagram”).It’s pretty rare that an author brings both, but if you have both – brag. And what happens if you have neither platform nor authority? You’re scuppered, right? You don’t stand a chance. Not a bit of it. When I wrote This Little Britain, my history book, I had no relevant platform to offer, and I certainly wasn’t a recognised authority on the subject I was writing about. But so what? I had an interesting theme. I could write well. When agents and editors (and, ultimately, readers) saw my book, they just wanted more of it. And in the end, that’s the heart of the whole thing. In short, authority and platform are great, but if anyone tells you they’re essential – well, they’re just plain wrong. Great writing plus a great idea will work fine every time. Oh, and since I had neither platform nor authority, my book proposal for that book didn’t include a personal bio at all. I knew my agent would choose to say something about me to the publisher – but he’d just say, “Look, this guy isn’t an academic, but he writes really well and I think you’ll love his material.” That was enough. No one ever asked me for a resume at any point. 3. A Market Overview A market overview is also crucial. You’ll need to provide: A swift definition of your market as you see it. Be as precise as possible here. Don’t tell agents/publishers that your book will appeal to “all intelligent book buyers” or “anyone interested in science.” That’s marketing piffle and it’s not true. Define your audience as precisely as you canExample: “This is a book of popular physics, part of the broader popular science market. Because the book lies at the harder end of the science market, it’s likely to appeal to those science readers with past enjoyment of quantum physics, astronomy, …”Measures of engaged audience size: You want to give publishers some kind of metrics for the possible target audience – but be sober here, not expansive. If you are writing a book about Ireland, for example, it’s just stupid to say, “The worldwide population of Irish, Irish-American, and other Irish descended people is estimated at a staggering …” Yes, you may arrive at a large number that way, but it will be a large, meaningless number. Much better to say, “Declan O’Guinness’s recent TV series drew audiences of X, and Nuala FitzShamrock’s history of the Irish Faminine spent Y weeks on the NYT bestseller list.” You could even add non-media related metrics such as, “X% of Americans claim Irish descent, and of those Y% have visited Ireland at least once.” It’s quite hard to get useful measures of engaged audience size, but you are better off giving a few hard stats rather than a larger number of fluffier ones.Offer an overview of major recent titles plus, if you want some older classics – but publishers will certainly be focusing primarily on titles of the last 2-3 years. Don’t just list out the titles themselves, but include details of author, publisher, publication date, ISBN, page count, formats (eg: hardback, paperback, e-book, audio), plus price points for each. These things matter a lot to a publisher, because they’ll instantly be able to tell what kind of market currently exists for these books. (They can also check, which you can’t, what the sales history for these titles are.) So if the only current publishers for your chosen subject are academic publishers with books priced at $100+, it’s unlikely that a trade publisher will think that a mainstream market will exist for your book. You will want to provide data on at least 5 comparable titles, but 10 would be a better number to aim for.Provide any data you have on sales / prizes won / publicity achieved. This can be hard, by the way, because this is an area where publishers will have paid-for sources of data that you don’t have. All the same, it’s worth making some effort here, simply because you can show yourself to be a professional, market-aware author – something that every publisher loves to see! The easiest way to guesstimate approximate sales is by looking at Amazon sales ranking . . . just be aware that those rankings are very volatile, so they can be an unreliable guide.Example: “String Theory for Idiots, by Prof Quentin Quark (Pub: Penguin Random House, 2018) is currently ranked at #1,800 in Amazon.com’s overall bestseller list. Format, pricing and ISBN details are: …)”Angle: Crucially – provide a short summary of how your book differs from the competition. What makes yours special? Why does the market need your book? This last point is the crucial one. Sometimes, you might come across an idea that just hasn’t been done. In that case, just say so. To take the example of my This Little Britain, I wrote a book about British exceptionalism in all its forms. The central question was, effectively: in what ways does British history just look different from the histories of its European neighbours? Weirdly, no one had ever really taken that question as the subject for a book like mine, and it was of obvious commercial potential. A crucial part of the pitch for the book involved simply explaining what my idea was and pointing out that no one else had done it. Publishers were already half sold, right there. Yes, there were lots of history-of-Britain books – and those were the comparable titles I identified. But there was nothing taking my exact angle. And my angle was a good one. So the proposal sols, and sold very well. With my two books on writing and publishing, I couldn’t claim to have any earth-shatteringly new idea . . . but I could claim to bring a particular angle. (What was it? Well, weirdly, at that time there were a ton of “How To Write” type books out there, but there was nothing that just promised to be a completely comprehensive, non-gimmmicky resource for serious writers. So I offered to write that book – and teamed up with Bloomsbury who owned the strongest brands in the writing/publishing area. They liked the idea and we agreed a deal. I wrote the book in the two months it took them to generate a contract, and handed the book over almost literally as soon as the ink was dry.) In any case, the point here from your point of view is that you have to bring something new to the market you are writing for. It is the newness and urgency of that idea which will go a long way to determine whether your proposal succeeds in generating offers or not. 4. Sample Material So far, the material we’re offering to the publisher includes stuff about the book (your query letter, that market overview) and about you (the bio.) But we do also need to give publishers a really good taste of the work itself, which means you will also need to supply: A. Sample Chapters But you will also, mostly, need to include sample chapters from the book itself, to give the agent and publisher an idea of whether you can actually write. Can you write engagingly for a broad audience? Or do you have the capacity to turn fascinating ideas into a dry-as-dust ocean of boringness? If your book is narrative non-fiction, you will need to include the first three chapters from the book, because the narrative won’t make sense any other way. For subject-led non-fiction, the chapters can be non-contiguous. For This Little Britain, I just submitted a fairly random scatter of chapters – ones that were fun, engaging … and hadn’t required a whole heap of research to write. B. A Synopsis You need to give a detailed synopsis of the complete book. If you are writing narrative non-fiction, that can take the form of a regular synopsis, but probably a good bit longer than you’d offer for fiction. Aim for about 2,000 words, if you’re not sure – though again, these things are very variable. In some cases, indeed, you’ll find that narrative non-fiction – such as memoir or travel books – simply demand to be treated like the novels they resemble. And that will probably mean that you need to write the whole damn book, that a proposal will simply not be enough. Sorry! (Though you can always get a proposal over to an agent. At the very least, a good proposal will start a very useful conversation with an interested agent.) OK, so much for the narrative-type work. What about the more subject-led non-fiction? And the good news here is that you may be able to get away with relatively little. For each of the three non-fiction works for which I’ve submitted proposals, I basically offered a 3-4 page bullet-point style summary of content. Now, I should probably admit right away that (a) I’m lazy, (b) my writing track record enables me to be a bit lazy, with the implication – (c) – that you should probably offer more than 3 pages of bullet points. But still. If you’re writing, let’s say, Paleo Science: What’s fact, what’s myth, and what matters to you, a detailed skeleton outline should be fine. Don’t go crazy. C. An Introduction As well as sample chapters and a detailed outline, I strongly favour including the introduction that you intend to appear in the final finished book. That intro should act as a kind of manifesto for the book. It needs to proclaim, in effect, “Here’s why this topic is so important and so urgent that you have to fish $20 from your pocket right now this minute and buy this book.” The manifesto is partly a communication of facts. (For example: “If sea levels continue to rise at their current rates, 47% of lower Manhattan will be underwater by 2029.”) But it’s also partly a process of seduction. You are seeking to entice the reader into seeing the world your way. That’s where strong writing comes into its own – and indeed, this will probably the most important chapter you’ll write, as it’ll be the most influential in that buy/don’t-buy decision. Quite likely, you’ll find that actually writing that intro will bring your own project into greater focus, even for you. You’ll realise exactly what it is about your project that drives you so much. Communicate that passion to the reader, and you are onto a winner. How To Write A Terrible Book Proposal And also: how to write quite a good one! This entire post was in fact prompted by a sample book proposal I saw recently. The writer was a proper expert in his field. He was passionate about his knowledge. He could write decently. He felt that his material was incredibly important, and that sense of passion communicated itself freely and authentically in his writing. What’s more, his book had a clear and sizeable natural market. There was a real dearth of books offering the slant and angle that he could bring to bear. All good, right? Green lights all the way. Except . . . He wrote things like this: In 2015 I spent three months in the Himalayas investigating how young Tibetan monks and nuns were trained from the age of eight.  The purpose of their curriculum is … [then got into some detail on how those monks and nuns were trained.] And that’s good. (Because – wow! – this guy learned about the way Tibetan monks and nuns are trained. I want to know about that!) But it’s also terrible. Because the information is delivered in a way that drains all the exoticism, all the human interest, out of the anecdote. There wasn’t in fact even an anecdote. Just a piece of information offered without any human colour. Worse still, the proposed book was all about bringing higher human values into education. This drily delivered, almost ignored anecdote could actually work as a touchstone for the entire book. So if I had been writing that proposal, I’d have actually opened my introduction for readers with something like this: It’s not quite dawn. A rose light is creeping up the flank of Mount Yabbedeedoodha across the valley. Down in the still twilit valley, I can see water buffalo and yak drowsily munching.This is a time when all humans should still be in bed or, at best, brewing the first cup of coffee to get ready for the day ahead. Except that I’m not in bed and I’m not alone.I’m here in a hall of forty shaven-headed novice monks and nuns. The youngest of them is only eight. The oldest is sixteen. I’ve come here as a specialist in education, but I don’t feel very specialist in this crowd.I’m not here to teach anything. I’m here to learn. Now, OK, deathless prose that is not. But you get the point. It places the author and the reader in some very special place. Human. Specific. Exotic. Located in a precise place and time. The reader’s response is rather as it would be at the start of a novel. Why are we here? What’s going to happen next? What are these child-monks about to teach this Westerner? It’s those questions that compel attention. It’s that human anecdote which seduces the reader into the author’s project, and the author’s passion. If you can get your actual writing to strike the right seductive tone, you will succeed. And if not? Well, you will probably fail, because in the end readers will read your book for pleasure and interest. You need to deliver those things, or die. Want More Help With Your Book Proposal? If you want more help with your proposal, we’ve got plenty of help to supply: Get feedback on your proposal Get one of our professional editors to review your book proposal and give you detailed advice on what to fix and how to fix it. Our full range of editorial services is here. You probably want the agent submission pack service, but if that isn’t quite sufficient for your needs, just tell the office what you’re after and they’ll be able to sort you out. Learn in detail how to get published We have a fantastic video course on how to get published – it just tells you everything you could possibly want to know about how to find age 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. 
Read more

Amanda Berriman, author of ‘Home’, on getting an agent

Guest author and blogger Mandy Berriman shares with us how she hooked her literary agent and the importance of never giving up. I went to a family wedding earlier this year. At our places at dinner, we each had a name card with a quote on the back. Mine read: I have one talent; I never give up. We laughed at the aptness, but it was also a well-timed personal reminder to me. Keep going, you’re almost there, don’t give up. And on I went with the current rewrite, kicking the doubt demons into the dust along the way. I think it is possible that in the history of Jericho Writers (The Writers’ Workshop), I hold the longest record for not giving up: eleven years, two months and 26 days, to be precise. I was one of their earliest clients with my nine chapters of an unfinished ghost novel for children. It was the first piece of fiction I’d written since leaving school and although I had experienced a huge buzz writing it, I’d taken a year and a half to get to Chapter 9 and then stalled. Was it any good? Did I even know what I was doing? Could I actually write a whole novel? After uttering once too often, ‘but how do I know if I can actually do this?’, my husband found The Writers’ Workshop and told me to go and find out. A few weeks later, I had a report back from Harry. The gist: yes, you can do this, and here are all the things you need to learn about writing. That was June 2005, and I haven’t stopped learning since – Arvon, reciprocal critiquing arrangements, constructive feedback from agents, self-editing, six Festivals of Writing, mentoring from outstanding Debi Alper, and always the ongoing support and encouragement from the team here. I spent many years on that original novel (writing, finishing, rewriting, editing, finishing again, rewriting, editing, finishing again), and I came very close with a number of agents, including one who read, offered feedback, and re-read several times over a period of three or four years, and my opening chapter was shortlisted at 2012’s Festival of Writing, but I never quite jumped the agent hurdle. I decided to put the novel in the drawer and move on. I’d been writing and rewriting it for nine years and was desperate for a change. I started a second children’s novel and rediscovered that buzz of fresh, no-idea-where-it’s-going writing. But fitting it in around two children and an increasingly demanding job meant progress was slow and I struggled with motivation. I dabbled in other bits and pieces, never settling on anything, but I started to write short stories and flash fiction in different styles and voices, and quite a step away from the children’s fiction where I felt comfortable. In 2013, several things happened to dramatically change my direction and fire my motivation. Firstly, I moved jobs to one that was far more creative, allowing me to focus on my passion for music and step back from time-consuming paperwork. Secondly, my youngest son started preschool freeing up a precious few daytime hours in which to write. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, Stories for Homes happened. Debi and her friend, Sally Swingewood, decided they wanted to create an anthology of short stories and poems on a theme of ‘home’ to raise money for Shelter. Debi asked for submissions of stories, techy help, proofreading and so on. I was determined to make progress on my children’s novel and I had no story ideas, so I replied to say that I would help where I could but doubted it would be in story form. However, just before the story deadline, I read Claire King’s The Night Rainbow, a wonderful, inspiring novel written from the POV of a five-year-old girl. (Read it!) Its themes are not about homelessness, but it sparked a thought – what does homelessness look like, feel like, smell like to a young child? And there was Jesika with her hands on her hips and that look she gets on her face when an adult is being really silly, wondering out loud why it took me for ages to notice her. I wrote and edited Jesika’s story in a week and sent it to Debi and Sally just in time for the deadline. They loved it. They made it the first story in the book. The book was filled with sixty or so other fantastic stories and poems and the book went on sale and raised over £2,000 for Shelter. (It’s still on sale, still raising money for Shelter.) I was very proud to be a small part of the overall project and when the excitement died down, I returned to the children’s novel. Except Jesika had other ideas. She wouldn’t leave me alone. I realised that one short story was not going to satisfy her. I’ve spent the last three years writing, rewriting and editing Jesika’s novel. In that time, Debi has continued to mentor me and I’ve been to four Festivals, each time taking a little bit of Jesika’s story with me for my one-to-ones. In 2013, all three agents told me they loved the voice, and they’d love to see more. (I wasn’t finished, so made a note of their names). In 2014, I saw two more agents who loved the voice, but weren’t convinced I could sustain it (and I still hadn’t finished it, so I couldn’t prove them wrong). However, that year I also went to a workshop run by Shelley Harris and because of a piece of writing I scribbled for one of her tasks, she introduced me to her agent, Jo Unwin, and we talked about the novel and she gave me encouragement to continue. In early 2015, I finished the first draft and started rewriting. In 2015, I submitted to Jo as one of my one-to-ones. She loved it and wanted to see more, and then after the festival, one of the agents I saw in 2013 asked to see the first chapter. She also loved it and wanted to see more, but the rewrite wasn’t finished. It took me a year to finish – during an emotionally challenging year and with enormous help from Debi’s editorial genius – and just before the 2016 festival, I was ready to submit again. I had two agent one-to-ones arranged and I emailed Jo Unwin and the other agent to ask if they wanted to see it, too. I assumed that nothing much would happen for a few months, and then I’d look at any feedback I got from the agents and talk to Debi about further rewrites. What did happen was I ended up with four agents reading the full manuscript, two making me an offer of representation, one taking me out for lunch and me having a choice to make – all in the space of three and a half weeks! I’m delighted to say (and still pinching myself when I say it) that I chose Jo Unwin. I know that this is one more hurdle in a series of hurdles and who knows what comes next, but I’m very excited to have arrived at a place I’ve been working towards for so long and so grateful for the day my husband handed me The Writers’ Workshop info and told me to get on with it. I stepped through a door that day that led me to so many fantastic opportunities, wonderful people and great friends – and I am the writer I am today because of them. Back in 2007, Harry posted about me on a now-dead blog to congratulate me on that initial success of finding an agent who believed enough in my first novel to offer feedback and ask to read it again. He acknowledged there were no guarantees that it would lead to representation but he said, ‘I bet Mandy makes it though. And I bet she sells well when she does. Certainly hope so.’ I printed that blog off and pinned it up to remind me to keep going, and I did keep going. Thank you, Harry. And thank you to everyone else along the way who believed I could do this. Lastly, incredibly, one of the many agents who rejected my children’s novel five years ago is the agent I’m now signed with as my book heads to publication with Doubleday. My advice: be rejected, crawl away and weep in a corner, look at feedback, eat chocolate, learn, re-read feedback, swear, try new things, get involved with other writers, allow your writing to be critiqued, learn more, delete, rewrite, edit, throw the whole lot in the bin for a day – but never give up!
Read more

If an agent accepts your work, what are chances of getting published?

Includes all literary agents currently active in the UK. Literary agents are the gatekeepers, right? The people who stand between you and admittance to the Promised Land of traditional publishing. Well, in a way, yes. No large publisher takes work seriously unless it comes to them via a literary agent, so you do need that seal of approval . . . But even before you get to the happy stage of fretting about all that, there’s one more issue on your mind. How do I even know which agents to pitch to? And additionally: How can I even find a list of UK literary agents currently accepting work from new writers? Well, we have the answers to both questions. You should probably read everything in this blog post, because you’ll find it helpful. But if all you want to do is skip straight down to our list of agents, you can do so here: Jump Straight to List of Agents If you actually want a list of US literary agents, then you need to be here instead. Literary Agents: All You Need To Know Agents sell manuscripts to publishersAll the agents in the UK are listed on this pageYou need to shortlist 10-12 agentsWrite a synopsisWrite a query letterSubmit your work to your shortlisted agentKeep your fingers crossed HOW DO I KNOW WHICH LITERARY AGENTS TO APPROACH? My granny once gave me some great advice on gardening. She said, “Always grow plants that you like, and that like you back.” So don’t go planting clematis if you don’t like clematis. And if you do like clematis, but those darn things keep dying on you, then just move on. Plant something different. Good rule, right? And it applies to literary agencies and literary agents too. We’ll start with the first part of Granny’s Rule: FIND THE AGENTS WHO WANT YOU You need to approach literary agents who are keen to hear from people like you. It’s pointless wasting your energy on the rest. That means you want literary agents who: Are open to submissions in your genre.Either welcome submissions from new writers or are, at least, open to great new slushpile submissions. So if, for example, you’re a crime writer, and an agent is open to submissions from crime writers, and if that agent welcomes slushpile submissions, then you need to pop that agent on your longlist. That’s a good start, but agents aren’t very specialist and in most cases, your longlist will be something like 100+ names long. Yikes! The second half of Granny’s Rule enables you to reduce that total to something manageable. Here’s how it works: Finding The Agents You Want Take your longlist and pick out any literary agents that you especially like the sound of: Maybe they represent some of your favourite authors in your genre.Or they represent a favourite author in a different genre, even.Or they don’t represent a particular favourite writer of yours, but they have commented admiringly on that author.You have particular reason to like or admire the agent’s literary agency.They share a passion of yours. (For example, your book is in part about Greece, and you notice this agent has Greek ancestry, or runs writing retreats in Greece, or represents books about the country, etc)They made a comment in a blog / on YouTube / at our Festival of Writing / or anywhere else . . . and for whatever reason that comment struck a chord in you.And it’s OK if your reason is dumb. Maybe you like an agent’s face! Or you think their name sounds cute (which is how JK Rowling came across her first literary agent, Christopher Little.) Really, you’re just looking for points of contact that make sense given your (relatively scant) information resources. You are looking for about 12 names in total. (Oh, and this page isn’t a complete guide to getting an agent. You can get that here. You can get help on your query letter here, and your synopsis here. You can get an overview of all your options on how to get published right here if you need it. Phew!) Ways Not To Search For Agents There are two common ways to search for literary agents and neither of them are smart. Dumb agent search method #1Send your stuff only to the industry’s most high-profile literary agents OK, if you happen to be called Ms Meghan Markle and you have an autobiography to sell, this would be a great strategy. For anyone else? It’s dumb. The highest profile agents have the glossiest client lists. That means (a) they probably won’t take you on, (b) they probably won’t even read your work, and (c) even if they did they would have a lot less time for you than a newer, hungrier agent would. Why would you want that person? Answer: you don’t. Dumb agent search method #2Only apply to literary agents close to where you live If you live in central London or New York, that’s a perfectly fine approach. If you live anywhere else, it’s dumb. Agents cluster in major cities because that’s where the publishers are. You do need your agent to be in constant touch with publishers. You do not need your agent to physically meet you often. Quite honestly? Once a year would be fine – and you’ll be in town least that often to see your publishers. Literary Agents: The Complete Uk List WANT ACCESS TO ALL THE DATA? WANT TO UNLOCK THOSE SEARCH TOOLS? The list below is a complete list of UK agents. If you follow the links, you’ll find profile summaries for each agent – but the full data will remain locked. To get complete access, just go here and sign up for your free account. It’s fast, secure and free. Sheila AblemanStephanie AdamMichael AlcockClare AlexanderJulian AlexanderDarley AndersonNelle AndrewDavinia Andrew LynchSusan ArmstrongFrances ArnoldIsabel AthertonBecky BagnellLisa BakerSarah BallardKate BarkerNicola BarrTim BatesVeronique BaxterDiana BeaumontEddie BellJune BellLorella BelliMichael BerentiJohn BerlyneFranca BernataviciusTina BettsVictoria BirkettNeil BlairPiers BlofeldFelicity BluntLuigi BonomiGeorgie BouzSuzie BrearleyJanice BrentPhilippa BrewsterCharlie BrotherstoneJenny BrownFelicity BryanLouise BuckleyPeter BuckmanKate BurkeLouise BurnsJuliet BurtonSteve CalcuttRachel CalderCharlie CampbellGeorgina CapelAmber CaraveoMegan CarrollRebecca CarterRobert CaskieJames CatchpoleSarah ChalfantNiki ChangJennifer ChapmanKathy CharvinMic CheethamCatherine ChoTeresa ChrisJennifer ChristieJulia ChurchillBen ClarkCatherine ClarkeAnne ClarkeMary ClemmeyAlexander CochranGill ColeridgeCharlotte ColwillClaire ConradKevin Conroy ScottClare ConvilleRachel ConwayJonathan ConwayJane Conway GordonGeraldine CookeElinor CooperGemma CooperSam CopelandJamie CowenPeter CoxNemonie Craven RoderickJulie CrispAnnette CrosslandSheila CrowleyCaroline DavidsonStephen DaviesMeg DavisAnna DavisCaroline DawnayShruti DebiHilary DelamereCaspian DennisJoanna DevereuxElla Diamond KahnElise DillsworthRob DinsdaleIsobel DixonBroo DohertyAnne Marie DoultonIan DruryRobert DudleyToby EadyRos EdwardsStephen EdwardsDarren EdwardsJon ElekBill EllisAnn EvansFaith EvansLisa EveleighNatasha FairweatherAriella FeinerPaul FeldsteinSusan FeldsteinHannah FergusonJulie FergussonSamantha FerrisJane FiniganEmma FinnPeter FischerJemima ForresterChelsey FoxWill FrancisLindsey FraserJulian FriedmannHelenka FuglewiczEugenie FurnissJuri GabrielNatalie GalustianLeslie GardnerGeorgia GarrettAdam GauntlettJonny GellerJames GillKerry GlencorseStephanie GlencrossGeorgia GloverDavid GodwinAnthony GoffBill GoodallAndrew GordonSophie Gorell BarnesJane Graham MawAnnette GreenChristine GreenVivien GreenLouise GreenbergKatie GreenstreetJane GregoryDavid GrossmanOlivia GuestMarianne Gunn O ConnorAllan GuthrieCassian HallMargaret HaltonMatthew HamiltonBill HamiltonSamar HammamMargaret HanburyCaroline HardmanAnthony HarwoodJohn HavergalDavid HavilandJosephine HayesDavid HeadleyRupert HeathCarol HeatonAndrew HewsonJenny HewsonSophie HicksVictoria HobbsJodie HodgesHeather Holden BrownSally HollowayPenny HolroydeVanessa HoltKate HordernValerie HoskinsCharlotte HowardTanja HowarthClare HultonBen IllisBarrie JamesKaren JamesPeter Janson SmithJohn Jarrold</
Read more

How to Write a Novel Synopsis (With an Example)

Including a template for you to follow and a working example When you approach literary agents, you will need to present them with a submission package that includes a query letter, a sample of your manuscript and, of course, a synopsis. If you\'re asking yourself how to write the synopsis, you should know it will need to look professional – that is, it wants to follow a proper synopsis format – and it needs to do its job, of convincing an agent that your story sounds exciting. That’s not actually hard to achieve, and this post will tell you exactly how to write a synopsis. We’ll reveal the two huge tricks that make your life easy as a synopsis writer...and give you an example of a synopsis too, so you can understand exactly how to put the rules into practice. Sounds good? Let’s jump right in. How to Write a Novel Synopsis What is the synopsis? A synopsis is a 500-800 word summary of your book that forms part of your agent submission pack. It should outline your plot in neutral non-salesy language and demonstrate a clear story arc. Every major plot twist, character, and any big turning point or climatic scene should get a mention. Definition:What is a Synopsis? A synopsis is: A short summary of your story, in its entirety, from beginning to end, soup to nuts, nose to tail.Written in fairly neutral, non-salesy language.Follows the same broad structure as your novel. So if, for example, you have a novel with two intertwining time-strands, your synopsis would follow the order of events as presented in the novel. Your novel’s structure trumps any chronological issues.Probably about 500-800 words in length, but agents’ requirements differ, so do check against each agent’s submission requirements. From this definition, it also follows that: A synopsis is not like the text on the back jacket of a book. Those book blurbs are much shorter and normally offer only a teaser, rather than a full rundown of the book’s story.For the same reason, a novel synopsis is not the same as an Amazon-style book description. In fact, a synopsis is what you think it is. A 500-word long spoiler for your entire novel. Every major plot twist. Every major character. Any big turning point. Your big climactic scenes. They’re all there, briefly, succinctly and (yes) a little drily narrated. Oh yes: and some good news – If you can write a novel, then you can definitely write a synopsis. Writing a synopsis is a lot, lot easier than writing a whole damn novel, so don’t stress. You should be able to put together your synopsis in a morning – and still have time for a stroll before lunch. Purpose:What is a Synopsis for? I just said that a synopsis is kinda dry – and it is. In fact, I doubt if anyone has ever enjoyed reading one. It’s just not that entertaining. So if it’s not for fun – why have it? What is the synopsis of a book for, and why do almost all literary agents ask for one? OK, so this is how it works: Most literary agents will look at your covering letter first, then turn to the manuscript. If they like the first three chapters, they’ll be thinking, “This looks great, but is it going to hold interest? Is it worth making that investment of time to read it all?” That’s where the synopsis comes in. Your synopsis is there to outline your plot and to demonstrate a clear story arc, a satisfying ending. It’s your tool to make someone read on. That’s why your synopsis needs to: Tell an agent directly and clearly what your plot is – it needs to give a clear picture of the narrative arc;Clearly identify your main characters – and at least hint at any major character development arcs;Make clear what your hook, premise or elevator pitch is;Demonstrate implicitly its appeal and how plot momentum increases;Share an ending that feels satisfying. If your synopsis achieves all that – and your query letter and manuscript sample is up to scratch – the agent will ask you for the full manuscript. They can’t not. You’ve got them hooked. Synopsis:Length, Tone, Format The format of a wonderful synopsis has the following ingredients: Length: about 500 words (but check agency requirements – they can be quite variable). There’s a lot of advice around suggesting that your synopsis should run to no more than one page. We think that’s on the low side. Most good synopses we see run to two nicely formatted pages (ie: reasonable line spacing, normal margins and a sensible font.)Language: Be business-like; clear, to the point, neutral. In particular, it’s fine to tell not show: this is a business document, not the novel itself.Presentation: Be well-presented with no typos or spelling mistakes. Use normal fonts, normal margins, and line spacing no narrower than 1.5. It’s fine if your synopsis runs to two pages, but (unless an agent specifically asks for more), don’t run to more than that.Character names: Put the names of main characters in bold or CAPS when you first introduce them. That makes the synopsis easier to navigate.Character thumbnails: as well as highlighting your characters names, you should give a swift resume of who they are, on first introduction. So for example: “James Bond, (38), a British agent – handsome, cruel, seductive, and high-living – …”. Note that you can insert age in brackets without having to say your protagonist “is thirty-eight years old.” Save that word count!Extra points: If you have a compelling way to ‘sell’ your story in 2-3 lines maximum, you could insert that little snippet up at the top of your synopsis.Third person presentation: Even if your novel is narrated in the first person, your synopsis should be written third person. So (to pick one of my own 1st person detective novels for example), I wouldn’t write “I am a police constable in South Wales …”, but rather, “Fiona Griffiths is a police constable, based in South Wales…” You can instantly see how much more professional that sounds to the reader, right?File name: Please don’t call your file synopsis.doc. That works fine for you on your computer – but the agent probably has 100 files from writers with that exact filename. So help the agent out. Your file should be in the format title-synopsis. So: farewell-to-arms-synopsis.doc, for example. And once again: tell the story. Your job is not to sell the book, write blurb, or anything else, just say what happens in the story. How to Write a Synopsis for Your Novel There are two big tricks in getting your synopsis right. They are: Trick the First Don’t take your massive 100,000 word manuscript and try to figure out how to cram all its rich complexity into a 500 word precis. It can’t be done. You’ll go crazy. Your synopsis will be terrible. Instead of going from your manuscript and boiling it down, you need to go from your structure and build up. That’s the trick. It works every time and it’s awesome. What’s your structure? It’s this: Status QuoInitiating IncidentDevelopmentsCrisisResolution Without looking at your manuscript, sketch out your plot using those headings in about 300 words. The ‘developments’ section obviously represents by far the largest portion of your novel, but it may not amount to more than 40-50% of your total word count here. That’s fine. Missing out excessive detail is exactly the point. It’s precisely what you’re trying to do. So do it, and don’t fret. Equally: don’t get into too much detail about character or settings or anything like that. Just focus on the exact plot mechanics for now. Want more help on this? Need help to understand this trick in action? Course you do: We’ve got a free Agent Submissions Builder which gives you a precise template for constructing your synopsis – and your query letter. You’ll have both synopsis and query letter written in a couple of hours tops – and they’ll be excellent ones as well. Get my Agent Submission Builder here. Second only to your novel, these are the most important documents you’ll ever write – so get them sorted fast, easily, and with excellence. You’ll be glad you did. Trick the Second The second trick is equally simple and equally effective. It’s this: Layer in information about who your characters are and how the events of the story impact them. Synopses can feel like rather cold and baffling documents. When they do (and assuming they’re decently written), it’s always because the writer has focused entirely on plot machinery and hasn’t said enough about why it matters to the characters. But we read books for the characters, so your synopsis has to engage with those emotional aspects too. Remember I gave you only 300 words for the actual plot machinery? The remaining 200 words are where you can express yourself with protagonists, emotions and character arcs. Example (Without Character / Emotion Language): “As BELLA walks into the class, a fan blows her scent towards a boy, named EDWARD CULLEN. Bella sits next to Edward in biology class on her first day of school. He disappears for a few days, but sees more of Bella upon his return. Bella is then nearly struck by a van in the school parking lot. Edward saves Bella, stopping the van with only his hand.”(Adapted from the Wikipedia synopsis of Twilight) Example (With Character / Emotion Language) “As BELLA walks into the class, a fan blows her scent towards a mysterious boy named EDWARD CULLEN. Bella sits next to Edward in biology class on her first day of school, but he seems repulsed by her, affecting her feelings in the process. He disappears for a few days, but warms up to Bella upon his return; their newfound relationship is interrupted after Bella is nearly struck by a van in the school parking lot. Edward saves Bella, stopping the van with only his hand.”(Source: as above) Do you see how much more engaging the second version is to the reader? Although the text remains quite dry, by including emotional / character-type language in its summary, we have some sense of the real, developing relationship. Short message: don’t focus so hard on plot mechanics that you forget to layer in emotion. Writing a Synopsis:Common Mistakes Here’s what not to do. Miss the agent’s word count by a mile. If an agent’s website gives you a particular word count to aim for, then deliver that, at least approximately. You may find you need a couple of different versions of the same documents, just because those blooming agents can’t cohere around one set word count. Jeepers. Those guys.Go into detail about setting: If you were writing a synopsis for a Jane Austen novel, for example, you might simply say: “This novel is set in a small village in Regency England.” You don’t need more.Go into vast detail about character: A few quick strokes are all that you need. (For example: “Ella, an experienced but overconfident assassin (36)...”)Be scrupulous about plot detail: It’s fine to skip subplots or ignore some finer details. The truth is, you won’t have time to include those things in a 500-word summary. Agents know that the synopsis is at best an approximation of the story.Hide the plot twist: A synopsis is the ultimate plot spoiler, opposite to a blurb, and your job is just to spill the beans, whether you like it or not.Start telling us about the novel. So, for example, don’t say, “Then the novel picks up the story of Kate and Jacob...”. Say: “Meanwhile, Kate and Jacob...”Cram in too many character names. Four or five is the maximum an agent wants to deal with. If you need to refer to other characters, just say, “the CIA agent” or “the beautiful doctor”.Forget to put your character names in CAPS or bold. Make it easy for the agent!Omit the title. Yes, we’ve seen synopses entitled “Synopsis”. Make sure you have both the title of your book and your name up at the top of your document. So your title line might read: A Farewell to Arms: Synopsis”, and beneath that in smaller text you’d have your name – maybe Ernest somebody-or-other.Use an unhelpful filename. Your document needs to be yourbooktitle-synopsis.doc.Write badly. Yes, a synopsis is a brisk, functional document, and you don’t need to write wonderfully. But you are still a writer trying to sell your work, so don’t allow yourself clumsy or badly expressed sentences.Fail to use our incredible Agent Submission Builder. These tools help you structure and write your synopsis and your query letter in a trice. Or even less than that – a dice. You can get them for free here. Watcha waitin’ for? If you’re not making those errors, you should be good to go. If you need help on getting your plot structure right in the first place, then check out these links: how to plot, more on using plot outlines, and how to apply the snowflake method to your story construction process. Synopsis:An Example This is a synopsis example penned by one of our own clients, Tracy Gilpin. The synopsis (and the book) went on to wow an agent and secure a book deal. Synopsis Of Double Cross By Tracy Gilpin Dunai Marks discovers the strangled corpse of Siobhan Craig, an activist who is not only her employer but also a mother figure; Dunai had been abandoned at an orphanage as a baby. Siobhan was about to present to government the results of a controversial population control model for possible implementation at national level. Dunai believes this is the reason she was murdered. The investigating officer on the case is instructed by an agent of the National Intelligence Agency to treat the murder as a botched burglary. Although some evidence points in this direction, Dunai believes Siobhan’s murder was work-related, which means she and Bryan, an American statistician, could be in danger. She strikes a deal with Carl, a private investigator. If she is able to find a motive for the murder he will show her how to go about catching the killer. Dunai discovers Siobhan was blackmailing five people who stood in the way of her pilot project, and was involved with a subversive group of radical feminists called Cerchio Del Gaia whose insignia is a double cross. Dunai and Carl investigate the individuals blackmailed by Siobhan. They include: an anti-abortion activist, the head of an all-male religious fundamentalist group, an Anglican bishop, a member of local government, and a USAID official. One of these suspects was the last person to see Siobhan alive, another is known to have approached a contract killer a month before her murder. Cerchio Del Gaia becomes increasingly entangled in both Dunai’s life and the investigation, and she is told that if she joins the group she will have access to information about her birth. The National Intelligence Agency is on a similar tack; if Dunai infiltrates Cerchio Del Gaia, which they believe is an international terrorist organisation, they will provide her with information about her origins. Dunai turns down both offers and the mystery of her birth and abandonment is eventually revealed by a woman claiming to be Siobhan’s sister, Dunai’s birth mother and the head of the South African chapter of Cerchio Del Gaia. Throughout the investigation Dunai has searched for Mr Bojangles, a schizophrenic vagrant who may have seen the murderer. When she eventually finds him he seems to be of little help, yet it is his ramblings along with another clue that leads to her close friend and colleague, Bryan, who has been wanted by the FBI for twenty years for terrorist activities in the US. Bryan murdered Siobhan after discovering she intended betraying him to the National Intelligence Agency to deflect attention from Cerchio Del Gaia and as proof that she abided by the law even when it meant personal sacrifice. Carl, who is now romantically involved with Dunai, offers to continue her training as an investigator and she agrees to divide her time between this and Siobhan’s NGO. What Next? We suggest using Tracy’s synopsis as a great example for your own synopsis format. If you need more help writing your synopsis and agent letter, we offer this as one of our manuscript editing services. Or if you just want the agent submissions builder, you can go grab it below. Happy writing – and have fun. 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. 
Read more

A letter to myself

The Festival of Writing 2018 – and How All Was Not LostBy Sophie Beal Dear Myself-of-the-Weeks-Before-the-Festival, This letter is for you, poring over the Jericho resources, searching for wisdom on those ultimate questions: how can I know the Festival won’t be a waste of time and money? And what if, instead of an agent, I get conclusive proof I’m delusional? These are the things you’ll want to know up front. You don’t make any of the competition shortlists.You have a very depressing 1-2-1.That dream, where agents and publishers stalk you? It doesn’t happen. You’re now wondering if you should cut your losses, stay in Bournemouth and save the petrol. Keep reading. Sometimes, people meet their agent in the coffee queue. This is unlikely in your case. Either, you’ll be too scared to strike up conversation, or not be scared enough and say something really stupid. So there you are. Four hundred and sixty pounds down, no chance of representation and surrounded by three hundred odd people all after roughly the same thing. It’s going to be murder, right? That’s what you’re thinking. That first 1-2-1 is not the agent’s fault. She’s lovely, but doesn’t think you’re the next Tolstoy. “I’m getting caught up in the medical red tape,” she says. She has no idea of the time you’ve spent trying to make sure that didn’t happen. You sit there and listen. You write notes. You return to your session. Then you go back to your room and grieve. After all, unless something magic happens, this is probably the end of the line for your novel. After eleven years. If you could fit this into the hour and a half before dinner, it would be an ideal time and place. It’s quiet. There are no children asking you for snacks or arbitration. But you’ve a soul to vomit and mealtime comes all too soon. You’re not pretty when you cry. People will assume you’re dying of something they don’t want to catch. Or they’ll know the truth – that you’re not as good as you hoped. You drag Rachel, your trusty writing partner, to your room. She gives you a good hug, and supervises you while you rinse your eyes in warm water and make your way towards food. And there you meet someone else who hasn’t yet had either of their 1-2-1s, but is thoroughly fed up with the submission process. You share your own tale of woe. And the lady on the other side shares hers. And you say things to each other you would usually reserve for the mirror (or Rachel). Like, “I think I’m good.” Someone buys three gins and tonic and instead of slipping out before Friday Night Live, you surprise yourself by staying up to whinge until eleven thirty (that’s three am in young person time). You’re still feeling a little fragile the next morning, but all that panic-surfing has paid off. You remember Emma Darwin’s blog. You have your first coherent thoughts: You really didn’t think your world through before you wrote your novel. Your main characters are academic anaesthetists. How many non-medics know those exist? And there’s so much more you need to set up alongside the love story, including the ambition and rivalry. World-building in these circumstances is difficult, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the novel is doomed.The agent didn’t criticise your prose, your first page, or your characterisation. A lot of your work has paid off.Mandy Berriman had a difficult journey to publication. People have told you she’s lovely. You will try to speak to her. Together with a cooked breakfast, you’ve reason enough to get out of bed. Penny Holroyde and Allie Spencer sit at your table in the canteen. This is the moment you should try and impress Penny who is after all an agent. But when they ask you about your festival, you end up telling them the truth. It’s the best thing you can do. They are both lovely. “So many published authors I know, have a novel they love but can’t sell,” says Allie. “It doesn’t mean it’s not any good.” You talk about easy reading for thinkers.  She wrote her first romantic comedy about a young barrister, so understands your world-building issues and gives you some pointers. You come away thoroughly inspired. That is your “all is lost moment” done and dusted. Having planned plenty of alone time, you don’t miss a thing after that: Sarah Pinborough may apologise for waffling in her keynote lecture, but has everyone in stitches as she describes life as a published author. And everyone’s crying by the end of Julie Cohen’s session about Pixar story-telling. At the book club and literary industry panel you’re told genre boundaries are blurring. Pinning your book down as literary or commercial doesn’t matter as much as it did. Finally, someone produces a useful definition of book club fiction. It’s obvious really: “something people want to talk about with their friends.” You contemplate skiving the Futurecast session. It’s on Sunday morning; you’re tired and already know vampires are out, uplit and psychological thrillers in. But there’s loads more to learn. Afterwards, everyone you speak to is considering self-publishing. And somewhere in the middle of all that, you have a second 1-2-1. It’s far more relaxed than your first, possibly because you now know the problem. You bring up the world-building issue yourself. She suggests emphasising the love story over the setting from the start. But she says, “You’re clearly a very good writer.” You have time left. You could show her your elevator pitch for novel number two, but you forget and use the minutes up blithering about how much her opinion means to you. There you are: three competitions, two 1-2-1s and no agent. But you now understand more about how you could fit into the industry. And you’ve found the rest of the people like you in the world. The money isn’t wasted. On Sunday morning, you listen to Mandy Berriman’s keynote session and her full story of knockbacks, perseverance and eventual success with her second novel. Over lunch, you tell your fellow writers about your novel number two. “That one will be so much easier to sell. I can condense the idea down into a few sentences.” You tell them it’s about a couple about to abandon fertility treatment when the woman is raped. She then discovers she is pregnant. She thinks the baby is her husband’s. He thinks she’s delusional and wants an abortion. Someone says, “I’m wondering what I’d do.” And someone else, “You need to write that.” Then you remember you’re actually on your second draft. This sets off those pesky dreams again. You see yourself up on the main stage, about to publish your first novel as your second. The editor next to you is saying, “I couldn’t believe she had something so marvellous in her bottom drawer.” With very best wishes Sophie Beal Sophie came to the Festival of Writing 2018. She did not get an agent, but did get inspired. Has this inspired you to come along next year? Keep you eye on our events for more.
Read more

Just the Beginning: Getting Published by Eleanor Anstruther

By Eleanor Anstruther I got a call from my agent.  “I have news.” I sat on my kitchen table, my feet on a chair, my elbows on my knees, one finger jammed in the other ear, the better to hear. For the first time in days I hadn’t been obsessively checking my inbox; I’d let it go, I’d given up, I’d said to myself, oh well, I’ll just have to write something better.  I’d gone off to town with my children, I hadn’t looked at my phone all day till I was home and saw three missed calls and an email saying, do call when you have a minute.  I was holding the phone in my hands, staring at the screen, when it rang again. It’s a bit like when you’re pregnant for the first time, all you think about is the birth.  Not the aftermath, the what comes next, the slow reveal of fears you never thought you’d have.  I’d spent a decade driving at representation, a manuscript finished and loved and taken up by an agent.  When I signed with Jenny Savill following FoW16, I thought that was it.  It was a height I had dreamt of and not once had I thought beyond it.  It had never crossed my mind that anything would be as fraught. A friend once commented that being taken up by an agent was child’s play compared to selling to a publisher. A writer can submit to the same agent year on year if they want. But once a publisher turns your book down, that’s it. It’s a one shot game. At the beginning, with Frankfurt Book Fair looming and all the excitement of total ignorance, I was convinced I’d hear within days, hours, of easy success. Instead the weekly updates from Jenny were crammed with kind, encouraging notices of failure. It was three weeks into that torment of declines that Jenny gave me the best advice I’d ever had.  Lower your expectations she said to my whining misery that I hadn’t been bought overnight, that the industry moves at its own quiet pace, that clearly I knew nothing.  And when it seemed like pessimism was getting the better of me, she said It’s not over yet.  But Christmas came and went and my infant novel looked for all the world as if it would never make it to adulthood.  I practised saying it happens and searched for examples of Booker Prize winners who’d struggled to find air.  I got on with writing something else. A trip to town on a freezing afternoon at the end of January, my children needing boots, or the dentist, or maybe I just needed to get out of the kitchen and away from what felt like humiliation – I don’t remember anything of that day except coming home, and checking my phone for the first time since breakfast, and seeing three missed calls and an email.  When it rang in my hand my heart jumped and my breathing went funny. “We’ve had an offer.”  And then she told me who it was, and I sat on my kitchen table with my feet on a chair, and my elbows on my knees and one finger jammed in the other ear, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My debut, ‘A Perfect Explanation’, comes out in March 2019, published by Salt Books, one of the finest independent publishers of literary fiction.  It’s happening; the thing that I gave no thought to, that I presumed would be easy, and wasn’t and felt crushed by.  Those four months seem like nothing now, but looking back at the struggle, I have learnt this: that every step is a test of what you know and reveal of what you don’t, and when a brilliant and hard working agent and you decide to work together, remember it is just the beginning.
Read more

7 years to publication, 7 things I’ve learned

Isabel Costello’s debut novel Paris Mon Amour was released in June 2016 in digital and audiobook. She also hosts the Literary Sofa blog, where you can find her selection of recommended Summer Reads 2016. Isabel attended the  Festival of Writing in 2012 and 2013 and hopes to return one day! Like any endeavour measured in years, my journey to publication has many significant milestones, starting with the decision seven years ago to stop talking about wanting to write (don’t most people?) and get on with it (many people don’t). Fast-forward three years and I had a novel ready to submit to agents (or so I thought) and attending the Festival of Writing for the first time in 2012 was a watershed. As well as being sociable, stimulating and educational, it made me realise just how many people shared my precise goal of getting their novel published. It was the best kind of wake-up call: slightly alarming at the time but the catalyst for good things. Without it I doubt I’d have reached – another four years later! – the most exciting landmark so far: publication of my debut novel. Many people have been astonishingly generous and supportive on a road that’s had a few bumps, as most paths to publication do. I’ve learned a lot – and not just about how to write books. This is definitely not a ‘How to…’ (it’s pretty obvious I don’t have a magic formula.) For me and most of the writers I know, getting published has been mostly down to persistence and hard work. THE SECRET TO GETTING AN AGENT Free submission pack templateGET YOURS 1. READING MATTERS Reading as a writer alters the experience in a way that can be distracting, but noticing the structure, the language, even being able to guess the twist or the ending three chapters in (so annoying!) are signs of developing your own sense of what works. Payback time comes when you forget to register any of that because you’re so immersed in the story. That’s inspiration. It’s what you’re aiming for. 2. FRIENDS MATTER You might be – and hopefully are – writing ‘the book or story only you can write’ but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. The camaraderie and support amongst writers at all stages has been one of the best parts for me. It’s easy to others at events like the Festival of Writing – I’ve made wonderful friends this way I would never have met otherwise. But keep in touch with your other friends to avoid living in a literary bubble. 3. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BOOK – SERIOUSLY, IT IS And a very large side of luck and timing. In a business where getting anywhere is very hard, it’s easy to invent imaginary obstacles. It probably doesn’t hurt to be young, movie-star gorgeous with a life story as fascinating as your book, but it’s far from essential. Not saying they aren’t great, but you do not need an MA in creative writing. (I have no writing qualifications.) And don’t fret about ‘who you know’ (or don’t) in the business. Frankly, if that made a difference it wouldn’t have taken me this long to get published! 4. THERE’S NOTHING LIKE EDITORIAL INPUT This is a tricky one because it generally involves money, but the reality is that to get noticed by agents, publishers or competition judges you need to be submitting work that’s already of publishable standard, or very close. When I think mine’s good enough, it rarely is, and the honest, constructive input you need at that point is unlikely to come from anyone who’s not a confident and experienced editor. A structural edit following my first Festival of Writing transformed my fortunes entirely, resulting in a choice of agents. It was worth every penny. 5. DON’T PIN YOUR HAPPINESS ON AN OUTCOME YOU CAN’T CONTROL Learning to cope with the inevitable setbacks in a positive way is important, and something I’ve discussed openly along the way. Some advice from Lionel Shriver at an event I attended has stayed with me: write what matters to you – it’s the only way you can be sure your time is well spent. There are no guarantees in this business. Although it’s impossible to avoid completely, comparing yourself to others – your process, your book, your success – is not a good use of time or energy. The most important lesson I’ve learned is to focus on the only part I can control: producing the best work I can. Closely followed by enjoying other things! 6. VISUALISE WRITING SUCCESS, BUT NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE I know this sounds like a contradiction, but positive thinking can be a self-fulfilling prophesy too! I could always picture myself succeeding, however remote the prospect (and for a long time it really was). ‘Disruption’ in the book business has led to many new ways of reaching readers. I may not have anticipated my novel coming out first in digital and audio but I know an exciting opportunity when I see one. 7. THE RIGHT WAY TO WRITE IS THE WAY THAT WORKS FOR YOU Faced with the deluge of generic tips directed at writers, there’s an art to identifying those which motivate, assist and inspire you in your work – thereby making it more enjoyable, and you more likely to stick at it – and ignoring all the rest. For every person inspired by ‘write what you know’ or ‘write every day’ there are many more left cursing and grinding their teeth. Ultimately it’s not about the method; it’s the end result that matters. Structural feedback may just help you get there, too. MORE ON GETTING PUBLISHED Link to: How to Get Your Book Published GETTING PUBLISHED All you need to know
Read more

Becoming An Author By Lucy Ayrton

Blogger and newly-published author Lucy Ayrton shares with Jericho Writers the experience of the early stages of her career and her tips on how to become a writer, but also reflects on what it really means to write and if there is a difference between writers and authors. The first time I ever seriously called myself a writer was on my wedding day. They ask you what your job is, to put on the wedding form. I dutifully wrote “Communications Manager” down and my soon-to-be husband nudged me. “That’s not all, though. What about your writing day?” I rolled my eyes. “They don’t need to have that on the form.” He shrugged. “It’s your job.” And I wrote it down for the first time. “Communications Manager and Writer.” I am a writer. It takes a while to claim, as an identity. The line between “writer” and “not-writer” is not clear cut. I mean, I’ve been able to write since I was about five. Maybe I wrote my first story when I was seven or eight. My first poem about the same time. But I wasn’t a writer. What about when I started scribbling in my spare time as a teenager? Or when I came second in the country poetry competition when I was seventeen? Was it when I got onto my creative writing MA? Or was it only once I’d finished a body of work? People love to say that “writers write” – but that’s ridiculous, surely. Write what? How much? How well? It’s meaningless. Writer is a title that you have to bestow on yourself. By contrast, the line between “writer” and “author” is very straightforward. When you’re published, you’re an author, and that’s that. And this is my publication week, so I’m about to become an author. I have been looking forward to this for a very long time. It’s emotionally very difficult being a writer. You’ve got a day job, probably, and friends and family and other commitments and a life. It’s a big ask to carve out time to lock yourself away in a room and hang around with people you’ve made up in your head. You have to do a fair amount of not-going-to-the-pub, and going-to-bed-early-I’m-writing-tomorrow-morning, and basically being less fun than you could be. It is a choice you have made, between writing and watching Jurassic Park and drinking wine with your girlfriend, and you know it. When there’s just you and the book, making these choices can make you feel a little bit… stupid. You’re painfully aware there’s no guarantee that anyone’s ever actually going to read your work. It’s easy to wonder what it’s for. And I would always say that it ultimately doesn’t matter. The process of writing is valuable in and of itself, and the work produced has value too. I’d be miserable if I couldn’t write, and whether my work gets sold in bookshops or emailed to close friends doesn’t change that – if I didn’t write and share stories then I wouldn’t be me, and that’s why I do it. Art that isn’t sold is still art. But I’ll be honest, when I first got my book deal, the idea that my work was going to be a “real book” was a massive lift. I felt vindicated – all those times I’d felt a bit silly for the compromises and sacrifices I’d made, I’d proved it was worth it. I wasn’t missing out on other experiences to do a kind of grown-up version of playing with my dolls – this was a serious business. This wasn’t just some scribblings sitting on my hard drive anymore. I had undeniably made something, and now people were going to read it. I felt like “being an author” was going to change everything again. This time it would be even better, and  surely I would never have to doubt myself or feel stupid ever again – because I was an Author. I kept waiting to feel it – the rush of “being an author”. I thought it would happen when I first held the hard copy of my book. Like having a baby, I vaguely thought. I’ll hold it and suddenly feel it – suddenly understand. My author-ness will descend on me. And it really was brilliant holding my baby book for the first time. I flipped through it and cried and took photos of it with a glass of champagne. It was such a lovely evening. The thing is though – nothing changed. I still had to sit on my bum the next day and write the first draft of the next book when I could have been re-watching Game of Thrones. It’s not like I really needed the permission. My process hadn’t changed and neither had I. The little bit of swagger was lovely to have – a bit of spring in my step, a bit of a smirk when I opened my laptop  – but essentially I am still the same woman tapping away at her laptop wearing PJs while everyone else is at the pub watching football. Writing life is exactly the same. Ultimately, I don’t feel different. I’d assumed that it would either help, or paralyse me – the idea of a faceless audience, a crowd of people I’ve never met reading my precious words. I’d assumed that it would change things. But when I come to actually write, it’s still the way it’s always been – just me and the page and maybe an idea of just one person, who I’m telling a story to. But then, publication is still 3 days away. I’ll let you know. How To Become An Author: Tips For Your Writing Career So here is some useful advice I’ve had on being a “baby-author”: Say thank you to everyone. I’ve read this advice from a few different people. It seems like a decent life rule in general! But also, I’ve been thanked for a positive review or a nice tweet before and it feels amazing.Get a new signature. You need a new signature – a different one to the one on your bank card – for signings. This is to make it harder for people to embezzle you.Get a uniform. A friend told me it was a good idea to decide upon an “author’s uniform” so that you’re a bit more recognisable at events and also you never have to worry about what you’re wearing. I actually already have this from my poetry career – a pretty dress plus Doc Martens.Think about money. It can be very easy to lose a handle on any income when you haven’t earnt from writing before. Luckily I had a hustle-heavy poetry career to teach me this. It’s always good to have a rough idea of how much you’ll charge for what (ie a visit to a school) so that if someone offers you some work you won’t be caught on the hop and agree to do a week’s worth of workshops for £10. Think about travel expenses! Also, if you’re not already a freelancer, sort your business side out.Make friends with other authors/book industry people. This is partly so that they can give you more helpful advice along the lines of the above. Mainly though, this is because having a network of friends and colleagues who just bloody LOVE BOOKS as much as you is a childhood dream in and of itself. Author Lucy’s debut novel One More Chance is available now from Dialogue Books. The novel follows the story of Dani, a London prison inmate, and combines physiological suspense with contemporary women’s fiction. To learn more about how to become an author from Lucy’s perspective, have a look at her blog ‘Books and Bakes and Beverages’ here where she writes about the day to day happenings in her writing career. 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. 
Read more

Writers in conversation: Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste

Steve Cavanagh is a human rights lawyer working in Northern Ireland. The Defence is his debut novel, which was longlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and shortlisted for two Dead Good Readers Awards. Luca Veste, a former civil servant, guitarist and actor, is author of the Murphy & Rossi crime series and editor of the Spinetingler-nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’. Luca – I’m endlessly fascinated by the story of a writer’s journey. I started out quite late – I thought – with my own writing career. I didn’t write stories or anything of that sort until I was 28, so I’ve only been at this thing of ours for a few years. Speaking to other writers however, I know there’s a fair few out there who started writing when they were young, in school, getting attention for having a big imagination. How did it start out for you? Steve – For me the desire to tell stories started early, but it took me a fair few years to get my ass in gear to do it. My Granda and my Dad would sit around with their friends, most nights, telling stories. I would just sit and listen, fascinated. Neither my Dad or my Granda read much, but my Mum did. She read four or five books a week, and I caught the crime bug from her. When I was young, far too young in retrospect, she gave me a copy of The Silence of the Lambs and that changed everything for me. I read all the books, especially American crime thrillers, that I could get my hands on. But when it came to writing, I didn’t write crime at first. In my late teens I started writing screenplays, mostly comedies. I even got an agent, but he couldn’t get anything sold so I gave up age 21. After that I always harboured the fantasy of writing a book, but never did it. Then in 2011, when I was aged 35, my Mum passed away quite suddenly. She was the only person who ever encouraged me to write so I thought I’d give it one more shot, for her. I started writing The Defence in September 2011, in secret, after a 14-year break. What about you? Starting at 28 doesn’t seem late at all. And you’ve still got your hair! Luca – Yes, although being half Italian, I would be very annoyed if I lost my hair this soon. We’re a hirsute bunch. Like you, I was surrounded by stories in my family. And jokes. Everyone always has a funny story to top the last one. My dad was a screenwriter as it happens and actually made a film back in the 90s. I was a voracious reader as a child as well. Started with Enid Blyton and then went into horror when I was a teenager. I didn’t really read crime until I was around 23 – which was about 7 years after I’d pretty much stopped reading and started doing “teenage” things – and someone gave me Mark Billingham’s first book. I quickly caught up with his series and have read predominantly crime books since. Dead Gone – my first book – started out life as a very different book and came from writing short stories and progressing to something longer. I abandoned the first version of that story – which was a woeful scouse gangster-style cliche of a novel – and wrote a first draft in a few months. Then, redrafted three times to finally land an agent for it around a year later. How long did it take you to get an agent? Steve – Well, first, Dead Gone is a blinder of a debut. The work paid off. Getting an agent? Well, that took a while. It took me about six or seven months to do the first draft of The Defence, then I spent maybe another six months redrafting it, polishing it. So I think it started looking for an agent mid-2012. And I finally got one in April 2013 so probably around nine months to get representation. And I tell you, those were a hard nine months. I started off trying to get a US agent, but I didn’t think I was good enough to go for any of the big agencies, so I mainly tried the small and medium sized agencies. And I got a lot of rejections. Then, I got a little hint of light at the end of the tunnel. I started to get requests for the first three chapters, from agents that just wanted a pitch letter, and then requests for the full manuscript. I got a real buzz from this and a bigger downer when the rejections came back. One agency really loved the first three chapters, and requested the full book. I was enthusiastic about this small UK based agency, but I’d been in that situation before, so I thought I may as well try a couple of the bigger agents. I was getting rejections, anyway, so I thought I may as well get rejected by the best. I remember it was a Monday night, I got the email from the small agency who’d read the full manuscript and who I’d been really keen on. They hated it. It was a rejection which contained the lines, “You can write, but this book will never be published. Write something else and we’ll read it.” Man, I was devastated. I thought, that’s it – this book is over I need to write something else. Then on the Wednesday I had two of the biggest agencies in the UK come back and offer representation for the same book that I’d been told would never be published. It was an amazing feeling. So now I’m very proud to be a Heathen (I’m represented by AM Heath). How did you hook up with your agent? Luca – I was quite bullish when it came to finding an agent. I knew a few other writers at the time and there were a couple who always raved about their agent. Now, I edited a couple of charity anthologies around that time, and I think that agent was tipped off that I was writing a novel. He sent me a message on Twitter saying good work on the anthologies, when you’ve got a novel to show people, I’d love to read it. That was back in February 2012. I finished the first draft in about March, read it once, thought it was as good as it was ever going to be, and sent it to the agent. He rejected it, somewhat nicely, a few weeks later. I took his notes on board, redrafted, and sent it back in the June. He rejected that one as well, with the option to resend another draft. I was, similar to you, devastated. I’d worked tirelessly on all the notes and only succeeded in creating new problems. By this point, I was convinced I couldn’t write a better book, so decided to send it to four other agents. One rejected within a day, as they had decided to concentrate on children’s fiction. The other three agents asked for the full manuscript. As a matter of courtesy, I emailed the original agent, who by now was quite friendly with me, and let him know I was showing other agents the book and was getting some interest. I received an email back straight away, asking if I could speak on the phone. What followed was ninety minutes of the agent telling me exactly what was wrong with the book, what need fixing, and a general tearing apart of my work. The last five minutes of the call was him offering me representation. I pretty much immediately accepted the offer. Best decision I’ve ever made. I rewrote the book in a month, working almost every hour I was awake (which as an insomniac, is quite a few), and he was happy with the result. What is bizarre, is that it took only six weeks after that to find a publisher. A year to get an agent, six weeks to get a publisher … shows how valuable a good agent can be, and I have a great one in Phil Patterson. The Defence is ridiculously good. To the point where I was hoping it wasn’t really a debut, but a new novel from an established writer under a pseudonym. I can only imagine it was picked up the next day by a publisher in a sixteen-way auction? Steve – That’s class. I love that story. What I hear sometimes from writers who are looking for an agent, or a publishing deal, is that they are quite precious about their book. Which is totally the wrong attitude. When you write your first book you basically know nothing. You learn by writing and then it’s your agent’s and publisher’s job to point out all the shit that you can’t see and make the book better. Thanks for the kind words about The Defence. It was picked up quick, but only after a lot of work. I got representation from Euan Thorneycroft in April 2013, and he sent me pages of notes on the book; what worked, what didn’t work. I knew we were a good match because everything he thought needed changing really did need changing, but I just couldn’t see that. So I worked on the book flat out, and we got it ready for submission in September. I remember Euan telling me he was sending it out and that it could take months to hear back, so he would email me in three or four weeks and let me know how we got on. That was on a Monday. On the Friday I was stood in my hall, when I got an email. It was from Euan – there was an offer for the book in the UK. Four offers. He would be conducting an auction. I was completely blown away. I remember running into the living room and telling my wife that the book would be published. At that stage I didn’t care who published it, but I knew somebody would and that was enough. In the end I went with Orion, who publish some of my heroes and things have worked out well. So in your first book we meet DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi. How did you go about shaping those characters and did you conceive the first book as the beginning of a series? If you didn’t, is there anything you would change now? Luca – That’s my favourite kind of publishing story. Unsurprising, given how good it is, but there’s still an element of doubt with anything regarding publishing! Well, Murphy happened quite by accident. I’ve already mentioned the discarded scouse-gangster novel, which contained an element of what makes up Dead Gone – the psychology angle, someone killing people based on real psychological experiments etc. When I started over, I kept the psychology bit, and disregarded everything else. I remember I was re-reading one of my favourite books – The 50/50 Killer by Steve Mosby – and thinking I wanted to write something more like that. So, I started with the woman on the night out, getting in the taxi, and disappearing. Then, I was going to concentrate on her partner, but realised writing those ‘ordinary people in extraordinary situations’ novels were extremely difficult to write! I decided I needed a police point of view, as they could do things ordinary people couldn’t really. My uncle is an ex-copper, so I used him as a basis. He shares his physical size, nickname, some of his qualities, but has none of the baggage Murphy does. Once I started writing about Murphy, I just found he was more interesting to me. Murphy quickly usurped the boyfriend character and became the star. However, back then, his sidekick was a bloke called Nick Ayris. Going back to that phone conversation with Agent Phil, he casually mentioned that usually it’s a male/female partnership, and that there was nothing Italian in the book. Which was surprising to him, given I was half-Italian. Nick Ayris became Laura Rossi and that’s why agents are important! Rossi is by far my favourite character to write now. I can get all these little things about my Italian family in there – my nan asking me if I’m hungry as soon as I’d walked through the door, before saying hello, my dad swearing in Italian, the quick-temper, etc. I did envisage a series if it got picked up, but I’d still change things. I probably wouldn’t have Murphy having quite such a lot of baggage to carry, although that worked (hopefully) eventually. That’s about it though. There’s no plan as such, but I have ideas for about seven or eight books total. I’m writing number four now, so I’m halfway through! And those ideas will probably change. You and Eddie Flynn … always a series as well? Steve – Have to say I love Rossi; the Italian swearing! She is such a great character. Ahm, yeah, I had an idea for the character first. A con artist who became a lawyer, because I wanted to explore the overlap in those professions and how a trial works – the art of cross examination and how that really is the art of persuasion, misdirection and manipulation. Before the book got picked up I had an idea for four or five, and I really wanted to start writing them but I knew The Defence had to be the first one. If that book hadn’t been published I wouldn’t be writing about that character because the events in The Defence cause Eddie to fall back into his old hustler ways. No other storyline could’ve achieved that in the same way. Right now I’m writing the third book. I love series characters, so it felt natural to try and start my own. Although, I’ve been hit with several decent ideas for standalone books lately. I don’t know if I’ll write them. Maybe down the line. Do you ever think of trying a standalone? And how do you go about writing? Plotter, pantser, when and how do you write? Luca – Can’t wait to read more Eddie. I’ve got the beginning of a standalone in a word doc on my computer. It’s pretty much plotted out as well, but I’m happy writing the series for now. I’m a big fan of series characters as well, so I’m happy at the moment. I’m a little of both. I plot a little, then just write for a while, before plotting a little more. Usually, this leads to me rewriting half a book, four weeks before a deadline though! I start with a small idea. Then, I need some sort of theme – with the new one, Bloodstream, it’s about love and media – and I can just go from there. With my books, there’s always an investigation that starts you off, which usually involves a body or the lack of one, so it’s just a battle against making that too samey/cliche and just writing. Then rewriting. Then throwing things at the wall and hoping inspiration hits at some point! Do you plan much? And the same question about standalones to you… would you consider writing something set in your own country? Steve – That’s interesting that you start off with a theme. I know Ian Rankin does something similar so you’re in good company. I think doing it that way, with a theme in mind, really helps you focus on what you want to achieve with the book. I’m reading Bloodstream at the moment, and loving it. The whole celebrity thing is well done, and my wife zipped through the book in a day or so. I tend not to have a theme, and one or two kind of emerge. I don’t plot or plan anything. I write line by line, and then I go back and rewrite the beginning until I have it nailed. Once I’ve got a decent 50 pages or so, I’m off and I don’t tend to look back until I’m almost at the end. Then I stop. Go back and redraft from the beginning before I write the end. It’s a weird process. I tend to have a vague idea, and go from there. The second book, The Plea, touches on white collar crime like money laundering and how it’s done in the digital age, and there’s a locked room mystery done with CCTV. (A word of advice to new writers. NEVER do a locked room mystery, not until you are well down the line with at least a couple of books under your belt. And then plan it all out from the beginning.) Standalones are very appealing when you’re writing a series, but also scary. I think you have to time it right. That last thing you want to do is release a standalone when everyone is waiting for the next book in the series. It never quite has the same impact. I don’t know if I’d write something set in Northern Ireland. I won’t rule it out, but the ideas for standalones that are kicking around in my head are set in the US. Although, I did have one idea for a Northern Ireland story, but I sort of think that would work much better on TV than in a book. Luca – I’ll take the company of Ian Rankin. I saved a penalty of his, in a crime writers’ football match. I don’t mention it very often. Locked room mystery, ouch. That’s not something I have planned to do any time soon! Interesting that Northern Ireland hasn’t really featured much in your planning. When I started out, I couldn’t imagine setting my books anywhere other than Liverpool. I can’t really imagine writing about anywhere else, even with the help of Google Maps. You didn’t just choose a different city, but an entirely different country. How does that work and is it solely so you can pass of US holidays as expenses? Steve – A US holiday would be very nice. It’s not so much of a leap really. I grew up watching US TV shows and reading books set in the US, so the language, the rhythms, the pace and the locations, all seem very real to me. Plus, New York fits with the pace and the style of story I wanted to write. And by setting it in New York I can cheat. If I’d set it somewhere in North Carolina, I’d have to take a fair bit of time to describe the place. Whereas, as soon I say New York, every single person reading the book immediately creates their own mental image without me having to help them too much. If I’d set the book in Belfast it just wouldn’t have worked. Plus, look at all the writers coming out of Northern Ireland, like Stuart Neville, Brian McGilloway, Eoin McNamee, Adrian McKinty, Gerard Brennan, Claire MacGowan. I just couldn’t compete with that lot. How important is setting to you? A few of the places and buildings in The Defence are fictional, any fictional settings or are they all meticulously researched? And what does Liverpool add to the series, for you? Luca – Stuart Neville, now there’s a writer. When I grow up, I want to be as good as him. Nothing really fictional in my book. Everything exists, with a couple of minor changes here and there, so no one sues me. There’s a house in the first book which plays a major role in the ending and that’s slightly invented. The road it’s on exists, but the house itself is a creation. My police characters work from the real offices in the city centre, they live in real locations (again with some alterations), and I hope daily that it doesn’t get me into trouble! Liverpool to me just feels natural. It’s a setting not really utilised in crime fiction, so I have that going for me, as it’s somewhere new for readers to discover. It’s big enough, that I have many locations within it to utilise. Plus, there are so many different characters in Liverpool, that I can bring in realism to what is an unrealistic topic. We last had a serial killer in Liverpool back in the 1800s (we’ve exported a couple since then, but never had any on the streets from what I know), which means my serial killer books don’t really conform to the reality of the city. Hopefully, with the characters, topics, and locations, I can make it a little more realistic. What’s the one thing you want to achieve in your writing career … awards, events, etc.? Steve – You should set your books in Northern Ireland, we’ve had more than our fair share of serial killers. And I totally agree about Stuart – phenomenal talent. The one thing I want to achieve? I don’t know if I could narrow it down to just one thing. It’s weird, when you’re struggling to be published you just want to have that moment of seeing your book on a shelf. When you’ve achieved that, then you want somebody to actually buy the bloody book, take it home, read it and enjoy it. Then you want lots of people to do that. Ideally, enough to get you onto the bestseller list – so I think your goals change throughout your career. I’m sure there are well known bestselling writers, who want higher sales, and better chart positions every year. For me, I have two goals. One is to be able to sell enough books, and make enough money that I could be financially stable and support my family through my writing. That is the big one for me. Second goal, to write a better book than the last one, year on year. Awards are totally in the lap of the Gods. You do your best and if someone wants to give you an award, well that’s lovely. But there are plenty of amazing crime novels that don’t win awards but stay in print and become classics. The other part of this writing game is getting to meet so many other great writers. There are still a few legends on my list of people that I want to meet – Stephen King for one. What about you – career goals? Luca – Similar to you, I just want to write a better book than the last one. Security would be up there as well. I’d love to have a novel in hardback, as that’s something I always equate with quality (for some unknown reason). Awards – I’d like them and I hate people who have them (jokes!), but not a top priority. I’ll be standing next to you when you meet Stephen King. My literary hero. Which neatly leads me into a conclusion to this conversation. What’s your favourite book? Mine is by the aforementioned – and soon to be Steve and Luca’s best mate – Stephen King, and is The Stand. Steve – If we meet Stephen King I’m going ask him to take a photograph of you and me. Just for the Craic. (“Excuse me, Mr King. Could we get a photo?” “Why sure,” says Stephen King.) I’m joking of course. I’d be a complete gibbering mess meeting somebody like him. That would be a cool day, and another reason to envy Stuart who has indeed met the man. Favourite book? I haven’t read it in years, but The Lord of The Rings used to be my favourite book. I used to read it every Christmas, for about ten years. Now I think I’d have to go with Red Dragon, or The Firm. If you’d asked me last week I would’ve said Every Dead Thing by John Connolly or The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly. My favourites change all the time. And as a final bit, best bit of writing advice you can give to a new writer? Luca – Ha! We must do that. Hopefully in the future we’ll get the chance. I’m awful with advice, but here’s the best I can do … finish. Whatever you’re writing, just finish it. That’s the hardest part of writing, I think. Finishing the bloody thing. Having a complete story in front of you makes things much easier. Then, you can get to the fun part. Rewriting. Your advice? Steve – Read and write. Read the best books you can find and aspire to get close to that level. And write as much as you can every single day. It’s the only way to improve. More about Steve Cavanagh:Steve was born and raised in Belfast and is a practicing lawyer. He is married with two young children. The Defence, has been chosen as one of Amazon’s 2015 Rising Stars programme. The Defence was longlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and shortlisted for two Dead Good Readers Awards for Best Ending and Most Recommended Book. Steve writes fast-paced legal thrillers set in New York City featuring lawyer and former con artist, Eddie Flynn. The Defence is his first novel. Find out more at www.stevecavanagh.com or follow Steve on Twitter @SSCav More about Luca Veste:Luca is a writer of Scouse and Italian heritage, author of the Murphy & Rossi series. His latest book is called Bloodstream. He is also the editor of the Spinetingler Award nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’. He is a former civil servant, actor, singer and guitarist (although he still picks it up now and again). He can be found at www.lucaveste.com and on twitter @LucaVeste.
Read more

Tor Udall on 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.
Read more

Social media for writers

Guest author and blogger Laurence O’Bryan is a novelist with HarperCollins (more) but also a pioneer in the field of using social media for book promotion. His BooksGoSocial site offers a range of promotional tools to help (primarily) self-published books get noticed. Laurence also runs courses in how to make the most of social media. 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. Laurence O’Bryan is founder of BooksGoSocial.com.
Read more

Kate Armstrong on 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. Learn more about editorial feedback.
Read more

Getting an agent and deal you really want

Guest author and blogger: James Law will be well-known to Festival attendees. Here James tells us about his journey and what it took for him to succeed. (Going to the Festival is often a good idea.) 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.
Read more

My Pathway to Publication by Sarah Linley

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.Link to: How to Get Your Book Published
Read more

Peter Papathanasiou’s Path to Publication

by Peter Papathanasiou 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. We here at Jericho Writers 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. ABOUT PETER Peter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His writing has been published internationally by The New York Times, New York Post, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, The Canberra Times, The Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, ABC, SBS, The Huffington Post, Frankie, Neos Kosmos, The Pigeonhole, Caught by the River, Structo, 3:AM Magazine, Elsewhere Journal, Litro, CutBank, Meanjin, Overland, Island Magazine, Going Down Swinging, Verity La, and Tincture Journal, and reviewed by The Times Literary Supplement in the UK. Peter’s short stories have won or been shortlisted for over twenty literary awards in Australia. He also holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from City, University of London, and a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from The Australian National University. His first book was published in 2019. You can follow Peter on Twitter here, he’s also on Facebook, and has a Blog too. Son of Mine was also reviewed by The Guardian, have a read here.
Read more

Dominic Brownlow’s Success Story

Dominic Brownlow\'s Success Story 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.
Read more

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. 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. 
Read more

How I Got A Publishing Deal by Philippa East

By 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. 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 draft… ooo, 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…
Read more
Page 1 of 2