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US literary agents for YA

In recent years, young adult (YA) fiction has become a competitive and super selling genre. There are plenty of agents that represent young adult fiction to choose from, but finalising your agent shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.     We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quotes, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles. After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. You can save your search results and then work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s some agents to get you started:  Ben Grange  Leon Husock   Sarah Landis  Thao Le   Kiana Nguyen   Quressa Robinson  Cindy Uh  Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors!  Books like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series have made it acceptable and popular for adults to read and enjoy children’s fiction. What followed was a number of spectacular authors, such as Anthony Horowitz, Suzanne Collins, Melinda Salisbury, and many more.  The fact that the YA fiction market has been so successful means that agents are inevitably interested in the area and keen to take on outstanding work. So you’d better get started! Best of luck!
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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
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Agents for paranormal romances

Looking for an agent that represents paranormal romances? Then look no further, we answer all your questions here. Plus, we’ll even introduce a few agents you may like to query!  There are plenty of agents looking for the next top-selling paranormal romance but finalising your agent shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors should query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject areas, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. You can save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. We’ve done all the work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there.   So, if you want to get to know the agents below (as well as the other 900+ literary agents!) a little better, then take out our 7-day free trial and get searching.  Natalia Aponte  Jenny Bent Joquelle Caiby  Llori Perkins  Paige Wheeler  Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors! Paranormal Romance And The Market The success of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight created a huge sub-genre in paranormal romance. Having said that, authors like Anne Rice have been writing in the genre for a long time and clearly point to its longevity.  It is a genre tailor-made for the ebook generation, and has inspired a number of films and TV series, covering the whole nexus of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and YA dark romance.  So, to join the ranks of the paranormal romance market, your novel must:  Offer good, clean, readable prose. Have a twist on the basic genre that’s new and compelling. Create a romance that will capture your audience’s heart.  Once you’ve perfected your manuscript, you can start your search for the right agent, here. Best of luck!
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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.
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US List of Science-Fiction and Fantasy Literary Agents

The science-fiction market remains as varied as it has always been, with plenty of international (and commercial) appeal. There are plenty of literary agents for science-fiction novels, but finalising your shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.    We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote - it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US science fiction and fantasy agent profiles? After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or nonfiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. You can save your search results and then work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s Some Agents to Get You Started:  Tracey Adams   Julie Barer   Connor Goldsmith  Mark Gottlieb   Evan Gregory   Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors!  Are You Really Writing Science Fiction? Although you can still write classic space opera and find an eager adult or young adult market for it, there has been an increased interest in seeing more dystopia, genre collisions, and intelligent idea-driven fiction.  As a genre, science fiction remains rich. You can even argue that literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell have published science-fiction novels. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley are certainly renowned for their sci-fi masterpieces. While authors like Iain Banks and China Mieville, who aren’t traditionally considered as literary novelists, have produced some excellent examples of challenging, bold, and thoughtful fiction.   As the science-fiction market is so rich and deeply varied, it’s important to ask yourself: ‘am I really writing science fiction?’  For example:   A near-future thriller about an as-yet-undiscovered virus could well market itself more accurately as a techno-thriller and be suitable for crime and thriller agents and editors. An intelligent novel, like David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, is probably better sold as literary fiction, no matter whether or not it uses sci-fi ideas and techniques.  If science-fiction is the right genre for you, then you’ll probably want to read this article on world-building.   And, if you’re still unsure about where your book will sit then try using AgentMatch, our database of all US and UK agents. Using the genre search you can peruse the agent profile pages to see what agents are looking for and find the best possible fit for your novel.  Wishing you lots of intergalactic luck!  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. 
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Serendipity (or how I met my agent)

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

In this rewriting and editing guide John David Mann shares his experiences editing and rewriting his first novel, Steel Fear (2020). When I handed my wife my five-hundred-page, hundred-fifty-thousand-word completed draft of my first novel, she did three things. She read it. She told me she loved it. And then she gave me the best advice I’ve had in a decade: “Send it to Jericho.” Context This wasn’t my maiden voyage. I first learned about the value of rewriting your story—the agony and ecstasy of rewriting, its trials and rewards—more than a decade earlier. Back in 2005 I coauthored a little “business parable” with a friend and managed to secure us a terrific literary agent, who in 2006 sent it round to a handful of publishers in New York and got the following responses: Editor 1 at Publisher A said no. Editor 2 at Publisher B said no. Editor 3 at Publisher C said no. Editor 4 at Publisher D said no. Editor 5 at Publisher E said no. Editor 6 at Publisher F said no. Editor 7 at Publisher G said no. Editor 8 at Publisher H said, “This one was pretty interesting. The writing is good, but the payoff was a bit lacking.” In other words…no. So we took the manuscript back, spent months reworking it, and then in 2007 sent it round to publishers yet again. This time, some of those same editors from 2006 responded, as did a few different editors at some of those publishers, as well as some altogether new editors from entirely different publishers. Here’s what they all said: Editor 9 at Publisher A (Editor 1’s publisher) said no. Editor 10 at Publisher B (Editor 2’s publisher) said no. Editor 11 at Publisher I said no. Editor 12 at Publisher J said no. Editor 13 at Publisher K said no. Editor 14 at Publisher L said no. Editor 15 at Publisher M said, “Starts out with a bang but loses steam in the middle.” That’s a no. Editor 16 at Publisher N said, “Liked it, but not quite right for our imprint and the direction we are going in this year.” Nyet. Editor 17 at Publisher O passed to Editor 18. Who said, “Like it, but couldn’t get other team members enthusiastic about it.” Nein danke. Editor 4 (back at Publisher D) who’d said no on the first try, said, “It’s very well done, but I don’t think it’s the kind of book that will work well on our business list.” En-Oh. Editor 5 (back at Publisher E) read the new version and said, “Needs a unique hook or punchline to get people to respond. Writing is great but payoff not strong enough.” Fuggedaboudit. Editor 6 (still at Publisher F) said, “Saw this twice now. Liked it, but didn’t love it. While I like the message a lot, the story itself seemed a little more didactic and forced than we would like.” Amscray. Editor 7 (back at Publisher G) said, “Liked it. Wanted to love it, but I’m afraid I just didn’t connect with it. I’ve been incredibly wrong before and probably am on this one, but I’m going to have to pass, with regret.” Don’t let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha. Editor 19 at Publisher H, the same house where Editor 8 had said “This one was pretty interesting but the payoff was lacking” the previous year, said— Wait, what? He said “yes.” The Moral Of The Story We published THE GO-GIVER in early 2008. It hit some lists, won some awards, and to date has sold nearly a million copies in more than two dozen languages. But the moral of the story isn’t what you might think. You’ve heard the stories about persistence— J K Rowling turned down by a dozen publishers. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen and their goofy idea for a book called Chicken Soup for the Soul turned down by 144 publishers. Harlan Sanders and his recipe for fried chicken rejected more than a thousand times. And so on. The moral is, persist! Believe in yourself! Don’t listen to the naysayers—keep knocking on those doors! Right? Yeah…but. Those first eight editors were right to reject our book. To this day I thank my lucky stars they all said “no.” Because if even one of them had said “yes” and we’d published the book back in 2006, it would not have sold a million copies. Maybe a thousand. Or not. Because it wasn’t ready. Those eight editors knew something we didn’t know. And that, that, is to me the moral of the story. Yes, believe in yourself, believe in your idea, trust that your story is the most fantastic and amazing and compelling story that has come around in years, that the world needs and wants your story. Have unshakable faith in yourself. But keep one ear open. Maybe both ears. Because there are people who know things you don’t know. And if you want your idea to become all it can be, all it should be, all it was born to be, then you need to hear those things you don’t yet know. Hear them, and act on them. During those months of reworking that original manuscript, our agent first covered every page with red ink, and I then spent dozens of hours rephrasing, simplifying, compressing, and deleting. Changed one character’s gender. Cut a few other characters altogether. Remember that comment about how “the payoff was a bit lacking”? Right: we tossed out the entire last chapter and wrote a brand new one. And it became the book it was meant to be. Which was why Number Nineteen (aka Adrian Zackheim at Portfolio, an imprint at Penguin, now Penguin Random House) said “yes” and launched my career. Fast forward a decade. By 2018 I’d written a bunch more books, some fairly successful, some not so much, but all of them sharing this in common: they were all shelved on the nonfiction side of the bookstore. In June of ’18 I set out to do something that terrified me: write a novel. Harry Bingham is one of my crime-fiction heroes. I’ve loved every word of the Fiona books. I wanted to do something like that. I’ve also come to love Harry’s teaching and coaching. Before starting work on my novel I read his How to Write cover to cover, joined Jericho Writers and watched his video course. Then I started. Steel Fear The story is a thriller called STEEL FEAR, and I cocreated it with a friend, a former Navy SEAL sniper with whom I’ve written before (all nonfiction, till now). He had the basic story idea, supplied technical and background detail, and was a rich source of color and flavor for the world I was building. The actual writing—creating characters, designing the plot, working out the twists and turns, putting flesh and blood and bones on the whole thing, and tapping out one damn word after another—was my job. Here’s the elevator pitch: A disgraced Navy SEAL stalks a serial killer aboard an aircraft carrier in the midst of the Pacific Ocean. It took me about fifteen months, from first research notes and scribbles to first draft. At which point my wife said: “Send it to Jericho.” Understand, this is something I’ve never ever done before: hired a third-party consultant to critique my first draft. I’ve gotten critique-and-review assistance from my agent, from my publishers’ editors, and from the handful of friends who form my early readers’ circle. This was different: a novel. My first. And a thriller, yet. I knew my wife was right. I needed professional help. So in mid-September 2019, I submitted the manuscript to Jericho for a full manuscript assessment. I don’t think it’s too early to say, that one action has changed the trajectory of my career. Jericho paired me up with veteran thriller author Eve Seymour, who turned around a lengthy, comprehensive critique within a shockingly short time. (Weeks, not months.) Eve was most generous in her initial comments, the “What I think is great” part. And then got down to business. Chapter by chapter, page by page, structure, plot, characterization, pacing and tension…she mapped out the entire thing, end to end, from broad-strokes observations to detailed notes. Her critique was fantastic, phenomenal, incisive, spot on. Kind but ruthless. Terrifying. Galvanizing. Motivating. I saw what was lacking, and what was possible. Eve helped me see that the story had major flaws. I’d conceived of it as having more or less three protagonists—and you can see the problem right there in the phrase “more or less.” It was vague. Not a clear three-strand braid, but not a clear one-hero thread either. She prodded me to make a clear choice as to who was the protagonist, and then rework everything to serve that choice. I had way too much backstory. Heaping helpings of unnecessary exposition. The pacing was fantastic toward the end but laborious in the first half. And inconsistent: some scenes zipped along, some dragged or halted the momentum altogether. Plot took way too long to get going. Some subplot threads didn’t really work. And so on. I had a lot of work ahead of me. I spent October through the end of the year completely reworking it, in the process shrinking from 152k words to 129k. On New Year’s Day I sent Draft 2 to my agent. Who read it. Told us she loved it. And asked for further cuts and revisions. Her observations ran along exactly the same lines as Eve’s. All I had to do was keep going. Between January and April I went through two more drafts, in the process taking that new 129k word count to 120k, and finally to 103k. (From the original, that’s about one in every three words chopped. Warning: Many, many darlings were murdered in the course of this production.) Deleted a handful of characters, some of whom I’d thought were “indispensable.” Tightened timelines. Shifted critical revelations to earlier. Rewrote all the murder scenes that were originally told from the killer’s POV to now be from the victims’ POV. Eliminated a prologue I’d thought of as brilliant and riveting but which turned out to be neither. And so on. Until, finally, it had become the book it was meant to be. In June we got a handful of offers, took the one from Ballantine Books for a two-book deal. Signed a contract in early August. The first book of the series, STEEL FEAR, will hit the shelves on August 24, 2021. The sequel comes a year later. With, perhaps, more to follow. And here’s the cherry on the sundae: we are presently in discussion with three A-list Hollywood producers, all of whom want to bring our story to the screen. The book has, as they say in Tinsel Town, “buzz.” Once a deal solidifies and we know for sure which horse we’re riding I’ll see if we can append that information to this post. Will the book be a hit? No one knows. Will the screen adaptation really happen? No one knows. But this I know, and know for sure: If we hadn’t gone through all that rewriting, none of those editors in New York would have jumped on it. Not one. And the novel would have ended its days sitting on my shelf. Writing made the story. Rewriting turned it into the story it was meant to be. 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.
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US literary agents for fantasy fiction

The fantasy fiction market has been incredibly successful over the years, and publishers have made a lot of money from it. There are plenty fantasy-loving agents but finalising your agent shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.     We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. Save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s some names to get you started: Tracey Adams Amelia Appel Amy Elizabeth Bishop Connor Goldsmith Donald Maass Kristen Nelson Tricia Skinner Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors!  There have been some excellent authors who have written in the genre, China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, and Iain Banks to name a few.  This means that there are plenty of agents looking for the next big thing in fantasy to come their way. If that’s you, then AgentMatch should be your next stop!  To make sure your fantasy novel stands out from the slushpile try reading this article on world-building. You’ll probably also find this piece by published author Geraldine Pinch on how to write a fantasy novel useful, too.  Best of luck! 
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US agents representing Horror

Looking for an agent that represents horror? Then look no further, we answer all your questions here. Plus, we’ll even introduce a few agents you may like to query!  Agents Seeking Horror There are plenty of horror-loving agents but finalising your agent shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors should query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject areas, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. You can save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. We’ve done all the work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there.   So, if you want to get to know the agents below (as well as the other 900+ literary agents!) a little better, then take out our 7-day free trial and get searching.  Michael Bourret Elizabeth Copps Heather Flaherty Connor Goldsmith  Caitlin McDonald Maxmillian Ximenez Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors! The Horror Market Since Stephen King revived and expanded the genre, horror has been a reliably steady element in the book market. The emergence of teen paranormal sagas has brought new readers to the genre, as well as changing the genre’s boundaries even further. While the ebook revolution has also introduced new readers to the genre, namely young men (traditionally more reluctant book-buyers) have been more willing to purchase fiction via their tablets and smart phones.  It’s important to remember that the genre shouldn’t be seen in too restrictive terms. Contemporary authors, such as the award-winning Lesley Glaister, have added quality to the genre. While well-respected authors like Susan Hill, have actually been writing horror fiction for years, albeit not for the typical audience associated with the genre.  You might find that some crime and thriller authors also plough through the classic horror territory.  (Oh, that noise from the old stone cellar? It’s nothing. Really, nothing.) 
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What Authors Really Think Of Publishers

Jane Friedman and I launched the English-speaking world’s most comprehensive survey of what authors think of the firms that publish them. 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. 
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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…
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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!
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My Path to Publication by Ruby Speechley

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

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

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

And how to get a book deal yourself … You’re at that scary submissions stage. Your manuscript is edited right down to the very last comma. It’s time to go out into the big wide world and GET THAT BOOK DEAL. But – uh – what exactly do you have to do … and what are the odds of success? How To Get A Book Deal You want a book deal? So here’s the formula. This formula works for anyone wanting to be traditionally published (with a publisher, that is, rather than self-publishing via Amazon.) It also assumes that you are writing fiction or mainstream non-fiction – the sort of stuff you might find on the front tables of a larger bookstore. If that applies to you, then the formula for getting a book deal is: What Are The Odds Of Getting A Literary Agent? Those odds are somewhat scary. A typical agent in NY or London receives approximately 2,000 submissions a year. They are likely to accept 2-3 writers from that deluge. Some agents will accept fewer. So, as a rough rule of thumb, and allowing for plenty of variation, the chance of getting an agent are about 1 in 1000. That sounds frightening, but you can and should apply to more than one agent, so the 1 in 1000 is perhaps more like 1 in 100. And, in any case, it’s not about the odds. If your book is blindingly good – if you’ve written a Hunger Games, or a Gone Girl, or an All the Light We Cannot See – your odds of getting an agent are essentially 100%. So don’t focus on the odds. Focus on your book. That’s the only part that really matters. What Are The Odds Of Getting A Book Deal? Well, you can look at this in two ways. From the agent’s end, it’s probably true that a good agent at a top class agency will sell approximately 2 books for every 3 he or she auctions. That is, the odds of a sale are about 67% – which is why most writers, correctly, think that getting an agent is the most significant hurdle between them and publication. But that’s to look at it from one end only. I spoke recently with one editor, who has a key job at one of London’s best publishers (a major part of a Big 5 house). In effect, that editor is as selective as it gets. These days, he receives, via literary agents, about 12 submissions a week. Those 12 submissions equate to about 600 manuscripts crossing his desk each year. And of those 600 manuscripts, he takes on maybe 3-4 new writers a year. (As well as, of course, continuing to publish the work of his existing stable of authors.) In other words, he buys less than 1% of the work being offered to him. Yikes! These stats are frankly terrifying, but they need to be taken in context. In particular: A smaller or less prestigious publisher will be less selective. Robert Hale (for example) or Choc Lit are decent publishers, but are smaller and less selective than the big guys. They’ll offer much smaller advances to authors and they won’t have the marketing heft of their larger rivals – but if you get an offer from them, it’s still a massive compliment to your work. It’s a real publishing deal and you should be elated.It’s also wrong to conclude that if you have an agent, you have only a 1% chance of getting a top-ranked publisher. It isn’t so. If agents are looking to auction a manuscript, they’ll typically send it out to 8-12 publishers – that is, to all the bigger publishers in town. So while an individual publisher might take just 1% of work submitted, that means an overall success rate of more like 10%. Something similar, of course, applies with submissions to agents.The better the agent, the higher that success rate will be. A top agent will reject any work that doesn’t come up to the right standard, will seize hold of any work that does come to the right standard, and will do so with a strong expectation of selling it. Even then, no agent I know has a 100% record, but the best agents will have a strike rate of well over 10%. So why does my Big 5 editor reject so much of what comes his way? In his opinion – and also mine – agents (mostly less well established ones) are sending work out before it’s properly ready. You don’t want your work set out early, which means it’s time to consider … How To Think About Getting A Book Deal In the end, though, the conclusion has little to do with odds or stats. The 2012 British Olympic team contained 541 athletes. The US Olympic team is that little bit larger. Either way, those numbers are larger than the number of debut novels being listed by elite UK or US publishers today. So you need to be (at least!) an Olympian-of-writing to make the grade. That’s the bad news. The good news is simply this: If you are in the world’s top 20-30 sprinters, you will get selected for the Olympics. If you’ve written one of the best espionage novels of the year, you will get published. In brutal market conditions, the standard required by top publishers is rising all the time, but the best work still gets selected, still attracts advances and investment, still gets published. What you need to worry about more than anything else is the quality of your work. Promising will not do, but dazzling is essential. One further conclusion. We’ve always been against writers sending their work to dozens & dozens of agents. Our own rule of thumb is that if you can’t attract a Yes from an agent in 8-12 (intelligently chosen and properly presented) submissions, then your manuscript is not yet good enough. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but for the most part the rule is a very good one. If you find send submissions to 200 agents, your chances of hooking an agent improve, but I’d say that your chance of getting a publisher remains the same as before. About 0%, if the first 8-12 agents turned you down. A Little Bit Of Boasting That’s not because we’re miracle workers, but because we focus relentlessly on the quality of your work. Which is what you need to do. Do that, add talent and a good idea, and you’ll make the grade. Just keep at it.
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How I Got My Agent by Paul Braddon

By Paul Braddon The first in a regular new blog series, Paul Braddon takes us through his journey to finding a literary agent. My Writing Journey The writing bug first bit as a teenager when I entered a sixth-form essay competition run by Barclays Bank and shocked myself by winning a runner’s up prize.  Heady stuff! But the real surprise was how much fun telling a story could be when I wasn’t being told what to write. Anyway, I was now sold on a career as a novelist and the only sensible step was to study English Literature at university… although unfortunately, after three years of Dickens, Wordsworth and the major works of Shakespeare, I was no nearer to being published. My biggest hurdle was thinking I knew everything just because I’d read a few novels. I spent years on a lovely story titled The English Witch – a sort of Sabrina meets Harry Potter (all before JK Rowling put pen to paper) set in the 1930s – that I couldn’t interest agents in, although my friends were generous. ‘Better than Tolkien’, one told me, although that isn’t as great as it sounds because he was no lover of Tolkien. After The English Witch, I wrote an historical novel about a piano-playing German girl and with it made my first sensible decision – I commissioned editorial feedback. Nervous as to what I was paying for, I opted for Jericho Writers (Writers’ Workshop as it was then) on the basis that the offer included a follow up ‘conversation’, a guarantee in effect that the editor would have to do a half-decent job. In the event I got lucky and was allocated the truly excellent Liz Garner, who wrote me several extensive assessments, each followed up by a long phone call. I took my now much-improved piano-playing German girl manuscript to the York Festival of Writing but failed to interest my chosen agents in it. However, one of these agents was the fantastic Joanna Swainson, who was eventually to sign me, so not all would be lost, although of course I could not know that at the time. By now fed up with historical fiction, I was willing to do almost anything to succeed and turned my hand to a contemporary thriller set in Finland. The process of leaving my comfort zone was like casting off heavy boots and this book – The Butterfly Hunt, was my best work to date. Three of the first four agents I queried (including Joanna) requested the whole manuscript but the feedback I received was consistent, that although the first third worked, I needed to rewrite the rest. Which unfortunately was easier said than done! I think the lesson I learned is that when you change significant elements of a carefully structured plot, you can end up twisting it completely out of shape and end up with less than what you had before. In early 2018 I started on The Actuality, a further genre shift, this time into speculative fiction. The Actuality is set a hundred years in the future and could be best described as a cautionary tale of friendship, love and advanced bioengineering. My approach to writing The Actuality came from my experience on previous projects. My method has become to first plan out an overall structure, getting the main beats in place and when I’m happy with all of that, I dive in to see how I do. If this appears to work, I merely keep writing, filling in the plot details and editing chapters as I go, and if all continues to go well, in four or five months I have a reasonable first draft. That’s the plan anyway, but in the case of The Actuality it wasn’t so simple. In fact it was a massive struggle and this was because I grew to believe that the story of an AI living with her ‘husband’ at the top of a Thames-side high-rise complete with rooftop garden was almost certainly unpublishable. In the end, after rushing through the last couple of sections, I did make it to the finish line, but the word count barely scraped 62,000. Anxious as to what I had created, I only sent it to Joanna, hoping I could trust her not to laugh. To be honest, if she had, I would have shelved it. Instead, amazingly, she actually liked it, and liked it enough to chat about it and encourage me to expand it to a commercial length. Confidence regained, this I did, adding 18,000 words, and shortly after that in October 2018, she took me on! Last Piece Of Advice I think, if I was passing on any advice, it would be three things. Number One (and I think most readers will have worked it out for themselves by now) – Seek Professional Advice, whether that is through courses, editorial assessments or reading up on the craft – don’t spend years thinking you know everything. Two – Escape Your Comfort Zone – perhaps try a completely different genre, you can always go back, you never know you may not want to. And Number Three – Don’t Be Afraid of Trying Something a Bit Different, if that’s what you fancy – different will stand you out from the crowd if nothing else and if there is passion behind it, that will make a huge difference too. 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. His debut novel, The Actuality, is due to be released in 2020 (Sandstone Press). You can find Paul on Twitter here, or have a nose around his website here. If Paul’s story strikes a chord with you, head on over to Townhouse and tell us about your writing journey. Are you on the lookout for representation? If so, why not check out AgentMatch, our database recording all UK and US literary agents. Or, are you about to embark on your first round of agent submissions? If you are, then you’ll probably find this really helpful!Link to: How to Get Your Book Published
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How I Got My Agent by Helen Fisher

By Helen Fisher In this blog post, Helen Fisher tells us about her journey to finding a literary agent for her debut novel, Spacehopper Did I Always Want To Be A Writer? I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but didn’t do it until I was 44 when a friend bullied me into it. She told me to write a chapter a week and send it to her. Clocking in with her was a great incentive, although I realise a lot of authors like to write the whole thing before they let anyone see it. About 30,000 words in, I panicked: I DON’T KNOW HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL, I thought (constantly) and – realising I needed help – I bought Harry Bingham’s book: How to Write. I read it cover to cover and quickly discovered I wasn’t alone in any of my thoughts – neither the negative ones (I CAN’T do it) nor the positive (I CAN do it). As well as practical support, that book provided the emotional support I needed. I read it and went back to my novel, and – with steam coming out of my ears, and springs coming out of my head – I finished it. I commissioned a really useful editorial report via Jericho Writers, and submitted it to a few agents. But ultimately I shelved it. A year later I wrote my second novel, Spacehopper, the one that’s going to be published. I was in a better place to do it, because this time I had some tools in my belt before I started: the ones I didn’t have until I was 30,000 words in the first time round: I’d read How to Write, been to a JW Getting Published Day and used the resources I found on the JW website. What I Learnt And How I Learnt It I learnt a lot from reading books about how to write. Not just Harry Bingham’s book, but the famous On Writing, by Stephen King, and other books like that. Reading about writing inspired me and made me believe I could do it; I needed that. Mind you, the feeling would wear off quickly, it wasn’t long before I’d start thinking I can’t do this, again. It was like a drug I had to keep topping up to get the same effect, so I kept reading. Reading novels also helped. I found I was reading more attentively now, really looking at what I loved best in novels, so I could more knowingly make an impact on readers through my own writing. I took out a month’s membership at JW as a birthday present to myself, it was a luxury I found hard to afford – it is fantastic value, but I was skint – so I made the most of it: joined up when I knew I could make best use of the online videos. I immersed myself in the information, made notes, and soon felt like I had a bag full of stuff to help me get through the writing process. Unfortunately, at that stage, it did feel as though I was simply trying to get to the finish line, rather than enjoying the process. I’m an impatient person, and novel-writing isn’t ideal for the impatient. Now, I’m getting there: learning to enjoy the process. With my new novel, Gabriel’s Cat, my agent asked for a synopsis early on, something I’d never done until the book was finished. Being clearer about where the story was going has helped. I feel less frightened about what will happen next when I sit down to write. I have never enjoyed writing more. I learned a lot at a JW Getting Published Day. There were lots of really interesting and practical sessions during the day. I left with more inspiration, and was buzzing because I’d spent a blissful succession of hours with people who could talk all day long about writing novels, without glazing over once! My First Draft It took me four months to write the first draft of Spacehopper and I gave it to four friends to read in chunks. These were the same friends who read the novel I cut my teeth on the previous year, and this time was different. They didn’t really have any criticism, just wanted me to get on with it, so they could find out what happened next. This boost to my ego was essential: much as I wanted honest feedback, I think I would have crumbled, possibly stopped, if the feedback had been bad. I wanted them to be honest, but I wanted them to honestly love it. Spacehopper has a big twist; I didn’t think of it until I was more than halfway through writing the novel, and as soon as I decided on the ending, I couldn’t write fast enough. I wanted to hear what my readers felt about the ending. When I made them cry, I punched the air. When the first draft was done, I did the same as last time, and commissioned a full editorial report through Jericho Writers, from the same editor as last time. It was a stretch on my finances, and I knew I would only be able to afford one round of feedback. The report I got back was worth every penny, not only in its practical suggestions, but because the editor said she was certain it was a novel that would be published. Hearing that from a professional, gave me the confidence to keep going, make a few adjustments and start to get ready to submit to agents. I think I would have enjoyed writing Spacehopper more if I’d planned out the story in more depth before starting, and followed more of the plot structures that make stories work. Not just because there is something nice about knowing where you’re going with a story, from beginning to end – indeed I truly believe you can know too much about what’s going to happen in the novel you’re writing: things that you don’t plan will be some of the best bits. But when you understand the plot structures that make stories work – even if you don’t follow them strictly – you will surely have more confidence that your story is going to be better told. Understanding what makes stories work, makes us better storytellers. From First Draft To Final Version The editor who conducted a full editorial report, via JW, suggested I make some changes. I’ve looked back in my notebook and I see I made 39 changes to Spacehopper based on her recommendations. It might sound like a lot, but the majority were fairly straightforward. Essentially the novel remained unchanged (in comparison, when I made changes to my previous novel, it was a huge task and I felt I had a different book by the time I’d edited it). I worked for a couple of weeks tweaking Spacehopper, and after that, without the finances to put it through another round of editorial revision, I started getting ready to submit to agents. I didn’t give it to anyone else to read at this stage. As I mentioned, patience is not my strength, and I had to get it out. How I Got My Agent/h2> In September 2018, I put together my submission pack to agents. I trawled resources online and in books, to make sure my letter was just right and I used JW’s AgentMatch to look up agents that might like my type of novel. A problem for me was that my novel includes time travel, but it’s not science fiction, or fantasy, it’s about love and grief and what we would say to those we loved and lost, given the chance. But it’s hard for people to see beyond the time travel element. I put my synopsis together and finally decided that I needed to get a submission pack assessment done: I didn’t want to mess up my first impression with agents before I’d left the starting blocks. Again I commissioned this via JW, and after that I began submitting with confidence that my submission pack, at least, was as good as it could be. I’d read enough to know I needed to brace myself for rejection. It was a rite of passage, everyone said so, and even if I was to get an agent one day, I knew I would have to taste rejection first. But knowing you’ll get your heart broken, doesn’t make it any easier when it happens. The first time I saw the name of an agent in my email inbox, I held my breath. I was at work, and I stopped everything: the email wouldn’t open. I trotted to another part of the college trying to get a connection, all the time thinking what if they want me?? When the email opened and I saw it was a rejection, I realised I wasn’t really prepared for the disappointment; the way it stuck in my throat and made it hard to swallow, the way I teared up because this email had been the difference between my dreams coming true and my dreams basically, not coming true. And then I got another rejection, and another, and another, each one feeling like a shovel full of dirt being thrown over me, until I felt buried. Fourteen rejections between October and Christmas brought me to an all-time low, which I managed to hide from most family and friends. I remember thinking that if I couldn’t write, then I couldn’t do anything I really wanted to do. Plus I’d made the mistake of telling everyone that I was submitting to agents. One of my friends who’d read my book and loved it said he would help me self-publish, and I said I’d think about it. But first I needed to get myself into a better place. I’m usually a happy person and I was so down. I needed to get back up. Over Christmas and January 2019, when I’d put Spacehopper in a drawer and locked it, I convinced myself that I’d been happy before I wrote this novel, and therefore I could be happy again. Eventually I started to come to terms with the idea of not getting published, even though I still believed so strongly in this novel that I’d locked away. Then a little bit of fate stepped in. Last year – before I started submitting to agents – my ex-husband’s fiancé asked in passing if she could read my novel, and after some deliberation, I agreed. Then in February this year, I got a message from her saying I just read a book that makes me feel a bit like your book did. That’s nice, I thought. The next day I happened to be in Waterstone’s and picked that book up, wondered if the agent was mentioned in credits. She was. Maybe – I thought – maybe I’ll try just one more agent – Judith Murray, at Greene and Heaton. And I did. I submitted my letter, synopsis and manuscript to her in the middle of February. When I got an email saying that Judith was loving Spacehopper and could I send the rest of the manuscript, I wasn’t prepared: by now I was only prepared for rejection. I sent the manuscript, and held my breath for three days. She rang me, and on March the 1st I found myself meeting Judith in a restaurant in Borough Market in London. At last I felt I had opened the wardrobe door and stepped into another world. Meeting Judith was one of the most delightful experiences of my life, hearing her thoughts on my novel, getting to know her and that feeling that I’d met my fairy godmother and she was going to do everything she could to get me to the ball. My Author-Agent Relationship After we met, Judith and I talked about making changes to my novel that she thought would give it its best shot at being an attractive prospect for publishers, and she gave me a set of notes to work from. Everything she said struck a chord, and I enjoyed working on the edit. Where the changes were trickier to come to terms with, Judith explained why they would work, and by Jove, she was right! By the beginning of April, Judith was ready to submit to publishers. She told me that waiting to hear back from editors/publishers could be nerve-wracking (why does everything about this business have to be so bloody nerve-wracking!) and Judith clearly knows that some authors need more support than others during this stressful process. She was always there at the end of the phone or email and did what she needed to do to help me not lose heart. I always felt she was there for me, even though I knew how busy she must be with other authors and all those submissions. She kept in touch regularly during those early days of submissions and we talked on the phone weekly, or more if necessary. Even though we now have a deal and things are calm at the moment, we still talk and email. She is an utter joy to work with, and I feel incredibly lucky that I found her, and that fate led me directly to her door. I trust her completely, she is wise, and kind and life is better for knowing her. And if that sounds over the top, don’t forget she’s negotiating on my behalf to make my dreams come true. Last Piece Of Advice I have two pieces of advice I would give to anyone who wants to get published (I have more, but am sticking to two, as I’m well over my word-count limit!). The first is to listen to anyone who says your novel needs changes. If they are professionals, in particular, I think that for the most part you should trust that they’re right. You might not want to change things in the way they suggest – no problem – make changes in your own way, but certainly, listen to their advice and act on it. Similarly if your friends or family feel that something doesn’t work, even if they’re not professional writers or readers, they are still readers, and if they feel something’s not working, then they’re probably right. Secondly, targeting the right agent is key. You know that, I knew that, I’d read it a million times. But while the information available on agents’ likes and dislikes is useful, in the end, for me, it was finding a novel that felt something like mine that led me to the right one. If you can read a lot of books and find out which agents are likely to go for a story like yours, then hopefully, you will hit a bullseye. About Helen Helen Fisher lives in a small Suffolk village, with a black cat and two pinkish children. Before turning her hand to writing fiction, Helen worked in a number of interesting jobs, including as an ergonomist for the RNIB (blind people, not lifeboats). Her debut novel, Spacehopper, will be published in hardback in January 2021, and in paperback later that same year, by Simon and Schuster. It’s also going to be translated into German, Swedish, Polish and Portuguese. It won’t be called Spacehopper because in America, Space Hoppers are known as Hoppity Hops, so the publishers are currently wrangling over a new name. The deal with Simon and Schuster and Droemer-Knaur (the German publisher) is a 2-book deal so she’s currently working on her next novel, which is called Gabriel’s Cat (and hopefully always will be, because in America they’re also called “cats”), and is due to be released in January 2022.Link to: How to Get Your Book Published
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An Interview with Agents on Polishing Submissions

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

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

Publishing direct via Kindle is increasingly becoming a sensible option for new writers. Guest author and blogger, Tim O’Rourke, succeeded in becoming a #1 bestseller within his category by taking that exact route. In just four months, he has sold 40,000 books after manuscript feedback from us, and sales are still increasing. Here is his story. My name is Tim O’Rourke. Recently my ebooks have really taken off, and on this blog, I’m going to tell you how I did it – what I’m discovering – and how you can do it, too. I’ve only been self-publishing my books for the last ten months. If I really think about it though, that short space of time has been tough, fun, exciting and sometimes surreal. Like many aspiring writers, over the years I’ve had my fair share of knock backs from agents and never got close to even getting any of my books in front of a publisher. But, I never stopped writing and that’s the most important thing. I kept on writing because I just loved doing it. Last February I was bought a Kindle for my birthday. I didn’t want one as I loved books. I loved the feel of them, the smell of them and the noise of the pages being turned over. Nevertheless, I switched it on and started downloading and downloading and reading and reading and downloading and reading – you get the picture and rightly or wrongly, I haven’t bought a paper version of a book since. In March, I happened across an article on the internet regarding self-publishing your own books onto the Kindle to be sold on Amazon. Intrigued by this and with a fair amount of hesitation (what if I didn’t sell any?) and the numerous articles on the internet telling you that you shouldn’t self-publish on the Kindle as it’s killing the publishing industry, and self-published authors on the Kindle are lucky if they sell more than 150 copies, and although Amazon offer an attractive 70% royalty programme, 70% of nothing (the amount of books you will sell) is still nothing, I thought I would give it a go. What did I have to lose? I would have been happy to sell 50 books as that meant I’d shared my stories with 50 more people than I had previously. So with very little effort and totally free of charge, I uploaded my first book Doorways onto the Kindle, which meant it was available as an ebook on Amazon in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. The original cover was designed by a friend. The book was a fantasy adventure aimed at 14 – 16-year-old boys. I set the price low at 99 cents (77p). Why so low? Two reasons, I thought that as a self-published and unknown author it was more important for me to find a readership for my work than to make money. Secondly, I have two teenage sons who, believe it or not, have never walked into a music store and bought a CD. Every piece of music they buy, they download for 79p from the iTunes store. The Apps and games that they download are never more than £1.00. So, as I was aiming my book at a similar age group and my books were going to be downloadable, it made sense to me to set the price of my books at the same levels as equivalent media that my own children were downloading. With my book on Amazon, I waited to see what would happen. Not a lot. After initial copies that were snapped up by friends and family, the book just kind of sat there. Undeterred, I uploaded another book that I had just finished writing. This book was called ‘Black Hill Farm, a psychological thriller with a paranormal twist aimed at the YA market (16 plus). Again, I got my friend to design a cover, and I uploaded to Amazon. This did a little better and I sold about 65 copies in the first few weeks and a few more copies of ‘Doorways. Pleased by my progress (hey, I was halfway to that magic 150 number!), I wrote a follow up book to Black Hill Farm called Andy’s Diary. I put this out about six weeks later and my sales crept up again and I think I sold about another 50 copies. (Happy days as I had passed the magic 150!) The problem is, there are over 600,000 books available to download on the Kindle so how do I make mine stand out? I’m competing with books promoted by massive publishing houses – my books must compete with thousands of traditionally published books! So, with a little bit of money I had earnt as overtime from my day job (£80), I invested in some Facebook ads. With a very small budget compared to the big publishing houses, I knew I had to spend my money wisely. I therefore targeted young adults aged between 16 and 21 years, who had a Kindle, and read authors in the same genre that I was writing in. You pay per ‘click’ and you can set the price. I set mine as low as possible – I think about 12p per ‘click’. Every time someone ‘Clicked’ on my add it took them to my book on Amazon and Facebook took 12p. Just because someone ‘Clicks’ doesn’t meant that they will buy your book. I tried to make my blurb as enticing as possible, and with my prices low and what I hoped was a pretty good cover, some of those people did buy my book and my overall sales for one month went to about 200. I soon realised that once people had read Black Hill Farm, they then downloaded Andy’s Diary, book two. Then, if they liked them perhaps they would download Doorways. So, one book was then selling two other books, if that makes sense. I realised that one way of growing a greater readership was having more books available. About the same time, I discovered book bloggers and these people are awesome. Just like you and me, they have a passion for reading and reviewing the books on their blogs. I researched some bloggers that reviewed books in the genre that I write in (YA paranormal romance) and emailed them. I offered them a free copy of my ebook ‘Black Hill Farm’ for a review. It’s risky because they might hate the book and you get a bad review, but again, what did I have to lose? I emailed about twenty-five different bloggers and a few got back to me and offered to do a review. While this was going on, I started writing the ‘Kiera Hudson series, again another set of books aimed at the YA market. Kiera Hudson is a feisty twenty-year-old new police recruit who has the wonderful knack of solving crimes that others can’t, especially when it comes to vampires and all other things paranormal. Eventually my £80 marketing budget dried up, and although my sales had increased to anywhere between 150 – 200 a month, I couldn’t tell if this was due to the bloggers, the Facebook adds or if my books were spreading by word of mouth. I had started to sell books in the US and I knew this wasn’t friends or family who were buying them. Then one day, just before releasing the first book in my Kiera Hudson series, I googled my own name and the title of my book ‘Black Hill Farm’ and I was surprised that it was being mentioned on blogs that I hadn’t even contacted. It was also being mentioned on a website called Goodreads. I’d never heard of it. It’s a site where avid readers and writers review books, join communities and talk about authors, etc. I was surprised to see that my book and been put on the virtual bookshelves of members of the site and some had mentioned that they had seen my book on Facebook – so I knew that in some way, my £80 had been well spent. I joined the site and created a blog which I connected to my own books. I put the first Kiera Hudson book out in July and then something exciting started to happen. In August, I had my best month ever and sold approx. 400 books. Then, in September, something truly amazing happened and I sold just under 1,000 books. October, I sold approx. 4,000 books, November, over 8,000 books, December over 16,500 books. Why did this happen? To be honest, I think there are several reasons. I set the price of my book low, I write in a genre that is popular, I personally answer every single piece of fan mail that I receive, I contact those people kind enough to have left me reviews on Goodreads and thank them for doing so. I believe this is important, not to sell more books, but to say thank you to that person for spending their money on my book, taking the time to read it, then to leave a review for me. For instance, I received an email only the other day from a young girl you said that she had been given a Kindle for Christmas along with a £10 gift voucher. She went on to say that my books were the first that she downloaded and had loved them. It’s nice to know that she enjoyed them, but more than that, she spent her Christmas present on my books and that really made me think how nice that actually is. So the very least that I could do was email her to say thank you. I also have my own website which I have linked to my Facebook page. This is where I post news about my books and a place where people can become a fan of my books and leave messages. Again, I make sure that I respond to every message that is left for me and answer any questions. This for me is important and the bit I love the most, because it gives me a chance to chat to those people that are taking the time to read my books. I’m not very good at ‘Twittering’ but this again is an important tool, so I have linked my Facebook page to my twitter page, which is linked to my Amazon author page and website. This is a great way of connecting to the readers of my books. I also run competitions and giveaways, which have included signed T-Shirts that I had made with my book cover on the front, bookmarks that were kindly made by a fan, signed prints of the book covers and original pieces of artwork from the book cover designs. This to me is the most important part of what I’ve done, to have a good relationship with the people that read and enjoy my books. I have made so many new friends. At the beginning of this blog, I said that I had experienced many things in the last ten months and one of those was at times I had found the experience tough. How can it be tough? I’m doing what I’ve always dreamt of doing? But the thing is, I still have a day job and a young family. Everything that I have done in the last 10 months, including writing eight novels, publishing them, marketing them and everything else that I have mentioned above has all been done in my spare time. One night I was caught by my family asleep sitting in front of my laptop halfway through writing a chapter. The point I think that I’m trying to make is that, although my books are selling well (and there are other independent writers out there that are doing just as well and better) it has taken a lot of work. This is not easy. As an indie writer you are just that, plus the publisher, the editor, the marketing department, finding artists to do book covers, answering and dealing with all the correspondence, updating your blog, website, Facebook and a hundred other things that I’ve probably forgotten. I am no expert in publishing, but my heart tells me that things will change in the publishing world. I’ve read plenty of articles on the internet that authors are now leaving their agent and publishers to self-publish on the internet. Some of them have said that they earn more money that way, and others say it gives them more creative freedom. But for me, I’m starting to wonder if publishers will look straight to the internet to see what they want to publish next. Maybe the test of a good book won’t be on the suggestion of an agent, after all that is just one opinion, but if a book seems to be selling well on the internet, doesn’t that suggest that the public are enjoying it? Maybe that will be the real test. I believe this for a couple of reasons. The first book in my Kiera Hudson series was rejected by an agent as they said the book was for adults, not children, but the Amazon Children’s Horror chart and Amazon Children’s Romance Chart didn’t reflect this. Despite the concerns the agent had that my book wasn’t really a children’s book (although I wrote it for YA), doesn’t the fact that it was at the top of the Children’s/Young Adult chart suggest it did fit into that age range? Secondly, another agent recently said “no” to the same book because they didn’t think they could sell the foreign rights, despite that the book sold more copies in the US than anywhere else, as well as in Canada, Australia, Mexico, Germany, France and Italy – without even being translated. I even received an email from a US Publisher asking if I had an agent because they were interested in buying the rights, so they could sell my book in China. Yet I’d just been told by an agent that the book wouldn’t sell abroad. The point that I want to make is this: isn’t it the children/young adults who are buying my books the people that decide whether it’s a kid’s book or an adult book? Why pigeonhole everyone? Children have different reading ages, and likes and interests. With regards to my Kiera Hudson books, haven’t the young adults who are downloading them in their thousands already decided they like them? Yet it seems it’s just a handful of adults deciding what is right for them and what they should and shouldn’t be reading. I don’t know, I could be wrong – but if young adults didn’t feel that my books were right for them, would they be buying them? This point was never made clearer to me than the other day, when I received an email from a young teenage girl who said in big bold letters at the end of her email: “I want to be Kiera Hudson!” If you’ve been inspired by Tim’s story then learn more about self-publishing yourself. From how to write an Amazon description, which ebook format to use, and whether developmental editing is something indie authors should invest in, we’ve got you covered.
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How To Sell A Movie Script

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

Tor Udall is author of A Thousand Paper Birds (Bloomsbury), longlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award. My debut A Thousand Paper Birds was published by Bloomsbury last June. Here are some of the things I’ve learned. Agents Are Heroes I am in love with each and every one of them. I know, from a distance, that they can seem like impenetrable gatekeepers but they are passionate advocates for good writing, work ungodly hours for work that they believe in and have no guarantee of financial reward. Sound familiar? Like writers, they too have to go through the precarious and heart-thumping process of submissions, rejections and deals. Agents not only help hone your work and protect your rights, but are a great sounding board throughout the entire journey. But most importantly they believe in, and fight for, books and writers. If you meet one, you should look them in the eye and say thank you. (A deep bow to Jenny Savill.) Book People Are Incredibly Generous The generosity of the industry has taken my breath away. Influential editors and publicists from other publishing houses have praised A Thousand Paper Birds on social media and encouraged others to read it –  and I’ve seen them do it with other debuts too. Why? Because they are passionate about books that they love whether it’s from their imprint or not. There are so many inspiring, authentic, brilliant people in this industry – brains as big as planets (a big wave to Georgina Moore and Alison Barrow!). The same is true of authors. If they believe in your work, they will shout about it from the rooftops. Being published for the first time is a giddy ride and it’s helpful to meet other authors on the rollercoaster. Having received so much support, I’m keen to help upcoming writers. It’s one massive chain of ink-stained hands and I love being a part of it. I truly believe this industry contains some of the best human beings on the planet. It Is A Team Effort After years of solitary writing, it has been a privilege to collaborate with the team at Bloomsbury. They are brilliant at what they do. From my sublimely smart editor to my sensitive and astute copy-editor, through to my designer and the publicity, marketing and digital teams, they’ve all been fighting my corner and helping the book be the best it can be. What a freakin’ honour. It’s Not True That You Need To Be Well Connected I got my first agent through the slush pile (most writers do). After losing him, I went to the Festival of Writing and left with 8 agents interested in representing. I put in the graft. I said hello. At my first meeting with my publicist, she asked if I had any media contacts and my awkward answer was ‘not a sausage.’ But we sent out the proofs and a few people really liked it. They then told other people who told other people and suddenly we had momentum. I will be forever indebted to the authors, reviewers, bloggers and readers who have championed Paper Birds. And some of these ‘strangers’ have become friends. In an overcrowded market you need people singing about your book. The beauty is that one voice can become a chorus. Publishing Is A Vast Eco-system Pre-publication, most writers learn about agents and publishers, but the vitality of the industry is dependent on a much larger eco-system that includes mentors and editors, literary scouts, translators, bloggers, vloggers, reviewers and most importantly booksellers. Yes, that person behind the till at your local bookshop is the king or queen you should worship. Booksellers can make or break a book. If they buy one copy and shelve it in alphabetical order (you will normally find ‘U’ in the darkest corner) there’s not much chance of that book being sold and the shop ordering more. But if they highlight it in a table or window display, things are very different. Waterstones in Richmond did a gorgeous window for A Thousand Paper Birds. It became their biggest selling hardback for 4 weeks, almost outselling their bestselling paperback. Get to know your local booksellers. Buy from them. Give them chocolate. They make all the difference. Your First Chapter Remains As Important As Ever Reviewers and bloggers receive SACKS of books weekly. There is no way they can read them all. A few reviewers have told me that they read the first page and if it’s not sparked their interest, they move onto the next one. The sheer volume prevents them doing it differently and rightly they want to spend their energy and time on books they love. Many of them are freelancers or fitting reviews in between the day job and yet still they will go out of their way to make a difference. So work hard on your pitch and your first chapter. Getting past that ‘sack-pile’ is quite a hurdle. You Will, At Times, Be Terrified A couple of weeks before publication I said to my friend, ‘How can I stop this?’ Yes, those were my words after twenty years of perseverance because suddenly it was too exposing and far too unknown. I spent the first three months completely out of my comfort zone. I was interviewed for ITV news, pranced about in photoshoots, did many Q&A events and readings, gave a keynote speech and later did a live 30-minute radio interview for America. It’s quite something moving from the private act of writing to the public stage. It requires completely different mind-sets. As hard as it is to come out of your shell, it can also then be difficult to withdraw again and deepen your focus. You almost need to separate these two identities – and with all your might protect the quieter one that is aching to write. Events are wonderful – and it’s an honour to be invited to talk about your work – but they are also exhausting. They will, at times, scare the life out of you, but they will also stretch you into a bigger person than you knew you could be. And to be honest, despite the nerves, I would return home, yelling I LOVED IT! You Will Juggle Many, Many Balls You will be promoting one book while writing another and perhaps pitching a third. You will be answering Q&As for various journals and writing articles. You will be reading all the new books that have been sent to you for endorsement as well as trying to keep up with your usual favourites. You will also be setting yourself up as a business, sorting out foreign royalty forms, and for me, having to work out 7-years of expenses for my tax return (HIDEOUS). While doing this you may also be juggling a day job and caring for children (or the sick or elderly) – and if you’re really crazy folding HUNDREDS of paper birds for displays and promotions. Anxiety is, unsurprisingly, common. Suddenly the writer is being pushed and pulled in several directions. While writing to deadline you may well have to sacrifice personal hygiene. But to survive, at some point you will need to learn how to say ‘no’ or at least ‘not now.’ And you will need to take responsibility for your own well-being by putting in support mechanisms (for me, it was yoga). I thought that success would allow me more time to write, but actually there’s been less. There gets a point where you have to prioritise writing your next book over all the chaos. Social Media Is Both Friend And Foe My timeline is full of stunningly brilliant people, fantastic books and new friends who make me laugh on days when it feels like the world is going to hell in a handcart. On Twitter, I’ve found my tribe, but beware, it is a major time-sucker. Also, if there are days when you’re struggling with self-doubt, it can be tricky to take in the constant barrage of big advances and bestsellers. You must do everything you can not to compare yourself to others. The truth is that there will always be people doing ‘better’ and ‘worse’ than you. (And remember, a published writer isn’t necessarily more talented than an unpublished one – it’s so dependent on timing and market.) All you can do is focus on your own journey. Twitter is also a great way to find out who is who and how it all works: the eco-system in all its glory. There Are Still Set-Backs You would think that after getting through agent rejections and years of perseverance that once you reach publication everything is golden. But that gold is sometimes honey, sometimes treacle and sometimes actually a bit pissy. There are many books of the month and end of the year lists, debuts to watch out for, longlists, shortlists, book club selections and promotions. When you are listed or selected for something, it is an amazing feeling. When you don’t, it can feel rotten. All of the above betters your chance of getting a second book deal, so in that context it can feel quite stressful. There have been days when I’ve wanted to google ‘where can I buy extra layers of skin?’ But you can’t buy that resilience, you can only earn it. My rule is that I’m allowed to wail and beat my chest for one day but for one day only. The next morning, I roll up my sleeves and face the most compelling challenge of all – how to be a better writer than I was yesterday. Everything else isn’t in my power. It is just noise. The Reader Is The Most Important Ingredient Of All Stupidly, I didn’t share my work with many people pre-publication – mostly, out of terror. So this year has been a revelation. Every day I receive messages from readers saying how much A Thousand Paper Birds has moved them. I had no idea how much that would mean to me. Unbelievably I hadn’t got my head around the fact that it is the reader who breathes life into the characters and makes the story live. Now that my characters exist in others’ heads they have become real (and I hear they are sometimes glimpsed in the book’s location, Kew Gardens). The reader is the true alchemist. The true creator. This has been my biggest and most humbling lesson of all. Remember Why You’re Doing This After Paper Birds was published, a famous author wrote to me saying, I should try to stay ‘grounded and clear-headed. Don’t get confused by events one way or the other.’ I have found this advice to be invaluable. You can so easily be swayed by great reviews then knocked down the next day with disappointment. It is the way to madness. And the biggest joke, once you’re published, is that you realise that there is no finishing line. After years of striving, you reach the top of that glorious, much-longed-for hill and see that you are only at the start of a vast mountain range. So you have to love the journey itself – the actual writing. To stay curious about your characters. To strive to tell the truth. To fail and start again. To be in love with the work itself. To write with humility and the hunger to learn. The more I understand about both this industry and the craft, the more I realise that I am a mere novice. But isn’t that a fascinating place to be? My famous author finished his advice by saying, ‘Crack open a bottle of champagne. … And send a quiet thank you to the realms that deserve it.’ It’s important not to forget the magic. The mystery that you stumble on at three in the morning when you’re been slogging away for hours and then all of a sudden the right words fall through the sky in the right order and you are merely taking dictation. In that instant, the book market fades into the background as a temporary, fickle thing. The ego that fretted about what to wear to that event dissolves and there is just the essence –  the listening. The strange act of writing becomes the beating heart of everything. And this is what I can tell you. At that point it doesn’t matter if you’re published or unpublished, we’re all on the same daunting and heroic journey. The stories we tell each other impact us all. They shape how we respond to the world and what we create in it. In these tumultuous times we need stories more than ever. If you are a writer, I salute you. It takes a certain amount of courage, of innocent madness, to retain a state of wonder, to help us all see more clearly and to be more empathic. And sometimes, just sometimes, some of us might imagine alternative ways of walking through this world that makes everything brighter. A Thousand Paper Birds (Bloomsbury) was longlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and has been translated in six languages. The paperback was released 3 May 2018. You can follow Tor’s journey on Twitter and at her website.
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How to ensure this is the year you get an agent

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel writing is a popular but challenging market segment. You’ve moved to France and want to tell people about it? Unless you’ve got magical writing gifts, you’re almost certain to find that ground has already been overcultivated, and a literary agent is likely to reject your manuscript on that basis alone. Any exotic location or (really) any genuinely original way of exploring those locations will stand out from the pack. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is one great example, as is Along the Enchanted Way by William Blackler. Novelty and comedy can also work: pogoing round Ireland, or riding a goat to Kandahar are all hooks on which to tell a tale. Even a simple bus journey can make a riveting read. It’s how you write about it that matters. Seven Tips For A Successful Travel Book 1. Do your research – pre-travel research enriches the whole experience; post-travel research adds depth and accuracy to what you write. While travelling keep notes or you will forget. Take photographs to illustrate your words. 2. Be curious – about everything and everybody. What makes many travel books enjoyable is the people encountered along the way. Talk to everyone and never stop asking questions. Listen with a sympathetic ear. Look behind the glossy exterior, delve beneath the surface. 3. Have a sense of wonder – Colours seemed so much brighter when we were children. Try to see the world with that same freshness of vision. 4. Use all your senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Develop a feeling for the culture and history of a place. And a sense of humour allied to keen observation can make the most ordinary of experiences entertaining. 5. Don’t neglect your inner journey – Many of the most successful travel books are as much about the emotional journey the author makes as they are about the physical journey. The resolution of a personal issue or a change in attitude adds interest and brings the reader closer to the author. 6. Write with passion – To fully engage the reader (or indeed, a literary agent) your book must have something in it that you care about strongly. An issue, a cause, the pursuit of a lifelong ambition. Without this, your writing is in danger of seeming flat. 7. Be an open door, be receptive. Travel with open eyes, ears, mind and heart.
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How To Meet Literary Agents

Loads of new writers will be frustrated by the impersonal quality of the typical agent submission procedure. You send off your stuff – spend up to eight weeks waiting to hear something – then get back a pre-printed, slightly cold rejection letter. It feels so dispiriting, so unconstructive. Naturally, you can’t really blame agents. They handle a heck of a lot of submissions. They simply don’t have the time to respond personally to each one. What’s more, in the end, only one thing really, truly, absolutely matters – namely, how good your manuscript is. If your manuscript is fantastic, it will be taken on. If it isn’t, then no amount of networking will make the difference. So the first comment is a really simple one. Make sure your manuscript is as strong as it can possibly be. If that means using outside help (as for example the sort that we offer), use outside help. There’s no reason not to. Remember in particular that agents are not there to offer editorial advice (or at least, not until the manuscript is very close to the right quality already). If what you want is professional editorial feedback, then go to people who offer that as their core service. You will need to pay but you can get excellent, detailed, honest advice. It’s what you need. But assuming that you’ve done all that, making a personal connection with a literary agent can make a huge difference. But there are ways to do it and ways not to do it. Certainly, for example, you should not simply call an agent at work to request a meeting. These are busy people and you’re not a client. The agent will say no, and be annoyed at you for asking. Pouncing on an agent at some non-literary event. If you happen to have a friend who knows a literary agent, then introduce yourself when the opportunity arises. But be sensitive. Say, ‘I’m writing a book, I wonder if it might be possible to talk to you about it?’ That way, you are making it easy for the agent to say yes or not. They won’t feel trapped or pounced on. You’re giving yourself a chance, precisely by not being too pushy. But the best ways of connecting with agents is to go through the proper channels. If, for example, you are attending an event where an agent is a guest speaker, then you should certainly feel free to go up to the agent after the event and make their acquaintance. Again, be sensitive to what they want, but if they have come to this event in their capacity as an agent, they won’t be at all miffed to be approached. If you can offer to buy the agent a drink, you should do so – the nicer you are, the more they’ll warm to your ideas about your book. Better still, you should book up for an event which is all about writing and publishing – a writers’ conference, in fact. We run plenty of these events and they have been amazingly good at generating book deals. They work because agents are there to talk to writers and locate talent. If you can, make sure you go to a conference which is full board, or residential. That way, there’ll be entire days for you to meet agents, talk to them, buy them drinks, sit with them at lunch, and so on. If your book is strong, and you are charming, you have every chance that those contacts will flower into success. I hope so.
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7 Novel-Opening Mistakes That Make Literary Agents (and Readers) Groan

At our annual Festival of Writing, we’ve hosted a number of panels with literary agents that give writers the chance to meet, talk and ask questions. (And if you’d like to be one of the first to get Festival of Writing news, including discounts, the best way is to sign up for emails or become a Jericho Writers member.) We have ended past agent panels with a scary-but-brilliant session called Slushpile Live, where some very brave writers stand up, read the first few paragraphs of their work, then get live feedback – X-Factor style – from the assembled agents. One of the main purposes of Slushpile Live is to get writers to understand that a piece of writing shows its quality very quickly indeed. (Which means, by the way, if you are entering any Festival competitions yourself – read your writing aloud before you submit anything.) If the first few paragraphs smell wrong, the whole book is going to be wrong. If, on the other hand, there’s a sense of excitement around those opening paragraphs, you can bet that the writer has real quality. That doesn’t mean that everything’s definitely fine thereafter – a plot might vanish, there might be a confusing sprawl of characters, the basic concept might even be wrong – but at least you know you’re in the hands of someone with genuine talent. That said, let’s jump straight to insider tips that, time and again, caused our panels of agents to groan. 7 Novel Starts To Make An Agent Groan Or eight, really. One good way to earn a rejection would be to write terribly, but that doesn’t apply to you and it’s too obvious to include. So seven it is. 1) Dreams and Wake-ups There’s no question that this opening must be the least popular possible gambit with agents. It induced a kind of no-no-no from agents every time it came up – and one of our panellists reckoned she saw these kind of openings in as many as 1 in 8 manuscripts. And yours needs to stand out. Those dreams-to-waking-up moments are just terrible ways to begin a book. Partly because they’re just so common but also because they give the reader a false start. The beginning of a book is where you most want to get the reader involved as quickly as possible and those false starts are achieving the exact opposite of that goal. In other words, they put off the moment when a reader feels “in” the story, and you want that moment to come as soon as possible. 2) Starting Your Book Too Early A playwriting colleague of mine used to ask her students to share the strongest introductory scenes from their works-in-progress and any time someone submitted something that wasn\'t the first scene of the play, she would tell them to cut the earlier scenes and start with the scene they\'d submitted. You want to start at the closest possible moment to the beginning of your story -- so if your story gets started with, let\'s say, Jilly finding a letter sent from her dead husband... don\'t start your novel with five pages of Jilly waking up, thinking about her day, brushing her teeth, making breakfast, dropping her daughter at school, stopping by the bank, and no sign of the letter until god-knows-when. Readers are hungry for story and they won\'t wait for several pages. They might not even wait for one -- so get your reader interested in the first paragraph, or even the first line. 3) Rushing the Punchline If the first two errors have to do with going too slow, this one has to do with going too fast. I once saw an opening page from a new writer that was, in so many ways, a fabulous opening. It was a description of a young woman in Victorian-era New York getting ready to go out. The period wasn’t directly mentioned, but it was suggested by lovely, tactfully-chosen detail. The description of the light and the smells were just right. We felt we already knew something of the woman, thanks to the strength and precision of her voice. Oh, and there was that lovely sniff of story as well. Part of her routine involved winding a bandage around her breasts, in order to flatten her chest and give her the figure of a slender young man. And then I hit the end of that first page, where the writer went from seeding hints of story (why is she passing as a man? who is she? where is she headed?) to delivering an expository ramble that read something like, \"It was necessary for me to dress as a man because when I\'d arrived in New York two years before, I soon discovered that there was painful little employment for a lone female and so I began to disguise myself as a man and...\" So much of the mystery that had been seeded into the opening paragraphs was trampled over by the too-hurried reveal. If the readers wants to know something, that’s great, but don’t be fool enough to tell them. Of course, you will need to reveal some answers at some point -- but you should only reveal them once you’ve had time to build other little motors to drive that reader-interest, like introducing some other characters, setting up an intriguing situation, or just generally getting yourself much further into your opening setup. 4) Jumping Scenes Another thing that really doesn’t work is jump-cutting too often in the opening pages. It might work in movies (although, does it?) but on the page it\'s quite a bit more confusing. It\'s quite common to see an author to structure their opening like this: Quick-fire 350 word prologue that is a jump-forward to some exciting scene later in the book.Key scene between protagonist, Jed, and his boss at work.Scene with Jed’s future love-interest, Cara, on a bus in the Kalahari.Then there’s some key backstory involving Jed.Then the book actually starts. Now obviously this kind of setup is a good example of starting too early – but it’s not just that the start of things proper is delayed, it’s also that the reader experience is fractured. Remember that it can be hard for a reader to get into a new novel. On line 1, page 1, the reader doesn’t know the protagonist, their situation, maybe even the setting or the era. The more you break up the opening sequence, the more times you are asking the reader to make the investment of figuring everything out again. (Oh, who is this? Cara? Hmm, she’s new. Does she connect to Jed? Don’t know.) Of course a reader is willing to put some work in, but don’t push it. The more fractured your opening, the more at risk you are losing them. 5) Too Many Characters Don’t crowd your opening page or two with too many characters. It’s the same issue as we’ve just discussed. Your reader is doing plenty of work already, figuring out where they are, what the situation is and so forth. Don’t make the reader also try to keep track of multiple people (especially ones with similar names). Just keep it simple until you’ve hooked your reader. Then you can start to complicate things. For a similar reason, you shouldn’t jump points of view too much (or perhaps at all) in your opening section. Let the reader get into the book, then they’ll be ready to start to explore the minds of other key characters. If you rush that process, you will lose your reader. 6) Too Many Words We\'re writers, so of course we\'re in love with words. I, too, have been there: you\'ve written a really beautiful sentence that expresses a particular mood or thought... and then you follow it up with seven more sentences that bash away, less gracefully, at the same thought. Or maybe that three-line sentence could actually be ten words and flow much nicer. You cannot edit your work too hard. And you absolutely cannot edit your opening page too hard. Although it’s easy to think only about word count, what you’re really looking for is beautiful writing. Chop out anything that’s wrong, or rewrite it. Get rid of any surplus. It\'s likely that you could cut 25-30% of your opening page and only make it better -- or at least you\'ll know then that every word is pulling equal weight. 7) Too Big, Too Soon One of the brave writers we had read at the Festival of Writing delivered an opening paragraph that involved a widower looking round the room he had shared with his dead wife, musing on her memory, then going into the bathroom to give himself a handjob. Now, we’re not prudish, nor are agents – indeed, we like big, bold, daring storytelling. But sex and violence can be off-putting until it’s set in the context of a specific character and their situation. We\'re rarely there at the end of the first page, let alone the first paragraph -- so keep your powder dry until your reader is emotionally prepared for the fireworks. An Exception Listen, there will always be exceptions to all of these rules. Paul Kingsnorth\'s The Wake throws its reader into the deep end of language and setting, leaving you to pick up his hybridized Old English as you hear the narrator talking about plot points and characters you couldn\'t possibly grasp off the bat -- and Toni Morrison\'s Paradise begins indelibly with the lines, \"They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time.\" But they\'re exceptions to the rules, these great novels, written by great writers so in command of their craft that they\'re able to take a risk and have it pay off -- and you can bet that they all edited the daylights out of their novels (see rule number 6). Your novel will tell you whether or not it can pull off an opening trick like that, but only if you\'re absolutely sure you\'re listening closely! And even if it can... why not give these tweaks a shot to see if it gets even stronger? Best of luck!
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Literary agents for paranormal romances

All stories share a simple common structure, right? So the simplest way to outline your novel (or any type of story) is to use that universal template by way of scaffolding. And you do need to use some kind of novel outline before you start writing. Plotting a novel from scratch? Imagining the whole thing in your head before you start? That’s hard. Or, scratch that, it’s pretty much impossible. So don’t do it. Cheat. Use a simple, dependable template to build an outline of your novel, then slowly fill out the detail. Yes, filling in the detail can be a slow and tricky process. But you don’t care. Because if your basic outline is strong (and the idea that lies behind it is strong), you can’t really go wrong. And figuring out that template and how best to use it is exactly what we’re going to do in this post. (Or – full disclosure – it’s what you’re going to do. We’ll just help a little on the way . . .) Novel Outline Template In A Nutshell You just need to figure out: Main character (who leads the story)Status Quo (situation at the start)Motivation (what your character wants)Initiating incident (what disturbs the status quo)Developments (what happens next)Crisis (how things come to a head)Resolution (how things resolve) What A Story Template Looks Like Use a simple plot outline to get your ideas straight Let’s start simple. And that means, yep, that YOU need to start simple. Get a sheet of paper or notebook and have it by you as you work your way through this post. Ready? Pencil sharp and ready to go? So do this: Write down the following headings: Main characters Status Quo Motivation Initiating Incident Developments Crisis Resolution Simple right? And now sketch in your answers in as few words as possible. That means a maximum of 1-2 sentence for each heading there. If that seems a little harsh, then I’ll allow you 3 sentences for the “Developments” section: that’s where the bulk of your book is going to lie. But that’s all. At this stage, we don’t want complex. Complex is our enemy. We’ll get there soon enough, but for now just think, Structure-structure-structure. Too much complexity – all that intricate plot detail – just gets in the way of finding the actual bones of your novel. (Oh, and I don’t want to digress too much, but that same basic template works if you want to build a scene, or write a synopsis, or structure a key piece of dialogue. In fact, it’s just like this universal unlocking device for pretty much any structural challenge in fiction. Good to know, huh?) The Novel Template: An Example You probably want an example of what your outline should look like, right? OK. So let’s say your name was Jane Austen and you had a great idea for a story about a prideful guy and a charming but somewhat prejudiced girl. Your story outline might look something like this: CharacterElizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet, one of five daughters in Regency England. Status QuoLizzy and her sisters will be plunged into poverty if her father dies, so they need to marry (and marry well) MotivationLizzy wants to marry for love. Initiating IncidentTwo wealthy gentlemen, Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy, arrive. DevelopmentsLizzy meets proud Mr Darcy and dashing stranger Mr Wickham. She despises Mr Darcy and likes Mr Wickham. She discovers Darcy loves her and that Wickham isn’t all he seems. CrisisLizzy’s sister elopes, threatening the social ruin of her family. It now looks like Lizzy can’t marry anyone. ResolutionMr Darcy helps Lizzy’s sister. Lizzy agrees to marry him, deciding now that she loves him, after all. Now that’s easy, right? That’s the whole of Pride and Prejudice in a nutshell, and it was easy. You just need to do the same with your book or your idea, and keep it really simple. In fact, if you struggle to know everything that goes in the ‘developments’ section, you can even drop in some placeholder type comments. If you were Jane Austen you might, for example, start out by saying something like “Lizzy breaks with Wickham, because it turns out he’s a bad guy. He killed someone? Stole money? Something else? Something to think about.” And that’s fine. Don’t worry about any blanks. It’s like you’re building a tower and you’re missing one of the girders. But by getting everything else in place and putting a “girder needs to go here” sign up, the structure is still brilliantly clear. That’s all you need (for now.) Oh, and don’t bother separating those down into chapters just yet, you can worry about that later – but when you do, read this, it’s really useful! Finally, don’t complicate things if you don’t want to, but if you find it helpful to add a “character development” heading, then you should do that as well. Effectively, you’re extending your novel outline template to cover not just plot movements, but character development too – a brilliant all-in-one tool. Developing Your Story Outline Taking your template on to the next level Now, OK, you might feel that our template so far is just a little too basic. Which it is. So let’s develop the structure another notch, and what we’re going to do now is to add in anything we know about subplots – or basically any story action that you DO know about, which doesn’t fit neatly into the above plot structure. So if you were Jane Austen, and had a good handle on your story, you might put together something like this. (Oh, and we’ve called them sub-plots, but you can call them story strands, or story elements, or anything that feels right to you.) Subplot 1Jane Bennet (Lizzy’s caring sister) and Mr Bingley fall in love, but Bingley moves away, then comes back. Jane and Bingley marry. Subplot 2Lydia Bennet (Lizzy’s reckless sister) elopes with Wickham. She is later found and helped by Darcy. Subplot 3Odious Mr Collins proposes marriage to Lizzy. She says no. Her more pragmatic friend, Charlotte Lucas, says yes. Notice that we’re not yet trying to mesh those things together. In fact, the way we’ve done it here Subplot 3 (which happens in the middle of the book) comes after Subplot 2 (which comes at the end). But again: don’t worry. Sketch your additional story material down as swiftly as neatly as Miss Austen has just done it. The meshing together – the whole business of getting things in the right order, getting the character motivations perfectly aligned and all that – that’ll do your brain in. Yes, you have to get to it at some stage. But not now. Keep it simple, and build up. And that actually brings us to another point. How To Use Subplots If you’re a fan of Pride and Prejudice, you’ll know perfectly well that our outline so far still misses out masses of stuff. There’s nothing on where the novel is set. Or why or how events unfurl. It doesn’t say a thing about character relations, why each feels as they do. There’s nothing to say on character development, subtleties, supporting cast, and so on. And that’s fine to start with. It’s actually good. What does matter, however is your character’s motivation. Taking one subplot above as example, Charlotte wants security through marriage to Mr Collins. Lizzy, however, rejects her friend’s rationale. Charlotte’s marriage reaffirms Lizzy’s romantic values and, crucially, also throws her in Mr Darcy’s way again later in the book. Now that’s interesting stuff, but if a subplot doesn’t bear on a protagonist’s ability to achieve their goal or goals, that subplot must be deleted or revised. Luckily, though, our story structure template helps you avoid that pitfall in the first place. In fact, here are two rules that you should obey religiously: If you’re outlining a plot for the first time. Pin down your basics, then build up subplots and so on.If you have already started your manuscript and you think you’re uncertain of your plot structure, stop – and follow the exercises in this post, exactly as you would if you hadn’t yet written a word. And do actually do this. As in pen-and-paper do it, not just “think about it for a minute or two then go on Twitter.” The act of writing things out will be helpful just in itself. The act of writing always is. Plotting Your Novel: The Template Remember as well that every subplot (or story strand, or whatever you want to call them) has its own little journey. Maybe a very simple one, but it’ll have its own beginning, middle and end. Its own structure of Initiating Incident / Developments / Crisis / Resolution. So you may as well drop everything you have into the grid below. (If you want to adapt that grid a little, then do, but don’t mess around with it toooo much. The basic idea there is golden.) Main PlotSubplot 1Subplot 2Subplot 3Initiating IncidentMAIN PLOTCRISISRESOLUTION If you’ve got more complexity to accommodate than this allows, take care. No matter how sprawling an epic you’re writing, you need to be able to identify the essence or heart of the story you’re writing, so try paring your novel down – you can always add more details and columns after. What would your story look like, if you did this? How To Further Develop Your Plot Outline Advanced techniques for writing ninjas What happens if your plot doesn’t fit into that grid? If you give that exercise your very best go and just draw a blank? Well, no worries. The basic problems here are twofold: You don’t yet understand your plot well enough, orYou just don’t have enough plot to sustain a full-length novel. Two different problems. Two different solutions. If you don’t yet understand your own plot in enough detail, you want to use … Plot-building Tool: The Snowflake Method Seeing your own plot in detail, before you write the book, is really hard, because it’s like you’re standing on the seashore trying to jump onto Mount Everest. In one bound. Not gonna work. So get there in stages, Base Camp. Camp 1, and so on up. What that means for you, is that you use our basic template in sketch form to start with – a sentence or two per section. Then you go at it again, and give each section its own paragraph. Then you go at it again, expanding to 2-3 paragraphs, or whole pages if you want to. The same basic exercise, but getting into deeper levels of detail each time. If you want more about the “snowflake” approach you can find it right here. OK. But what if your plot outline just feels a little bit thin once you sketch it out? Answer you fix it – and you fix it NOW before you start hurtling into the task of actually writing. Here are the techniques you’ll need to do just that: Method 1: Mirroring This doesn’t mean tack on needless bits and pieces – characters shouting at each other for effect, etc. – but add depth and subplots, developing the complexity of your protagonist’s story. (Remember: if it’s not contributing to your protagonist’s journey, it doesn’t matter and you need to delete it.) To take another novel – supposing your name is Harper Lee, and your story is the tale of a girl named Scout – let’s say Scout’s spooked by an odd but harmless man living on her street. It’s fine, though there’s not yet enough complexity yet to carry a novel, so complicate it. One thought is giving her a father figure, say a lawyer, named Atticus. (Harper Lee herself was daughter of a small-town lawyer.) He’s fighting to defend a man accused of something he obviously didn’t do. Targeted for who he is, rather than anything he’s done. A black guy accused for looking different? An odd-but-harmless guy who spooks Scout? It’s straightforward, tragic mirroring. Atticus’ fight is lost, the stories interweave, and Scout learns compassion in To Kill A Mockingbird. Introducing that second, reverberating plot strand meant that Harper Lee’s novel had the heft to become a classic of world literature. Method 2: Ram Your Genre Into Something Different Another way to complicate your plot is to throw action into a different genre – such as sci-fi, fantasy or crime. So take The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. Looked at one way, that’s a pretty much standard issue romantic story, which, yes, could have sold, but could never have made the huge sales it actually racked up. But then ram that into a story of time-travel, and you have something shimmeringly new and exciting. What you had was still a romantic story at its heart – it certainly wouldn’t appeal to hardcore fans of SF/fantasy – but the novel element gave it a totally new birth. Or take Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters. A picaresque Victorian historical novel . . . that kind of thing always had its audience – but that audience had never encountered a frankly told lesbian coming-of-age story in that context, and the result of that shock collision was to produce a literary sensation. Method 3: Take Your Character And Max Her Out Why was it that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo went on to get such gigantic sales across the globe? It wasn’t the quality of Stieg Larsson’s writing, which was never more than competent and which was quite baggy, to say the least. And the actual plot? Well, on the face of it, he delivered a fairly standard issue crime story. Nothing so unusual there in terms of actual narrative. But Stieg Larsson rammed that basic story with an exotic character: Lisbeth Salander. That woman had Aspergers, she was a bisexual computer hacker and rape survivor . . .and boom – vast worldwide sales resulted. Method 4: Add Edge – A Glint Of Steel A few years back, I was struggling with one of my books, This Thing of Darkness. (here) The basic plot was strong. The mystery element was good. There was at least one quite unusual element. The climax was rip-roaring (set on a trawler at sea in a force 10 gale.) But . . . The book wasn’t quite working. It was long. And it was just a long, long way from the set-up phase of the book to the denouement. My solution? A glint of steel. I took an incident from the middle of the book – a break-in, and a theft, but no violence, no real time action – and I turned that into a long sequence involving the abduction of my protagonist. That addition made a long book even longer . . . but it made the book. It’s not just that the sequence itself was exciting, it’s that its shadow extended over everything else too. Whereas before the book had felt a bit like, “yep, gotta solve the mystery, because that’s what these books have to do.” Now it was: “We HAVE TO solve that mystery, because these bastards abducted our protagonist.” Steel. Edge. Sex or violence. Those things work in crime novels , but they work in totally literary works too. Can you imagine Ian McEwan’s Atonement without that glint of sex? Would The Great Gatsby have worked if no one had died? How To Write A Plot From Multiple Perspectives If you’re eager to write about multiple protagonists, you need a plot outline, along the lines of the template above, for each one. George R.R. Martin took this to new levels in A Song of Ice and Fire, each protagonist having his or her own richly developed plot and character arc. John Fowles’ The Collector, for example, is narrated by a kidnapper and the girl he’s kidnapped. Sullen, menacing Fred justifies all he does. Miranda chronicles her fear and pity. The result is taut, terrifying. We’re engrossed in their shared experience to the end. Multiple protagonists can work in romance novels, too, even ones told in third-person narration, such as The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, or Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. This said, managing multiple points of view, even from minor characters, can work well for thrillers, often driven by the drip-drip-drip of information release (though these things depend on story, as much as genre). The key thing to bear in mind here is that you need a mini version of your novel outline template for each of your main characters. Each one of those guys needs a complete little story of their own – and those little stories need to interweave to create one great and compelling one. More About Plotting How to write seven basic plotsHow to chart your plot mountain or plot diagramHow to fix your plot problemsUsing internal and external conflict in genre writingHow to write beginnings, middles and endsThe Power of Story and Discourse by Allie Spencer
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5 professional tips for authors meeting publishers

It’s not all that often that would-be authors get to meet publishers to pitch their work, but it happens. Mostly, literary agents will take charge of sending your work out to publishers. Assuming there’s interest in your work, publishers will come back with offers and then, when you do meet publishers face-to-face, they are pitching to you much more than you to them. But that’s not the only way it can happen. Recently, a client of ours was in New York for three meetings with major New York based publishers. He had a UK deal from a wonderful London-based publisher and one in Germany. In the US, though, publishers wanted to meet him before committing to an offer. They wanted that meeting not because of any real reservations they had about the manuscript. If they hadn’t liked the material, they wouldn’t have asked for the meeting. They just wanted to see the author himself. See if he could present himself well to the media. See if his vision for the book was the same as theirs. See also if they liked him. After all, your working relationship with a publisher will certainly last a year and perhaps considerably more, so you might as well like the person you’re to be working with. So if something like this happens to you, at any point in the process, it’s good to be prepared. To that end, some rules! 1) Be Nice The first commandment of publishing. The book deal you\'re involved in is unlikely to involve vast sums of money, for you or your agent or your publisher -- so be nice. That can make all the difference. 2) Be Professional Know the things you ought to know, and have that information ready to hand. What\'s the word count of your manuscript? If it isn\'t yet complete, when do you plan to deliver it? Who are other major authors in your genre? Or some comp-titles, whether soon to be released or recently burning up the bestseller lists? Let them know who you are, too. Be prepared to talk about your social media following, that piece you wrote for that blog, or anything else that can help them get to know the author behind the pen. 3) Look Sharp Contrary to popular belief, publishers aren\'t just chasing books by the young and the beautiful. But that doesn\'t mean you can\'t comb your hair, dress decently, take that little extra smidge of care -- show them that the meeting matters to you, not that it was something for which you barely deigned to roll out of bed. 4) Ask Questions It’s fine to ask questions of your potential publisher. When would they schedule release? What format would they release it in? And at what price? When does the e-book come out, and at what price? How would they think about marketing it? What kind of cover design do they have in mind? (They won’t have a cover design planned, but they’ll may be able to tell you – or ideally show you – the approximate kind of cover they’ll be considering.) What success have they had with similar books in this area? It’s fine to ask about numbers. How many hardbacks, how many paperbacks, how many ebooks? You learn a lot from these questions, and you make it clear that you are a professional and will work professionally with your team. 5) Listen to Your Literary Agent Your agent will already know these publishers and quite likely the exact people sitting round the table from you. If your agent steers you in or away from a particular direction, then take that guidance. That’s true anyway, but it’s extra true if you’re in a geographical market not your own: a US author pitching to a London publisher, a UK author pitching to a New York publisher. In the first instance, you will almost certainly have a UK literary agent sitting beside you, a US agent next to you in the second case. Those people are there to help you. Accept their help with gratitude. And remember, you can go into those meetings with good heart. You’ve been invited because someone loves your manuscript and just needs a little help to make it all the way to a formal offer. You haven’t quite closed the deal yet, but you’re inches away. Now go and close it. Good luck. More On Getting Published Link to: How to Get Your Book Published Getting Published All you need to know
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Tips on writing women’s fiction

Women’s fiction is a broad category – too broad, really, since women’s interests are as varied as women themselves. (We don’t have ‘men’s fiction’, after all.) Teasing out the heart of fiction women may enjoy lies, possibly, in relationship – and these can be romantic, but also historical or contemporary, comic or serious, commercial or literary. A rollercoaster plot alone may seem insubstantial without heart and drama, stemming from character and relational dynamism. Without reverting to sweeping generalisation (since we all need light and serious fiction), reading women need and often demand similarly thoughtful reading material. We’ve asked one expert – Julia Hamilton, author of Forbidden Fruits and other acclaimed novels – to have her say on what works, what doesn’t and what literary agents are after. Julia Hamilton Shares Her Thoughts What exactly is ‘women’s fiction’? And what differentiates it from ‘romance’? Statistics tell us that women read more than men and they buy more books than men, thus the concerns of women’s lives are very important to today’s market. Women’s fiction includes romance – a big, serious market producing big serious revenues – but women’s fiction, just like the women who read it, has evolved to include subjects and themes that range beyond the constraints of romance. Literary agents will respond especially to work taking old genres and reworking them in new ways. Women’s fiction is a growing market that includes many facets of other genres: it can be literary, it can be commercial, it can be contemporary or it can be a multi-generational saga, witness the success of Rosamund Pilcher. In all cases, however, the woman is the star of the story and her changes and emotional development are the subject.. The heart of the story may include romance but it is invariably a novel driven by a relationship at the very core of the plot. Women’s fiction tends to be longer, about 100,000 words or more, but it can be as short as 50,000 words plus. Longer women’s fiction allows the development of multi-layered, multi-charactered subplots. There’ll be more introspection and description and buckets of backstory. A man may be waiting for the heroine of these novels, but he’s not the centre of events. You have stories of sisters or women’s friendships. Every major publisher knows relationships are all and there is almost always a life-affirming resolution, even if the story is a sad one. If you’re interested in writing women’s fiction, then you must read it in all its glorious diversity. If you’re not reading it, you probably won’t be writing it. Don’t worry about where the story will take you – just do it.
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Do I need a literary agent to get published?

A common question for all new writers and the answer (almost always) is yes. Let’s start by reviewing what agents are there to do, though. What Literary Agents Do They have several main roles: Selecting saleable manuscripts from all those submitted. Under 1% of manuscripts are strong enough to sell.Working with the author to get the manuscript in perfect condition to sell. That can mean extensive editorial work, likely lasting a period of months.Identifying the right editors at the right publishing houses for your book. An agent needs excellent contacts and to keep those contacts up to date. It also means understanding the current market for fiction and non-fiction, making sure that your book is in tune with that market.Conducting an auction. There’s no single way to sell a book. Your agent needs to choose the right way, then sell it professionally, with drive and conviction.Negotiating a contract. Publishing contracts are long and technical. Additionally, with the advent of ebooks, those contracts are changing fast and key terms are constantly moving. So you do need an expert on your side.Making foreign sales, and handling film and TV rights. Again, that’s a complex business involving expertise and strong contacts.Guiding your career. In the long term, a good agent should be nudging your career in the right directios and keeping you away from wrong turns. Writing is an insecure business, so a good agent can make a difference. All that might may make you think that you need an agent under any circumstances – but agents make their fees on sales they make. Typically speaking, they take a 15% commission. Agents need to live, too, so won’t have an interest in representing you if there is no realistic prospect of them making money. You Do Need A Literary Agent If: You are writing a novel.You are writing commercial non-fiction (the sort of thing that might be sold at the front of a shop, or feature on a bestseller list).You are writing fiction for children.You are writing a ‘how to’ type book in a major category (such as health and well-being). You Do Not Need A Literary Agent If: You are intending to self-publish.You are writing poetry.You are writing one-off short stories.You are writing journalism.You are writing specialist or academic non-fiction. In all those cases, there won’t be enough money to interest an agent and you should approach the appropriate publishers directly. You May Need A Literary Agent If: You are writing children’s picture books. I’d probably recommend having an agent to start with, but you could go either way.You are writing a themed collection of short stories. Such collections are hard to sell, but not impossible. A truly good collection may attract an agent. Anything less than wonderful won’t. And, as ever, don’t forget that if you need feedback, advice, or help with literary agents, we’re here to supply that. Sign up for emails for more on how to get a literary agent, or have a look at more free advice. Very best of luck. More On Finding An Agent Link to: How to Find a Literary Agent (the Simple 8 Step Guide) Find An Agent In eight simple steps
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What is creative writing in non-fiction?

‘Creative non-fiction’ is one of the trickiest terms in writing. Non-fiction means being factual. Creative means using imagination. Isn’t that a conflict? At one end, you have textbooks, how-to books, academic and professional work of every sort. In areas like this, factual expertise and clarity matters hugely. Imaginative writing and creative insight may actually get in the way. At the other end of the non-fiction writing game, you have some genuinely creative areas. Travel writing is one. Memoir and biography can be another. Factual reconstruction of particular historical episodes another. If you want to read a non-fiction book that reads exactly like a novel, then try Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It’s completely true. But it reads like a novel. Capote, in fact, called it a non-fiction novel. It’s famous partly because of its genre-bending format. You can also find historians writing quite creatively (try Simon Schama’s Rough Crossings). And some of our own clients have used our help to achieve bestselling success in the memoir category, if you look for John Fenton’s Please Don’t Make Me Go, or Barbara Tate’s amazing West End Girls. Both these books had the freshness and creativity of novels. If you’re keen to write creative non-fiction, then you need to acquire a novelist’s skills but deploy them to your own factual ends. You can get a real quick survey of the core novelist’s tools on this blog. You can get a more in-depth guide to those skills by browsing our full set of writing resources. Either way, the core of creative writing in non-fiction is to create immediacy, to get close to character and to the drama of the unfolding moment. Using web-based resources is a good first step on the path to writing successful non-fiction, but it’s only a first step. Other bits of advice would be: Read a lot. You won’t succeed in non-fiction unless you know the market you’re trying to write for.Take a course. It’s one thing learning from books. It’s quite another getting personal feedback from a top tutor as you start to develop your skills. Courses these days can be quite cheap and can be done from home, so it’s not the hassle that it once used to be. We offer some brilliant courses, so check them out here. Depending on exactly what you’re writing, you may even find that a ‘how to write a novel’ course will be the right one for your particular project – but if in doubt, just ask.Start writing and get help. Finally – crucially – the only way you’ll learn how to write better is to start writing. Just get stuck in. You’ll learn masses simply by plunging in. Then, once you’ve got a good chunk of the manuscript written, you can get expert feedback on what you’ve done – what works, what doesn’t work, what you need to do to fix it. Using that support wisely can make all the difference between a book that publishers love, and one that just accumulates rejection letters. And whatever your project, good luck! More On How To Write A Book Link to: How to Write a Book (10 Doable Steps for New Writers) How To Write A step-by-step guide
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When The Agent-Author Relationship Goes Bad

by Lesley McDowell It’s probably the most-asked writers’ question: How do I get an agent? And it’s probably one of the best answered, too. There’s no lack of advice on this subject, from Jericho Writers’ own Agent Match to any number of websites and chat forums, with agents themselves, publishers, and well-known writers, all offering tips and stratagems to hook that must-have gatekeeper to publishing heaven. But what happens once you have secured an agent? How you conduct that relationship, one of the most important you’ll ever have in your writing and publishing career, is crucial. If it goes well, then that’s great. But if it goes wrong, what can you do? Where oh where is the advice you need then? Because these relationships do go wrong – a lot. It’s hard to realise that from the lack of information out there because the publishing industry doesn’t like talking about the downside. It’s an industry that thrives on the positive, not the negative – it needs writers as much as writers need it, and it doesn’t want to put them off. Which is understandable. And a bad agent-author relationship is not what the industry wants to have to deal with. But writers do have to deal with it, and deal with it more often than they might expect. Why It Goes Wrong Is your agent not returning your emails or calls? Is s/he your agent not sending your book out to all the publishers that they promised they would? Is it a personality clash? Are you just not the right ‘fit’ for one another? First of all, you want to establish if you’re making your agent any money or not. If not, then they may want rid of you, they just won’t say it. I’ve been with three agents so far. We tend to think a multiplicity of agents in our career is a bad thing, because we all know the stories of successful writers who have had the same agent since forever, who’s their best friend, their right-hand man/woman, godparent to their first born, etc. It’s the agent-author relationship we all aspire to: success on both sides, as the agent nabs the best deals with the biggest publishers, and the writer cements said agent’s income and status by selling big and winning awards. Fabulous. Unfortunately, a lot of the time it doesn’t work like that. And while we shouldn’t blame our agents if they can’t sell our work to a publisher, or if said publisher can’t sell enough of our work to the public or get it onto prestigious shortlists, we can and should hold our agents to account if they’re ignoring us as a result of our book or manuscript failing. My three agents were all very different. One was with a huge agency, two were with smaller ones, and in different locations. Two were strangers before I signed with them, one was a friend. I left all three of them, although in one case I definitely jumped before I was pushed. Why did I move on each time? Well, the first time was because I didn’t feel my agent was very engaged with my work or pushing it with publishers. Her response to my novel manuscript was generic and I worried I was going to miss out. My second book had just come out and was getting a lot of coverage. I thought I might be in a strong position to get someone else so I moved on. Some people have likened the author-agent relationship to dating, and when you want out, the excuses tend to be the same (‘It’s not you, it’s me’ – I did actually use that one; ‘I think the timing/chemistry/feeling’s just not right/there’; ‘You just don’t understand me’ etc). And because having to end it is always excruciating, we use these excuses, when the truth almost certainly lies elsewhere and goes unspoken. My second move wasn’t so much of an ending because we had a kind of understanding in the beginning that if he got me a deal, I’d stay with him, and if he didn’t, I wouldn’t (already it sounds so personal). In the end, I got my third deal myself, but I still paid him an agent fee because he’d done a good job sending round a non-fiction proposal for another book (which didn’t make it). My fourth book, a historical novel, wasn’t really his area, so I went shopping for another agent, and, after a lot of leg work, I ‘hooked’ one. What To Do When It Does Go Wrong My third agent experience was the one that really pushed the scariest questions. When you find yourself in a no-win situation and you know you want to leave, these are the ones you lie awake at night asking yourself: ‘Is it too late to back out of my contract?’ ‘Will it harm my chances of signing with anyone else if I do this again?’ ‘Is moving from agent to agent just making me look bad?’ I was never given a reason for my third agent ignoring me, but it soon seemed clear why. After signing me up, she had worked with me over a few months to get my manuscript right, then sent it out with much excitement. After three months, I’d heard nothing so I emailed her but got no reply. Then just three days before Christmas, she emailed me the news that the first round of publishers had all rejected it. I burst into tears, but she had promised to send it round a second lot of publishers in the New Year, so I clung to that small ray of hope. She didn’t email me again until the end of February, and that was only because I’d eventually rung her to ask what was happening (she was ‘in a meeting’ and couldn’t come to the phone). By May, I’d had two emails from her in 8 months, no list of the publishers she’d sent my manuscript to in the first instance, despite my repeated requests to see their responses, no idea who she’d sent it to in a second round (there was no ‘second round’, as it transpired), and my requests to meet face-to-face were ignored. I couldn’t ignore it any longer – I was being ‘ghosted’, and probably because of my book’s failure to get picked up in the first round. I was being dropped, without it being spoken out loud. What on earth should I do? Hang on in there? Hope that someone out of the blue took my book and my agent started talking to me again? I looked for advice online, but there was little to help me. I asked agented friends, but they weren’t sure either. I came to the only conclusion I could. My confidence was being eroded – I hadn’t written anything in the eight months since my agent had sent out my novel, and all my ideas for other books seemed pointless. I had to stop feeling worthless because I was being ignored, and that was when I knew I had to end it. So I did. I emailed to say I wasn’t happy with her lack of response and felt that the relationship wasn’t working for me. No reply. I emailed again, this time to say quite firmly, that it was over. No reply. I posted a written letter, as my contract stated that it could be terminated only in writing. No reply. I wrote another letter. Finally, a response, thanking me for my ‘brave, wonderful novel’. It was a relief. It took another six months after I ended the contract for me to start writing again, but at least the writing did return. I don’t yet have another agent, but my confidence is still growing and I am looking for one. I’m also trying smaller publishers who don’t require submissions from an agent. 10 Top Tips For Surviving The Wrong Agent I’ve learned several things from this experience, and here is my advice to anyone in a similar situation. Do not let anybody, be it agent or publisher, damage your confidence. That’s different from feeling sore after a rejection, or refusing to take advice on rewrites. It’s about protecting yourself from damaging treatment by someone who appears to be holding all the cards (because they don’t).If your agent is ignoring your emails about a new manuscript you’ve submitted, and this continues for over six months, cut them loose. They’re not working for you.If your agent promises to send your work out but they don’t, and all you get is prevarications and excuses, cut them loose, too.Agents need writers as much as writers need agents. There may be far more writers out there than there are agents, but the right one for you still exists, you just haven’t found them yet. Keep looking.Get used to the notion that in your career you may go through many agents. Just as we now move from publisher to publisher more than we did in the past, so too with agents are we more mobile. Scriptwriters in tv and film got used to this years ago; now print writers have to as well.Don’t believe an agent who promises you the moon, but do hold them to account if they’re falling below deliverable promises.Give an agent a chance to correct what they’ve done before you fire them.Don’t be afraid to talk about your bad experience. The less silence there is on this subject, the better for everyone.Trust your instincts: if your instincts say this isn’t working, then they’re probably right.Remember that, as a writer, you’re more than just a brand. Recently, my blog about this experience was viewed over 1000 times and I was inundated with writers, some very well-known, on their own bad experiences. So it does happen to most of us at some time, and it is survivable. The important thing I learned from it is to develop a sense of flexibility, appreciate your own mobility, and keep positive. This is the game, but some know how to play it better than others. You have to make sure you are one of the better informed. Lesley is one of our fantastic editors who is available to give you an in-depth, constructive critique on your novel of agent submission pack. You can find out more about our editorial services here. To read more of Lesley’s blog, you can have a read of her blog here. More On Finding An Agent Link to: How to Find a Literary Agent (the Simple 8 Step Guide) Find An Agent In eight simple steps
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9 ways to persuade an agent to take you on

I recently came across a useful article by Rachelle Gardner, an American agent, about how to get literary agents to represent you. She advertised 13 sure fire ways to get representation … but I have to say that not all of them struck me as realistic. Here’s my edited version of her list, with some comments. The good news is there are perhaps only nine things to worry about, not the thirteen Rachelle mentions. And if nine is still too many for you, the crucial point’s right at the end of this piece. Good luck and here’s how to get that agent. 1. A Fresh Idea This matters a lot, no matter what genre or market you are writing for. I was at a crime festival at the weekend where panellists complained about the glut of serial killers, weird murders and by-the-book procedurals that came out a few years ago. For sure, there are still top ten bestsellers writing exactly those kind of books. But they rose to the top, when that kind of writing still felt fresh and new. If you were a debut novelist, writing the exact same material, you would struggle to sell it today. Is that unfair? No! They wrote fresh work for the market as it was at the time. You need to do the same today. 2.Get Your Submission Right This matters, too. Look at what an agent asks for on their website and submit that exact material in the exact way specified. Even if that doesn’t seem to suit your plan or your book, you need to comply anyway. For now, you must realise there is absolutely nothing special about your manuscript and you must get in line with everyone else. Oh, and don’t muck up the covering letter or your synopsis. These things are easy to get right. We’ve got a simple guide to writing your query letter, we’ve got a sample query letter page, and we’ve got a guide to writing your novel synopsis. Simple. 3. Know Your Audience If you are writing fantasy fiction, you have to be a student of the genre. You have to know the classics. You have to know the modern twists on the classics. You have to know the market the way readers do – by reading masses and masses. The same goes for any other genre, including non-fiction. If you are writing a book about quantum theory, let’s say, you just have to know what other people have done, what approaches they took – and ensure that yours is different, new and compelling. All that starts with knowing your area. 4. Have Some Social Media Presence Here’s all you need to know about social media presence: If you have blog traffic in the 100,000s and Twitter followers in the 10,000s, and if your book is directly related to that traffic/following. (e.g.: if you’re a motorsport guru and your book is on motorsport), then your social media presence will help sell your book.If your traffic is not on that scale, then publishers won’t really care about it. Nor will they expect you to have traffic on that scale. Most authors just don’t.And if you’re writing a novel, who cares? I just don’t know how that myth gets propounded. Your agent submission, your story, is what’ll get you published. 5. Have An Impressive Platform This is true for some non-fiction authors, but that’s it. I wrote a history book without having any platform at all. No blog, no followers, no mailing list, no academic credentials in the field, not even a history A-level. That shows that, even with a serious subject, a good idea allied to good writing is all you need. That said, if you do have a strong platform (blog/mailing list/etc), it will help. Even so, this point only applies to non-fictioneers, and usually then only if the topic is of relatively focused interest, rather than broad popular appeal. 6. Include Links To Videos Where Agents Can See You Speaking Sorry, but no, this just doesn’t matter. No agent or publisher has ever asked me for this. I’ve done a few festival gigs myself, but the total book sales from those events probably numbers in the mere dozens of copies. Of course, publishers and agents would prefer a confident public performer to a stuttering, sweating wreck, but it’s just not a significant factor in anyone’s acquisition decision. 7. Show Some Familiarity With Today’s Marketing Requirements For Authors Nope, again, just not a real issue. I’ve recently published crime novels in the UK and the US. Neither publisher has asked me to tweet about the books, to do anything to support the books on Facebook, to promote them via blogs or mailing lists. I have, in fact, done a few things on those fronts, but they don’t make a big heap of difference and publishers just don’t care. It’s not what sells books. And how could it? Let’s say you have a Twitter following of 100,000 people. Let’s say you tweet about your new novel several times to those 100,000. You can’t do it more often than that because you’d look like a pushy moron. Most of your followers won’t even see your tweets, because following someone means dipping in now and again; it doesn’t mean reading every single tweet. I doubt if you would get more than 1-5,000 eyeballs maximum looking at your please-read-my-book tweet, but let’s say 10,000 to be generous. Of those 10,000, you would do very well to convert even 1% into an actual buy decision. (And that 1% is a lot higher than the average ad-conversion rate online. It’s higher by about 1-2 orders of magnitude.) So 1% of 10,000 views is 100 book sales. Great. No one says no to selling 100 books. But from a publisher’s perspective, that’s a mere dop in the ocean of what they need to achieve. So they don’t care about your Twitter following. They. Just. Don’t. Care. 8. Show A Cursory Acquaintance With The Agent You’re Pitching To Yes, kind of. It certainly helps if there’s a little personal something in your covering letter, but only a bit. And if you’re struggling to say anything, then don’t worry about it. My literary agent, Bill Hamilton, represents Hilary Mantel, and I’ll bet that a large fraction of letters addressed to him say, ‘Dear Mr Hamilton, As you’re a fan of historical fiction, such as that written by Hilary Mantel, I’m hoping that you’ll be interested in my book …’ And what does that mean, really? It means that you’ve picked one starry name from a much longer client list and that you’ve done so because someone told you that you had to find some way to personalise your letter. If there’s an angle which feels natural and authentic, then mention it. Otherwise don’t. It’s that simple. 9. Visit The Agent’s Blog Very few agents in the UK have a blog, so good luck with that. Obviously, if they do, then visit it. But see my comment above: natural and authentic is good. Anything else is not. 10.Take The Craft Of Writing Seriously I’m surprised this is at number 10. You must be serious about the craft. That means copyediting and presentation have to be very good (but not, at this stage, perfect). It also means that you need to have structurally edited your manuscript so it is in good shape. 11. Know Your Competition This is the same as 3 above. 12. Present Yourself Professionally Yes. Gimmickry or forced humour in your opening approach to agents won’t feel great in the cold light of a Monday morning. Keep it professional. 13. Have A Great Book The only thing that really, really matters. If you have a truly dazzling book you could have no social media profile at all, be all but mute in the presence of other people, know nothing about your agent, and still get taken on and do very well indeed. (But your book had better be really, really, really good.) Happy writing! More On Finding An Agent Link to: How to Find a Literary Agent (the Simple 8 Step Guide) Find An Agent In eight simple steps
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Harry Bingham’s 45 Tips To Help You Find Your Literary Agent

If you make it as a writer, it is highly likely that your relationship with a literary agent will be the most enduring and important of your entire career – so the decisions you make at this stage really matter! The tips below won’t guarantee you that you find the right agent for you, but if you follow them carefully, they will help your chances of doing so. Keep reading – and good luck! How To Choose Your Agent Shortlist 1. Know your genre In finding agents, you need to have a reasonable understanding of your own genre. In some cases, that’s clear. (Got a detective? You’re writing crime.) In other cases, it’s not – in which case, you’re probably writing general, contemporary fiction. Which is fine. Not all work has a very specific genre. But if you’re in this broad, general category, it helps to know if your work is more commercial or more literary. If it’s in between (thoughtful, but accessible) you can describe your work as ‘suitable for book groups’. That’s a hot area for literary agents, so do use the phrase if it applies to you. (Whenever you search for agents through us, be sure to select your genre before making use of other filters.) 2. Don’t box yourself in Plenty of work falls on boundaries between different territories. For example, if you are writing a near-future thriller, you could equally well describe your work as sci-fi, or as a techno-thriller. An agent who did like thrillers but didn’t normally handle space-opera type SF might well be interested. It’s fine to approach agents who work on either side of your boundary. Other common areas of overlap might be “chick-lit noir”, so look at all the genre options. Be willing to think about agents who work in areas adjacent to your own. 3. Don’t search for specialists Most agents don’t specialise. My own literary agent handles high end literary fiction, and serious non-fiction, and popular non-fiction, and chick-lit, and crime. What’s more, he handles bestselling writers in most of those categories. The lesson for you is simple: you need an agent who is open to your genre. You do not need one who specialises in it. 4. Don’t look for an agent who is local to you Most agents work in London. Most writers live elsewhere. But agents only congregate in London because that’s where the publishers are. Since you want your agent to really, really know the publishing industry, you shouldn’t select one on the basis of how close they live to you. Truth is, you won’t see your agent face to face all that much – and when you do, it’ll mostly be because you’re seeing your publisher. The only real exception to this rule has to do with Scottish writers, who may prefer an Edinburgh-based agent, simply because travel to London is so expensive and time-consuming. Even then … all the big publishers are based in London. Personally, I’d want my agent to know those guys intimately. 5. You want an agent who wants you Every world has its superstars, and there exists a handful of superstar agents with high name recognition. But those guys have starry names because their client lists bulge with bestsellers. Realistically, those guys are much less likely to offer you representation and they will have much less time to offer you if they do. 99% of new writers (and maybe 99.9% of them) will be better off with an agent who is genuinely eager for their business. You’ll get more time and more attention. Look for agents keen to build client lists, they are more eager to find and take on new writers. View all agents here. 6. Remember that it’s publishers who create bestsellers, not agents A lot of writers will read the advice above and think, “I want my career to stand the best possible chance of success. Why wouldn’t I get the top literary agent out there?” But you don’t want the ‘top agent’. You want the best literary agent for you. That means one who has the time to take you through editorial changes, who won’t ditch you as a client if things don’t immediately go to plan, and who will argue patiently and sincerely for your merits. In short, you want one who won’t be distracted because J.K. Rowling, Ian McEwan, et al., is on the other line. And the core of any agent’s job is simple. It’s to think of 8-10 editors who might well like your work, then email it to them. That’s it. And any competent agent should be able to do that. You don’t need to be a superstar. 7. Look for points of contact When you’re reviewing an agent’s profile, look for any points of contact. “Loves rock-climbing” might not mean much in terms of literary tastes, but if you’re a keen climber, you shouldn’t scorn that potential point of contact: you’re looking for anything. And if you’re not a climber, but your book has a superb climax set in the high Alps, then thats a definite reason to reach out. 8. Look for agents who represent your favourite authors Perhaps there’s an author in your exact genre whom you love, in which case it would certainly be interesting to find out who represents that person. But you don’t really have to find authors in your genre. For example, if you are writing “chick-lit”, but there’s an agent who represents a couple more serious authors whom you adore, then that’s a meaningful point of contact – an indicator of shared taste. Just search the name of an author (surname only is fine) and their agent will appear, assuming that the agent-author relationship is public information. 9. Avoid the obvious! You’re a crime writer? Yes, you admire Ian Rankin, of course you do. But Ian Rankin’s agent will get a lot of letters says, ‘Dear X, You represent Ian Rankin who is one of my favourite crime authors …’ Do you really think that the good Mr X is going to sit up and take notice? 10. Compile a shortlist of 8-12 names, and then double-check everything We recommend a shortlist of about a dozen names, no more. Most books won’t even go out to as many as a dozen publishers and editors are even pickier than agents, which means if you can’t impress one in 12 agents, you don’t stand much hope with publishers. But don’t go to too few agents either. Approach six or fewer and you risk being rejected for essentially random reasons (too busy right now, lost your manuscript, don’t really like this kind of story, got a client who’s doing the exact same thing right now …) Once you’ve got a shortlist of agents that you’re happy with, you should double-check their websites. Our own database is as up to date as we can make it – but there are limits to our reach and you are hoping to sign up with someone for the duration of your career. Now’s a good time to double-check your facts!). So, in sum, find a literary agent in your genre, one looking for new clients (or at least open to them). Ignore location. Seek points of contact, including favourite authors. Then check and double check your shortlist. How To Write A Query Letter For Literary Agents 11. Get their name right Is it John or Jon? Is it Mr Sam Spade or Ms. Sam Spade? Don’t offend an agent with your very first words. You also need to make sure that you have their current address and other details correct. If you don’t know whether it’s Miss Jo Johnson, Ms Jo Johnson or Mrs Jo Johnson, it’s just fine to write “Dear Jo Johnson,” In fact, Dear Firstname Lastname is probably standard these days, publishing is not a particularly formal industry. 12. Re-check the basics If you’re writing children’s fiction, don’t send your work to an agent who handles only adult material. And while most agents wanta a fairly standard submission package (letter and synopsis and first three chapters), do check what this specific agency wants and follow their rules. 13. Keep it simple A covering letter doesn’t need more than a page. Perhaps if your work is quite literary and you want to expand a little on theme and your impulse to write it, you can go into a second page – but that qualification applies to maybe one writer in twenty. In other words, it probably doesn’t apply to you. 14. The first paragraph should cover the basics, briefly Your first paragraph should be just a sentence or two that sets out: (a) the title of your book, (b) the approximate genre, (c) a brief characterisation of the book and (d) a word count. Thus, for example, if I had been a new novelist seeking an agent for my Talking to the Dead, I might have said: “I am writing to seek representation for my first novel, Talking to the Dead. The book is a Welsh-set police procedural of about 115,000 words and features a young female detective, who is in recovery from Cotard’s Syndrome.” See? That’s a perfect first para because it instantly gives an agent their need-to-know info (crime novel, Wales, police procedural, word count), plus a little teaser – a reason to read-on: “Cotard’s? What’s that? Sounds interesting …” That opening paragraph is not hard to write. If you can’t write a perfectly good one, then your book is no good anyway. 15. The next paragraph can expand The next paragraph should open out a little more. So my second paragraph might have said something like this: “The detective, Fiona Griffiths, is a twenty-something junior officer, based in Cardiff. She’s highly intelligent, driven … and odd. As a teenager, she suffered from a genuine but rare disorder, known as Cotard’s Syndrome – a psychological condition in which the sufferer believes themselves to be dead. Fiona is no longer directly afflicted, but the illness continues to dominate her life and her sense of self. Then, as her Major Crimes team starts to investigate the violent deaths of a part-time prostitute and her, Fiona realises that the past feels dangerously alive again.” That’s all you need. The paragraph expands our opening teaser into something with more meat on it – something that should tempt a reader to read on. But that’s all – about a hundred words should be fine. If you’re going over the 150 word mark, you probably need to rein back. 16. That paragraph should convey your elevator pitch or USP That second paragraph has one crucial job: it’s to force the agent to turn to page 1 of your manuscript with a smidge of excitement and interest. That means you need to convey the Unique Selling Point of your book with brevity and force. Note that you should not say, “The Unique Selling Point for my book is …” That just feels heavy handed and clunky. (Want to know more about Elevator Pitches? Find out here.) 17. You do not need to summarise your plot That’s the job of your synopsis. Notice that my sample paragraph above (point #15) said nothing at all about plot. Yes, it mentioned the initiating murders, but that’s it. It doesn’t say anything about what happens thereafter. It doesn’t need to. 18. You are not writing a book blurb The blurb on the back of a book belongs on the back of the book. You are addressing a potential agent, not a potential bookshop browser. Thus the paragraph above about Talking to the Dead mentioned Cotard’s Syndrome, which no book blurb would ever do. (Because that would ruin one of the big reveals at the end of the book.) Focus on the agent and your USP or elevator pitch. The blurb will come much, much later in the process. 19. You don’t need to explain everything If you are writing about a fantasy world where – I don’t know – gravity is upside down, or England has a good footie team, or Amazon pays some tax, you can pick out anything that is key to your brief overview of the book. But you don’t need to explain every little thing. The covering letter needs to offer a glimpse of stocking, no more. The book itself will do the rest. 20. Finally: a few words about yourself And that means a few words. “I am a thirty-something mother of two. I currently work part-time as an accountant, but am retraining as an exotic dancer.” Or whatever. Unless there is a direct and important relationship between who you are and the topic of your manuscript, you don’t need more than the very briefest sketch of who you are. No one cares and no one ought to care: it’s your book that matters here; you are merely its transmission device. 21. Your website, your Twitter account, or your online footprint are much less important than you might think You will see suggestions online, including from some people who should know better, that these days agents really care about your social media profile. And that is simply not true. Yes, admittedly, if you have 100,000+ blog visitors monthly and your book is a non-fiction work directly connected to the subject of that blog, then agents will be impressed, and so will publishers. But that’s it. Blogs or sites with smaller followings don’t mean much in sales terms, and they certainly don’t mean much when it comes to promoting fiction. So you just don’t need to say anything about your current online footprint. If publishers want to discuss it with you down the line, then they will, but it’s not something to worry about for now. (And by the way, my Fiona Griffiths crime series has been published all over the world, is critically acclaimed, and has been televised. In all that time, I’ve only had one conversation in publishing about my e-footprint, and that was early on, and was never followed up. That’s how little publishers care.) 22. If you’re impressive, say so (for fiction writers) A covering letter is not the place to mention your school prizes or your work on the parish magazine, but if you have accomplished something genuinely noteworthy say so. “The maritime scenes in my novel draw heavily from my own experiences at sea: I have sailed single-handed round the world and have competed in a number of international yacht races. The shipwreck scene towards the climax of my novel is largely based on a similar accident that befell me a few years back.” A paragraph like that would do very nicely – but, if you’re writing fiction, it’s not all that likely you have a similar connection to make. In which case, don’t worry. Most people don’t. 23. If you’re authoritative, say so (for non-fiction writers) While it’s relatively rare for fictioneers to include much biography in their covering letter, the reverse can be true of non-fictioneers. For example, if you are writing a book on artificial intelligence, then you will certainly be expected to demonstrate authority. So: “I am current head of Google’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory …” Or, “I am Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Wherever …” Or, “I have worked extensively as a smart systems consultant to blue-chip companies including …” “I am the Science and Technology editor on the XYZ newspaper …” Any of those things would do just fine. “I’m a keen amateur student of these things and think the subject is really, really important” – that kind of thing would not fare so well. As a non-fiction author, you are expected to demonstrate compelling knowledge. 24. If you’ve self-published, that’s fine, but be realistic These days, agents will receive plenty of self-published manuscripts, and it’s fine if yours has already seen the light of day. But agents will only be impressed if your manuscript has seen a lot of downloads. That means 30-50,000 downloads, if the manuscript was being offered for free. And it means at least 10,000 downloads if the manuscript was being sold at a meaningful price. ($0.99 or £0.99 as an absolute minimum.) 25. Be careful about mentioning competing similar works If you are writing fiction, it’s fine to place your novel by triangulating from other authors. For example, you might say, “This is, roughly speaking, Philippa Gregory territory, but transposed to Dark Ages Mercia.” That helps an agent understand the kind of book you’ve written. (Though even in that example, it would probably be better to convey the same message without the PG reference.) On the other hand, it is not clever to say, “My book combines the philosophical grandeur of a Saul Bellow, the prose of John Banville and the compelling narrative of a James Patterson.” You’re welcome to think all those things – but don’t say them out loud. If you are writing non-fiction, a couple of references are very often useful. For example, “The book is a lively, popular account of quantum physics, in the footsteps of such texts as Quantumly Wonderful by Mr A and Oh What a Wonderful Atom by Ms B.” If you do use that kind of tactic, be very clear about how your book differs from those fine texts. 26. Don’t misspell anything Humans make typos and most writers are human. And that’s fine: a well-presented manuscript doesn’t have to mean a flawless one, but an agent submission pack is the first thing the agent reads. So no misspellings. None. No excuses. That also means you need to avoid all other hideosities. No it’s when you mean its. No references to my “fiction book”. (It’s called a novel.) No bad punctuation. You want to be a professional writer. So be professional. 27. No horrible sentences And mere tidiness is not enough. You also can’t express yourself badly. You need to eliminate any clunky, ugly, or badly phrased sentences. So don’t write sentences like this: “Emily (who is the hero in this bit) then finds herself in a dungeon which is really like the one in Game of Thrones (second series) except that my one has this big arched window really high up, which Emily tries to climb out of for an escape attempt but can’t because she slips and really hurts her ankle.” Don’t write sentences even a bit like that. Please. They make our gums hurt. In sum, keep your letter short. All you need is a couple of overview-type sentences, then a paragraph or so on your book, then a short paragraph of background about you. That’s it. Make sure that you get the basics right (spellings, punctuation, who you’re addressing) and make sure you write with economy and professionalism. How To Write A Wonderful Synopsis 28. Don’t stress Most writers stress over their synopses. They shouldn’t: the things just aren’t that important. Some agents ask for them but hardly read them. Get your synopsis right, yes, but don’t fret about it. Half a day should be easily enough for the task. 29. Keep it short, but not crazy-short Anything from 500 to 1,000 words is fine. Less than 500 words seems a little on the thin side (unless perhaps your book has a notably clean narrative line, in which case OK.) More than 1,000? No need. That’s just more words. Keep it tight. 30. Tell the story A synopsis tells the story of your novel. That’s all it does. You’re not pitching the novel. You’re not writing a cover blurb. You’re just telling the story. Which you know intimately, right? This is not a hard assignment. 31. Keep your text neutral A synopsis isn’t usually a good place for atmosphere, humour, detailed characterisation, or anything else. Those things are for your book. A simple factual narrative is fine. 32. Don’t worry about spoilers Of course there are spoilers in the synopsis, just like there’s alcohol in beer. That’s kind of the point. If you really, really don’t want to give away the very ending, you can say something along these lines: “Jones is all set to raid the warehouse, when Karen arrives with news that will devastate them both – and lead to a final, bloody and unexpected finale.” But, if you can steel yourself to do it, just tell the whole darn story including the ending. That’s what agents want. 33. Put key names in bold When you first mention the name of a key character, you should set it in bold, or even bold caps. Like this: “KAREN, a thirty-something police sergeant, is appointed to ….” That makes it easy for an agent to see who’s who and to check back if they get confused. (And synopses are confusing; that’s just the way they are.) 34. Presentation matters. So does your prose As with the covering letter, you should make sure that your synopsis is well-presented and free of horrible sentences. 35. You can briefly restate your book’s USP before the synopsis proper If you want, you can have an italicised line or two before the synopsis proper that sets out the book’s premise or broad narrative arc – anything that reminds the agent why they like the idea. So, for example, this would be nice: “Jacob is a diamond dealer in Rotterdam. When his warehouse is burgled, he wonders how the thieves got past his security system … and why his wife was driving the getaway car.” That sets up an enticing premise in slightly more than 30 words. Or you can sketch the whole story in the same kind of space: “Two brothers quarrel in the trenches of the First World War. They separate and each found a mighty oil business – one striking rich in the sands of Persia, the other sprouting up in the oil fields of East Texas. Then another war comes and the two men are obliged to confront their pasts – and each other.” That’s fifty-something words and sketches a book that is 600 pages long (my third novel, as it happens.) These introductory snippets don’t excuse you from writing a full synopsis, they just enrich the one you’ve written. So recap your story in about 500-1000 words. Put key character names in bold. Keep your prose clean and reasonably neutral. Avoid howlers. You get bonus points for a short, tempting intro. How To Prepare Your Manuscript For Literary Agents 36. Check: Are you really ready? Most writers send out their manuscript before it’s ready. That can mean anything from poor prose and a lousy concept through to a text that is really pretty good but in need of a good, hard, final edit. A lack of polish can kill your chances, so be professional. Give your manuscript another close read. Be picky: agents will be. (Not sure if you’re ready? You can get paid-for editorial advice for your manuscript. It’s very rare that writers are not helped by professional editorial feedback.) 37. Your first three chapters: getting that right Most agents ask for a covering letter, a synopsis and the first three chapters. But what do the first three chapters really mean? What if your chapters are strangely long? Or short? And should you count your prologue? The answer is that agents don’t really care about these things. Just send about 10,000 words, ending at a natural break in your text. That’ll do fine. 38. Check for common errors This post isn’t long enough to list them all, but here are the top fifteen. 39. Check spellings, punctuation, typos, prose No horrible sentences, okay? A few typos don’t matter, but good presentation is still essential. 40. Make sure that your text is properly formatted There are no strict rules here (unlike in the screenplay business), but do check that: – Your margins are normal (your program’s default settings are fine).– Your text is 1.5 or double-spaced.– Your dialogue is correctly presented.– You begin each chapter on a fresh page.– You avoid weird fonts.– You lay your book out like a book, not a business letter. That means no blank line between paragraphs, but each paragraph should be indented (anywhere from 0.2″ to 0.5″). You should set the indents with the Paragraph Format menu or with the Tab key. You should not rely on the space bar.– Either left hand justified or both-sides justified text is fine.– It’s still better to print on one side of the page only. If that offends your eco-sensibilities, plant a tree – or look for agents who take work by email: most now do. 41. Remember to insert page numbers This gets its own bullet point, because a lot of people forget, and then have to print their stuff off again. And while you’re at it, pop your name and manuscript title in the header or footer of each page. (So when an agent drops your stuff, they can put it all back together again.) 42. Nice clean title page, please Your title page should ideally contain: – Your title (in a font as large as you like)– Your name– Your contact info– A word count, rounded to the nearest 1,000 or 5,000 words– And nothing else You do not need a dedication, or an acknowledgements, or anything along those lines. This isn’t a book yet, it’s a pile of paper. Also, it’s a bit fancy-pants putting an epigram on a manuscript, but some manuscripts are a bit fancy-pants. In which case, put it on the title page, or on the page immediately following. 43. No copyright notice You don’t need a copyright notice – it’s legally meaningless and, in any case, no agent steals copyright. 44. No cover art! A publisher is not going to use your cover art. So don’t show it to agents. 45. The Golden Rule There is only one golden rule of the agent submission process and that is the hardest. You must write a wonderful book. Good is not enough. Competent is not nearly enough. Agents take about 1 in 1,000 submissions. Your work has to dazzle. Happy writing, and best of luck! Explore our huge database of agents to find the perfect match for your manuscript, and if you want more advice on how to get a literary agent, look at the vast amounts of free advice we have on our website.
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Literary agents for food and cookery books

The cookery market remains a solidly dependable corner of the books market with many literary agents representing the non-fiction genre. What’s more, it’s an area which is still dominated by full-colour, hard-copy books, which means that the ebook revolution has done little to change the basic market. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the market dynamics remain challenging for most potential writers in this area. The one sure fire way to get a cookbook published is to make sure that you have a TV show first. Or a column in a major newspaper. Or you’re a celebrity with some lifestyle angle to promote. For ordinary cookery writers, it is hard to get publishers interested enough to invest in a book, not least because the high production quality now expected in this area means that a book needs to shift a lot of copies to break into profit. But faint heart never won fair maid, and there are still opportunities for new, unknown writers. Especially if you can bring a particular expertise in an under-explored area of food and drink. AgentMatch has a complete list of every agent in the UK with full details about what genre they handle and much more besides. If you’re looking for an agent, then you’re in exactly the right place. You just need to become a member. AgentMatch And How To Use It There are plenty of cookery-loving agents and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. food and cookery) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. Become a member. More On UK Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) LITERARY AGENT LIST For every genre
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Literary agents for popular science

Popular science and psychology authors are more popular than ever. Stephen Hawking, Oliver Sacks and Michio Kaku, to name a few. For all that the ebook revolution has upturned the old verities of the publishing market, it remains the case that for countless areas of the books trade, traditional publishers still dominate. What’s more, with very few exceptions, the only sensible route to those publishers is via literary agents. The helmsmen and pilots of your literary career. And yes, AgentMatch is here for creative non-fiction writers, too. AgentMatch And How To Use It On AgentMatch, there are plenty of science-loving agents, but you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. popular science, non-fiction) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. The site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Become a member. More On UK Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) Literary Agent List For every genre
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Literary agents for horror

Ever since the horror genre was so memorably revived and expanded by Stephen King, horror has been a reliably steady element in the publishing canon. The advent of teen paranormal sagas has brought new readers to the genre (while also altering its boundaries). The ebook evolution has also, arguably, brought new readers to the field, as young men (always more reluctant book-readers) have been more willing to purchase long-form fiction via their tablets and phones. What’s more, the genre shouldn’t be seen in too restrictive terms. Classy contemporary authors such as the award-winning Lesley Glaister add quality to the genre. And then you could also argue that such very well-respected authors as Susan Hill have in fact been writing ‘horror’ for years, albeit not for the audiences normally associated with the area. Many crime and thriller authors also effectively plough through classic horror territory. (Oh, the noises from that old stone cellar? They’re nothing. No. Honestly, nothing.) AgentMatch And How To Use It AgentMatch is designed to let you easily filter on and find the agents you need. There are plenty of horror-loving agents and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. horror) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. All you need to do is become a member.
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Literary agents for politics and current affairs

There’s a very broad and eclectic group of books covered by this. If your book isn’t strictly about politics but is (like Malcolm Gladwell’s) about how society actually works or (like Michael Lewis’s) about specific aspects of how the world works, then you are probably still looking for agents who work in this same broad category. Do be aware that no agents specialise only in this area. You should expect your agent to represent not merely serious, topical non-fiction, but also (most likely) plenty of fiction, and plenty of other non-fiction as well. That doesn’t mean the agent concerned won’t have the necessary connections. He or she will have them and be motivated to place your work in the best (and most lucrative) place possible. AgentMatch And How To Use It On AgentMatch, there are plenty of politics-loving agents and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. current affairs) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. The site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Become a member. More On UK Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) LITERARY AGENT LIST For every genre
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Literary Agents For Romance

Romantic fiction, from Jane Austen onward, is one of the most enduringly popular of all genres. That doesn’t mean the genre always gets the respect it deserves. The way romance is usually used in modern publishing distinguishes “women’s fiction” (a loose label, which can be fairly literary, upmarket and serious) from “romance”, a term that encompasses commercial fiction (such as the happily mass-market brands of Mills & Boon and Black Lace), but also fun, frolicky romances issued by the big publishers. Because the genre is so broad, it’s not enough simply to look for agents with an interest in women’s fiction, though. You do need to find those who are interested in fiction at the more commercial end of the market. Luckily, we’ve made your agent search easy with AgentMatch. AgentMatch And How To Use It AgentMatch will help you find literary agents for romance novels. There are plenty of romance-loving agents, but you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. romance or literary fiction) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. You can sign up for a week long free trial which is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality, but to get unlimited access to AgentMatch you can join us and become a member. 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. 
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Literary agents for women’s fiction

Are you writing predominantly for women, about women, and in search of an agent? Women’s fiction is an incredibly broad and rich genre to be aware of as a publishing label. There is romance, there is domestic noir, there is literary fiction, and a novel being literary fiction need not cancel out it being a romance, etc., etc. Nor does any given sub-genre (e.g. domestic noir) mean that this is a genre read only by women, even if in the publishing world, it may tend to be marketed as such. So you need to be careful how you choose a book genre. Is it really a book group type of novel (i.e. accessible and literary)? Is it romance? Is it erotica? Just because your book might be about a woman sorting through a relationship (not necessarily a romantic one), doesn’t mean that you’ll to describe the novel as women’s fiction. Better to think more about what kind of book it is and what kind of agent you want. Luckily, we’ve made your agent search easy with AgentMatch. AgentMatch And How To Use It On AgentMatch, there are plenty of agents who love women’s fiction (including, by the way, plenty of male agents since this is not a girls’ only preserve), and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. romance or literary fiction) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. This site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Become a member. AgentMatch provides: A list of every agent in the UK;Masses of data on each one (photos, biographies, client lists, genre preferences, likes and dislikes, and much more);Search tools to make it easy to sort through all our goodies;Submission info for every agent;Further links to any other key information we’ve been able to locate on the web.
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99 Quotes About Writing by the World’s Greatest Writers

By C M Taylor Have you ever wondered what advice your favourite author would give to a debut writer? Here are 99 quotes from some of the World’s most successful writers! Enjoy. The quotes and aphorisms gathered together below range across more than 2,000 years of the practice of the craft. Within these quotes you will find agreement on what constitutes good writerly practice, but you will also find a decent slice of disagreement. One writer plots it all out, right down to the finest details before embarking, while another writer could not begin to work if they knew beyond the next scene. One writer works out meticulous biographical histories of their characters, for another writer it is enough to close their eyes and picture their subject. Some of these quotes below contradict or dispute each other. That’s deliberate. That’s fine. Many ‘story gurus’ or ‘formula writers’ might wish you to believe that their approach to story is the one, that they have cracked the secret and if you follow their approach – and buy their book – your work will be bestselling. But writing is not like that. There are many ways to arrive at the same destination. If there were one single successful approach then literature would be all the poorer for it. The application of formula to practice tends to make results more formulaic. The resulting work would be samey and bland. What are offered below are tools not rules. If a quote strikes a chord with you then think about it, use it. If the quote intuitively offends how you wish to proceed with your work then you are entitled and right to discard it. It is not right for you – someone has offered you a hammer when you need a spade. Only you will know when you read something and think, ‘That’s it! That’s what I’ve been looking for.’ Each writer must collect the twigs to build their own nest and no nest is the same. Don’t feel anxiety because you disagree with Anton Chekov’s approach, or Colette’s approach. What made them Chekov and Colette will not make you into you. Rejoice in the venerable writers and quotes below, enjoy, relax and I hope you find some twigs for your nest. Good Writing Here’s a diverse collection of musings and advice on what makes good writing from many of the best practitioners who have trod the path before you. See if any ring your bell. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ― Stephen King (about) “Write quickly and you will never write well; write well, and you will soon write quickly.” ― Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (about) “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov (about) “Sooner or later every writer evolves his own definition of a story. Mine is: A reflection of life plus beginning and end (life seems not to have either) and a meaning.” ― Mary O’Hara (about) “Comparisons deplete the actuality of the things compared…” ― William S. Wilson (about) “A good story is a dream shared by the author and the reader. Anything that wakes the reader from the dream is a mortal sin.” ― Victor J. Banis (about) “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ― Mark Twain (about) “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”― William Faulkner (about) “In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.” ― C.S. Lewis (about) “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” ― E. L. Doctorow (about) “Story is metaphor for life and life is lived in time.” ― Robert McKee (about) “Good writing is like a windowpane.” ― George Orwell (about) “In good writing, words become one with things.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson (about) “All good writing leaves something unexpressed.” ― Christian Nestell Bovee (about) “I believe that writing is derivative. I think good writing comes from good reading.” ― Charles Kuralt (about) “It may be observed of good writing, as of good blood, that it is much easier to say what it is composed of than to compose it.” ― Charles Caleb Colton (about) “The problems of the human heart in conflict with itself… alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.” ― William Faulkner (about) “Good writing can be defined as having something to say and saying it well. When one has nothing to say, one should remain silent. Silence is always beautiful at such times.” ― Edward Abbey (about) “You do an awful lot of bad writing in order to do any good writing. Incredibly bad. I think it would be very interesting to make a collection of some of the worst writing by good writers.” ―William S. Burroughs (about) “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” ― Roald Dahl (about) “You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying in the road.”― Richard Price (about) “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”― G.K. Chesterton (about) “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”― Thomas Jefferson (about) “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” ― Ray Bradbury (about) “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne (about)  “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” ― Voltaire (about) “It’s not wise to violate the rules until you know how to observe them.” ― T.S. Eliot (about) “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King (about) “Write what will stop your breath if you don’t write.” ― Grace Paley (about) “What is the essence of the art of writing? Part One: Have something to say. Part Two: Say it well.” ― Edward Abbey (about) Character How can collections of words on a page approximate to the living, breathing complex ambiguities that people present in real life? Every writer knows it’s a tough job to even try, but that try we must… “Let’s face it, characters are the bedrock of your fiction. Plot is just a series of actions that happen in a sequence, and without someone to either perpetrate or suffer the consequences of those actions, you have no one for your reader to root for, or wish bad things on.” — Icy Sedgwick (about) “The one common thread in all of the books that are falling apart on my shelf? Characters—flawed ones with desires and needs who spend most of the story tripping over their weaknesses in an effort to get what they want.” — Becca Puglisi (about) “You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are.”― Joss Whedon (about) “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” ― Ray Bradbury (about) “The characters in my novels are my own unrealised possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.”― Milan Kundera (about) “In displaying the psychology of your characters, minute particulars are essential. God save us from vague generalizations!” ― Anton Chekhov (about) “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” ― Kurt Vonnegut (about) “Fictional characters are made of words, not flesh; they do not have free will, they do not exercise volition. They are easily born, and as easily killed off.” ― John Banville (about) “Everyone here seems to have some weird secret or other.” ― Iris Murdoch (about) “When I am writing, I’m very much on the ground, on the same ground my characters are treading.” ―Graham Swift (about) “When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away. ” ― Kurt Vonnegut (about) “Action, reaction, motivation, emotion, all have to come from the characters. Writing a love scene requires the same elements from the writer as any other. ” ― Nora Roberts (about) “The real story is not the plot, but how the characters unfold by it. ” ― Vanna Bonta (about) “My only conclusion about structure is that nothing works if you don’t have interesting characters and a good story to tell. ” ― Harold Ramis (about) “Almost all great writers have as their motif, more or less disguised, the passage from childhood to maturity, the clash between the thrill of expectation and the disillusioning knowledge of truth. ‘Lost Illusion’ is the undisclosed title of every novel.” ― Andre Maurois (about) Plotting A plot is just a string of events, sure, but if it reads like just a string of events then your book is dead in the water. Here, a range of writers offer advice about how make your events meaningful to keep readers turning the page. “A lack of narrative structure, as you know, will cause anxiety.” ― John Dufresne (about) “What I’ve learned about writing is that sometimes less is more, while often more is grander. And both are true.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich (about) “The novel cannot submit to authority.” ― Julian Gough (about) “Of course, the writer can impose control; It’s just a really shitty idea. Writing controlled fiction is called “plotting.” Buckling your seatbelt and letting the story take over, however… that is called “storytelling.” Storytelling is as natural as breathing; plotting is the literary version of artificial respiration.”― Stephen King (about) “I once tried to write a novel about revenge. It’s the only book I didn’t finish. I couldn’t get into the mind of the person who was plotting vengeance.” ― Maeve Binchy (about) “Character is plot, plot is character.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald (about) “… plot, the absolute line between two points which I’ve always despised. Not for literary reasons, but because it takes all hope away. Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.” ― Grace Paley (about) “Modernist manuals of writing often conflate story with conflict. This reductionism reflects a culture that inflates aggression and competition while cultivating ignorance of other behavioral options. No narrative of any complexity can be built on or reduced to a single element. Conflict is one kind of behavior. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing. Change is the universal aspect of all these sources of story. Story is something moving, something happening, something or somebody changing.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin (about) “What monster sleeps in the deep of your story? You need a monster. Without a monster there is no story.” ― Billy Marshall (about) “Don’t resist the urge to burn down the stronghold, kill off the main love interest or otherwise foul up the lives of your characters.” ― Patricia Hamill (about) “An author must learn the principles of good storytelling only in order to write better from the heart. ” ― Uri Shulevitz (about) “The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first.”― Blaise Pascal (about) “[T]he success of every novel — if it’s a novel of action — depends on the high spots. The thing to do is to say to yourself, “What are my big scenes?” and then get every drop of juice out of them. ”― P.G. Wodehouse (about) Editing You spend the whole first draft being delighted at getting more words down on paper, then as soon as you’ve finished you spend the next few months trying to take word out. As all writers know, editing is a tough game… “If it can be cut out, then CUT IT OUT. Everything non-essential that you can eliminate strengthens what’s left.” ― Alexander Mackendrick (about) “The part you must jettison is not only the best-written part; it also, oddly, that part which was to have been the very point. It is the original key passage, the passage on which the rest was to hang.” ― Annie Dillard (about) “Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counselling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, ‘How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?’ and avoid ‘How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?” ― James Thurber (about) “No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.” ― J. Russell Lynes (about) “The best advice on writing was given to me by my first editor, Michael Korda, of Simon and Schuster, while writing my first book. ‘Finish your first draft and then we’ll talk,’ he said. It took me a long time to realize how good the advice was. Even if you write it wrong, write and finish your first draft. Only then, when you have a flawed whole, do you know what you have to fix.” – ― Dominick Dunne (about) “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” ― H.G. Wells (about) “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” ― Shannon Hale (about) “I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.” ― Don Roff (about) “Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” ― Colette (about) “Whatever in a work of art is not used, is doing harm.” ― C.S. Lewis (about) “I write, “Jane came into the room and sat down on the blue couch,” read that, wince, cross out “came into the room” and “down” and “blue” (Why does she have to come into the room? Can someone sit UP on a couch? Why do we care if it’s blue?) and the sentence becomes “Jane sat on the couch – ” and suddenly, it’s better (Hemingwayesque, even!), although … why is it meaningful for Jane to sit on a couch? Do we really need that? And soon we have arrived, simply, at “Jane”, which at least doesn’t suck, and has the virtue of brevity.” ― George Saunders (about) “Let the reader find that he cannot afford to omit any line of your writing because you have omitted every word that he can spare.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson (about) “It was like removing layers of crumpled brown paper from an awkwardly shaped parcel, and revealing the attractive present which it contained.” ― Diana Athill (about) “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” ― Blaise Pascal (about) “Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” ― Colette (about) “No iron can pierce the human heart as chillingly as a full stop placed at the right time.” ― Isaac Babel (about) Inspiration Whoever you are, no matter how motivated or disciplined, sometimes the well is dry. Here’s a collection of quotes from other writers that might help to get the wheels turning again. “Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.” ― Philip José Farmer (about) “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London (about) “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” ― John Steinbeck (about) “Write what should not be forgotten.” ― Isabel Allende (about) “Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” ― Alan Wilson Watts (about) “One should use common words to say uncommon things” ― Arthur Schopenhauer (about) “He asked, “What makes a man a writer?” “Well,” I said, “it’s simple. You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge.” ― Charles Bukowski (about) “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” ― Octavia Butler (about) “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”― Thomas Mann (about) “Go for broke. Always try and do too much. Dispense with safety nets. Take a deep breath before you begin talking. Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody-minded. Argue with the world. And never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things–childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves–that go on slipping, like sand, through our fingers.” ― Salman Rushdie (about) “The difference between real life and a story is that life has significance, while a story must have meaning. The former is not always apparent, while the latter always has to be, before the end.”  ― Vera Nazarian (about) “A good writer refuses to be socialized. He insists on his own version of things, his own consciousness. And by doing so he draws the reader’s eye from its usual groove into a new way of seeing things.” ― Bill Barich (about) “Good novels are not written by orthodoxy-sniffers, nor by people who are conscience-stricken about their own orthodoxy. Good novels are written by people who are not frightened.”  ― George Orwell (about) “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” ― Henry David Thoreau (about) Motivation Writing relies hugely on internal resources and personal fortitude and whoever you are you’ll have days when those things are in short supply. Here’s some wisdom to help keep the fires burning… “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” ― Robert Hughes (about) “Writing is about resilience and faith. Writing is hard for every last one of us – straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine coal? They do not. They simply dig.” ― Cheryl Strayed (about) “Art is only the means to life, to the life more abundant. It is not in itself the life more abundant. It merely points the way, something which is overlooked not only by the public, but very often by the artist himself. In becoming an end it defeats itself.” ― Henry Miller (about) “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”― Robert Frost (about) “There is nothing harder to estimate than a writer’s time, nothing harder to keep track of. There are moments—moments of sustained creation—when his time is fairly valuable; and there are hours and hours when a writer’s time isn’t worth the paper he is not writing anything on.” ― E.B. White (about) “A writer who is a pro can take on almost any assignment, but if he or she doesn’t much care about the subject, I try to dissuade the writer, as in that case the book can be just plain hard labor.” ― Sterling Lord (about) “A novel takes the courage of a marathon runner, and as long as you have to run, you might as well be a winning marathon runner. Serendipity and blind faith faith in yourself won’t hurt a thing. All the bastards in the world will snicker and sneer because they haven’t the talent to zip up their flies by themselves. To hell with them, particularly the critics. Stand in there, son, no matter how badly you are battered and hurt.” ― Leon Uris (about) “Writing is a manual labor of the mind: a job, like laying pipe.” ― John Gregory Dunne (about) “Never ever forget that you enlisted in the ranks – you weren’t press ganged or drafted. Nobody owes you anything – least of all respect for your work – until you’ve earned it with what you put on the page.” ― T.F. Rigelhof (about) “Before I start a project, I always ask myself the following question. Why is this book worth a year of my life? There needs to be something about the theme, the technique, or the research that makes the time spent on it worthwhile.” ― David Morrell (about) “Work like hell! I had 122 rejection slips before I sold a story.”  ― F. Scott Fitzgerald (about) “Since I became a novelist I have discovered that I am biased. Either I think a new novel is worse than mine and I don’t like it, or I suspect it is better than my novels and I don’t like it.” ― Umberto Eco (about) “I can’t blame modern technology for my predilection for distraction, not after all the hours I’ve spent watching lost balloons disappear into the clouds. I did it before the Internet, and I’ll do it after the apocalypse, assuming we still have helium and weak-gripped children.” ― Colson Whitehead (about) There we have it, 99 quotes from some of the World’s most successful authors. What did you think? Have you got any memorable quotes of your own? Head over to the Jericho Townhouse and let us know! About the author C M Taylor has been nominated for the British Science Fiction book of the year and published a number of novels, including Staying On, (Duckworth 2018), Premiership Psycho (Corsair 2011) and the Amazon best-selling Group of Death (Corsair 2012). He’s also co-written a thriller movie script, Writers Retreat, which was filmed in 2014 and premiered at the Sitges International Film Festival, and he continues to be commissioned to write scripts for TV and film. C M Taylor also works with Jericho Writers as a book editor.
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How to write a wonderful picture book

From Allan Ahlberg to Dr Seuss, picture books matter because they create the foundations of a child’s reading life – and you never know what a difference your own book could make. Once upon a bicycle, so they say, a jolly postman came one day, from over the hills and far away.Or I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am!Or Silly old Fox, doesn’t he know, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo. These are just a few of the all-time classics, quotes that stick in your head long after you\'ve stopped reading the books yourself only to come back around when you hear them read to children later in life or even read them yourself to your kids. As such, there’s a timelessness to children’s picture books, which makes them great to write – and a picture book draft is a draft like no other. Read on for valuable tips on how to create a picture book that children will love for generations to come. Tip #1: Write Memorable Characters A sure-fire way to delight children of all ages is to populate your book with joyful characters like the Enormous Crocodile, Winnie the Witch, the Highway Rat, Sam-I-Am, Sir Charlie Stinky Socks, or Spot the Dog. Start by asking yourself if there\'s an animal or idea you feel an affinity for? Then, start to create connections from there! Let’s say you’ll write about a puppy. Maybe from there you’ll think up a chewed-up toy he’s attached to. Or a child (maybe his owner) he wants to follow to school. There’s all sorts of links to be mind-mapping from this. Sometimes, a simpler story is what works best, too. An enormous crocodile who wants a child for dinner (The Enormous Crocodile). A postman delivering letters to the Big Bad Wolf, to the Witch, to Baby Bear, Goldilocks and Cinderella (The Jolly Postman). Aliens who come to earth to wear underpants (Aliens Love Underpants). Also, who will meet who? The jolly Postman meets fairy tale characters. Max meets the Wild Things (Where the Wild Things are). Jemima Puddle-Duck meets a fox (The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck). Mouse meets Gruffalo (The Gruffalo). The very hungry Caterpillar meets chocolate cake, ice-cream cones, pickles and cheese (The Very Hungry Caterpillar). Most children remember iconic characters like the Cat in the Hat as they grow up, long after all the rhythmic intricacies have faded from mind (vital as these are, much as the rhymes of Dr Seuss or Julia Donaldson linger with us, too). Try to give your characters a quirk – a Cat with a hat, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit with his blue jacket, Aliens who love (and wear) Underpants, or the more unusual fairy tale characters from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. Create vivid characters to linger in children’s minds, whom they’ll want to return to. Tip #2: Repetition Speaking of returning, repetition might be discouraged in fiction writing -- but not in picture books. Repetition is a source of huge fun and suspense for children, reeling in attention and building anticipation. In Funny Bones, for example, Allan Ahlberg opens the story with relish: In a dark, dark town there was a dark, dark street, and in the dark, dark street there was a dark, dark house, and in the dark, dark house there were some dark, dark stairs, and down the dark, dark stairs there was a dark, dark cellar, and in the dark, dark cellar … three skeletons lived! By the time we get to those skeletons, we’re very ready to meet them and spend time with them! In The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, a caterpillar gets hungrier and hungrier. Each day, ‘he was still hungry’. We’re told (and want to know) about his increasing amount of foods and what’s eaten each day, until the caterpillar gets stomach ache. There’s a rhythmic quality to repetition, too, e.g. descriptions in The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, where the Gruffalo, in Mouse’s descriptions, has ‘terrible tusks and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws’. Later he has ‘knobbly knees, and turned-out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose’. After the build-up, it’s an exciting moment when we and Mouse get face-to-face with the Gruffalo in the woods. Tip #3: Strong Beginnings and Fun Endings It\'s true for any kind of writing, but with children it\'s even more-so: if you don\'t grab the reader right away, they\'re gone. So be sure that your beginning comes out of the gate strong and exciting, giving a sense of the story and the character and the world all in a few lines. And then, when you get to the ending, keep in mind that kids are smarter than they get credit for. Don\'t be afraid of a surprise ending, something that might make them (or their parents) laugh -- because that positive last experience will be the thing that keeps bringing them back to your book over and over again. Tip #4: Rhyme and Rhythm Rhyming in picture books means additional care and work – and you can still create wonderful rhythm in prose without rhyme – yet rhyme is still worth exploring if you’re confident or just passionate about doing this. If poetry is something you\'re familiar with, crack on! If it\'s new to you, let\'s take a moment to explore: The most common rhyme style, the one Shakespeare often used, is called \'iambic pentameter\' -- a line of ten syllables, alternating stressed and unstressed. Think about the sound of a human heart and you\'ve got it: Da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM. That’s all it takes! Ten syllables or five iambic \'feet\' to create your framework. There are other forms of poetic styles you could also try writing, and Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled is a good book to invest in if you’re keen to be exploring this. You may also like to invest in a copy of The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary to help you. Children’s publisher Nosy Crow has written a great blog post on rhyming in children’s books, well worth a read, too. Tip #5: Writing a Good Baddie Not every story needs a villain, but if you\'re thinking about a story that includes one, the best way to write ‘baddies’ and darker elements in picture books is to make these elements comic. Take the scariness out so that children laugh instead. For example, Roald Dahl’s comic gift lies in the mischief of books like The Enormous Crocodile, about a thwarted crocodile looking for a yummy child to eat (before he’s smacked into the sun). Dahl’s crocodile is only funny because he\'s painted as an object of fun. The rest of the jungle hates him, and after the crocodile finds the children, jungle animals appear in turn to warn them to look out. Finally, the elephant hurls the crocodile by his tail up into the sky – where he’s ‘sizzled up like a sausage’. A similar thing happens when the Mouse makes the scary Gruffalo convinced he’s the monster, and ‘now my tummy’s beginning to rumble – my favourite food is – Gruffalo Crumble!\' -- and off the Gruffalo runs. Don’t Eat the Teacher by Nick Ward is also hilarious, even if it wouldn’t very funny in real life. Sammy the Shark happily eats everything on his first day of school because he’s so excited, which translates into hilarity. Skeletons (Funny Bones), witches (Winnie the Witch), monsters (Where the Wild Things are), or vampires and werewolves (Well, I Never!) are absolutely ‘writable’ in picture books. Just remember to translate that darkness into something funny and silly. You need to make your readers laugh. Tip #6: Thinking About Illustration Are you wondering if you need to illustrate your own picture book? A picture book is often a collaborative book between writer and illustrator. Sometimes writers are also illustrators, like Maurice Sendak -- but often, we think of the great duos like Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, or Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. If you can\'t draw a lick, don\'t worry! You don\'t always need an illustrator to write your picture book, and a good publisher can match you to the right artist for bringing your story to life. Keep in mind that you should keep the in-text descriptions sparse where you know pictures will be conveying details, too. A reasonable word limit for your picture book should be about 700 words – but that should be enough to give illustrators an idea of what they need to depict. Tip #7: Read It Aloud Whether you\'re writing in rhyme or not, you should read your work aloud as you\'re working on it! After all, most children\'s books are read aloud at one point or another -- by parents, by teachers, by librarians, even by precocious children themselves -- and you\'ll know when you read it what\'s working and what\'s not. If you have them available, it\'s worth it to read other picture books as well. Consider it market research: you\'ll get a sense of what works to you, what excites your ear -- and if your inner child is into your work just like it was into Dr. Seuss or Maurice Sendak (or whomever else!), then you\'re on the right path for sure. Happy writing!! If you\'re looking for a bit more support, consider our picture book course and peek at our interview with Pippa Goodhart. If you’re further along than that, and in need of editorial feedback for your picture book, you’ve come to the right place, too. We can\'t wait to read your tale (aloud)!
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Working with Literary Agents: 7 ways that things can go wrong

We like agents. Like and respect them. Their job is exceptionally demanding: nearly all reading work is done outside of office hours and since agents read a lot, that means they’re working late pretty much every night. And they take risks. When an agent takes on a new writer, they’re committing upfront to a lot of work which will only be repaid if the agent is correct that the writer’s manuscript is or becomes saleable, with the agent’s help. Given how fierce the competition is, it’s impressive that agents have the confidence and commitment to keep fishing from the slushpile – yet fish they do. What’s more, an agent’s skills are very varied. Literary excellence lies at the heart of things, of course, but they need to be as pushy as car salesmen when it comes to auctioning a manuscript, as tough as lawyers when it comes to negotiating a contract, as silky smooth as a diplomat when it comes to smoothing ructions between authors and publishers and, of course, a good agent always has a firm strategic overview of their client’s career development. So – we repeat – we like and respect agents in general, but there are always exceptions. Agents who are no good, or decent agents who mess up now and again. We’re not going to name names in this post but there are patterns that do recur and which really, really shouldn’t. When Agents Mess Up – The Top 7 Horror Stories #1 The three-year-old good-bye Sometimes, things don’t work out. That’s fine. An agent takes on an author. Tries to sell the manuscript. Can’t. Hates the second MS that the author produces. Decides that enough is enough. That story – or variants on it – are common enough. And that’s okay. Picking manuscripts from the slushpile IS a chancy business and agents can’t get it right all the time. But it matters how an agent breaks the news. A professional client phones the author and says, ‘Look, I loved your first MS and made an honest effort to sell it. I didn’t succeed. In all honesty, I don’t like this second MS and I’m not sure that I’m still the right agent for you. I wish you the very best of luck in your future career, but I think we need to part company.’ Obviously no author loves that. On the contrary, any normal author will obviously feel upset and alarmed. But at least the conversation is direct, truthful and non-accusatory. It is, in fact, a professional way to break bad news. What we hate – and what is far, far too common – is that agents break the bad news in incredibly bad and stupid ways. The classic version of this is that the author emails the agent. No answer. Politely reminds the agent that he/she had a question, and asks for a response. No answer. Repeats the reminder, pointing out (still politely) that the question is (a) important and (b) still unanswered. At which point the agent tantrums back, ‘Well, if you keep hounding me like that, I think it’s pretty clear you no longer trust me as an agent, and without trust, what are we? GOODBYE!’ [And slams phone down, forever.] That’s not okay. It’s just not how any professional behaves ever. Yet we do hear stories along those lines at least once a month, and involving numerous agents, some of whom work at very well known and prestigious agencies. For sure, sometimes the author in question has been too pushy, or even crass, in demanding excessive amounts of the agent’s time. But not always. Sometimes the agent has simply failed to deliver bad news in a professional way. That’s not fine. How often does this happen? Often. It’s the complaint we hear most frequently.How bad is it? 3/5 bad, where 5 is worst #2 Agents don’t communicate key info Agents are agents. You – the writer – are the principal. That means that while your agent may execute business on your behalf, they are only ever a proxy for you. And obviously, you’re nicely brought up and you won’t ask stupid, excessive or intrusive questions. But you do, for example, have a perfect right to know things like this: – how many publishers have seen my work?– which editors at those publishers did you send it to?– why – briefly – did you choose those editors/publishers?– what (roughly, and maintaining any necessary confidences) did those editors say in response? It’s YOUR work and you have every right to know those answers. Indeed, you shouldn’t really need to ask those questions: it should be completely routine for agents to discuss those things with you. You may, of course, choose to say, ‘Look, you know this area vastly better than I do. I trust your judgement, just go out there and do what you can.’ But if you ask the questions mentioned – or others of equal significance – then you should damn well get answers. Yet some agents are feeble about giving answers. Again, not okay. How common? Fairly common – much more so than it should be.How bad? 4/5 #3: Agents don’t guide you through the publication process You’re an industry newbie. Your agent isn’t. So a non-negotiable part of their job is to hold your hand in your journey to publication. That doesn’t mean you get to talk over every tiny detail with them: agents have limited time and you need to be sober about how much time and attention you (and your particular project) can demand. That said, we recently heard about an author who had never been to a meeting with their publisher, and hadn’t even seen their book cover prior to publication. That’s appalling behaviour by the publisher, of course, but an agent should not have allowed that to happen. It’s not okay. Ever. Under any circumstances. How common? Very rare, fortunately.How bad? 5/5 #4: Not properly considering an author’s priorities at auction What does an author want from a book deal? Well, publication certainly. Money, yes. But what else? Might you want a prestigious publisher? Or an editor with whom you have excellent personal chemistry. Or one who has a more holistic and flexible view of your likely career path than another. In short, you may have numerous motivations, only one of which is cash. And your agent has to respect that. He or she needs to get the best available offers, then lay them in front of you and ask: which is it to be? Obviously you’ll rely on your agent’s intelligence and advice in making that choice. You’ll want to meet, or at least speak to, your putative editor. Then you’ll make your decision taking everything into account, not just the money. Most agents we know will totally respect this. Indeed, if you probed them about it, they’d suggest – rightly, in our view – that if Publisher A offers 10% less cash than Publisher B, but is a better fit in all other respects, that ‘lower’ offer would prove more lucrative in the long run, as your career prospects will be better. So most agents will respect your non-financial motivations and will work hard to find the right fit as well as the right cash. But not all agents. Again, we heard about one agent recently who boasted to a senior publisher that she never allowed her clients take anything but the highest advance. She made that seem like a feat of machismo, of negotiating prowess. But that’s bullshit. It’s terrible agenting and it betrays the client. It shouldn’t happen. How often? Hard to know. We think rare, but we could be wrong.How bad? 2/5 #5 Talking crap in public Most agents we know are open, approachable and warmly encouraging of new talent. That extends even to those senior agents who, realistically, aren’t going to get most of their new clients from the slushpile. But even those guys know that some of the biggest stars on their roster started out as total unknowns, and they respect the huge community of unknown writers toiling away out there. But. There are also agents who – in public, and to audiences containing wannabe authors – speak incredibly disdainfully of unpublished authors. When agents do that, it’s incredibly corrosive. The stories instantly spread on the internet and a false, but highly destructive, meme gets spread that agents hate writers. That the industry is snobby and exclusive. That agents are always secretly laughing behind the backs of the as-yet-unpublished. Our Festival of Writing is a place for agents to meet writers, offer feedback on work, mix and mingle, answer questions. That helpfulness, that warmth is the real truth about agenting, but one snobby and stupid comment can destroy those good impressions in a moment. We don’t like those attitudes and we wish they would vanish. How often? Rare, it just gets highly reported.How bad? 1/5 [it’s normally only a moment of stupidity] #6 Consorting with muggers Some agents have ties with vanity publishers – the old-fashioned sort who demand stupid money upfront for a product that they know damn well will never sell in any meaningful quantity. We have no problem with self-pub per se, but for almost all purposes these days the natural entry route is e-publishing. That’s cheap (or even free) and reaches a massive audience. The idea that agents, of all people, should be inviting writers to hook up with vanity publishers is simply disgraceful, yet we know at least one agent who has a habit of doing just that. How common? Not too common, thankfully.How bad? 5/5 This behaviour is utterly unethical in our view. #7 Charging reading fees No literary agency should ever charge you to read your book, to send it out to publishers, or levy any other compulsory upfront fee. This matters because agents are kept honest by having to work on commission. If they think your book isn’t going to make it with publishers, they won’t make money from it, so they will politely reject your work. If they could make a few bucks just by stringing you along, then unscrupulous ‘agents’ would no doubt do just that. Luckily, the practice of charging reading fees is exceptionally uncommon these days. We can think of one US-based scammer and two UK-based ‘agencies’ operating like this in the last ten years. And fortunately, the agent-as-scam business model doesn’t work: the scammers always go broke. How often? Very rare.How bad? 4/5 Oh, and we know we promised you seven ways that agents can fail, but here’s one last one: a bonus to you for reading so far. #8 Agents demand exclusivity and then never do anything Sometimes agents demand your manuscript in a burst of excitement, ask exclusivity as they read it, and then, nothing. Nothing at all. An echoing void. There’s probably not much more to that behaviour than poor time management, but it can really mess up your life. The good news here is that you don’t have to let it. First, you should never offer exclusivity for more than a week. Secondly, we’d gently suggest that you don’t offer exclusivity at all. If an agent wants your work, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t compete for it. (It’s different if an agent is working on a set of suggested editorial notes: then it IS reasonable for them to ask for something in exchange, like exclusivity.) And if you feel you’re being ignored, then don’t do nothing. After a couple of weeks has gone by, just drop a simple note that says you want to go on seeking representation and, while you’d warmly welcome that agent’s involvement, you will be going out to other parties as from Monday, or whenever. Don’t pick a fight. Just make it clear that this pause is not forever. Any half-decent agent will totally respect your right to do that, so don’t be afraid to do so. How common? Yep, pretty common, we’re sorry to say.How bad? 1/5 – you can always just walk away The AAA (or Association of Authors’ Agents) One final point. Some writers look at membership of the Association of Authors’ Agents as being a stamp of approval. A sign that your interests will be protected. And that’s not really so. The AAA is a perfectly fine organisation, but it is an industry body whose task is to protect the interests of agents and amplify their voice. It is NOT primarily there to protect you; on the contrary, it’s primarily there to look after agents. Yes, it does have a rule against agencies which charge reading fees, but the way that rule operates disqualifies excellent agents like John Jarrold (his site) because John also works as an editorial consultant. In other words, we’re not quite sure that the one clear and useful writer-protecting rule actually functions as it ought to. When we’ve raised matters such as agents who recommend authors to vanity publishers to the AAA, their approach has been a polite shrug. It is not their policy to intervene on agent/author ethical matters except in extreme cases, and those cases apparently do not include suggesting that authors waste their money with charlatans. Again: we don’t have a beef with the AAA, and its membership includes virtually every reputable agency in London, but be aware of its limits. As a writer, you need to choose an agent you get on well with, and who likes your work. You need to work professionally with that agent and be prepared to move on if it becomes clear that the agent is not dealing with you as they should. Most literary agents are great and you are not likely to have a problem, but we hope this list gives you some idea of what to look out for and how to cope. What problems have you had? What would you want to warn people about? More On Finding An Agent Link to: How to Find a Literary Agent (the Simple 8 Step Guide) Find An Agent In eight simple steps
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