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Difference Between Erotica and Pornography in Writing

In this guest post, Anastasia defines the difference between erotica and pornography, justifying what she writes and why. If you’re an aspiring writer of erotica, this is the post for you. Is Porn Good For You? There was a debate by an organisation called Intelligence Squared at the Royal Institution last Tuesday 23rd April where the motion was ‘pornography is good for us: without it we would be a far more repressed society.’ I didn’t attend the debate itself, but apparently at the outset 60% of the audience supported this motion, and by the end this had only reduced to 50%. Germaine Greer opposed it, arguing that pornography doesn’t rescue us from repression, it feeds off it, because without some form of repression there would be no pornography. Either way, it looks as if we – or at least the intelligentsia sitting in a debating chamber – are still equally divided in our opinions. I wonder how such a debate would go if it was enacted by parents, teachers, therapists, criminologists and so on. We live in a society where we are lucky to have access to whatever literature or images we choose, but as an adult I choose to avoid going anywhere near the troubling modern day, dead-eyed porn in all its blatant, fleshy, garishly-lit, visual crudity. It’s starting to make Emmanuelle look like Mary Poppins and it terrifies the life out of most parents. So had I been debating this issue I would have gone further and suggested that even the word ‘repression’ is surely outmoded in this day and age in which case so should porn be, that is, why do we apparently still ‘need’ it? Far from liberating us or taking us away into fantasies, it merely takes sex, something that is beautiful, if basic, and turns it something ugly, brutish or even violent at best, and at worst is starting to damage and frighten the young, evolving minds that watch it. Differences in Erotica and Porn Some might say this is rich coming from a writer of erotica, but the two prime words I have just used are ‘watch’ and ‘writer’. One of the many tags that irritated me about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon was its description as ‘mummy porn’, which, without getting too heavy, seemed to link two opposing words in an extremely unpleasant way. The writer of it happened to be a mother, and the readers were often mothers, but the only mother in the narrative is an abusive, drug-taking prostitute in the hero’s back story. Similarly, the ‘porn’ involved in the story relates to the use of domination, punishment and sex toys (albeit in a consensual relationship), but then the book is also described as erotica. So, which is it? Erotica, or porn? In my view, it can’t be both. Stimulation over Sexual Gratification I am not a natural debater – I tend to get heated, emotional and as you can see from this piece, opinionated – but if I am challenged on the basis that I’ve written some pretty experimental sexual practices in some of my earlier work, I prefer to simplify matters for myself and for my audience by making a stark distinction. To me, porn is immediate, unimaginative, visual, and predominantly male-orientated. Erotica seeks to arouse through the written word and imagination, and is primarily by women, for women. It’s the difference between brutality and sensuality. Insult and compliment. Relationship and encounter. Consent and imposition. Porn seeks to lower, erotica to elevate. Porn is imposed, violent, debasing. Erotica celebrates sex within an adult, and with the genre of ‘erotica romance’ catching on, increasingly intense, romantic relationships. An unlikely champion of this viewpoint was D.H. Lawrence. Recently, preparing for my erotica workshop, I re-read parts of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and realised that the ‘obscenity’ in it relates more to the context, the language used, and the times in which it was written, rather than the explicit yet tender descriptions of the sex itself. In Conclusion... I suppose in conclusion that if I was going to put my money where my mouth was, I’d have to imagine my teenage son’s reaction if he read one of my books. Mostly he’d snap the book shut as soon as he realised what was going on, but if he did read it more closely he would see that everything happening was part of an intense, loving journey between consenting adults. The worst that could happen is that he’d be deeply embarrassed, not deeply damaged. 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 to Edit a Novel First Draft

How to Self-Edit your Book – a Simple Guide A while back, I completed my fourth Fiona Griffiths novel. The publisher – those nice folks at Orion – liked the book and it was published. So far, so good. Still, both my editor and I felt the book just felt a bit long. There was nothing redundant or superfluous in it, just the whole book needed to be a little shorter. It was a ship dragging a sea-anchor. Nothing needed to be rebuilt. We just had to reduce the drag. This post is about how to edit a first draft novel, but based on an actual example of an author (me) going through that process, using my manuscript by way of example. The book was 136,500 words when I delivered it, but I have just finished a process of cutting and re-editing that has taken it down to 131,000 words. Since my changes included about 750 words of additional text, that means I’ve trimmed a total of somewhat more than 6,000 words, or about 5% of the novel. (Are you thinking that’s quite long for a thriller? Well, yes, it is. You can get a guide to average novel word counts here, but suffice to say, my work does tend to live at the long end of average. I’d save a lot of work if I learned how to write shorter books!) This post will share how I did that. What kind of cuts I made, the other adjustments that ensued, the thought processes involved. Before we get into the detail (and these things are all about detail), three things. This was my ninth published novel, and my thirteenth or fourteenth book. A first draft by a new writer is often able to lose 10% quite easily. It’s not uncommon for 20-30% to be a more accurate target. New Writers Rule #1Be ambitious when it comes to cutting material.You’re not aiming to lose content, necessarily – just verbiage.A 12 word sentence could become just a 9 word sentence?That’s the same as cutting 30,000 words from a 120K word novel! Second, the draft I first delivered to my publisher had already been edited hard. Not just for length, but for flow, atmosphere, plot logic, characterisation, dialogue, beauty, everything. Although the emphasis in this post is on how to cut a novel, this post is just about one small slice of the whole process. New Writers Rule #2When it comes to the self-editing process, everything is up for grabs.Everything.Plot, characters, pacing, twists, settings. Everything.There’s nothing sacred. Every little element has to contribute – or get changed. Third, it’s worth bearing in mind the narrator in what follows is my little Welsh detective, Fiona Griffiths, who has, according to one reviewer, ‘some of the most memorably staccato narration in the genre’. In other words, she likes short sentences, clipping verbs or pronouns where it would be more normal to retain them. That’s her voice. You do not have to follow suit. In other words, the decisions I make need to be taken in that Griffithsian context. Your decisions will be made in the context of your voice, your characters, your market, your story. New Writers Rule #3Don’t follow my rules.Make your own! Enough preamble. Let’s look at some cuts. Again, the examples are taken from my actual edits of my actual manuscript . . . Example Edit: Description of Scramble to Base of Cliff Here big chunks are dropping out. Some of it is simply about removing surplus. (We didn’t need the names of six different colours of rock or lichen, for example. We didn’t need to know exactly how far Fiona had soaked herself.) But notice how the scene becomes better as a result. All the pieces were there before, but the assembly was a bit slipshod. This tighter format makes the atmospherics work better, even though there’s actually less atmospheric language. But some of the cuts also had to do with a willingness to trust the reader. So, in the first version, my narrator has said, in effect, “Look, I’ve seen the crime scene photos and I know I’m in the right spot.” The second version just drops all that. Most readers won’t even wonder how Fiona knows where to stand. Those that do can probably be trusted to think, “Oh, I guess there’d be file photos, something like that.” And notice the tiny changes. “Just about practical” becomes “manageable”. That’s a saving of just two words, but I’d say that a full third of my cuts were probably made up of such tiny things. Here are a couple more examples of tiny cuts. There were hundreds, even thousands of such things through the new draft: Here, the sense of ‘can’t see anything’ is adequately reflected in Fiona’s question, so the sentence can go. Three words saved. Yummy. And, before we move on, just one more example of tiny: One word saved. Hooray. Overall, it was rare that I came across passages (like the first passage above) that I could really hack into. Much more common was a host of small or tiny changes that cumulated to something bigger. In total, Microsoft Word reckons I made 3400 changes between the first draft and the second. Now, you can maybe quibble about the way it counts, but the point is still good. You can cut a lot of words by making a lot of small changes. It’s hard work, but you’re a writer. And work is fun. Example Edit: Description of Crime Photo Now peek at this: The very first passage was taken, not from an action scene exactly, but one with real vibrancy all the same: a quest to see if an accidental death might really be a suicide. The chunk above, however, comes from one of those scenes that all novels have aplenty. Ones that are necessary to the story, but which don’t have real dramatic frisson. So the cuts above were aimed at simply reducing word count. Not too far, of course: we still need to ‘meet’ Emmett and to feel the atmosphere of that meeting. If I’d cut too far, the text could have felt economical but bland. But still. We didn’t need that sentence starting, ‘I’d have preferred …’. And yes, that sentence does do something to characterise Fiona Griffiths, but her character is all over this novel, anyway. So keeping a sentence like that in a scene that wants to be shorter made no sense. Out it went. Example Edit: Prison Description The same kind of logic applied here: The deleted material is perfectly fine, but it characterises a location that isn’t used in the scene. Fiona encounters her ex-convict friend in the car park, not the waiting room, so I left in the bit that talks about the car park, cutting the rest. Truth is, I think I was writing myself into the prison scene with that stuff about the waiting area. You’re welcome to write yourself into the scene – just remember to delete fluff. And even that bit in the car park is a wee bit tightened. Example Edit: Getting the Rhythms Right You also need to realise that you’re seldom just cutting, even if cutting word count is your only mission. Here’s a small example of what I mean. (But again: this is all about detail.) Now all I’ve done there is delete the six words about sailing boats. (Not worth doing? But six words is 0.1% of my total reduction target! That’s massively worth it.) But you’ll notice that the bit about the Bay now jumps to the previous paragraph. No actual words have changed but, even for the staccato Ms Griffiths, that “Views …” sentence didn’t have the muscle to comprise a paragraph all on its own, so I cut the para break and the text flows better. You have to be alert to those rhythmical things all the time. Here’s another example: That first deletion (‘all’) is simply a tidying up thing. It makes the sentence shorter, yes, but it also makes it better. I’d have made the change, even if I weren’t on a hunt for word count. But notice the next bit. I deleted the sentence ‘Like the efficient …’ because I wanted to compress this (not-very-high-octane) scene, but then having done so, the repetition of the word ‘finish’ would have been too much. So the first instance goes. And the rhythm now works again: the staccato four word sentence (‘neat, swift, etc.’), followed by one that sets up the reaction shot – and a teeny bit of tension as to how Jackson will respond. Example Edit: Increasing Sentence Force And as you cut text, you’ll find you get sensitised to other little points of detail. Ones like this, for example: You’ll notice that that’s three words cut, but three words added. There’s no alteration in meaning, nor have I even fiddled about with the sentence’s key flavour-giving words (ie: best-known, king, obscure). So why make the change? The answer is that the starts and ends of sentences have more power than the middles. A sentence that ends ‘ … not the most obscure either’ is just a little less forceful than one that says ‘… nor is he the most obscure.’ I changed the sentence so that the weight could lie in the final word, not the penultimate one. Example Edit: Getting your Scene / Chapter Endings Right A similar kind of point lies behind this cut: This is the end of a chapter. The first version still leaves Fiona’s question nicely mysterious – but the last four, very short, paragraphs don’t really add any more spice than simply ending the chapter at ‘And look, there’s something else.’ Ending early and arriving late is a very good rule to remember when checking your chapter constructions. Are you getting in as close as possible to the dramatic action? Are you leaving as soon as possible thereafter? And do note that ‘dramatic action’ means anything at all which increases the story pressure in the mind of the reader. Fiona’s final question blips that pressure up a notch (what is she asking, what does she want?), so the best place to finish the scene is right there, with the reader mid-blip. What Next? Since this is a long post already, that’s probably the place to leave it. But don’t feel you have to struggle alone with your novel. We have excellent editors ready to help you identify and fix the issues in your novel. If you want help understanding the various types of editorial service available, you can find a complete (and opinionated) guide here. A useful editing resource page (via Kindlepreneur) can be found here. And as you get close to the moment of actually Getting Your Manuscript Out There, you probably want to read our guide on how to get a literary agent and our complete literary agent FAQs page here. And of course, members of Jericho Writers get tons of help and community and access to publishing professionals. We built our club to help writers exactly like you, and we’d really love it if you came and joined us. You can find out all you need to know here. We look forward to welcoming you soon. 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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Literary agents for erotica

There was a time when finding a literary agent for erotic fiction was pretty much impossible. Agents were too snobby, and the erotica genre simply didn’t pay enough money. Then along came E.L. James, and after her massive success, agents and publishers learned the value of books in the genre, and even quite highbrow agencies are now open to submissions of erotic fiction. Suffice to say that AgentMatch comprises a complete list of literary agents with a mass of data about what they want. Including erotic novels. AgentMatch And How To Use It There are a lot of erotica 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, but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, an 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. How To Get The Most From AgentMatch 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. Would you like to invest in your writing journey? 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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How to get an agent for your thriller

It’s easy to think that because you’re writing a crime novel or thriller, you need an agent who represents crime thrillers. I write crime thrillers myself, yet my agent represents Hilary Mantel, and other esteemed literary authors, authors of different genres. You’d think he wouldn’t have been the right person to represent a gritty crime thriller, yet he and his team sold my work to markets in Europe and North America. As such, you needn’t get hung up on genre. A large majority of all agents have eclectic, varied tastes. They like balance and diversity in their lists. That can mean if you go to a ‘leading’ crime agent, you may get shorter shrift than if you go to an agent whose list happens to be a bit underweight in that area – your book could be just what they’re looking for to redress the balance. Nevertheless, it makes sense to target your submissions, to know you’re writing to an agent who likes crime fiction. It’s normally fine to call up an agency to say, ‘I’ve written a book about [your subject]. Which of your agents would be most appropriate for this?’ You should keep your enquiry very brief, business-like and polite, but you may get useful information, the politer you are. (I did. My first novel was rejected by Curtis Brown. Then a receptionist told me the MD there loved my kind of book, and I resubmitted it to him, so the book was accepted almost straightaway.) A little targeting, then, is fine, just don’t overdo it. Other good tips include: Check your favourite authors and see who represents them. (Use author websites or acknowledgments pages.) This is worth doing even if your favourite author writes in a different genre from you. If you and the relevant agent happen to share a taste for a certain kind of writing, it’s a fair bet you have some overlap. Try it.Check out who represents good but lesser known authors in your category. If you are writing a conspiracy thriller and you write to Dan Brown’s agent, you’re almost certainly wasting your time, since that agent’s desk will be awash with conspiracy thrillers. Also, anyone who represents Dan Brown is likely to have the bar set high. If you find talented authors who have not yet made the big breakthrough, those agents are probably far better targets for your submission letters. If you still think that you’re somehow going to be disadvantaged if you don’t have a Very Well-Known Thriller Agent on your side … think about this: Very Well-Known Thriller Agents have long client lists (of over a hundred names) and you will be the least important person on it. Is that what you want?The Very Well-Known Thriller Agent is probably not looking for new writers at all. Most of the additions to their list will be already established writers who are moving home for some reason. Lots of ‘big’ agents take on very few genuine debut authors.Selling a book isn’t rocket science. If an agent is competent enough to sell (say) a literary novel well, they’re competent enough to sell pretty much any other sort of novel, too. It’s just not that technical. If an agent’s contacts are weak in one area, a couple of phone calls is all it will take to make the required connections. It isn’t that hard for a well-connected agent to locate the people they need to approach. (Two exceptions: fantasy or sci-fi and children’s fiction. Those two markets are reasonably specialist.)Publishers know the next wonderful book could come from anyone. When Bill Massey, my editor from Orion, opened a manuscript from Bill Hamilton (my agent), it just didn’t make a difference to him whether Bill Hamilton had an amazing track record in crime fiction. Only two things matter at that point: (1) the editor loves the book, (2) enough other people in the company love it, too. That’s it. That’s all that ever matters. The name of the agent making the submission matters for maybe half a minute. Then the editor starts reading the manuscript and the agent becomes irrelevant. All that matters is your writing. You can read up on tips for writing crime and thrillers, or more on approaching agents, but either way – best of luck. More On 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: all your questions answered

(But didn’t know who to ask.) You have a manuscript. You want it published. You know that you probably need a literary agent. But that, roughly, is where your certainty ends. And no worries: all newbie writers are in a very similar position. So here are all the questions you’re probably worrying about right now … plus some candid and totally straightforward answers. Tuck in. Have fun. And if there are other questions you’d like to ask about, just drop us a line. What are literary agents. What do agents do? ... and what is the role of the agent vs that of the publisher? Agents are primarily salespeople: their job is to sell your manuscript to a publisher. In effect, they make their living from selling your intellectual property. The buyers of that IP – your publisher, in other words – will produce and market the book to retailers and, ultimately, to readers themselves. But though literary agents are primarily salespeople, they will also: Help you edit your book into shape prior to sale (though they will only do this if your manuscript is pretty stellar in the first place.)Figure out which editors at which publishing houses are right for your work.Figure out the best approach to selling your manuscriptOversee the publication processStep in, if and when problems ariseNegotiate additional rights sales (eg: TV and film, foreign rights, audio, and so on)Offer long term advice and career guidance Agents may work solo, but typically work as part of a larger literary agency, which may have anywhere from two to a dozen or more agents. Most agents are based in New York or London, though in the US especially you’ll find literary agents in most large cities. Are literary agents free? If not, what do they cost? Literary agents charge nothing upfront. There is no fixed fee attached to their services. So how do they get paid? Instead, they charge commission, typically 15% for sales of your work to domestic publishers and 20% for more complex sales (eg: foreign or TV sales.) The two great things about this arrangement are (A) that you only pay for an agent if they succeed in selling your work, and (B) their financial incentives are almost completely aligned with yours. The not-such-a-small downside is that literary agents won’t agree to represent you unless they think they can make money. That means getting an agent is an extremely competitive business – an agent typically takes about 1 manuscript from every 1000 that she receives. (About 2/3 of agents are women.) That level of competition shouldn\'t frighten you exactly, but it should nudge you in the direction of thinking hard about the quality of what you\'re putting out there. Is your manuscript really ready to go? Have you edited it hard? Does the story shine? The single biggest mistake you can make is to send your book out before it\'s ready. If in doubt: do more. Do I need to have an agent? Are they worth it? Most big trade publishers take work seriously only if it comes via a literary agent. That means if you are writing a novel or mainstream non-fiction, you do really need an agent. That 15% commission might sting a little, but think about it. You get a seasoned pro to sell your work, advise you editorially, assist with any problems in the publication process, sell additional rights, and manage your career. Quite likely, that 15% is the best money you’ll ever spend. If your agent can’t earn you multiples of what you would have achieved on your own, then they’re not really doing their job. If you are intending to self-publish, of course, an agent is totally unnecessary – at least for now. When your sales are massive, agents will be begging you for your business ... What are literary agents looking for? Go into any large bookstore. Look on the front tables. Ignore the work of past bestsellers and focus on books by debut or other newer authors. Those books right there are the ones that literary agents are looking to buy: the sort of commercially successful debut work that commands big bucks from publishers. To find the kind of books that are making waves in your genre, you can: Look at what books in your genre are being heavily promoted by the bookstore. (Again: ignore major past bestsellers. So Stephen King will always command massive shelf space in the “horror” section, but he does that because he’s Stephen King.)Look at what books in your genre are on sale at a major supermarket.Look at Amazon bestseller lists in your genre, ignoring ignore books by self-published authors and by past bestsellers. That’ll leave you with newer, successful traditionally published authors in your genre. In a nutshell: agents are looking for books that are the same-but-different. That is, they take an existing successful concept and give it a twist that re-energises it for the same broad audience. Another thing you’ll hear from most agents is that they’re looking for an original and compelling voice – that is, they want your writing to sound fresh and distinctive. Easier said than done, we know! Where can I find literary agents? You’re in the right place. Jericho Writers has a service called AgentMatch, which represents a complete database of all literary agents in the US, UK and elsewhere. That database allows you to sort in a million different ways – for example, “Agents looking for science fiction” or “Agents in a smaller agency currently looking to expand their list.” It’s a natural first stop for almost any writer. Go here to see what AgentMatch looks like. Go here to get your free, 7-day trial (and free means free: we don’t even ask for payment details). Easy, right? How many literary agents should I query? Because it’s hard to get an agent, we strongly recommend that writers query about 10-12 agents when they are ready to submit their work. Why 10-12? Why not more? Why not fewer? We\'ll tell you: Why not more?Realistically, there are probably only 6-10 strong potential publishers for your book. That\'s one for for each of the Big 5 publishers, maybe a couple more for leading imprints within each publishing house, and maybe one or two large independent publishers too. (ie: big publishers, but just not quite on that Big 5 scale.) And publishers are harder to get than agents. Yes, most agents will sell most of the manuscripts they take on ... but their overall success rate is still probably only 2 out of 3, or something like that. So if you can\'t get 1 agent in 10 or 12 to take you on, the chances are you won\'t find a publisher. What that tells you is you need to do more damn work on your book. Only then will you be confident of success. Why not fewer?If you only go to a handful of agents, you\'ll find that some are busy, some aren\'t quite right for your book and ... whoops. You\'ve run out of agents. And if you query 10 agents, and still get nowhere: well, you know that you need to take a further look at your manuscript. If you query 10, and get an offer of representation - then well done you! Which literary agents should I choose? Let’s say, you’ve got your manuscript into shape (quite possibly with the help of our amazing editorial services). You\'ve decided (sensibly) to look for about 10-12 agents to approach. How do you pick those dozen? How do you find the ones most likely to respond to your submission? Well, there’s no fixed rule there, but here’s what we’d suggest: Look for agents who are looking to build their list. That means looking for newer / younger agents – possibly someone who has just set up their own agency, or someone who has just been promoted to agent within a larger agency.Look for agents who are open to work in your genre – AgentMatch can help with this, but do always check back against the agent’s own site, as AgentMatch doesn’t always update the instant an agent makes a change.Look for agents where you feel a point of contact. Maybe that’s something they’ve said in a blog post or interview. Maybe that’s because they represent an author you love. Or possibly something else. But look for something that speaks to you. Those three guidelines should be your guiding principles. You\'re looking for agents who want you (ie: they want new clients and they\'re active in your genre.) And you\'re looking for agents that you quite likely have something in common with (ie: those ones with some areas of identifiable overlap.) You should be able to find these agents with a morning or two\'s search. Again, you can get your AgentMatch trial here. Now it\'s time to send your work out ... How do I query a literary agent? What an agent wants to see when you query them can be a little variable, so do always check an agent’s website for details. That said, when it comes to fiction, most agents want to see: A query letter (also called a covering letter in the UK.) Details on how to write a query letter can be found here.A synopsis. A synopsis is basically a short, neutral summary of your story. To be clear, this is nothing like the blurb you’ll find on the back of a book. More info on how to write a great synopsis here.A chunk of your book itself. Typically agents want about 10,000 words / 3 chapters / 50 pages. But again, do check the agent’s site, because requirements vary quite widely. Writing a great submission pack is absolutely essential. It’s not too much to say that the fate of your query depends on it, and nothing else. To make absolutely sure you put together a great submission pack, use the Agent Submission Builder available free right here. That tool tells you how to structure both query letter and synopsis, and explains how to provide the content that the agent is looking to find. Why do literary agents reject manuscripts? The most common reason for rejection is simply that your manuscript just isn’t (yet) good enough to make the grade. An agent, or other professional reader, can very quickly tell whether: Your writing itself is poor. (If your writing itself doesn’t feel competent and professional, an agent will say ‘no’ without reading more.)Your basic concept is flawed (for example, there just isn’t a market for eco-thrillers that include long, long explanations of why plastic pollution is bad.) That said, there are a million other reasons why your manuscript might not get an instant Yes. Common reasons are: A given agent is just too busy. Their other work with existing clients is currently active enough that they have no time to spend on the slushpile.Something random. For example, an agent is looking for new clients, they like your stuff … but they’ve just taken on something really similar and can’t handle both.You haven’t properly understood what an agent’s tastes and interests are. In some cases, that’s because agents are poor at explaining what they’re after. In other cases, it’s because the information is out there, but you haven’t properly absorbed it.You haven’t queried enough agents. As we’ve already said, you need to go out to at least 10 agents to get a real feel for the market. If you are rejected, don\'t feel too downcast. I\'m Harry Bingham and I\'ve been published all over the world, in fiction, and non-fiction, multiple times. But have I been rejected? You betcha. So many times I can\'t even vaguely remember how often. By agents. By publishers. By TV and film companies. And truthfully? I hardly care. All you need is one Yes. A million Noes are neither here nor there. What if a literary agent wants to call or meet me? If an agent wants to call you or meet with you, it’s highly likely that they are very interested in your work. Any exchange between the two of you is likely to involve as much of them marketing themselves to you, as the other way round. Great. That’s the good news. In terms of you marketing yourself to the agent, you’ve already done most of the work. Your manuscript IS your marketing tool. If that’s in really great shape, you’ve done 99% of what you need to do. That said, you can make yourself seem even better, if: You are reasonably articulate. Trad publishers may want to push you out on book tours or newspaper interviews. If you can string a sentence together when in public, that’s helpful.For non-fiction authors, indeed, this capacity can be essential. I remember one Jericho Writers client who had written a great non-fiction book that got interest from three major NY publishers. Trouble was, they all wanted to meet the guy before they confirmed their indicative offers. At meetings, he was a difficult combination of over-confident and not truly articulate. None of those three offers materialised. Whoops!You are prepared for the idea that agents may want some editorial changes to your manuscript or title. Unless you really hate the idea presented by the agent, you are strongly advised to be open to their suggestions. That doesn’t mean to say there can be no further discussion … but if you seem closed to any advice at all, an agent may think you are not going to be a valuable client. A lot of the selling, however, will come from the agent’s side not yours. After all, if one capable agent loves your work, the chances are there\'ll be another one who thinks the exact same thing.So things you want to ask include: Why did you like this book? What made it stand out to you? That’s not you seeking praise. That’s you checking that your understanding of the book’s purpose matches what your agent sees.What editorial issues do you see in this book? What will I need to work on? Most books will need further work before submission. So you better make sure that you’re going to be happy with the agent’s workplan.What is the agent’s policy on communications? Will they check a draft submissions list with you? How often would they update you with progress?If your work is rejected by publishers, will the agent still want you as a client? Another way to put this is, is the agent making the choice to represent you, or the book? How involved will the agent want to be in developing and thinking about the next book you write?How involved will the agent be during the publication process? Do they intend to accompany you to publishers’ meetings?What is the agent’s attitude to self-publishing? Will they be OK with you self-publishing some material at some point in your career? It\'s worth laying down this marker now. You may well have no current intention to self-publish, but increasingly professional authors will straddle both traditional and indie publishing routes.How are foreign rights handled?How are TV and film rights handled? That gives you a great set of talking points … but in the end, your decision will be made as much in terms of chemistry as anything else. Yes, you want your agent to give the right answers to these questions – but most agents will. If you come away from your agent feeling excited, then you’ve found a perfect match. If you come away with more negative feelings, then you really may prefer to go on looking. What do I do if a literary agent rejects me? Let\'s say you\'ve sent out your work to 10-12 intelligently chosen literary agents. Here\'s the spectrum of possible responses: An agent offers you representationAn agent offers you representation if you make certain changes to your bookAn agent gives you a warm, but reluctant, rejection after having read your manuscript in fullAn agent doesn\'t ask for your full manuscript, but rejects your submission in a warm, encouraging and clearly personal way. (That is: the email or letter isn\'t just boilerplate that goes out to everyone.)An agent sends you out a form rejectionYou hear absolutely nothing at all. Unfortunately for writers, the vast majority of responses fall into the last two categories. That\'s just the brutal fact of competition in this hardest of industries. So what do you do? Well, you can give up and play golf. But you\'re not going to do that, because you\'re a writer to the tips of your tippy toes, so you\'re going to saddle up again and try again. The options facing you are roughly these: Query more agents. Not recommended unless you had 2-3 near misses from this batch of submissions.Revise your novel.Write a new bookSelf-publish. There are virtues to all of these routes. When it comes to revising your novel, I would urge you to consider getting editorial help (of the sort that we provide, for example.) Professional, third party editorial feedback remains THE gold-standard way to analyse and improve a manuscript. That\'s why we offer the service. That\'s why so many of our editorial clients go on to succeed. If you\'ve had some near-misses with agents, that\'s a screamingly huge clue telling you not to give up. If you\'re that close already, one more heave with a top quality editor (like one of ours) may well do the trick. If you think that there may be a fundamental issue with the concept behind your book, then writing a new book can be a great idea. What I would say, is that you need to make sure that your basic skills are in shape. Editorial feedback on your current manuscript is one great learning tool. Going on a writing course (like, yes, one of ours) is also a really good step to take. And because you\'ve already written one book, you\'ll be in vastly better shape to absorb and make use of the skills transmitted. And self-publishing? Well, look, I love self-publishing. But I do think you need to attack it as a Plan A type option, not a fallback because you couldn\'t crack the trad industry. Standards in self-published books are now very high, and it\'s going to be seriously hard to build a career and a loyal readership unless your books are of a quality to rub shoulders with anyone else\'s in your genre. Agents + trad publishing vs self-publishing: which is better? OK, this is a real apples-and-oranges question if ever there was one. The two publishing routes simply offer very different things and require very different approaches. The books and authors best suited to trad publishing are just different from those best suited to self-publishing. That said, for a rough guide, self-publishing will tend to be favoured by: Authors with quite an entrepreneurial, small business mindsetAuthors writing genre fiction (or subject-led non fiction, for example “How to write a business plan” or “Equine Care: all you need to know about looking after your horse”.)For authors of fiction, ones who write in series, rather than standalonesAuthors who have the capacity to be quite prolific. It’s common enough for indie authors to set 20 books as their benchmark for when they can make a full-time living from writing. Personally, I think that benchmark should be set a lot lower than that – but the point about being prolific is good, no matter what.Authors who aren’t afraid of a little tech and a few numbers. You certainly don’t need to be massively technical or numerate, but you will need to deal with a few different platforms and services and you will be dealing with some spreadsheets and some dashboards. If you hate and loathe those things, you’ll never realistically make a go of self-publishing.Authors who primarily want to make a living from writing. That means that the various other attractions of trad publishing (the kudos, having your book in physical bookstores, getting book reviews in newspapers, etc) are of relatively lower value. Traditional publishing on the other hand will work better for authors who: Prefer to hand the whole publishing process over to othersWrite more literary fiction, or one-off works of non-fiction (eg: “Fear: Trump in the White House”)Write standalones rather than seriesAre not especially prolific, and who don’t especially want to beAuthors who really don’t want to get down and dirty with mailing lists and ad-tech and all thatAuthors who place a high value on the various things that tradititional publishing can offer (the kudos, your books in physical stores, the possibility of newspaper reviews, etc) Truth is, you probably already know which kind of author you are – and if you think you know, you’re probably right! Who do I need ? Literary agents vs managers vs publicists. If you have a book to sell then you need a literary agent, period. The term “manager” just isn’t really used in the literary world, but in effect your agent is your manager. They’re going to be the one making sales on your behalf, turning down bad offers, chasing good ones, advising you on which opportunity to pursue next. And because your financial incentives are highly aligned with your agent’s, you can (nearly always) rely on the basic truthfulness of what you’re being told. On the agent versus publicist question: well, this is usually asked by people who have self-published their work on Amazon, find it’s not selling, and are wondering what to do next. If you’re in that position, then you need to ask yourself, what you really want. If you want to self-publish, then you don’t need an agent or a publicist: you need a self-publishing strategy and you need to write more books. You can find our short guide to self-pub right here. But you’ll notice that guide doesn’t talk about agents or publicists at all. Those guys can’t help. A lot of writers will want to reject that advice. Their argument will be, roughly, “Yes, but I have self-published. My book exists. Now I just need to get the word out.” Hmm. Well, an agent definitely can’t help with that: their job is selling manuscripts to publishers and you’ve chosen to self-publish. You can reverse that decision and seek trad publication instead (that’s fine), but you can’t both self-publish and have a trad deal. Hiring a publicist is a very slightly better idea, but it’s still a terrible one. For one thing, a half-decent publicist will cost $10,000 or more … and for another thing, they’ll reject the assignment. A publicist needs something to work with, and “self-pub author releases new book” just isn’t a news story. There are way over 7,000,000 e-books on Amazon. What makes yours special? Why would a newspaper or radio show want to cover your book? And truthfully, even if – which would never happen – you got a 1,000 word book review in the New York Times Review of Books, possibly the world’s most prestigious review outlet, what then? The answer is you’d sell maybe 20 or 30 additional copies, then everything would go back to just the way it was. $10,000 for 30 extra sales? It doesn’t even remotely add up. That’s why no indie author that I know uses a traditional publicist in any meaningful way. It just isn’t how self-published books get sold. (What does? Well: email lists, price promotions, book discount sites, paid advertising, cross promotions with other authors … and a whole bunch of other stuff that has nothing to do with traditionally oriented publicity.) In short: either self-publish properly, or seek proper traditional publication. Attempting some mash-up of the two will be a horribly costly way to sell almost no books at all. Oh yes, and I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, so sorry!
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Do Literary Agents Edit Manuscripts?

You asked. We answered. You’ve written your manuscript. You’ve edited hard. You are now on your fourth, seventh, nineteenth draft. You still absolutely believe in your basic concept and you are certain that you have a vocation for writing / authoring. But here’s the thing: you know your work isn’t yet good enough. Maybe you know that just because you’ve got that feelings in my bones. (And believe me: I’ve been there too.) Or maybe you’ve tried actually sending your work out to literary agents and had nothing but pre-printed rejection emails. (Or, worse, but very common – you haven’t even heard back.) So what next? It feels like a Catch-22. You want expert editing to help you over the last remaining hurdles, but the people who look like they ought to be helping you – those literary agents – aren’t even replying to your emails. So now what? And do these darn agents edit manuscripts, yes or no? Well, if you want the short answer, then it’s: Yes, they do edit manuscripts, but alsoNo, no, they really don’t. If that explanation doesn’t seem totally helpful, then I’ll see if I can make it a little clearer. When Agents Get Involved In Editing And when (more often) they don’t. When it comes to your dealings with literary agents, it’s essential to remember that these guys do not charge you anything upfront. Not a dollar, not a dime. I’ve had an agent for twenty years and I have never paid even one single penny for his or (with my first agent) her services – or not directly anyway. Because the way that agents get their money is by earning commissions on sales to publishers. So if you take the first book in my Fiona Griffiths series, my agent has made sales – and earned commission – on sales to publishers in Britain, America, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and further afield. He’s also been involved in the sale of TV rights. He’s also done a terrific audio deal for me. There may be other deals down the road too. Each time one of these deals happens, I get a wodge of money arriving in my bank account, from which the agent has deducted his little (and well-earned) sliver. The consequence of this “no fee / commission only” payment structure is that agents only get paid for their time if they make a sale – and then only if that sale is for enough money to pay them back for all that they’ve done. That’s should be easy-ish if the sale is to a Big 5 publisher and brings some overseas book deals in its wake. If the only sale is to a mid-sized or micro domestic publisher, then the agent is probably (privately) disappointed. The Tottering Slushpile If the commission-only way of doing business seems challenging, that challenge is compounded by the sheer volume of submissions that literary agents receive. That total varies from agent to agent, but about 2,000 submissions per agent per year would be typical. Of that an agent may find only 2-3 manuscripts that seem destined for the kind of advances that will generate enough revenue for an agent. The result? Predictably enough, agents will reject the vast majority of manuscripts that come their way. It’s not just that they don’t have the time to deal with those manuscripts and those clients, it’s that there’s no money in them. Most manuscripts that agents receive are just unsaleable. So When do Agents Edit? Agents will get involved in editorial advice when they come across a manuscript that: Has an excellent, saleable idea.Is written with a competent professionalism.Has a strong story.Is in the top 1%, or maybe the top 0.5% of all submissions.Is not ready to be sent to publishers as it stands. In effect, when an agent offers to get involved editorially, they are thinking, roughly: “Look, if I sent this manuscript out as it is, I might get offers, but I don’t think they’d be very strong ones... and actually, I might just get fistful of rejections. And I certainly don’t want that. “Then again, I can’t helpfeeling that this manuscript could do really well, if I put in the 2-3 dozen hours needed to get this manuscript into shape. Yes, the writer themselves will be doing the actual work here – my job will be one of guidance only; I’m not going to be making hands-on changes to the manuscript myself. “But with my input, and if the writer works hard and makes the changes I recommend? Then yes, I think this could be a really profitable (and fun, and artistically rewarding) project. I’m going to reach out to this author. Yay!“ As a writer, that’s good to hear on a number of levels. You don’t want a real estate guy who just dumps your house on the market without telling you to mow your overgrown lawn and fix that sagging guttering. You want the real estate person who forces you to fix the house up for sale, in order that you get the very best price. So the fact that agents are willing to be engaged, active and intelligent in how they sell your book is great to hear. But from your perspective, as writer, there are two crucial qualifications to take away. Crucial Thing the FirstYour manuscript has to be really, really good already.You can’t just use agents as a free pass to solving the difficulties that you and your manuscript face. If you send an agent a mediocre manuscript, you stand no chance at all of engaging them qua editor. In fact, because the competition is so intense, you won’t get an agent involved even if your book is really quite good. The sad fact is that “really quite good” isn’t even close to the standard agents are looking for. Crucial Thing the SecondSome agents are really strong editorially, and love doing it.Others just aren’t that strong and don’t pretend to be. After all, an agent’s core job as is as saleswoman (or, less often in this industry, salesman.) My first agent – who was great – told me directly when I engaged her that she just wasn’t that great at editing books, but she was a powerhouse when it came to selling them. These days, I’d say that all agents have had to become more hands on when it comes to polishing manuscripts prior to sale, but there’s still a reason why editors edit, and agents sell. In effect, using an agent as an editor is a bit like using a carpenter as a bricklayer. Sure, carpenters are skilled and multi-talented. They’ll probably do a pretty good job of building that wall, but . . . If You Want An Editor, Hire An Editor! There are plenty of freelance editors around. We at Jericho Writers built our business and our reputation by offering superb editorial advice to writers just like you. And what you get is editing, editing, editing. You pay for our input, and you get our full, committed, detailed assessment of your manuscript, along with a ton of recommendations about what to do and how to do it. Now you probably think that, because we make money from editing, and because we’ve had a huge number of success stories, I’m going to tell you to rush over to us for editorial help. Well, no. I’m not. You can’t use editorial input as a shortcut. Successful writers always put the hard yards in themselves. Some writers think something like this: “Hey, I’ve completed my manuscript. I’ve done a couple of quick read-throughs for typos and that kind of thing. I’ve emailed my manuscript out to a few dozen literary agents, but no one offered to take me on and they won’t help me edit my book, even though I asked really nicely. So, OK, maybe I need to pay someone to get this book into shape.” If you think like that, then you won’t make the grade as a writer and, to be honest with you, you aren’t the sort of client that we especially love dealing with. I mean, sure, we’ll work with anyone, and we’ll do our level professional best for you. But our favourite clients? They are always, always the super-committed ones. Remember: Writing is rewriting. Self-editing is the art of sifting through your manuscript and checking it for everything. Surplus words, sentences, paragraphs and scenes. Faulty, vague or unconvincing characterisation. Weak dialogue. Weak plotting. Problems with pace or viewpoint. Basically, you need to think like an author and work these things out for yourself, as far as you are possibly able. You will benefit in three ways. First, your manuscript will get better (probably a lot better). Secondly, your own skills as an author will grow. Thirdly, your pride and confidence will – quite rightly – grow and blossom. So, OK, you do all that and then you may still need editorial help. And that’s fine. Maybe you’ll just know for yourself that your manuscript needs work. Or maybe you’ll try your luck with literary agents and not get the response you wanted. Or maybe you’ve been scratching away at a dissatisfaction with your work, and have found yourself going round in circles. If you fit into any of those categories, then, yes, you do need third party editorial help and, yes, we at Jericho Writers would absolutely love to give it. We are here to deliver outstanding editorial services to committed writers, and we would be deeply honoured to work with you. In the meantime, happy writing, happy editing and (when you’re good and ready to send your work out) happy agent-hunting too! 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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The Slush Pile: The Truth Vs Myths

Slaying The Myths There are many contrasting opinions on the internet as to whether agents actually care about slushpile-type submissions. Well, no one knows literary agents better than us, so we’ll tell you straight what’s true and what’s not. And, above all, the thing to bear in mind is this: most hyper-successful authors of today were once slushpile authors, just like you. Literary agents accepting unsolicited submissions is how the majority of deals between agents and writers come about. Any agent will tell you that, yes, there is plenty of dross in the slushpile – but there are diamonds too. And most agents love that search for diamonds. So, with no more ado, here are the myths … and here is the truth. Definition: What Is The Slush Pile? What is the slushpile? It’s basically all unsolicited submissions to literary agents. And since most submissions to literary agents are unsolicited – that is, the agent doesn’t know about you upfront; there is no back-corridor of private recommendation involved – the simple truth is that most submissions to agents, the overwhelming majority in fact, are slushpile submissions. So what isn’t a slushpile submission? Examples would be: One of an agent’s existing clients recommends a particular new writer, and the agent looks at that writer’s work.An agent comes across a broadcaster or journalist with interesting things to say on a particular topic, and makes contact directly to enquire about a possible book.One literary agent leaves her firm and her clients are parcelled out to other agents. And so on. Yes, these can all be important channels of client-acquisition for an agent. And yes, more senior, more experienced agents may source quite a high proportion of their new clients through routes like these. But at pretty much every literary agency in London and New York, the vast majority of incoming submissions will come via the slushpile – people like you, packaging up their work and sending it off, with fingers crossed and candles lit. And at pretty much every literary agency in New York and London, those submissions will be sifted, sorted and taken seriously. And no wonder! JK Rowling came through the slushpile. So did Hilary Mantel. So did Dan Brown. So did … well, most authors. And that’s why, though the term “slushpile” sounds dismissive, it really isn’t. It doesn’t mean “these manuscripts are rubbish.” It means, “these manuscripts are the feedstock for our industry”. Yes, there’s trash in there, but there are nuggets of pure gold as well. So don\'t be put off; \"slush pile hell\" really isn\'t all that bad. Slushpile Myths … And Slushpile Realities Myth #1: Agents Don’t Want Slush Pile Submissions. It’s true that there are some agents who really don’t. Those would include (a) agents winding their business down prior to retirement, (b) those agents who are senior enough that they can find good new authors via private recommendations, etc, (c) those who source a majority of their new clients from the media and other ‘celebrity’ type sources. But those guys are in a minority – and are usually very easy to spot. Basically, high profile agents are usually in that category. Ditto many (but not all) older ones. Ditto those with a client list stuffed full of bestsellers. Unless you have a media/celeb background, or you have real reason to think your work is remarkable, you should simply avoid those agents. They’re probably not right for you. (After all: would you really want to be those guys’ least important client? I’m thinking not.) Apart from those guys – who account for maybe only 5-10% of all agents – pretty much everyone wants submissions. We know incredibly reputable, well-established agencies with fabulous clients who have consulted with us to discover exactly how they can increase their slushpiles. Why? It’s simple: the slushpile is where the brilliant authors lie. After all, as every literary agent knows, J.K. Rowling came from the slushpile. So did Zadie Smith. So did Hilary Mantel. (See for example this interview.) So, if to comes to that, did I, along with pretty much ALL new writers. Apart from existing celebrity and media types, pretty much every single new fantastic author emerges from the slushpile or, these days, from an out-of-nowhere self-publishing success. Because agents know that and because agents have to keep their client lists replenished with new talent, they care about the slushpile. In those hills, there be gold. Myth #2: Agents Don’t Look At 99% Of The Manuscripts That Get Submitted. They do. OK, there may be times when agents are just overwhelmed with work and things go pear-shaped, but those times are exceptions, at any rate in any well-run agency. But good agencies, nearly always, will look at everything that comes in. But notice that I say “look at”, not “read”. The truth is that about 90% of manuscript submissions reveal themselves as not-good-enough very quickly indeed. There are three basic ways a submission can fail. Those are: A writer simply can’t put a sentence together. Those famous ‘green ink’ manuscripts are actually relatively rare. They’re the smallest category we’re dealing with here. If you’re together enough to be reading this blog post, you’re almost certainly not in that category. Some agents have actually died from an excess of bad grammar.The concept for the book just can’t work. A Young Adult book that’s 150,000 words long? A cosy little book about the author’s talking parrot? A highly didactic work of fantasy-fiction aimed at teaching 8 year old kids about groundwater pollution? There are, unfortunately, books which fail before you hit the opening sentence. The most common problem is that they haven’t answered the question of what would make this book stand out from the crowd. You must have a good answer to that question.There are signs of clunky, awkward or amateurish writing on the opening page. Our friends at the Writers’ Workshop periodically run events called ‘Slushpile Live’, where (remarkably brave) writers read their opening page out to a panel of literary agents. Those agents then play Simon Cowell and say what they really think, live, with no previous exposure to the writer or the manuscript. And the good manuscripts are really, really easy to spot. Ditto the ones that are clearly not yet strong enough. That sounds brutal, but it’s not really. There’s a quality threshold to enter the industry. You have to meet that threshold. If you don’t, then no one wishes you ill, but your work is not yet ready. If your work fails any of these three tests, it’ll be rejected – and the agent may spend as little as a minute making the decision. That’s not because the agent is evil, but because you haven’t yet met the standard. If you pass the opening scrutiny (good concept, check; decent writing, check), the agent simply has to read on. If your first three chapters still glitter with promise, they have to request the rest. And if the rest of the manuscript is wonderful – well, hell, you’ve got representation. (Did we hear someone whimpering in there?) Myth #3: It’s An Agent’s Job To Deal With The Slushpile. It isn’t. Talk to any agent at all and they will tell you that their regular day job (from, say, 9 am to 6 pm) is to work constantly on behalf of their existing authors: negotiating contracts, chasing up royalties, solving problems, meeting publishers. Of course agents know that if they don’t take on new and fabulous authors, their business will slowly wither – but 99% of agents will be dealing with their slushpile material during evenings and weekends. (These guys work hard: they’re always reading.) That means you need to cut agents some slack. There just will be times when life goes crazy for them. The big book fairs (London, Frankfurt, Bologna) are always very intense. If several existing authors deliver manuscripts at much the same sort of time, the agent in question HAS to prioritise those and will simply have to neglect his growing slushpile until they’re properly dealt with. It also means you need to take care of the agent’s reasonable needs. If your covering letter is a little too long, or unclear about what kind of book yours is, or makes any of those other niggly-but-annoying mistakes that agents often talk about – well, hell, remember that the agent is probably reading your stuff at 9.30pm, after a full day in the office. That’s not a good time to start annoying somebody with trivial little details that it was your job to get right in the first place. So get them right. Myth #4: Good Agents Will Offer Feedback To Slush Pile Writers. Not true. Never true, in fact. Yes, if an agent loves a book, they might offer representation even though they know that that book will need to go through another couple of drafts. (Or more. I spoke to one agent recently who was working with a writer on his sixth draft. So don\'t be afraid to be your own editor, but also know that you can query an agent with your work before it\'s \'perfect\'.) But agents can only offer that much input to actual or probable clients. There’s no way they can get into discussions on the 999 in 1,000 manuscripts they don’t take on. (And, anyway, if a detailed editorial input is what you’re after right now, why would you go to an agent whose main job is about selling manuscripts, not editing them?) Myth #5: Agents Get Their Assistants To Do The Work For Them. This is sometimes kind of true, but the implications are way different from what you think. When you see writers on the Internet saying, “Oh, that agent, I know he never read my work because [whatever particular piece of evidence is summoned in this particular instance,” they might actually be right. Basically, as agents get more senior, they’re increasingly likely to delegate chunks of their day to day activity. So, very roughly, the picture looks like this: New/young/hungry agents: they want to actively build client lists, as they don’t have a body of existing authors to sustain them. Those guys can’t afford to delegate anything to anyone, and probably don’t have assistants anyway. Every single interaction you have in relation to these manuscripts comes straight from the agent him or herself.Established agents. These guys are still open to new clients. They might take on 1-2 new authors a year, straight from the slushpile. But a lot of these folks will have some kind of assistant, and a big part of that assistant’s role is to do a first-cut filtration of the slushpile. It’ll work differently in different agencies (one notable agency, for example, employs a reader whose only job is to reduce the slushpile). Others will use their PAs as first-cut readers. Or whatever. But even so, these people will be looking at the top 1-5% from their slushpile and making their own decisions. If you get rejected before this stage, you may well get a note from the assistant’s desk. After that, the note will more likely come direct from the agent.Senior agents. These guys may never directly read a slushpile submission, but they will have a system that places the very best-of-the-best manuscripts on their desks – perhaps at the rate of 1-2 a month. It’s unlikely that these folk ever send a sorry-but-no message, unless yours is that truly exceptional manuscript which gave them pause. Now if you get rejected by an agent’s assistant (or reader, or even receptionist) you might think that you simply haven’t had an opportunity to put your work in front of the only person whose decision matters. But that’s not true! Any half-competent agency knows that the slushpile could well contain the next JK Rowling, the next Stephenie Meyer. They can’t afford to let those gems get away – and they mostly don’t. I know one leading London agency whose receptionists are hired, mostly, for their literary skills. Yes, they need to be able to answer the phone without dropping it, but their essential function is to act as really thoughtful, careful readers of a manuscript. They are trained very carefully and supervised very closely. And they get it right! It just isn’t that hard, in truth. Most manuscripts that come to any agency are just clearly not good enough. As the quality level rises, the decisions get tougher – but those decisions are passed upwards in the chain until they reach the person competent to make the decision. But absolutely no one can afford to be the person who said no to Rowling/Meyer/Suzanne Collins/whoever, so if your MS has real merit it will come to sit on the right desk. Myth #6: Agents Only Care About Bestsellers, They’re Only In This Game For The Money. Just wrong, this one. No one goes into the literary business for money. I mean, that would be like going to the Sahara for its watersports. Every single agent I know is in the biz because they love books, love stories, love writing, love authors. They love written culture and being in the swim of its creation. I don’t know a single agent who would take on a work he didn’t like (*) just for the dosh. It just doesn’t happen. All that said, of course agents are keen to represent books that may sell a lot of copies. That’s called being a sane businessperson and doing a great job for your clients. If my agent didn’t want my books to sell by the truckload, I’d get a different agent. [David Godwin took on Pippa Middleton for her party book. Since David Godwin is noted for his high-end literary list, her addition to that list raised a few eyebrows at the time.] Myth #7: Agents Care About Your Social Media Profile. Of course they don’t. If you got a manuscript in your slushpile that was just as amazingly brilliant as Wolf Hall, why would you give a tuppenny damn about the author’s Twitter following? Answer, you wouldn’t. There are exceptions, of course, but they only work positively, not negatively. So Ben Goldacre (author of Bad Science, etc.) has a massive online presence and that presence would impel any sane agent/editor to offer hm a deal. But you need Twitter followers in the tens of thousands (ideally hundreds of thousands) to make a real difference there. Ditto, when it comes to blog followers. If you have that, great. If not, don’t worry about it. Few writers do, and very few novelists do. Myth #8: Agents Care About Who You Are, What You Look Like, How Old You Are, Etc. They don’t. Or rather, it’s the same as above. Most writers (including yours truly, Harry Bingham) are middle-aged writers of no particular beauty or celebrity, and that’s just the way it is. Which is fine. No one cares. Indeed agents will often remind you that Mary Wesley began a string of bestselling books in her seventies. On the other hand, if you are incredibly beautiful and would be wonderful on TV and have an incredible backstory, those things will help, a bit, but not much. Asked to choose between a comely author with a mediocre manuscript and a plain one with a wonderful one, every agent on the planet will prefer the latter. So will publishers. Click here for more tips on finding an agent. 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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Do literary agents want self-published authors?

Authors? A few years ago, most literary agents were snobby about self-published work. And rightly so. A few years back, it was genuinely the case that a large majority of self-published authors wrote bad books that were poorly edited with terrible covers and sales to match. There were some breakout successes – there always have been – but they were rare enough that no agent wanted to tramp those stony fields in the hopes of finding something to grow. That’s Changed. There are, still, plenty of lousy self-published books, but the average standard has improved in almost every dimension. Book covers look vastly better, for one thing. If you go to the Amazon Kindle bestseller list (here), you’ll find traditionally published and self-published books selling alongside each other – but I defy you to guess which is which from the covers alone. And then because Amazon has made it easy for readers to complain about poor copyediting and weak storytelling, writers have responded by improving their attitude to those things too. It’s true that many of the self-pub successes (Joe Konrath, John Locke, EL James, and many others) write genre fiction aimed squarely at the lower end of the market – but they tell their stories well for the market they aim at. And it’s not as though traditional publishers are averse to those markets. On the contrary, Random House was happy to take EL James’s work and turn it into the biggest publishing event of the decade. And – no surprise – agents have noticed all this. Remember: they want any author whose work is strong and saleable. They truly don’t care where that author comes from (and don’t care much about who the author is either, for that matter.) If an author self-publishes a novel that starts to get a considerable following on Amazon, then agents will be interested. Though the hurdles are high. As a rough guide, I’d suggest that: if you are selling print copies of your book, you would need to sell 5,000+ to earn an agent’s interest. (And it would also raise the question of why you weren’t selling electronically. These days, self-pub increasingly means e-pub – not least because it’s vastly easier to accumulate sales if your novel starts to attract readers.)if you are selling e-books at low prices (£3.99 or less), you would need to sell, let’s say, 30,000 copies or so to make a persuasive case. Remember that a regular publisher may well double the price of your e-book and will probably price a paperback at £7.99 or so, which means that some of the sales achieved at lower prices would be choked off by the move to the mainstream.if you are selling your e-book as a free download, then you would need to hit 50,000 downloads before a publisher could get excited. Those numbers are broadly true of the UK market, but you can probably double them for the US market – perhaps even more than double them. And I’m assuming here that we’re talking about a real, proper mainstream publisher – either one of the Big Five Publishers, or one of the major independents (Bloomsbury, Faber, Canongate, for example.) A smaller, niche publisher might well start to get interested at volumes somewhat smaller than those I’ve mentioned – perhaps about 2/3 smaller. If you want to boost your chances still further, then it helps if you: Can demonstrate that you are energetic and resourceful when it comes to self-promotion. A good website, an active Twitter account with good followers, a decent Facebook presence: all those things can add to your look as an author who can make the most of any opportunities. Those things won’t swing a deal all by themselves (see our sceptical comments here), but they do demonstrate that you are a business-minded author and that will helpCan show a lot of 5-star reviews. We know of one fine author whose book generated huge free download interest on Amazon, but crucially also generated a ton of 5-star reviews. I suspect that her reviews did as much as her downloads to persuade Accent Press to take her on.Can write a lot. One of the key “how-to” titles for the self-pub market is called “Write. Publish. Repeat.” Successful genre authors on e-platforms just generate a lot of text. That means a minimum of one book per year, but in some cases it means a fair bit more (even if one of the “books” is a free novella or short story, basically given away to readers at Christmas, or whatever.) The rapid-fire approach to writing generates plenty of snobbery from more literary types, but it is a technique that mainstream publishers have experimented with and, indeed, ploughed a ton of money into at times. If you’re ticking these boxes, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t approach agents with every expectation of keen interest in you and your work. To find those agents, follow the rules that we talk about elsewhere on this site, namely: Use our search pages to locate about 8-12 agents who are active in your area and where you feel points of contact.Use our “who represents who?” function to discover agents who may have helped other self-pub authors turn traditional.Make a proper professional approach to agents using these guidelines.Do be specific about your sales and review stats. Don’t massage them into looking better than they really are: agents will want to show proof to publishers, so expect to have your figures checked up on. Anyone who succeeds in selling a lot of books, whether that’s self-pub, trad-pub, or any-other-sort-of-pub, deserves respect. It’s not easy to achieve, and if you’ve done it, you’ve done very well. We congratulate you!
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What Is Middle Grade Fiction?

How aware are you of the market you’re writing for? Despite the MG label being reserved for readers aged 8-12, defining Middle Grade literature is tricky. Many young gifted readers will move out of picture books and onto Middle Grade fiction before aged 8. Other readers aged 12 or older still happily peruse Middle Grade books. This is no ‘one size fits all’ age group. (Just as for adults, there’s no ‘correct’ genre, only taste.) Books are all being tested, tried out, at Middle Grade. This outlines some things worth remembering if you’d like to write for the loose label of this age range and find out more about the world of Middle Grade fiction publishing. 1: Read All The Middle Grade Fiction You Can – And Make Sure It’s Relevant Read the popular fiction you know is being read now by this age group. Perhaps you’ve heard of L.M. Montgomery or Lewis Carroll, Anne of Green Gables or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but have you heard of Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppers,  or R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder? If not, and you want to write for MG readers, start learning these popular authors writing in the market today. Begin reading their books, especially, the sorts of books you’d like to be writing yourself. Children aren’t hypocrites, and they won’t wait for pace to pick up or give a book a chance if they’re not gripped immediately. Agents, librarians, and Middle grade fiction publishers – the curators and ‘gatekeepers’ of children’s’ fiction – will be thinking along these lines. You’ll need to know what books prospective readers are reading, so understand these titles to understand your audience. Popular books are reflective of tastes. What common themes are there? Which characters seem to appeal, and which common elements do you sense are enjoyed, and which could you emulate yourself? You’ll need your novel similar enough and yet entirely original. You must create a book that fits into the market, but is different enough to pique readers’ curiosities. There are many books published about animals, for instance, like The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, or The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse. There are many books about dragons, like Eragon by Christopher Paolini, Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, or The Dragons of Kilve Court by Beth Webb, to name a few more. If you are writing a book about dragons, animals, or anything else, how will you differentiate your story and make it authentic, whilst still similarly appealing to all these books readers enjoy? It’s a difficult balance to find, but reading currently popular Middle Grade titles will help. 2: Engage With Complexity Certain tropes – animal stories, fairy stories – will likely hold appeal always and be revisited by authors and publishers time and again. All the same, don’t take this to feel that anything will do, or that writing for children is easier than writing for adults. It isn’t. As Joan Aiken, author of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, has said, a good children’s book ‘should not be perfunctory, meaningless, flat.’ Again, reading and developing your awareness of the market is key. Look for richness. Whilst some children will always be more sensitive than others, most can handle the thrills and scares of Middle Grade fiction. Yours aren’t picture book readers, where any darker elements need to be sillier, funnier for very small children to read about. The success of books like Lauren Oliver’s Liesl and Po, or Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book shows that MG readers are often braver than adults may credit. In Liesl and Po, Liesl is held captive in her attic room, whilst The Graveyard Book’s macabre premise is set chiefly in a cemetery and about an orphan raised by ghosts, yet is still moving and punctured with hilarity. You’ll need to (gently) indicate to these children the world isn’t simplistic. Your readers are flexing and growing their imaginations. Jacqueline Wilson is just one writer exploring children’s issues sensitively through the eyes of her characters; like Andy facing parents’ divorce in The Suitcase Kid, Mandy facing bullies in Bad Girls, or Tracey facing foster care in The Story of Tracey Beaker. The voices of her protagonists are authentic, her stories never condescending. ‘If I write about a problem, I’d like to find some solutions,’ Wilson has said of her fiction. She shares hope. There’s no need to worry you’ll be dampening moods by engaging with complexity, either. You might be writing the book someone needs. Children look for literature tying in with their experiences, as well as exploring new experiences outside their own. A book could just help change a life. Alternatively, engage in pure, unbridled imagination to enhance and help build children’s imaginative faculties, like Haroun leaving this world on the back of a mechanical bird in Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, or Colin Meloy’s Prue and Curtis discovering Wildwood. Whatever you write, you should always find means to convey that the world is a sprawling, dark and complex place. Children are growing, but they’re tough, sharper than some adults allow, and this audience mustn’t be underestimated. 3: Leave Room For Diversity Whilst there are topics which might not be appropriate for younger children, there’s no need to render books didactic, and many things are writable for younger audiences if they’re written with grace and deftness. Again, to have an idea of what this deftness may look like, you’ll have to read around. Read David Walliams’ The Boy in the Dress, Donna Gephart’s Lily and Dunkin, or The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman. Children needn’t grow up with adult prejudices, biases that perhaps otherwise wouldn’t occur to them. Another means of handling issues, of course, is to dress them up in fantasy. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets are the only clear Middle Grade titles of J.K. Rowling’s series. The series, from an early point, has helped increase tolerance in young readers, dealing frequently  with the stigmas attached unfairly to groups (i.e. to Muggles, and to house-elves in the case of Dobby and the Malfoys). These themes are implicit early on, unpacked later; but at the close of the second book, Harry has compassion on Dobby, rescuing him with ‘clothes’. Stories can therefore lay the foundations of empathy and acceptance in the real world – and this is a big thought. You have some responsibility as a writer. Beware overt morals, beware didacticism, and write a story with implicit themes that explores, questions, shines a light and encourages contemplation. (Yes, they’re young. They can handle it.) 4: Remember What Children Are Reading For Know your audience. You can’t write about living in a child’s shoes unless you know or can remember well. If you can’t remember or don’t care, find someone else to write for. Middle Grade readers are reading to explore, to flex imagination, and to discover the world. They’ll be open to new worlds and dynamic characters, to hilarity and thrills, adventure and enchantment. Write to appease these traits and to open minds (as opposed to informing them, unless you’re writing non-fiction, which is very different). If you need more advice on your novel, a manuscript assessment can give you invaluable feedback with insights into commercial perspective driving Middle Grade publishing. It’ll help you harness your own voice in a way that sounds both raw and compelling in Middle Grade fiction. Or for more encouragement and inspiration, take a look at more free advice. 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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Literary agents for historical fiction

Literary agents for historical fiction Historical fiction remains a wonderfully rich and diverse section of the market. At the top, it comprises such stellar talents as the multi-prize winning Hilary Mantel. But it also includes the commercial talents of Kate Mosse and Phillipa Gregory, the bloodthirsty or thrilling talents of Conn Iggulden and Robert Harris, not to mention such weird and wonderful things as Victorian-inspired steampunk fantasies and even historical erotica. All this suggests (correctly) that historical fiction is a vibrant, intelligent and lively genre but it also means that locating the right literary agent to handle your particular novel is potentially more complex than it would be if, say, you had just authored a simple police procedural. After all, the agent who represents Hilary Mantel might not be the right person to handle your steampunk fantasy. Mere interest in history isn’t enough of a connecting line. That’s why when you have created a longlist of possible agents, you need to filter them. Try to find points of contact with individual agents. (Ah, that person represents my favourite authors, that one has an interest in all things Irish and my book is partially set in Dublin, etc., etc.) Those sorts of things give you subtle additions to your covering letter and may point to the kind of agent who will love your work. AgentMatch And How To Use It AgentMatch provides a full list of every UK literary agent, with full details of what genres they’re interested in, and details on whether they’re seeking clients or not. In short, if you’ve written a novel and you’re looking for an agent, then you’re in exactly the right place. There are plenty of history-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. historical) 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 crime, thrillers and action novels

Written a thriller or work of crime fiction and need a literary agent? You’re in the right place. AgentMatch has a complete list of every agent in the UK with full detail about who they are and what kind of work they represent. So here’s what you do. Head over here.Click on the “select genres” box and choose “Crime & thrillers” from the pop-up list.You’ll find that there are a huge number of agents who represent work in this area. (Basically: most of them will happily represent crime; there are just about no agents who specialise only in that area.) So you’ll need to filter your list some more. Use our other search tools to bring your selection down to a manageable total.Then dive into individual agent profiles and read what each agent says about themselves.Make your final shortlist selection The twist in the tail All you need to access all our lovely data and search functionality? 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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Predictions in book publishing

Over the years, there have been countless bold (and sometimes barmy) predictions about the future of the publishing industry – and of course the industry is still evolving at a rate unprecedented since Guttenberg first looked at a wine press and thought, ‘Hey, now hang on a minute…’ The rate of change means that the future remains highly uncertain, but then, as the cyberpunk writer William Gibson commented, ‘The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.’ Gibson’s point is well made. The trends that will determine the future are here today. Making predictions about that future really come down to a judgement about how those trends are going to play out. What follows is a set of predictions and to each one I’ve assigned a probability rating of how likely it is to happen. I should also be clear that I’m not talking about publishing as a whole, or even book publishing – just that corner of it (‘trade publishing’) which deals with fiction and non-fiction for the general reader. Oh, and the illustrations that dot this piece? They’re visions of the future from the past, just to remind us all that I’ve probably got absolutely everything wrong. Print Publishing Will Collapse Probability: <10% Print publishing is plainly not collapsing. The ebook share of trade publishing is hovering at about 21% overall, and about 38% for adult fiction. (Figures true for the US; British ones are not that different.) There are serious suggestions by people on the e-book side of things that the ebook market is going to shrink in 2014, rather than expanding. For what it’s worth, I’d guess that the ebook market share will actually grow a little over time, but not so fast that it won’t have down years as well as up years. Either way, print publishing is here to stay. The Big Book Chains Will Go Bankrupt Probability: >30% I desperately hope the chains don’t go out of business. They do a wonderful job. They are culturally vital. They are essential for ‘discoverability’. And of course, there are genres which are highly dependent on print sales through bookshops. I would also say that, in the UK, Waterstones’ new management is doing a terrific job in challenging circumstances and if anyone can turn the chain around, then they’re the people to do it. All that said, until the big book chains (here and in the US) prove themselves able to make a consistent non-marginal profit, the doubt has to remain. At the moment, Waterstones is in loss as is Barnes & Noble in the US. That’s scary. Publishers Will Consolidate Probability: 100% I’ve slightly cheated there because the consolidation is already happening. Penguin/Random House is the landmark deal for sure, but Hachette has just announced the acquisition of Perseus in the US. These things will progress. The big operators are going to get bigger. That will also mean that Amazon will have a tough job pushing publishers around, because both sides simply need each other too much. Random Penguins wouldn’t, most likely, be profitable without Amazon – but Amazon can’t be the everything store if it doesn’t stock a third of the books market. Price Pressures Will Ease, But Prices Will Still Come Down Probability: 70% Again: the future is with us now. When ebooks first became a force in the industy, publishers tried to maintain paperback style pricing for a digital product. That was a vain attempt and indie publishers simply raced in to the gap left open. Result: publishers allowed ebook prices to float – but those indie publishers who actually wanted to make money as opposed to simply finding readers, realised that revenue maximisation was likelier to happen around the $3-5 range than the $0.99 one. What we see now is probably where prices will settle, give or take a bit of ongoing downward movement. A revenue collapse in publishing analogous to what happened in the musical download market simply has not taken place, and it’s in no one’s interest (except readers’) that it should. Piracy Will Kill Writing For Profit Probability: <10% See above. Essentially this hasn’t happened and won’t happen, except that what happens in each different national market depends on things like the attitude to piracy, the effectiveness of official sanctions, the price level in that market, the ease of using legitimate services, and so on. So yes, there could be major problems in specific national markets, but there won’t be an apocalypse. Phew! Big Publishers Will Print More Trash … And Micro-publishers Will Take A Larger Share Of Literary Prizes Probability: 100% Again, this is a part of the future that has essentially happened and won’t reverse. Random House made a huge amount of money and everyone else followed suit to the best of their ability. Likewise, the indie revolution has shown that there are plenty of low-brow genre works that readers are happy to gobble up. Big Publishing has always been about turning a buck, so it’s only logical that publishers are happy to go where readers lead them. The flip side of that coin is that Big Publishing has long struggled to make a go of ‘smaller’ literary novels. The number of those things being published by the big guys has fallen sharply over the years and that’s not about to reverse. But of course, terrific literary fiction is still being written and there are still people passionate enough (and financially crazy enough) to ensue that the stuff gets published. Our own Elly Millar and Sam Jordison (two of our fine editors) founded Galley Beggar Press out of passion – and they’ve just had their first absolutely smash hit success. Such stories are far more common than they were, and will only go on increasing. Ebooks Will Dominate Various Niches And Be Almost Irrelevant In Others Probability: 75% In the US, crime fiction is already an ebook genre. Some 75% of sales are electronic, and the ratio for romance (if we include indie authors, as we ought to) is probably even greater. SFF, paranormal romance, fan fiction, anything dystopian … all these are areas where ebooks do and will continue to predominate. With literary fiction, the reverse is true. It’s hard to think of a single literary novel which arose out of the e-book industry and there will be very few where print sales don’t predominate. Those things show no signs of altering. The Old Channels Of Acclaim Still Matter Probability: >80% Following on from the above point, literary novelists are still highly dependent on the old channels of acclaim. All the old methods for establishing reputations still apply: prominence in bookshops, good reviews, puffs from Important People, festivals and mainstream media appearances. For non-literary types, those things may be less essential – it’s easy to think of a genre sensation arising without any of those things. James Oswald, would be just one example. EL James and High Howey would be others. There are a lot of them. That said, however, a good majority of genre authors – especially mid- and upmarket genre authors – are well served by those old channels and breakout exceptions in these areas will continue to be the exception not the rule. There Will Be Swaths Of Non-fiction Where Indie Authors Will (Or Should) Predominate Probability: 50% Want a good book on bee-keeping? Or help you improve your archery, or groom your poodle? If so, your local bookshop will almost certainly disappoint you. Very few bookshops stock a range of titles large enough to house these kind of niche non-fiction needs, which means that you will almost certainly head to Amazon or some other online seller. But that raises the question what publishers are for in these areas. For sure, they can edit, copy-edit, design and print a book – but those things are all fairly easily purchased elsewhere. In return, publishers currently ask for 75% of all ebook receipts and a somewhat similar share of receipts from bookshops (net of printing & logistics costs). For most authors, that’s a pretty lousy deal. Indeed, I’ve written two such non-fiction titles in my time (How to Write and Getting Published). One of those books sees about 2/3 of its total sales taking place online. The other sees more than 4/5 of its sales down that route. Now I’m no idiot: I could perfectly well have self-published both titles. I’d have lost some – not many – bookshop sales, but I’d have made a stack load by retaining the full share of receipts from Amazon. Most niche non-fiction authors will be in a similar position. At present, it’s fair to say that most non-fiction authors haven’t noticed these new economics (and I sold those two titles a few years back when the market was different), but that’ll change. The one slam-bam advantage that regular publishers do have and will retain is the kudos of having a ‘properly’ published book. Which is weird, when you think about it: regular publishing could become the new vanity publishing, for certain categories of title at any rate. More ‘traditional’ Authors Will Go Hybrid; Successful Indie Authors Will Also Team With Traditional Publishers Probability: 80% It’s already happening and will happen ever more and with bigger names. And the logic is inescapable. It’s incredibly easy and cheap to e-publish – and though Big Publishing will continue to have clout and authority, those advantages are not insuperable. Plenty of ‘trad’ authors will think that giving conventional publishers 75% of e-royalties for, erp, just what exactly? is a game not worth playing. So we’ll see trad authors (like Barry Eisler) go indie … but we’ll also see indie authors use traditional routes wherever it makes sense. Hugh Howey, for example, is held up (with good reason) as the voice of Indie Publishing, but he also partners up with traditional publishers wherever it makes sense. And quite right too. It’s not ideology; it’s business. This trend will sharpen abruptly over the next few years and will start to include some big conventional names. And that’s good if you’re an author, potentially scary if you’re a publisher. Indie Authors Will Go On Professionalising Probability: 75% Time was when you could tell an indie book cover at a hundred yards, and not in a good way. Ditto, when it came to presentation, copy-editing and story-telling. But even at $0.99, readers want a decent read and authors have responded. Editorial excellence still matters. So does strong presentation. Indie authors have learned those lessons and there will be an ever-smaller gap between the well-published indie novel and the traditionally published sort. Obviously, I’m biased, but I do think that editorial services like our own will continue to matter. (And if your novel needs editorial help, then don’t just sit there – go get it.) Publishers Will Find It Increasingly Hard To Market Books – But Discoverability Will Not Be An Issue For Readers Probability: 80% Publishers find it much, much harder to market books than they used to. Let’s tick off the ways that have either failed or become much less effective: Direct consumer advertising – this is now minimal, except for blockbustersBuying store position – this still happens, but it’s less significant than it wasReview coverage in major newspapers – the available space has shrunk massivelyOther publicity (interviews and the like) – much less space and airtime given to authorsGetting sales teams to pitch hard to bookshops – yes, but bookshops account for a smaller share of the marketBuilding websites to promote a particular book – now never happens; the strategy never workedBuilding gizmos that would go viral – right, sure, that technique always worked.Tooting the horn on social media – yes, but the sales impact of such tooting is usually minimalGetting the author out and about, for book signings and the like – never happened much, never sold many books. Nothing much has changed except that people have realised the effort is largely ineffectual.Direct e-mailings to aficionados of particular genres – yes, but publishers don’t tend to know their audience that well. Jericho Writers’ excellent mailing list is at least twice as big as those of some publishers I could mentionUsing clever SEO and metadata techniques to improve online visibility – that’s hardly a marketing technique, to be honest. Metadata is just catalogue info if it comes down to it. And though these things do matter, the net gain (from an industry wide standpoint) is zero sum. It’s somewhat depressing to review that list, but I doubt if many publishers would disagree – and you’ll often hear publishers bemoaning a ‘discoverability problem’, that is the difficulty of getting good new books to the attention of readers. If that complaint means, “it’s harder for us to market books now than it used to be”, then it’s true. If it means that an increasing share of sales now lies with a handful of super-successful books and authors at the top end, then it’s also true. If it means that readers themselves have trouble in choosing their next book – well, no. Readers today have far more recommendation devices than they used to. It’s not just friends, bookshops and newspapers, it’s a gazillion blogs, it’s Goodreads, it’s book clubs (more common now than in the past), it’s social media, and so on. Me, I don’t like a world where everyone only reads bestsellers but maybe that’s just how readers are if you let them read what they want. And last because this is getting to be an overlong post: The Number Of Books Sold Will Remain Broadly Flat; The Average Cost Of A Book Will Drop A Little; Amazon Will Get More, Publishers Less; Authors’ Share May Improve Probability: phew, tough one, let’s go big and say 75% Number of books remaining broadly flat that’s an easy call. The number of books always remains about the same. Has done for years. Even with all this internettery and mobile stuff, people still read books. Average cost of a book: the average cost of a book has drifted down a little over the years. It’s very hard to see real price increases and even nominal price increases are unlikely given that intelligently applied price discounts are one of the most reliable ways to impact book sales. On top of that, indie authors will always be willing to undercut Big Publishing. So, yes, the price of a book will drift down (in real terms). Amazon getting more of the pie: Amazon gets a rough old treatment in the press. Publishers hate it. Authors complain about it or give loads of money to rivals. Agents rebuke it. The Society of Authors sounds off about it. This is all slightly odd for a number of different reasons. From a love-of-literature point of view, Amazon has brought all the books of the world to every internet-connected household and does so at wonderfully low prices. That’s a stunning achievement in the spread of human knowledge, a real milestone. What’s more, yes Amazon is a big company in terms of market capitalisation and revenues, but – get this – it doesn’t make much money. Random House on its own makes more money than Amazon. Bertelsmann (RH’s owner) makes way more money. When big publishers get into fights over terms with Amazon, they tend to talk like a small dairy farmer being squeezed by Tescos. And that’s plain weird. They’re making loads of money because of Amazon! Amazon isn’t (yet) making much money for all of its market heft. So my prediction really just amounts to this: terms will be rebalanced in Amazon’s favour because some such reckoning is overdue. In addition, since, in the past, publishers earned their share of the cake by effectively marketing the books that authors entrusted them with, it makes share for them to get a little less cake now that much of the marketing power has shifted into other hands. The process will be painful for publishers but – given what’s happened in the music industry – not all that painful. It could have been a lot, lot worse. For you and me, the only prediction that matters is authors’ share of the pie – but for the very first time since I’ve been an author (first book deal: 1998), I can honestly say that things are looking up. Historically, authors have been largely powerless. We had to get into bookshops, or we had no readers. There were only a small (now even smaller) group of publishers who could get us there. Careers were short, incomes small, prospects always precarious. That wasn’t true for the biggest sellers of course, but such sellers are and will always be few and far between. And these days? Well, a lot of that still applies – but (A) we are not now solely dependent on bookshops and (B) self-publishing is cheap and easy. That’s not a perfect negotiating foil by any means (it’s better if you’re a genre writer, almost useless if you’re literary), but an imperfect negotiating position is better than none at all. These are interesting times and for the first time in my more than 15 years in the business I think authors’ incomes might creep up. And at the very least, I can’t see our share of the pie shrinking any further. But what do you think? So much for me, but what about you? What do you think is going to happen? What do you think ought to happen? And do you approve? More On Getting Published Link to: How to Get Your Book Published GETTING PUBLISHED All you need to know
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Literary agents for fantasy fiction

Plenty of fantasy novels have made a lot of money for publishers. And there are a good handful of excellent authors who have written in the genre. (China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Iain Banks, to name a few.) That means that there are plenty of agents ready to dive into the slushpile in search of the next big thing in fantasy. AgentMatch And How To Use It There are plenty of fantasy-loving agents, though 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. With AgentMatch, you can select by genre (e.g. fantasy) and you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, the 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. Signing up is incredibly simple. 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 science fiction

The market for science-fiction remains as interesting and varied as it’s ever been. You can still write classic space opera and find a market, but there’s an increasing interest in dystopia, genre collisions, and any intelligent idea-driven fiction. The genre remains rich, deep, and you can certainly argue that the literary novelists, Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell, have written sci-fi novels. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley are especially famous for sci-fi masterpieces. People like Iain Banks and China Mieville aren’t usually considered literary novelists, but they are excellent writers who write challenging, thoughtful, bold fiction. A healthy, confident market with plenty of international appeal. And AgentMatch can help you tap it. Are You Really Writing Science-fiction? We suggest you think hard about whether you are really writing science-fiction. For example: A near-future thriller involving (say) 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. Using our genre search along with careful use of our agent profile pages means that you’ll get the best possible fit for your novel. AgentMatch And How To Use It On AgentMatch, there are plenty of science-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. science-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. Our AgentMatch search pages can help you look for agents. Peek for the Select Genres box, click that, and choose “Science Fiction”. And the list of agents will automatically be filtered. Simply choosing agents who like science-fiction will give you a list that is too long to be manageable, though, so you will need to pare it back in some way. You can do that by: Figuring out if you would rather be represented by a large agency or a small one;Looking for agents who are “Keen to build client list” rather than “List largely complete”;Looking for agents who have been in the business a little less long, so are hungrier to attract new clients;Other uses of the search filters. You should also explore the profiles of the agents who come up to see who really is a match for your book and who really isn’t. Some agents are happy to look at all submissions that come their way, but won’t have a real keen interest in the genre. Others are particularly keen on the area and would strongly welcome your submissions. Wishing all intergalactic luck! 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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How Long Does It Take To Publish A First Book?

Jericho Writers welcomes Oxford-based blogger, novelist and poet Lucy Ayrton on to the blog. With the release date of her debut novel, One More Chance, just around the corner, Lucy shares how long it took to publish her book and the many unexpected detours on her journey to publication. The first time I thought I’d finished my novel was in November 2015. It was 80,000 words and it had a beginning, a middle and an end, and I’d given it to some friends for feedback and made some minor changes. I was DONE. Well done, me! I sent it off to a couple of competitions and put my feet up, resolving to send it to some agents in the new year. I felt very, very pleased with myself. The next time I thought I’d finished my novel was the summer of 2016. I’d been shortlisted for one of the prizes I entered and had some feedback from agents and publishers. I’d done a rewrite, swallowed my pride, deleted a load of my beautiful, precious words to make way for new ones, and done another proof. I mean … NOW I was done, right? The next time was the spring of 2017. I had found a brilliant agent who loved my book and had some ideas of how to make it even better. We had worked on it together, tweaking, making changes, polishing and rearranging. Now, it was the eve of the London Book Fair and we were officially ready to send it out on submission. The book was surely finished. In September that year I started working with my publisher and editor. Of course, the fact that “editor” is a job title should have tipped me off that she may want me to spend further time on the work. I was really happy about the changes that we were making together! It was exciting to be nearly finished. In October that year I discovered that line edits were different to structural edits. In November I discovered that copy edits are different again. In January this year, I was sent a fully typeset manuscript to proofread. My book, typeset! Now for real it was done, hurray! All I would have to do, I was sure, was have a quick skim through to make sure it was all in order – something I had done many times before – tell them it was all okay, and we were off. I set aside a whole day to do this, which seemed excessive. I figured I would probably be able to knock off and go to the pub mid-afternoon. In late March, after a fair few back and forths and me spending an entire panicked weekend staring at a text, believing myself to have forgotten how to read. (Professional proofreaders spend FIFTY HOURS with a novel, guys! It turns out you can’t knock it out in a long afternoon.) I got an email from my production manager. She said that this was the very last round of edits, and that after this one, we wouldn’t make any more changes – it would be sent to the printers. It would finally and truly be done. As I emailed back the approval, I didn’t feel as triumphant as I thought I would. I felt a little bit sad, almost scared. I’d spent so long with that book, with my protagonist and in my world. I didn’t really want to let her go. I love that book. What if I couldn’t write anything as good ever again? I almost didn’t want to sign the proofs off. But I did it. I hit send, and I turned back to my work in progress. And over the next couple of weeks, I found I had a lot of energy on this new project. It seems so unlikely that a scrappy little manuscript will ever come to anything, but I think this one can. I know I could do it again, you see, because I’ve done it before. I’ve finally finished a novel. Some Tips On Letting Go: Admit to yourself that there is no such thing as perfect. It can be easy to hide behind perfectionism as an excuse for never putting your work out there. Obviously, if you’re sending work to agents, it should be as good as you can possibly get it, but it will never be 100% there. When you get to 99%, it’s time to move on.Value your time. Writing a novel takes ages – of course it does! But it does not take an infinite amount of time. Weeks spent “polishing” without adding value to your nearly-finished project are time that could be spent on your next book.Have a process. With such a huge, overwhelming task as writing a novel, I find it really helpful to have clearly defined stages, with multiple drafts. I do three drafts and then start showing people my work, with a different round of edits after every batch of feedback. It’s a lot to work through, but at least if you have a plan, you know when you’re at the end of it. Lucy’s debut novel One More Chance is out 28th June (ebook and audio) and 15th November 2018 (paperback) with Dialogue Books. The novel follows the story of Dani, a London prison inmate, and combines physiological suspense with contemporary women’s fiction. Have a look at Lucy’s blog ‘Books and Bakes and Beverages’ here. If you have enjoyed this blog post, why not have a look round the rest of our library. We have plenty more success stories from published authors as well as tips for whatever you may be writing. 
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Literary agents specifically seeking new authors

We get asked a lot of questions over the course of a month, but perhaps the commonest questions boil down to these: how do you find a literary agent? Do you know literary agents who are taking on new and first-time writers? And the answer, of course, is yes. Nearly all agents, great or small, take on new authors. If they didn’t, they’d go out of business. Not straightaway, maybe, but out of business nevertheless. There’s a second point here, too: all agents need to submit to the same bunch of editors (and a small bunch at that: most books will be pitched to between eight and twelve publishers in the first round of marketing). By and large, agents are all looking for manuscripts that meet a certain quality threshold. If they find one, they’ll agree to take it on. If they don’t, they won’t. That’s the homily. A homily which boils down, as ever, to the first and second commandments of getting a literary agent: Write a good book.If you need help, get editorial advice where you can. It’s somewhat easier to secure a less well-established agent than a Giant of the Industry. That’s not because quality standards are lower – they aren’t at all – but because a newer agent knows he or she must work harder to build a list. If you went to such an agent with a novel that is dazzling but imperfect, they may well be prepared to put in the work needed to fix it. An agent with a longer list may (regretfully) turn the book down. That’s worth remembering. If you want to find a literary agent who genuinely welcomes first-time authors, as opposed to merely accepting them, you will do well to approach those who have been less long established in the business – basically, you’re looking for youngsters, or those who have come into the profession from elsewhere in the industry. It is not a sensible strategy simply to pick smaller agencies, because (1) there are plenty of one- and two-person agencies who have been in the business a long time, and whose lists are already amply populated. Also, larger agencies will all have new recruits who are hungry to build up their lists. You shouldn’t rule those people out from your search. With bigger agencies, it’s fine to call the switchboard and ask for suggestions about which agents might be right for a project. Not all agencies (or receptionists) will be helpful, but enough will be, to make it worth your while. Indeed, it was good advice from an office receptionist that encouraged me to approach the Well-Known Literary Agent who ended up offering to represent my first novel. As always, though, these guidelines must be balanced against everything else. You’re looking for an agent who loves your book and believes they can sell it. That’s all. If that agent works for a big agency or a small one, is young or venerable – doesn’t matter. You, the book, the agent. If those three things gel, nothing else much matters. Use our literary agent advice pages to navigate your way. Use our database for reference. And if your book isn’t taken on by the first fifteen agents, then do consider editorial feedback as an option. Writing a book is hard and few get there on their first attempt. We can help. Good luck! 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 Young Adult fiction

Young Adult (YA) fiction has become a super selling genre in recent years. J.K. Rowling’s books made it acceptable for adults to read children’s fiction, and then the genre hit a whole mother-lode of superselling authors, such as Anthony Horowitz, Suzanne Collins, Melinda Salisbury, and many more. The fact that so many young adult books are selling means that agents are inevitably interested in the area and keen to take on outstanding work. But that doesn’t mean that finding the right agent for you and your work is all that easy – there are just so many agents, and it’s so hard figuring out what each one wants. 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 YA fiction 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. children’s or young adult) 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. 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 SHARE THIS ENTRY
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Literary Agent Etiquette

Good News From An Agent Some time ago, a writer called Chloe wrote this to me: I had two full manuscript requests for my novel this week (I gave it to both agents non-exclusively). One of the agents has now offered to represent me. I plan to tell him that I’d love to meet up and discuss it, etc., etc. I also plan to tell the other agency that I’ve had this offer (I think it’s polite and professional – is that right?). I’ve been trawling around trying to find out what agents expect in this situation and the etiquette. I don’t want to offend the agent that’s made an offer by looking like I’m holding out for another one, but I also want to make sure I’m with the right agent. Anyway, the bit of etiquette I can’t find an answer to is whether I should tell the three other agents I’ve submitted my partial to, or not. At the moment, presumably, my MS is sitting on their slush piles. Should I tell them that I’ve got an offer? Should I just tell them if/when I sign to an agency? They may well not be interested – I’ve had one other rejection already – but I want to be polite and do things “properly”. (By the way, my first attempt at novel writing was critiqued by you and, although I didn’t find an agent for that, I learned so much from the critique. … Thanks very much!) First off, congratulations to Chloe. Woo-hoo for her, and I’m delighted that we played an important role in the early part of her journey. Seeing someone make this huge leap from unrepresented to represented (or published) writer always the most thrilling aspect of what we do. But what about this question of etiquette? What do you say to agents if you’re in Chloe’s fortunate position? It\'s Not Tea, It\'s Business Let\'s start by dropping the idea that etiquette has anything to do with it. You’re not going to tea at the Ritz; you are about to enter one of the most important business transactions of your life. Naturally, because you’re a good sort of person, you will behave truthfully, courteously and professionally at all times -- but you will also look after your own interests with fierce single-mindedness. This is your career, and it matters! So of course you want to do what you can to maximise the chances of securing multiple offers of representation. That way, you can meet the various different literary agents and see who you feel most comfortable with. It’s like getting quotes from different builders – the only difference being that this relationship will likely last longer, have more influence on your career, and (you hope) be of greater financial significance. Suggestions for How to Respond I\'d suggest that you try this. With the agent who has your full manuscript, you drop a note saying something like this: “I’ve had an offer of representation elsewhere, but I don’t want to say yes or no to that offer until I’ve heard whether or not you might have an interest in this MS. If you do, I’d love to talk to you. Is there any chance that you might be able to read the manuscript within the week and let me know your thoughts? If that was feasible for you, it would be wonderful for me.” An email along those lines is truthful, polite, a tad flattering – and it will serve your interests very well. In the meantime, it’s best simply to tell the agent who has made you the offer that you’d love to come in and see him but, gee, the next few days look difficult, is there any chance of coming by a week from Thursday...? Agents are much more used to competing for authors than you might think -- so while no agent wants the competition, they’re unlikely to be offended. What about Agents with Partials? Then there’s also the question of what to do with those literary agents who have partial manuscripts, but not full ones. I would definitely try to loop those guys into your ring too. I would simply send an email – with the full manuscript attached – saying: “I’ve had an offer of representation, but don’t want to commit to it until I’ve heard back from you. I know that you may have a lot on your reading list, but if there was any chance of moving this manuscript up that list, I’d be delighted.” That might sound pushy to you, but really, an email of that sort is welcome to most agents. After all, at the moment, they’ve got 100 manuscripts in the slushpile at their elbow. They know that they might have a real decision to make about 1, maybe 2, manuscripts in that pile at most. By sending the email I suggest, you essentially save a mountain of work for them, by alerting them to precisely the manuscript that is likely to be of most interest to them. And when you do accept that sweet offer of representation from an agent, be sure to write to everybody and let them know that you\'ve accepted representation elsewhere! You don\'t need me to remind you that tastes differ, and the market is hard. What boils one person’s kettle may leave another’s stony cold. But the fact that things are difficult and unpredictable only means that you should look after your interests as carefully as you can. These things matter and are for the long term. I’ve had at least eight editors in my life as a writer, not to mention numerous publishers and more publicists than I can shake a manicured fingernail at. But I\'ve only had two literary agents, and I’d be quite surprised if I don’t stay with my current one until one or the other of us retires. Best of luck, Chloe! If you’re also searching for agents, this may help, as may this and probably this, too. Happy writing.
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Do I Query US or UK Literary Agents? (A Simple Guide)

International writers often have to make choices about which literary agents to approach. Here’s a quick guide to help you make a decision. (If you’re unsure about what literary agents do, then have a quick read of this first.) US vs. UK agents -- which to choose? On the whole, it’s simple. British authors write books. They send them to UK literary agents – often ones based in or close to London. A British agent finds a British publisher. Then, once that first crucial deal is in the bag, the process of international sales begins. For US authors, it’s the same. You find a literary agent, often one based in New York. They find a US publisher. You sign your US book deal, and off they go to see what you can get overseas. There are countless complications, though. What if you’re Irish? Or Australian? Or South African? Or Canadian? Or of dual citizenship? Or resident in one place, but citizen of another? There’s no easy way through such complexities. It all depends on your situation, the book you’re trying to sell. International Agent Submissions: The Basic Rules To start off super-simple, American authors (when resident in the US) will almost always seek a US literary agent in the first instance. British authors, resident in the UK or Europe, will almost certainly seek a British agent. So: Rule #1 In general, authors in the two largest English-speaking publishing markets should seek an agent local to that market: American agents for American writers, British agent for British writers. Easy. It’s not much more complicated if you are Irish or Canadian (or Aussie, or whatever) and writing a book of strictly local interest. So it’s pretty clear that The History of Kilarney Castle will have its best market in Ireland. Likewise, How To Care For Your Moose is likely to have a better market in Ontario than Orlando. In these cases, again, you can just play it simple. Rule #2 Authors in smaller publishing markets writing books of strictly local interestshould query local agents (if there are any) or just submit directly to local publishers, who will be happy to receive submissions. But of course plenty of Irish and Canadian authors are writing books with obvious international sales potential. So Colm Toibin and Tana French (both of Ireland) are great examples of smaller-market authors with terrific international sales. I’m reasonably confident that Margaret Atwood and Yann Martel (both of Canada) have sold a book or two in their time as well. This type of author has a choice. In the case of Ireland and Canada, these are both obviously satellite markets orbiting a much larger one right next door. So, one way or another, authors from these countries need to find a way to access that much bigger market Rule #3 Canadian authors with international sales potential can approach Canadian agents or US agents. Either way is fine. Likewise, Irish authors with international sales potential can approach Dublin-based agents or British agents. Either way is fine. If you’re opting for a locally based agent, you probably want to check that the person involved has a decent track record of sales into the larger market . . . but those checks are almost certainly going to come back in the affirmative, because Irish agents would struggle to live on sales into the local market alone. The same goes (if rather less emphatically) for Canadian literary agents. For more distant locales – South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, or anywhere else come to that – you need to play it a little bit by ear. UK literary agents tend to be more naturally international, and UK publishers have closer connections with the Commonwealth (which, in publisher-land, includes Ireland but not Canada). Overall, writers from the Commonwealth will naturally knock on a London door first, but there are exceptions. If I were an Aussie sci-fi writer, for example, I might well be attracted to the US market, because of its depth. So, our (slightly fuzzy) fourth rule runs as follows: Rule #4 International authors from Commonwealth countries should probably query UK literary agents in the first instance.International authors from non-Commonwealth countries should probably query US agents. But this rule is fuzzy, because US agents would be perfectly happy to receive a great submission from India / Singapore / Nigeria / Australia. Likewise British agents would be perfectly happy to receive a great submission from Argentina / Japan / the Philippines. Often when (say) a Nigerian writers does choose to query a US literary agent as a first step that’ll be because he or she has some kind of connection with the US that makes it a natural thing to do. So when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie chose to seek US representation for her first novel, she did so because she was studying in the US. She felt part-American. She was resident there. For her, it would have been unnatural to query an agent in London, simply because Union Jacks once flew in Lagos. You can apply the same basic tests. Truth is, no one cares too much. And if your manuscript is absolutely amazing, then no one will care at all. But what about if you were an American living permanently in the UK? Or a Brit living permanently in the US? Well, our even fuzzier fifth rule is: Rule #5 You probably want to prioritise residency over passport when it comes to querying agents.(But no one really cares.)(So you can go either way.) As a matter of fact, if the circumstances of your life are such that you can provide plausible sounding reasons for submitting queries to both major markets, then our (whisper it quietly, tell no one you’re doing this) sixth rule is: Rule #6 If you want to query agents in both markets . . .And you’ve got reasonably plausible reasons for choosing either market . . .And you don’t tell agents, “Hey, I’mm just querying everyone,” . . .Then you’ll probably get away with it. After all, it’s not like anyone checks. Or cares that much. You’re not breaking any rules. There’s one curious issue, though, to which there’s no good answer. Bestselling thriller writer (and one of our Festival of Writing speakers) R.J. Ellory writes very good US-set thrillers, but he’s British . . . and for a long time he struggled to find an agent. UK literary agents were reluctant to take him on because his books sounded like they’d been written by an American. US agents were reluctant to take him on because he was British, without representation in London or a UK book deal. That meant that American agents, even if they liked his work, felt kind of suspicious. How come this guy hadn’t got local representation? It sounded like there might be a catch somewhere. In the end, he was so good that he was taken on (in Britain, first). His career took off. This story brings us to our seventh rule, the super-essential Ur-rule for all agency submissions: Rule #7 Write a super-incredible dazzling book If you obey that rule, then the truth is that nothing else really matters. Any agent from anywhere will want your work. Where Do You Find A List Of International Literary Agents? Why, you find it here, of course. On Agent Match. Agent Match here on Jericho Writers is a complete, searchable, database of literary agents. It\'s the biggest agent database on the planet, covering nearly every literary agent active worldwide. And it\'s not just a comprehensive database, it\'s a smart one. Let\'s say you wanted to search for: “Literary agents in the USwho are open to historical fiction submissionsand who are currently seeking new writers” . . . well, you could perform that search in about twenty seconds. And get a complete answer. And a complete set of agent profiles for absolutely everyone on that list. I mean, maybe you’d prefer to spend a week on Google (and get a slightly worse set of answers), but it’s totally your call. Access to AgentMatch is restricted to members of Jericho Writers . . . but since membership of JW confers an awesome cornucopia of writerly fabulousness, you probably want to consider membership no matter what. Which leads us to a bonus rule, rule number eight... Rule #8 Find out more about Jericho Writers! You’ll be rootin-tootin glad you did. I do hope you come and join us. We’d love it if you did! Any more questions? You can contact us here.
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How to find a literary agent for non-fiction

Here’s how to find non-fiction literary agents, what kinds of non-fiction they’re looking for, and how to give them what they want. What Are Non-fiction Agents Looking For? All agents are looking for the same thing: saleable manuscripts that might make money. Whilst specialist or academic non-fiction isn’t on the cards (you’ll need a book proposal to pitch to publishers, in this instance), non-fiction literary agents are looking for: Anything celebrity-led, and written by or endorsed by that celebrity;A strong and compelling personal memoir;A funny, moving, exotic tale of travel;A popular science tome;A narrative-led history;A biography, if the subject in question is genuinely famous;A major new diet and motivational work;A strong, quirky one-off. What no one’s looking for is niche. Guidebooks in minor subject areas, books of local history, biographies of little-known subjects, aren’t sought after. These books may well sell to the right publishers, though mightn’t sell for enough money to make it worth an agent’s while to get involved. In such cases, it’s fine to approach publishers direct. The Secret To Getting An Agent Where Can You Find Non-fiction Literary Agents? Very few agents specialise in non-fiction. Most literary agents handle fiction and non-fiction, literary and commercial work. Some specialist non-fiction agents do exist, but you’re better off seeking a good all-purpose agent for your work. I’ve sold four non-fiction books myself, it didn’t occur to me to switch to a ‘specialist’ agent, and I’m quite certain that I wouldn’t have achieved a better outcome if I had done. What matters is the quality of the agent, not whether they specialise in a certain area. There are however exceptions to this general rule, namely: If you are writing a cookbook, health, diet or how to book, you may well want an agent who specialises in this niche. You may need a prolific presence first. It’s not an easy area to crack.If you want a ghost-writer to tell your story for you, you probably want an agent who has worked in this way with previous clients, but be realistic. Very few personal stories are interesting and commercial enough to justify the cost of ghost-writing so in general, if you want a story written, you’ll need to write it yourself (or ask us to help.) If you need more details, use agents’ websites to narrow down who’s interested in what, and do look at this guide on how to find a literary agent. How Can You Give Literary Agents What They Want? First, you need to decide what you are going to present to agents. With fiction, you always need to write the whole book. With non-fiction, you can often get away with offering agents a book proposal – that is, an outline version of the book you intend to write. If your book is strongly story-led (true of most memoir, for example), you’d be advised to write the whole thing before seeking agents. If your story is more subject-led, it’s usually fine to work off the back of a proposal. Second, you need to deliver a wonderful, saleable manuscript. That means: Strong, popular, entertaining writing (even if your subject is an extremely interesting one, people won’t want to read what you have to say about it if you write badly, so don’t).Write for the market. It’s obvious, but most non-fiction manuscripts aren’t written for the market. If you’re not sure what your market is, go to a bookstore and get the answer. Third, if you get knocked back by literary agents (non-fiction or generalist) – or if you want to give yourself the best possible chance before you approach them – then go and get professional advice. We’ve helped propel non-fiction books into print. Authors brought us ideas, talent, work ethic. We brought knowledge of the market, contacts, and expertise in writing. Put those things together, and you can have a powerful combination with eventual success. That’s how to find a literary agent for non-fiction. Best of luck. 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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How To Write A Children’s Book: All You Need To Know

One author’s guide to writing a children’s book that will actually get published There are some people who will tell you that writing a children’s book is really easy. I mean – they’re shorter than books for adults, right? Reader – if you meet one of these people, you should give them a stern talking to and a whole lot of finger-wagging. How To Write A Children’s Book In 10 Steps: Know the children’s book marketRead contemporary children’s booksHave a unique ideaCreate relatable charactersPlot using character arcsFind a captivating voiceUse settings and experiences kids recogniseWritre and re-write!Avoid classic mistakes all new writers makeGet an agent Writing books for children isn’t an easy way out. In fact, there are a whole host of new things you have to consider when writing for children that wouldn’t cross the mind of an adult novelist. How do I know? Well, I’ve been writing books for children and young adults since I was just a kid myself. When I began, I thought it was going to be easy, too. Three dead books, over fifty rejections and fourteen years later – I realised that it was a whole lot harder than it looks. Then, I sat down and I followed a set of rules to write a book for Young Adults called ‘Outside’. I sent it to an agent, who offered me representation within forty-four minutes of receiving it. And in January 2019, it was published in the UK by Penguin. It is hard. But you’ve got this. And this blog is going to tell you exactly what you need to write a book that children (and publishers) will love. And even though it’s going to be a difficult ride, I think you’re secretly going to love every minute of it – just like I did. So – where do you start? Know The Children’s Book Market ‘Children’ isn’t a very defined audience. Within that category, you have babies and toddlers, all the way through to teenagers thinking about university. Children’s books are as rich and diverse as children are themselves, so it’s absolutely essential that you know exactly what kind of children you are writing for. The market tends to shift every few years, but in general, the categories within children’s books look a bit like this: Picture Books (0 – 5 years) Between 300 – 1000 words, depending on who the book is aimed at (babies 300, toddlers 500, pre-schoolers 1000).Early Readers (5 – 7 years) Less than 10,000 words. These books can be illustrated and are divided up into chapters.Lower Middle Grade (7 – 9) Between 10,000 – 30,000, depending on the reading age they are best suited for. The lower the reading age, the lower the word count.Middle Grade (9 – 11) Between 30,000 and 60,000. There is a bit more room in Middle Grade to push the boundaries of wordcount and theme, within reason.Teen (12+) Usually around 60,000, but there are books in this category as low as 40,000 and as high as 90,000!YA / Crossover (14+) Over 60,000 words. Fantasy books in this category can push the wordcount to more like 90,000, but usually around 60,000 – 70,000 is the magic number. As you can see, books for younger children are much shorter. To write picture books, you don’t have to rhyme, or even know an illustrator (in fact, some agents prefer writers to submit text minus any artwork, as they find it easier to match these later). You do need to be able to tell a story that will make adults and babies feel all the feels though, within a very short word count. If you ask me, writing picture books might well be the hardest of all of these to perfect – and is one of the most competitive, too. Between ages 7 and 11, the reading ages start to shift. You might have an 8-year-old reading a book written for an 11-year-old, and that is okay! At this point, it’s worth thinking about things in terms of ‘Reading Age’ rather than actual age. Early Readers are for children who are just learning to read, and Lower Middle-Grade tends to be lighter, funny reads. Middle-Grade books are booming at the moment and are often read for pleasure by adults, too (myself included). They can be darker and you can push the wordcount a bit further. You can perhaps take a few more risks, providing the heart of the book is with the characters (more on that later). Then we have Young Adult (YA) fiction. I like to think of this as two categories: Teen and Young Adult / Crossover. Teen fiction tends to focus on topics affecting teenagers around 12-13 years old. They are lighter, sometimes funny books. Young Adult or Crossover fiction can be anything where the protagonist is under 18. They can be romances set in a school, or dark, chilling tales. You can find out more about average novel word counts in this article and how long chapters should be, these aren’t specific to children’s books, but make for an interesting read! Whatever age you choose to write for, ensure you know that market back-to-front. Which leads me to tip number two: Read Contemporary Children’s Books The best way to know your market is to read everything you can that fits into it. Yes, adults can read children’s books for pleasure. Some of the most delicious and astounding books I have read have been for children. Don’t fall into the trap of re-reading the books you enjoyed as a child. The market is constantly evolving and what was publishable ‘way back then’ may not be marketable now. Keep your eye on books that are coming out this year, particularly debuts (as you’ll hopefully be one of those yourself soon!) When you are reading, make notes on things like sentence structure, characters and plot arcs. Is the language simple or sophisticated? What age are the characters? And what twists and turns appear in the story? This will help you no end when it comes to write your own. Have A Unique Idea So, now we come to your own book (woohoo!). And I have some bad news, I’m afraid (boooo). The world of children’s books is incredibly competitive and only the absolute best books stand a chance of getting published. But that’s okay. Because you can make your story into one of those books using this blog post. And it starts with an astounding idea that will make an agent stop scrolling and forget to breathe. Think of your favourite stories. You can usually sum them up in one, hooky line, can’t you? Something like: “Death narrates as a girl steals books in WW2 Munich, as her foster parents conceal a Jewish fist-fighter in their home.” – The Book Thief “A girl has been trapped Inside her whole life, until one day she finds a hole in the wall.” – Okay, so that’s my book, but you get the idea. Your concept needs stakes. It needs to be different. It needs to pique interest. Nothing else will work for this market. Need some help developing an idea like this? Try this free Idea Generator – it comes via an email. You can also learn a lot from this post on How to Get Book Ideas. Create Relatable Characters Okay, so you have your amazing concept that will hook an agent, then a publisher, then eventually a reader. Want to keep them? Then you’ll need to create characters that children can relate to. The first rule for this is to think about their ages in relation to the categories we outlined above. Usually, children like to read about characters a couple of years older than them. In Young Adult fiction, I usually make my characters between 15 and 17. 90% of books for children have children as their central protagonists. The other 10% is usually made up of animals and magical beings, but they will nearly always speak and act like children in that age group. They are hardly ever adults. The next thing is to think about the qualities that children of that age look for in a protagonist. Usually, this is bravery (although this doesn’t mean all characters need to be sword-fighters – there are many different kinds of bravery). Usually they are kind (although not always to everyone all the time). And usually they are quirky in some way – they have some interest or ideals that colour their world and make them interesting. Let’s take an example protagonist. ‘Charlie’ from ‘Charlie Changes into a Chicken’. This is a funny Lower Middle-Grade book, and the main character is a boy who suffers with anxiety. Whenever he gets anxious, he turns into an animal. And with his brother in hospital and the school play coming up, there is a lot to worry about. Although Charlie has something going on that I would hope most children can’t relate to (eg: turning into a pigeon), there’s an awful lot about him that readers want to root for. His anxiety is one – and the book does a lot to normalise this and teach the reader how to deal with it. He’s also a classic ‘good guy’ – always one to attempt to smooth things over with his bully, and worry about his brother. He is brave, kind and quirky. In terms of secondary characters, this book is great at busting stereotypes, and that’s really something to keep in mind when writing (more on this later). You’ve got a smart, scientific friend, as well as those who provide some comic relief. You’ve got an antagonist bully, who we understand. And other grown-up antagonists such as grumpy teachers, and parents who have the ability to be ‘disappointed’. In short, these are all characters that children around 8 years old will relate to and enjoy reading about (As well as grown-up writers who have the mind of an 8-year-old, too!). It’s worth spending time getting to know your characters using something like this Ultimate Character Builder (downloadable via email). This worksheet asks hundreds of questions about your character that forces you to think of answers. Something else I quite like to do (mainly because it is wonderfully fun procrastination) is to use personality tests. Try getting into the mindset of your characters – including secondary characters – and taking the House and Patronus quizzes on Pottermore, for example. You might find out that your protagonist is a Slytherin with a rare winged Patronus, which might affect the way they behave in your plot. Another great tool can be found at 16 Personalities. This asks you a lot of questions and gives you a Myers-Briggs personality type at the end, with pages and pages of information about how that person would react to things like relationships, family and difficult situations. It’s worth spending some time doing some further reading on characterisation. Good places to start include learning about the theory of character development and spending some time making realistic antagonists, alongside your protagonist. Plot Using Character Arcs When it comes to plotting a children’s book, it is useful to keep one bit of advice in mind at all times: Plot is driven by character. Never the other way around. If your characters are at the centre of your story, then you need to ensure that they are the ones driving it forwards. If you shoehorn them into a twist that goes against everything that your character stands for, then readers will be left cold. This is why the primary step to writing a children’s book is to get to know your characters back to front and inside out as we discussed earlier. Once you have a good idea about who they are, you can start using this information to plot your story. There are a number of ways you can plot a book, including methods like the Snowflake Method or using this guide on writing a plot outline. For me, I like to start with something my character wants. This can be simple, like perhaps they are looking forward to an upcoming school trip. Or it can be much bigger than that – like perhaps they want to keep their family safe from being picked for The Hunger Games. Next, you throw something in their path that means they can’t have what they want. They get framed for something they didn’t do at school and are banned from the school trip. Their sister is picked for The Hunger Games and they must volunteer as tribute to protect her from almost certain death. What comes next is a series of incidents that raises action and keeps your character on their journey. They try to sneak onto the school bus, but end up on the wrong one, going instead to France. They get off the bus for a wee and it drives off without them. They try to buy a baguette with their lunch money, but it gets eaten by a dog (which they are afraid of) etc etc. Within this middle point are highs and lows. They meet friends and helpers along the way – usually children their own age, or animals. There might even be other grown-up helpers or antagonists (think about Haymitch and Crane in The Hunger Games). Usually around the mid-point of the story, what your character wants has now changed. The boy on the school trip now wants to find a way to go home. Katniss in The Hunger Games wants to stay alive. This all leads up to the climax of the story – where all the issues you have dropped in before come to a head. There is usually a small battle to be won first – perhaps that is getting over the fear of dogs to save a friend in France, or it is beating the other Careers in order to stay alive in The Hunger Games. Then there is a small dip in action before the big beast is slayed – maybe that is as simple as finally asking for help to go home in France, or it is tricking the makers of The Hunger Games so that they can live. To finish off, we have the resolution. This is where you tie up the questions you set up earlier in the story and resolve differences between characters. Maybe we see the boy return from France and ask his parents for a pet dog. Or Katniss returning home to her family as victor (whilst also leaving something unresolved here with a larger antagonist for book two in the series). Even if you’re not traditionally a plotter, it is worth spending time thinking about the main beats in your story and how this relates to your character’s central journey. Thankfully, there’s loads of help for useless plotters (like me!). Some useful blog plots for further reading: this one on the seven basic plots. There are also some brilliant masterclasses on the subject by the brilliant Jeremy Sheldon and this one from C M Taylor, all free as part of the Jericho Writers membership. Find A Captivating Voice Okay, so you now have the bones of an exciting story down. Excellent. Now – we need to talk about the way you are going to tell this story. The first thing to do is consider what point of view you are going to choose, and then stick to it entirely. The most popular ones in children’s books are either third person (He/She/They), or first person (I/We). You do tend to find books for younger readers tend to be third person, and teen and YA are usually first person – but this isn’t a rule. Try writing a scene using both and see which one feels more natural for you and this story. It’s worth noting that children’s books in second person (You) are few and far between. This is because it’s a difficult thing to do well, and to relate to as a reader. But nothing is ever out of bounds in the world of children’s books, so if you are confident about using this POV, then go for it. Whatever POV you choose, you must, must, MUST have a captivating voice. By ‘Voice’, we mean the way the story is being told – the language and sentence structure used to tell it. In first person, we need to believe that the person telling the story IS a child. In third person, we need that to a lesser degree, but we still need that sense that we are close to a character and understand who they are through their language. Let’s take first person as an example to start with, because it’s a bit easier. A first-person voice can contain any one of the following things to make it a bit different: An accent or dialect (eg: Southern American).Short, matter-of-fact sentences, or long lines with little or no punctuation.Complex language, or simple words.A ‘Frame of Reference’ for understanding the world. For example, if your character loves painting, then you would expect their language to be a fountain of colour, using terms that painters would love. My favourite article on voice is this one from Annabel Pitcher. Do give it a read – she is the master. When creating your voice, it is worth making a note of all the things that might influence the way your character speaks. So, think about where in the world they come from, and the different words they will use. Think about their age. Think about their personalities. Think about their passions and interests. And use all of this to create a voice that is unique to them. This becomes a bit harder when writing in third person. You can use some of this to colour the voice of the narrator, which can be particularly important when writing for younger children, who need to be reading ‘simple’ words along with the protagonists. You can also give the narrator their own voice altogether, as done in The Book Thief and Charlie Changes into a Chicken. Whatever you choose to do, ensure that it is striking and work on it until it feels like ‘you’. It took me around four books to realise what is ‘me’ about my writing – I think sometimes it is one of those things that you need to write to realise! You can find out more about finding your voice here. Use Settings And Experiences Kids Will Recognise So, now we come on to the setting of your book. There are no real rules here when it comes to setting. Books like ‘The House With Chicken Legs’ is set all over the world, within a rickety old house with the legs of a chicken. But even in this book, there are still things included that children will recognise as similar to their own experiences. A feeling of loneliness from travelling all the time. A parental figure. A feeling of being bored when trapped inside the house. With contemporary children’s books, the settings tend to be focused on home, school and other familiar places, such as parks and after-school clubs. If you are writing a book set in the real modern world, then you will probably need to include a school in there somewhere. Some authors do this really well, but I personally hate writing schools. If you’re like me, then setting a book in the summer holidays, or having protagonists who are over sixteen can sometimes be a way around this. For fantasy writers, it’s worth thinking about things like education and home-life when you are world-building, too. Your character may well be going on a huge quest that will take them to the ends of the earth, with no time for school. But even The Hunger Games had lessons in flashback. As I’ve said before, there are no rules here as such. Children’s books can take you to all corners of experiences. But ensure you think about your settings and how a child reader will recognise them. And if you choose to include things like school, then ensure you get that experience right! Write And Rewrite Okay, so now we’re getting to the part where you have to put pen to paper. You’ll read a lot of articles all over the internet that will tell you rules here like “write every day” and “don’t look back on your first draft”. But I don’t want to tell you any of those. Because honestly – writing a book is something every writer does differently, and that’s rather wonderful. Try writing every day, but if you can’t because you have your own kids to worry about, then that is perfectly fine. And maybe try not to spend years perfecting scenes before you get on to the next one (only because you will probably have to delete it later), but if you do need to make something perfect before you can move on, then that’s fine too. Do whatever you need to do to keep writing. I will however say this. First drafts suck. They do. And that is okay. Books aren’t made on the first draft. This is where you let your characters drive that plot, and sometimes they don’t really know what they are doing. Books are made in the next stage – the re-writing. The editing. By getting feedback and working to make something shine. In fact, I personally don’t even do first drafts any more. I call all my first attempts the ‘ditch draft’, because I know that chances are, I’m going to have to bin most of it and start again. I know that sounds a bit long – but again – do whatever you need to do to keep writing. When it comes to re-writing, I personally like to open up a new document for my second draft and copy-paste the bits I like over and write the rest from scratch. There’s something freeing about not having words already there in front of you. For editing, you can try these tips on self-editing your work, and an editor called Debi Alper runs a life-changing tutored course on Self-Editing here. You can also try getting feedback from other readers – either friends and family, or a writing group. Or perhaps through something like a Manuscript Assessment, which are particularly useful if you know something isn’t quite working, but you can’t quite pinpoint what. If you’re confused about the different types of editing, this post is quite useful for navigating. Books are made in the self-edit stage, so keep going until you have something that is really quite something. Because nothing much less will be good enough when it comes to the next stage… Avoid Classic Mistakes All New Writers Make But first – I want to pause and look at some common mistakes. Because these are the things you need to watch out for before you even think about sending out to agents. Avoid stereotypes. The cry-baby little sister. The dysfunctional dad. There are certain stereotypes we take for granted. So think when you make decisions about every character in your novel – can they be subverted? Can you show that boys can cry too, and that dad’s can do all the housework? This goes for race, gender, sexuality, disability and pretty much everything else. Write characters, not clichés. If you’re writing what you don’t know, get to know it. This is becoming increasingly important in children’s fiction – and so it should. If you are writing about a character with an experience different to your own, then you need to ensure you do copious amount of research – including speaking to people who live this experience. This especially goes for anything to do with race, gender, sexuality and disability. There are things you can do to help ensure you are not portraying these lives in a way that is stereotypical or harmful. Sensitivity readers are now becoming a mainstay in children’s publishing and authors can even hire their own if they feel the need to check their facts. You should know however that no amount of research ever makes up for the real experience and you should learn from any feedback you have from readers, rather than challenge it. Don’t let this put you off writing diversely as this is incredibly important for all children’s writers to do, whatever background they are from. But ensure you do it sensitively. Don’t start a story where the character is waking up. If I had a dollar for every story I have read that starts with this, I would be a very rich author. Don’t do it. Your opening scene should grab a reader by the hand and pull them immediately into the action. Don’t start a story with a scene that has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Alternatively, don’t go the other way and start your story somewhere that has nothing to do with the rest of the story, just because it is more exciting than waking up. Your opening scene should excite, but it should also introduce the reader to the world that will appear in the rest of the story. So, if you’re story is about a girl’s relationship with her mother, then don’t start your story in the middle of a fist-fight unless that very quickly turns into something to do with the mother. Of course, this changes if you are writing fantasy where the beginning of the novel is set in the everyday world before the magic is let loose. Still here though, ensure you are spending time introducing us to the characters and situations that will be important throughout the rest of the story. Don’t mix tenses, or POVs. Pick one, and stick to it (flashbacks permitting!). There’s nothing worse than reading a story that switches heads or propels us back and forth in time. Try reading this article on Psychic Distance if you need more clarification. Don’t tell us – show us (for the most part) This is one of the biggest mistakes I see writers make – including myself. When you are trying to explain a world or situation, it can sometimes be easier to just dump that information on the page. And some of that is fine, but too much can slow action and feel amateur. Try showing certain things within your writing whenever you can. For example, if your character is angry, have them shout, rather than putting ‘he was angry’. Don’t rhyme for the sake of making it rhyme. This one is particularly for the picture book writers amongst you. Rhymes are wonderful when they work, but I’ve seen writers fall into the trap of sacrificing sentence meaning to shoehorn in a rhyme. If you are struggling to make a sentence flow because of your rhyming structure, then try something else. Or try no rhyme at all! Some of my favourite picture books don’t rhyme – it’s all about the characters and the story you are telling. Don’t overuse adverbs and adjectives. All new writers seem to fall into this trap. Perhaps we want to show off how beautifully we can write, so we pen long, languid sentences that dazzle and glitter with sparkly splendour. Unfortunately, they also weigh down your words. Keep your sentences to the point and I promise that those metaphors and similes that you do scatter in, will be all the more breath-taking because of it. Avoid clunky-sounding dialogue. Usually this happens when we want to try and ‘show’ something and not ‘tell’ it. And we might end up with a scene a bit like this: “Why are you so upset Billy?” Mum said. “Because my game was cancelled again, like it was last week.” “Do you mean when you kicked the ball over the fence and it had to be called off?” “It wasn’t my fault. A dog came onto the pitch.” “And we all know you’re afraid of dogs.” This doesn’t feel very realistic, does it? That’s because people don’t tend to spend their time reiterating things they all already know. Avoid doing this in your own book – especially with parents and their children, which tends to be where the clunkiest dialogue comes into its own! Try these tips on writing realistic dialogue. Don’t have an adult save the day. Finally, we have the ending. There is nothing worse than rooting for a child protagonist all the way through a book, only to have a grown-up step in and save the day at the end. Children want to see themselves as having the power to change the world. Sometimes, that might mean asking for help from a grown-up, but the decision to conquer should always come from the child. Get An Agent And Get Published So that leads us to the last point – how to get this wonderful children’s book you have written, published and on the shelves. This could be a whole other blog article in itself, and indeed there are plenty around. The more comprehensive overviews are things like this article on how to get a book published, or this one on how to find an agent. However, the most important things to know are that you will nearly always need an agent to get a publisher. And getting an agent is very, very difficult. Agents will receive around two-thousand submissions every year and will only have space to take on one or two. Out of these one or two, a third then never find a publisher. So the odds are perhaps not in your favour. But that’s okay. Because the fact that you have read all the way to the bottom of this blog post tells me that you are serious about writing a brilliant children’s book. And brilliant children’s books are the only ones that get published. The other alternative to getting your book published is self-publishing. This shouldn’t be seen as a ‘last resort’ option. In fact, plenty of authors create lucrative careers from publishing independently and it is fast becoming the number one option for a lot of writers. It can be a little harder to self-publish in the world of children’s books. Illustrated books don’t always transfer to eBook easily and the market tends to favour print in general. However, there are authors who are doing really well in the YA genre fiction market, particularly for things like paranormal romance. If you are interested in this option, then you can find plenty of free information here. Writing For Children: Conclusion Being a children’s author takes an incredible amount of hard work and dedication, but it is the most fulfilling thing you can do (in my biased opinion!) Children don’t like books, they LOVE them. And once your book is published, hearing from those readers makes every step of this whole process completely worthwhile. I’ve mentioned the Jericho Writers membership a few times in this article, and it is something to think about if you are serious about carving a career for yourself as a children’s author. Reading and writing will take us so far, but sometimes we need a helping hand from the experts to create something at the level it needs to be to get published. You can find out more about that membership here. I do hope you have found this article useful and wish you every luck (and enjoyment!) in writing your own children’s book. You’ve got this.
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Literary Agent Fees (What You Need to Know)

How Much Do Literary Agents Cost? And Are They Worth It? One thing that puzzles a lot of writers about literary agents is their fee structure. Can you afford an agent? What do they charge? How much do literary agents actually cost? The answer is mostly good news . . . with a little bit of bad news thrown in. The good news is that literary agents charge absolutely nothing upfront. Not a penny. They don’t charge fees down the line either. I’m Harry Bingham. I’ve been a professional author for twenty years. I’ve sold a lot of books and been paid a lot of money for them. And I have never once been given an invoice by my agent. Too good to be true? Well, there’s a catch of course, and it’s this: Literary agents charge commission. That is, for every $1000 they get you in advances or royalties or overseas sales or film rights, they will take their cut. If they earn nothing for you, they will charge nothing. If they sell your book for a lot of money – well, they’ll be doing well for themselves as well as you! The brilliant thing about this arrangement is that your agent’s financial incentives are almost perfectly aligned with your own. That means, when the agent is querying different publishers, or reviewing contracts, or hassling over hiccups in the publication process, their financial goals are exactly the same as yours. For that reason, authors tend to be very close to their literary agents . . . and are often rather less close with their editors! 1) Literary Agent Fees Typical commission rates for literary agents Typically commissions work as follows. Your literary agent will take: 15% of all sales made in home markets (ie: the US if you are working with a US agent; the UK if you are working with a British one.)20% on overseas sales, and20% for sales of film and TV rights. Some agents may vary from this, but these rates are increasingly standard. They are not compulsory however, and if you are bold enough to negotiate, there’s nothing wrong with that. (And indeed, top authors often don’t pay full whack. They don’t have to.) Literary Agent Commissions: An Example Let’s say you’re a Brit and you sell your book to: a UK publisher for £10,000, anda US publisher for $25,000 then your agent will take 15% of £10,000 (so £1,500), and20% of that $25,000 (so $5,000). There would also be fees for any foreign language sales and for film or TV sales. In practice, film & TV deals are relatively rare and generally a lot less lucrative than the newspapers would have you think! 2) Royalties When you sell a book to a publisher, you sell it for an advance against royalties. So let’s say you sell your manuscript to a publisher for $10,000, but that book goes on to be a bestseller. You will be entitled to a per book fee on every copy sold (that’s called a royalty, and the actual calculation of those things is a bit complex.) But, to simplify, let’s say that over the first two years of sales, you earn $110,000 in royalties. The first $10K of that is set aside – your $10,000 upfront advance was an advance against royalties, so you can’t claim it twice. But the other $100,000? Yep, that’s yours, and you will start to be paid that money via six-monthly instalments, depending on sales. Be aware, though, that your literary agent is also entitled to their fees on those earnings (because they brought you the deal that turned your book into a bestseller). So minus your literary agent\'s fees, what you would actually get in this example is: 85% of your $10K advance (your agent gets the other 15%)85% of your $100K royalty earnings (again, your agent gets the remaining 15%) Again, be aware that good agents will press for the highest advance they can get away with, so you can easily, easily earn a living as a professional author and not see a royalty check from one year’s end to the next. 3) If You Move On From Your Literary Agent If you decide to fire your agent, or otherwise move on, then your agent is still entitled to any commission due following deals that they signed. And that makes sense. If you get rich because of a deal done by your agent, then your agent should be entitled to their share of the fruits of that deal, no matter how far down the road. In practice, most client-agent relationships are quite long term, and if you have signed a book deal successful enough that it’s still pumping out money, then you’re not likely to split with your agent. But still: the possibility is there, and it’ll be carefully covered in any contract or letter of engagement you have with your agent. So read that letter or contract – and if in doubt: ask! 4) Are Literary Agents Worth Their Fees? Yes. Was that emphatic enough? I don’t think it was. So one more time, with feeling: Yes, yes, yes!Get an agent!They will make you much more money than they will cost you!It is the best career move you will ever make! A good agent will do the following for you: They’ll make sure that your manuscript is right for the market. That may mean that you need to tweak the book, but those tweaks are intended to get it just right for publishers in today’s market.They’ll approach the right editors at the right publishing houses. That means having impeccable contacts and staying current. (That’s also why, by the way, nearly all agents are based in New York or London. They need to be close to the publishers, and those fine cities are where the publishers hang out.)They’ll run a proper auction. That’s the salesy bit of their job, and most agents are very good at it.They’ll negotiate a proper contract for you. Publishing contracts today are typically up to twenty pages long (in the UK and US, though European ones are shorter). Contracts are full of abstruse terms and royalty rates, and you need to be an industry insider to navigate them properly. It’s not a task you can do yourself. I am a very experienced author myself and (because of my role in Jericho Writers) I am exceptionally well plugged into the wider publishing industry. But you know what? I still use an agent, because I make loads more money that way. And save myself a ton of hassle. And can draw on a ton of expertise that I couldn’t easily access any other way. So get an agent. Pay their fees. Write well. Be happy. 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 Are The Odds Of Getting A Book Deal?

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? OK, well, first things first – so here’s a brief, brief reminder of how to go about getting a book deal. If you need more info on any of the steps, then just dive into the links included – we’ve got you covered. (And for a jumbo guide on getting published, go here. That’ll be most useful for newbies, but will have something useful to say to pretty much anyone.) 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: Write a dazzling bookMake a shortlist of literary agents (using this tool and this free signup option)Write a great query letter (using this guide)Write an awesome synopsis (here’s how to do it)Send your material out to 10-12 agentsLight candles, say prayers, drop scented flowers down a wishing well (lucky charms)Get an offer of representation from an agentDo any editorial work the agent suggests and which sounds sensible to youLet the agent auction your workAccept the best offer, which isn’t necessarily the highest one That looks like a lot of steps, but the only actually difficult step in that sequence is the very first one. And creating a blindingly good agent submission pack is pretty simple if you use our free worksheets, available here. 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 Here at Jericho Writers, we know a bit about getting agents. Writers who have come to us for editorial help or for one of our courses have a success rate that is at least 10 times better than the above numbers would suggest, and probably more. 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 to Write an Elevator Pitch for Your Novel

Writing is scary – but of all the scary things about it, perhaps the scariest is getting the concept right. The hard fact is: a lousy concept will kill your novel, no matter how good your actual writing is. And how can you isolate the concept? The thing which makes the difference between success or failure? The answer is via your elevator pitch – a very short summary of what makes your book so special. We’ll get to some examples in just a second, but let’s start by defining terms . . . and understanding just why your elevator pitch is such a massive deal. How To Write A Great Book Pitch: Keep it to 20 words or lessBe originalMake it memorable – An astronaut seeking to survive. A woman who fakes her own murder. An ordinary boy – an orphan! – going to an extraordinary school.The result should make the listener say, “tell me more!” What Is An Elevator Pitch For A Novel? And why does it matter so damn much? An elevator pitch is the term given to any sales pitch that could, in theory, be delivered in the space of a short elevator ride. The idea is that you might find yourself in the elevator with Someone Important who can’t, for those twenty or thirty seconds, escape or deflect your attentions – so you can use that time to deliver a sales pitch so utterly compelling that that Person of Importance is drawn in and wants to hear more. To be clear: this is a fantasy scenario. You are never likely to be called upon to pitch your book in this way. It’s just not how any normal submission process happens. (Or, for that matter, how any normal elevator ride happens. I’ve twice been in an elevator with the CEO of a major publisher. On both occasions, we chatted about the weather, or the shiny new canteen, or whatever people normally talk about in elevators.) But that notional elevator pitch still matters, because it’s a neat conceptual way to understand: the very heart of your book’s Unique Selling Point – which in turn determines,how literary agents could pitch your book to a publisherhow an acquiring editor could pitch that book internallyhow a sales team could pitch that book to retail buyershow a publicist could pitch that book to reviewershow you could describe the book – pithily but attractively – on social mediahow the book blurb could pitch that book to readers (online or physically) And no book succeeds unless it’s pitchable in that way. In fact, you can define an elevator pitch like this: An elevator pitch for a novel is a very short summary of what makes the book UniqueStriking,Fresh, andCompelling If your book pitch doesn’t tick those boxes, your book is unlikely to sell. An agent will think “can I pitch this to editors?” and think, No, probably not. An acquiring editor will think, “can I pitch this book in house?” and think, No, probably not. And so on down the chain. The book pitch is, in a way, the very heart of book marketing. It’s the heart of your product. The heart of your brand. How short is very short? Well, there are no set rules, but I’d suggest that fewer than 20 words is ideal. Fewer than 50 words is essential. If you like, you can think of the pitch as being something that would work and stand out amongst the hurly-burly of social media. If you had just 280 characters to talk about your book, what would you say? That’s not a bad discipline to apply. Brevity is key, not because that theoretical elevator ride is short, but because you need to isolate what is special about your book. That means discarding nearly everything about the book – for example, the settings, the plot twists, the great characters, the genius denouement, and so on. Sure, you need to get to those things in time. If the Very Important Person in the elevator gets out on the same floor as you and says, “Sounds great, tell me more”, then all those other things are going to matter too. A great elevator pitch is essential, yes, but it’s never enough on its own. But still. The elevator pitch is very short. And it matters. Example Elevator Pitches How successful novels get that way . . . Here are some examples of elevator pitches. These are our versions of the pitch in each case – our attempt to isolate what makes these books special. So here goes: TwilightA teen romance between an ordinary girl and a boy who is actually a vampire.[15 words] The Da Vinci CodeA professor of symbology unlocks codes buried in ancient works of art as he hunts for the Holy Grail.[19 words] Gone GirlA wife (Amy) goes missing, and her husband is suspected of murder. But the sweet diary-writing Amy of the first half of the book is revealed to be a very different woman in the second half . . .[36 words] The MartianAstronaut, stranded on Mars, has to figure out how to survive.[11 words] Brokeback MountainA love story between two male cowboys[7 words] Harry Potter seriesOrphan boy goes to school for wizards[7 words] Alex Rider seriesYoung James Bond[3 words] I hope it’s obvious that these books all have great premises. We’ll look at exactly what makes these ideas so great in a second . . . but first let’s have some (made up) examples of elevator pitches for books that could never sell. So here are some really bad elevator pitches: Eco-fantasy for 6-7sThree children go to a fantasy world where they must save the planet and learn about the importance of recycling and the dangers posed by electro-magnetic radiation. Non-literary literary fictionA slightly mediocre book about two somewhat boring people in whose lives nothing seems to happen. Paranormal romance (2018)A teen romance between an ordinary girl and a boy who is actually a vampire. We get books like these, as do literary agents. Anything lacking a grabbing, easily communicated pitch is already at a disadvantage . . . or to put that more bluntly: will simply never sell. And notice that the paranormal romance pitch in the list just above is exactly the same as the pitch we put together for Stephenie Meyer’s hyper-successful Twilight. What makes this second pitch so terrible, and the first one so great? It’s timing of course. Agents need something that will make editors sit up and say, “Hey, tell me more.” When Twilight first came out, that pitch was electric. Now? It’s so tired, it needs to sleep. Need more help? If you want more help on anything in this post, then do check out our How To Write course that has a crazy-good 1 hour video on these exact topics. The course itself is quite pricey, so we generally recommend taking out a cheap monthly membership which gives you access to EVERYTHING we offer in terms of video courses, masterclasses, etc – and at an easily affordable, cancel-any-time price. Find out loads more here How To Write Your Elevator Pitch OK. So you know why an elevator pitch matters so much – because it’s THE key sales element in the chains that runs from: You ⇒ Agent ⇒ Acquiring editor ⇒ Publisher Publisher’s sales team ⇒ Retail buyer ⇒ ReaderPublisher’s publicity & marketing team ⇒ Reviewers ⇒ Reader You know what you want to achieve: a pitch that is Short, Unique, Striking, Fresh, and Compelling. So how do you actually achieve that? The most important thing to understand is that you throw out almost everything in your novel. Take that Harry Potter elevator pitch: “Orphan boy goes to school for wizards.” That doesn’t say: Anything about VoldemortAnything about Harry’s parentsAnything about his muggle uncle & auntAnything about Hermione & RonAnything about his summons to the schoolAnything about the specific storylines once Harry is at Hogwarts And that’s not just OK. It’s  good. That’s the whole point of the exercise. You are not seeking to explain your book in the elevator pitch. The only answer you are seeking to elicit is, “Hey, that sounds interesting. Tell me more.” When you get the “tell me more” type response from anyone (the agent, the acquiring editor, etc), you know you’re golden. That’s the point at which you can start to explain the broader context and story of your book, confident in the knowledge that you already have a good hold on your listener’s attention and interest. Great pitches combine a tiny bit of WHAT the book is (eg: in Twilight‘s case, that’s a teen romance), with a sense of WHY the book will be great to read (eg: “ooh, a girl and a werewolf: that sounds dark and sexy . . . and scary . . . and sexy . . .”) So the way to write your elevator pitch is to ignore everything about your book . . . except the aspect that will most make your reader say, “tell me more.” There’s no one approach you have to take. So the Harry Potter elevator pitch worked with a setting (that school for wizards. The Gone Girl one relied on its twist. (Real Amy is different from diary-Amy!) The Martian one relied on a setup / premise. (Astronaut stranded on Mars: how does he survive?) And so on. Remove everything from your book description except the part that most interests the reader. And keep your pitch intensely short. Under 20 words is good. Under 10 words is excellent. Anything over 50 words? That’s not an elevator pitch; that’s a snoozefest. Is Your Elevator Pitch Any Damn Good? And what you should do if it’s not. So write your elevator pitch. And that means: Actually do it! Or, in fact, it means: Actually do it right now this minute,or I’m going to get a mite tetchy. Reading a blog post about elevator pitches is a genius idea if it impels action: if you actually start to write and examine your own elevator pitch. Reading the same blog post if you don’t actually DO anything as a result doesn’t count as research. It’s procrastination. OK, so you have written / are currently sketching your elevator pitch. So is it any good? Do you have a saleable novel in front of you? Or an unsaleable clunker? Well, once you have a draft of your elevator pitch, you simply need to ask yourself, is it: Very short (<20 words, for preference)?Unique – does it feel original? Does it feel distinct from all the other books out there at the moment?Striking – is there an edge? Do you feel a glimmer of steel somewhere? (An astonaut seeking to survive. A wife who fakes her own murder. An ordinary boy – an orphan! – going to an extraordinary school.)Fresh – does your idea feel timely? Does it feel like part of the next iteration of what’s happening in your genre / fiction in general?Compelling – does it make any listener say, “Hey, that’s great, tell me more.”? If your pitch checks those boxes then, my friend, you have a winner. Sure, you still have a lot of work to do in actually writing the novel that lives up to the pitch – but yo’re on the right track. Congratulations. And if not – if you have an uneasy sense that you haven’t yet nailed this issue – then you have to nail it. Don’t con yourself into doing more work on that awkward Chapter 27. Or finessing the character of Bazhran the Bad any further. You have to write a novel whose pitch gets a reader to that crucial, “Tell me more” point. Oh, and if you aren’t sure whether your pitch has nailed it or not, then – trust me – your pitch hasn’t nailed it. We’ve got some great suggestions for how to develop and improve your core ideas right here. And of course members of our club get absolutely tons of help, all wrapped up free within your (cancel-any-time) membership. We’ve got an awesome How To Write course, plus masses of material on getting published, plus filmed interviews with agents and publishers, plus so much more as well. Do pop over to the Club welcome page and learn more. We’re here for writers – and we’d love you to join us! About the author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
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How to Find a Literary Agent (the Simple 8 Step Guide)

Do you need an agent? Are they worth it?And how do you actually maximise your chances of getting one?A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE Getting an agent may feel impossible, but it really isn’t. There’s only one difficult step in the whole process (that’s step 1, below). The rest of it, honestly, is fairly easy. Just be disciplined, persistent, and follow this guide to finding agents. Find A Literary Agent In 8 Simple Steps: Write a wonderful bookHave realistic expectationsPrepare your manuscript properlySelect agents with careSend out simultaneous submissionsPrepare for agent rejections – it happens, a lotReview your progressGet out there: go to events and meet agents We’re going to tell you everything you need to know to get the literary agent of your dreams . . . but before we even get there, have you wondered: Do I Actually Need A Literary Agent? The answer to that question depends on who you are and what you are writing. You definitely DO NOT need a literary agent if: You are self-publishing your work on Amazon. You can just upload your material for free without anyone’s permission or approval. The only time you would need a literary agent as a self-published author is if you sold a lot of copies in the English language, and you needed an agent’s help with foreign language sales, audio sales, film/TV rights, and the rest.You are writing poetry or flash fiction or other non-commercial art forms. Basically: agents are there to make money. If your work is basically art-for-art’s-sake then (a) great for you, but (b) forget about an agent – they’re in it for the $$$.You are writing niche titles that won’t attract significant advances. Let’s say, for example, you are writing a book on “How to Care For Your New Alpaca”. I guess there IS a market out there for alpaca owners who need that kind of book. But any advance from a traditional publisher will be probably zero, or maybe $1000 at the very, very outside. Take 15% of that number, and it’s just not enough to get any agent excited. So titles like that are great. They totally deserve to exist. But forget about agents. They’re not interested. Flipping to the other side of things – the zone where big advances are (often) sought and (sometimes) paid . . . You DO need an agent if: You are writing a novel. Basically: all the big publishers (the ones who dominate book stores; the ones who dominate the reviews pages in newspapers, etc) only take seriously submissions that come to them via literary agents. So if you don’t have an agent, you are seriously harming your chances of being taken seriously by the exact group of firms you most want to have bidding for your work. So get an agent.You are writing a children’s novel. Read the paragraph above. Every word of that applies to you.You are writing broad, general interest non-fiction. Walk into a large Barnes & Noble or a large Waterstones, if you live in the UK. Look around at the front tables and seek out any of them that are selling non-fiction. Ask yourself, “could my book live here?” If the answer to that question is YES, then you need a literary agent, essentially for the exact same reason as applies to novelists. If the answer to the question is NO (probably because the book you’ve written is too niche to appeal to the general reader), then it’s doubtful whether you need an agent . . . or an agent needs your business. There are of course plenty of shades of grey in between these two basic blocks. So common “well, it all depends” type authors might be: Authors of picture books or other very short books for children. Some of these authors choose to have agents. Some don’t. I think the best advice for newbies (given without me knowing your specific situation, obviously) is: Use a literary agent when you first enter the industry, then take stock after a year or two, once you’ve got a sense for how things work.Authors of narrowly subject-led non-fiction, where the potential market is large. So books on health, diet and cooking can be niche and subject-led in some sense, but since books of that sort often pop-up on bestseller lists, agents are interested. You just have to be sensible in judging the sales potential of your work – agents will be ruthless in doing the same! Clear? Great. There’s just a couple more questions we get asked A LOT, so we may as well clear those up too. They are: How Much Do Literary Agents Cost? And this question has a really nice, clean, clear answer. First: agents cost nothing. Not one dime upfront – or, in a way, ever. They charge only on commission – so, typically, they ask for 15% of any income earned on home sales and 20% of anything earned on overseas or film/TV sales. So if they don’t make money for you, they don’t make money for themselves. But the upfront cost to you is $0.00 . . . or, if you prefer to think in the British pound sterling then, at current exchange rates, that comes to exactly £0.00. (I’m writing as an author of 20 years experience and, aside from commission, I have paid my agent exactly nothing in those years. My agent has done very well out of my business, all the same!) Are Literary Agents Worth It? And are agents worth it? Well, let me see: You get access to publishers who would otherwise not take you seriously – and those are the publishers with the huge sacks of money availableYou get access to the exact right person at those publishers (because it is an agent’s job to know who’s who there.)You get someone with intense experience of conducting auctions for properties like yoursYou get someone who can organise the exact same thing globally – and where your agent doesn’t know the territory themselves (Bulgaria say, or South Korea), they’ll work with a trusted counterparty who doesYou can get someone who has trodden the book to film route before and can guide you through that (most treacherous) maze.You get someone of real editorial acuity who, most importantly, knows the market for your book and how to optimise your writing for that marketYou get someone whose financial interests are slam-bam exactly the same as yours. So, uh, is an agent worth it . . .? It’s a daft question. Personally, I’ve made a lot of money from writing over the years, and have shared a chunk of that with my agent. And also: I’m almost certainly more plugged into the market than you are; probably know more about selling books; have better contacts; and much else. But my agent hasn’t just earned back his 15% over the years; he has increased my income severalfold over what it would have been if I’d had sole charge. I’m a very experienced author with superb industry contacts and I wouldn’t even dream of being without my agent. So if you are in the “gotta have an agent” category above, then get a damn agent. You need one. You’ll make more money that way. You’ll also have a stronger and more personally/artistically rewarding career. So just do it, OK? Right. Preamble over. Now let’s jump into how to actually find that literary agent – assuming you are a good writer, but with zero track record. Write A Wonderful Book Bear in mind you’re competing against the very best in the business. If you are writing spy thrillers, your books will be competing against John Le Carre’s and at the same price, with less publicity, less uptake from the bookstores. The moral there is simple: Hold your work to the highest of high standards. A competent book will never be taken on by an agent. A good book is unlikely to be taken on. A dazzling book WILL be taken on . . . and could well go on to sell for a lot of money. Most writers don’t want to hear that advice, but truthfully? It’s the only advice that really, really matters. You can’t ignore it. And though this blog post is not just going to pressure you into buying our services, it’s probably helpful to remind you that the gold-standard way of improving your manuscript is to get editorial advice from professional readers such as those we can supply. The details of what we offer can be found right here. If you’ve tried your luck with agents and got nowhere, then the chances are that one of the following apply to you: You haven’t tried enough agents, or you’ve tried the wrong ones.Your approach to agents has been howlingly bad.Your book just isn’t yet good enoughYour novel has just totally misjudged the market – for example by having a word count that is either way over or way under what agents and publishers are seeking. (Word count guidelines here.) Of these, the third issue is by far the most common one, so if you’ve sought admittance to Planet Agent and got nowhere fast, then your probable next step should be to get editorial help. Need more help? Members of Jericho Writers can get free access to a ton of materials, including our 17-video course on How To Write – a course that has had a zillion rave reviews from writers like you already. The course itself is quite costly to buy outright, but Jericho members get free access to it, and everything else. Learn more about our cancel-any-time membership, or just treat yourself and sign up. Have Realistic Expectations Literary agents spend most of their time handling existing clients. A typical agent might take on just two new authors a year, and most agents receive around 2,000 manuscripts a year. That means that, inevitably, they reject most submissions. What’s more, very few publishers have interest in unsolicited contributions. This is disheartening, of course – but it’s not about odds. Finding a literary agent is about: Quality. If your book is strong enough, it will sell. We have virtually never seen an exception to that rule, and we have handled thousands of client manuscripts over the years.Professionalism. We’ve had clients who have sent their (very good) manuscripts out to 2-3 agents. They didn’t get a positive response. So they gave up. I once encountered such a client at a crime writing festival. I knew our editor had rated her manuscript, so I asked how she’d got on. She told me that she’d been to three agents, hadn’t got anywhere, and just shelved the manuscript. I pretty much yelled at her. You can’t do that. I told her she needed to reach out to at least a dozen agents in total before drawing any final conclusions. So she did. And she got an agent. And then a book deal.Persistence. And let’s say you take your first book out to 12 agents. No one offers you a deal, but you get back some encouraging comments. What then? What choices are you going to make. if you quit, you are not a writer and never really were one. That’s when the real writer keeps going. You might write another book. You might take your existing book and get editorial help on it. You might rework your idea, and just take your original idea down a different and more exciting road. Shortly before writing these words, I watched a TV show here in the UK, in which a writer – Mandy Berriman – talked to a major TV host on primetime TV about her debut book deal. I was so proud, I actually had tears in my eye. You want to know why? Because Mandy had been one of our first ever clients. More than ten years previously, I’d read the first words of creative writing she’d ever written as an adult. The work was raw, but still shone with a warmth and authenticity that I always believed would and should result in a book deal. It took a long time – and there were agents and rejections aplenty along the way – but she got there. Like you, she started out with no track record at all – and she ended up on TV, with a great publisher and brilliant sales. Persistence or talent, which would you rather? After a long time in this game, I can tell you that persistence wins every single time. Prepare Your Manuscript Properly Agents see hundreds of manuscripts. Don’t rule yours out on silly things. Eliminate spelling errors and don’t rely on a computer spell check (too to his four ewe). If your spelling is poor, ask a friend to help. If your punctuation is bad, do the same. And get the layout right. That means Times New Roman font or Garamond or something similar, with a font size of 12. Normal margins. Double-spaced, or 1.5 line spacing. If you really want to go sans serif in your choice of font (what’s sans serif?) – and we’d advise against – go with something normal and widely seen, like Arial or Calibri. Lay your manuscript out like a book, not a business document, which means no space between paragraphs, and with the first line slightly indented. Every page should be numbered, your title and your name in the header. Your title page should contain your title, your name and your contact details. Nothing else. You do not need to worry about copyright, either – you already own the copyright. Making a fuss about it marks you as an amateur. Really though, there are no absolute rules when it comes to manuscript presentation – unlike in screenwriting, for example, where incorrect formatting means you’ve failed before you’ve started. That means that as long as you produce a clean, professional-looking document nothing else really matters. Pro tip. Don’t name your documents for your convenience; think about your agent instead. So whereas you are unlikely to be confused by a document called novel.doc on your computer, that’s of no help to an agent sifting 30 unread manuscripts on her e-reader. So call your manuscript, for example, A Farewell to Legs, Ernetta Hummingbird, First 10K words. doc. That’s cumbersome from your point of view – but amazingly helpful to the agent. And it’s the agent you’re trying to impress! Select Agents With Care Agents may take up to two months to read your book (or pretend to read it, anyway). You may need to apply a fair few times before you strike lucky, so we strongly recommend you make multiple simultaneous submissions. The old “one agent at a time” rule was only ever for the benefit of agents, not authors, and you should ignore it completely. So, how do you find a literary agent? How To Find An Agent The Hard And Painful Way It’s easy to find an agent the painful way. You just Google “literary agents” and spend the next three days solid researching. Bear in mind that Google has no idea which agents are good or bad, so the search rankings on Google have virtually no relation at all to agent quality. Not happy with that? OK, here’s another painful approach you could take. You could buy a book. (Remember those? Things made out of pulped up wood. You used to see them around a lot.) In the US, you’d probably buy Writer’s Market. In the UK, you’d get the quaintly named Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. Then you’d sit there turning pages, and hitting the internet hard, when the text was insufficient. How To Find An Agent In A Clunky But Acceptable Way Better than either of those approaches would be to sign up to AgentQuery.com – a free agent-search tool that is remarkably good given the price point. The tool is OK-ish for the US, and a bit crummy elsewhere, but I’d still prefer to start a search there with Google or with a book. One step up again, and you have the agent database tools of Writer’s Market. Those are paid-for and better than AgentQuery, but frankly they still look like something developed ten years ago and not improved since. The world of today can surely do better than that, right? How To Find An Agent With Ease And Happiness Or of course you could become a member of Jericho Writers. Our AgentMatch tool is quite simply the best way to find a literary agent. If you want to know how to find a literary agent for children\'s books, then AgentMatch is perfect for you; in one easy search you\'ll be able to find all the UK and US agents who accept children\'s books. If you want to find, let’s say “A relatively new literary agent, who is actively seeking new clients, and is open to SF/fantasy submissions” then you can perform that search in approximately 15 seconds. Or maybe just 7 seconds if your fingers move fast. Then when you want to learn more about any given agent, you just dive into their individual profile, where one of our native English-speaking graduate researchers (most of whom have BAs / MAs in English or Creative Writing) has put together a detailed profile, along with a ton of specific data about that agent. In the meantime, you can view our comprehensive lists of: All the literary agents in the USAll the literary agents in the UK You should probably also take a look at our jumbo literary agent “your questions answered” page. Sounds interesting? Course it does. Learn more about becoming a member of Jericho Writers or just sign up now. Send Out Simultaneous Submissions Most agents have submission guidelines that require the following: Your first 3 chapters, 10,000 words, or 50 pages of your manuscript (check individual requirements);A short query letter (or covering letter; they mean the same.) Get help on your query letter here.A 500-700-word synopsis, unless agency guidelines explicitly ask for something else. Synopsis help here. Most agencies take submissions by email, but again, check guidelines and follow agency submission guidelines scrupulously. (They will vary.) How Many Literary Agents Should You Approach? You are aiming to generate a shortlist of about a dozen names. What you’re looking for is: Agents who are open to your genreAgents who are genuinely open to new clients (which will often mean younger, newer agents)Agents with a good attitude to authors generally – something you can often tell from how open and transparent they are on their website or in interviews.Agents with whom you can find some point of contact. So it might be that a given agent has one of your favourite authors on their client list (in your genre or out of it), or said something in a blog post somewhere that really resonated with you, or shares a passion (for sailing say, or synchronised swimming.) Why a dozen agents? Answer, because if you approach fewer than that, you risk being rejected just because the handful of agents you approached had their hands full of existing work at the time you approached them. So why not more than that? Well, OK, you could go to more. 15 would be fine, and maybe even 18 wouldn’t be crazy. But really, as soon as you are querying 10 or more agents, one of those guys WILL pick your book up, if your book is good enough. If you send your book out to 12 agents, and get either rejection slips or silence then you are normally better off getting top quality editorial advice on your manuscript (we recommend our services!), than just badgering more agents. In at least 99% of cases, the issue is to do with the manuscript, not with the initial selection of agents. Where Should I Look For Agents? The two centres of publishing are New York and London. Most literary agents are based in one of those two cities, because most international trade publishing is based there too. (In the English-language, I mean.) If you are American or Canadian (or resident there), you should almost certainly be looking for a US agent, or at least one who is very intimately involved in the New York publishing world. Likewise, if you are British or Irish (or resident there), you should be looking at a UK-based agent (most likely London), or at least one who is highly acquainted with that world – as for example some agents in Dublin or Edinburgh. If you’re not lucky enough to be a citizen of one of those fine countries, then you can pretty much take your pick of London and New York. Because you don’t quite belong in either territory, you can perfectly well take your pick of either. Australians can certainly consider local representation, but equally well look further afield. Lucky you. How To Write A Query Letter (Or, Covering Letter) It’s not hard to write a good query letter (still often called a covering letter in the UK.) In fact, if you can write a half-decent book, you can unquestionably write a perfectly good query letter. Here for example, is a fine example of the genre: Dear Mr Redintooth,I am currently seeking an agent for my first novel, A Farewell To Legs. The novel (of about 70,000 words) tells a love story, set against the background of a busy amputation clinic in Bangalore. I have enclosed the first three chapters plus a brief synopsis with this submission. I am a thirty-year-old accountant.[Then one short paragraph of no more than 100 words describing the setting / hero / premise of the book]The story arose from my own experiences during a recent trip to Bangalore. The book attempts to deal with themes of loss and suffering in an accessible, moving, and uplifting way. I was particularly keen to write to you, after your success with Goodbye, Little Ear, the autobiographical work by Mr Van Gogh.I very much look forward to hearing from you.I look forward to hearing from you.Yours,Ms Mildasmilk If you have completed a well-recognised MFA or creative writing course, then say so. If you are a professional writer in any other capacity (in journalism, TV, radio, etc), then say so. Ditto, if you’ve won any prize that has real merit. If you have a recommendation from ourselves or any other person or organisation likely to command respect, then you can say so too – but expect to be checked up on. But it’s really OK if you are Mr or Ms Unknown of Nowheresville. My own literary agent once had a totally unsolicited submission from an unknown Englishwoman living out in the Middle East. He liked her writing and took her on . . . and that author has gone on to write (and sell) a book or two – and win a small mountain of literary prizes to boot. ALL agents have stories like that, so you need have no anxieties about being unknown. It’s the manuscript that matters, not the person behind it. Need more help with your query letter? Probably – it’s really important to get things like that right. Well, funnily enough we have an entire video course on Getting Published, with a full length video on writing the perfect query letter . . . and writing the perfect synopsis . . . and absolute everything else mentioned in this blog post. If you wanna get your hands on the course, you can buy it (but it’s pricey), or become a member of Jericho Writers and get unrestricted access to it – and everything else – at no additional cost. Interested? Learn more, or sign up here. How Not To Write A Covering Letter Never write a covering letter which looks anything like the following. Dear Ms Redinclaw, Allow me to present my first novel, an epic tale of love and cannibalism set against the sweeping backdrop of the Hackney Road Cleansing Services department. My style combines the sassy, street-smart writing of Martin Amis with the philosophical scope and ambition of George Orwell. I’ve attached a five-page synopsis, blurb for the rear cover, a short three-page bio and photograph, and a sketch marketing plan for the North American areas. I have sent the book to several agents and expect to be ready to interview my shortlist in the last week of December. Yours in expectation, Mr Littlelamb When you’re ready, send out your letters (which don’t look like the above). How To Write A Synopsis For Literary Agents Most literary agents will ask you for a synopsis of your work. (More synopsis help.) Your synopsis: Should relate the story of your novel, from start to finish.Should be about 500 words long, and no longer than 800 words. (It’s true that some agents ask for bizarrely long synopses, but those guys are definitely in a dwindling minority.)Is not a book blurb. It’s not selling text, and it doesn’t cut off at a “would she solve the crime? or lose her life?” type of cliffhanger. It just relates the whole story, soup to nuts.Should be written in clear, good EnglishShould sketch in character’s emotions and emotional journeyBut here’s a time where you should definitely tell not show. (So you’d say, “Feeling hurt by the rejection, Briony  . . .” This is not a time when you’d say, “Tears of hurt and fury trembling on her lashes, Briony . . .”)Does NOT have to detail every plot twist of the story. You can’t do that. You don’t have room – and the agent doesn’t want all that here anyway. How do you do all that without going insane? You do it by building up, not paring down. Starting with the structure and building upwards from there. One really good tip to make sure you do this right is to make sure you don’t have your manuscript at your side or open on your laptop when you put together your synopsis. If you do that, you’ll start to worry how to incorporate that stunning plot twist in chapter 27, and how to convey Dorothy’s perplexity in Chapter 41. You’re going to tell me you’ve got really great training material on all this, aren’t you?Uh-huh. Like really great. material that will help you write a great synopsis in one hour flat.And that it’s free to members of Jericho Writers.Uh-huh.Ah, dammit. ** Goes to check out the sign up page ** Prepare For Agent Rejections – It Happens, A Lot It\'s all good knowing where to find a literary agent, and it doesn’t matter how good your book is, it’ll be rejected. J.K. Rowling was rejected, too – it doesn’t necessarily mean your work is bad – so don’t take this too personally. Reasons Why Literary Agents May Reject Your Work They’re busy with clientsThey’re on maternity leave and haven’t updated their websiteThey’re not very efficient and have 2,000 unopened submissions. (Not a fictional idea that – we’ve come across worse in our time.)They’re just not that into your book, but thought it was basically fineThey have an author who is writing closely competing workThey have gone mad / fallen drunk / decided to follow the Buddhist pathThey really, really liked it. They just didn’t like it quite enough We recommend approaching about a dozen agents and splitting that into two waves of submissions. If you want to approach as many as fifteen, that too is fine. If you can’t impress about one in ten agents, your chances of impressing a publisher (harder to sway than agents) are proportionally small. If you have sent the book to Mr Jones at XYZ agency, then it is okay to send the book to Ms Smith at the same agency, and unless you’re very purist, don’t feel the need to mention your earlier rejection. (By the way, this tip was given to us by an agent. You don’t need to feel especially naughty doing it). In truth, there are plenty of agents out there, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty in finding possible targets. Again, using AgentMatch, our proprietary search tool, should make all that a lot, lot easier. Review Your Progress If you’ve received fewer than ten rejections, keep going. If you’ve had twelve or more, review your book – where is it flagging? Remember that there are only two reasons why manuscripts fail: Your book isn’t there yet. This is overwhelmingly the most common reason.You’ve made a mess of approaching agents. If you handle your submissions process with proper professionalism – and the fact that you’ve read a monster post this far already is a very good sign! – then #2 above won’t apply to you. So then the question is, how near or far are you from success. The submissions process itself should give you some clue: You have had warm, personal and encouraging rejections. That’s great. That means you are in the zone. You just need to identify any remaining issues in your text, then nail them. If you are in this category, you would be nuts not to seek professional editorial feedback. We recommend our services, cos they’re the best!You have had at least one request for your full manuscript. Sort of like the above, except the slightly dilute version. Again, if I were in that camp, I’d certainly be seeking editorial help.You have had no full manuscript requests / no warm feedback / silence / standard issue rejection slips. All that means – nothing much. Your manuscript could be in the top 10-15% of all manuscripts submitted and come to that same end. You really could be a future bestseller, and have that outcome with your first round of submissions. (We’ve actually had numerous clients of whom something like that is basically true.) Remember I told you earlier that I rated persistence above talent? Yep. Well, this is the stage where you find out quite why that matters so much. You just keep on keeping on. You’re a writer. You’re made of steel. Get Out There: Go To Events And Meet Agents Finally, if you want to meet agents in person and get feedback from them directly, you can. Our Festival of Writing brings committed writers face-to-face with agents every year. You’ll get direct feedback on work and, just as useful, hear agents talk about the realities of their industry, what they’re looking for, any tips and advice they can give. (Joanna Cannon is one author who signed with her agent just after the Festival.) Keep up-to-speed with our events, hosted (chiefly) in London and Oxford. You’ll meet agents, editors, publishers – and it’s uplifting to realise the industry is warm, welcoming, open to new writers. Oh, and lengthy as this guide is, we know that some of you will still have questions. For that reason, we’ve put together our jumbo literary agent explainer – a kind of FAQ for all things agent. You’ll probably want to take a peep at our Getting Published guide as well. You can get that here. Hope that helps. Happy writing – we’re rooting for 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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Manuscript Presentation, Novel Manuscript Format

The Art And Craft Of Beautiful Manuscript Presentation Manuscript presentation makes a big difference to the way literary agents receive your work. Yes, sure, agents are looking for wonderful writing above all, so in that sense the way you format your manuscript is secondary . . . but getting an agent is hard, so you may as well make sure that first impression is a good one. And of course remember this: literary agents aren’t mostly looking to accept a manuscript. They’re looking for early warning signs that say this author hasn’t taken enough care to be worth reading further. So the lousy presentation of your book\'s cover page can screw up your chances of success before your book has really given itself a chance. Sounds scary? It doesn’t need to be. Follow the tips below and you’ll be fine. Format Your Manuscript Professionally: Use double or 1.5 line spacingUse a standard fontMake sure to use font size 12Use standard marginsChapter breaks should be marked by page breaksInsert page numbersIndent paragraphsDon’t overuse the ellipsis… Or, exclamation marks!Title pages should also include your name, contact info, and wordcount What Is A Manuscript? There’s a difference between a manuscript and a book, and it’s much the same as the difference between a writer and an author. A writer is anyone at all who writes. An author is a writer whose work has been published. The same thing is basically true of manuscripts / books, so a reasonable definition of the word ‘manuscript’ would be: A manuscript is the text of your novel (or work of nonfiction),before that text has been turned into the finished book. In the old days, when the industry still worked with paper, the manuscript was literally the stuff you printed off on your home printer. When I sent my first manuscript out to literary agents, the damn thing ran to more than 180,000 words and it was enormous. Over 600 pages of printed paper, as I recall. These days, your manuscript may well never be printed off at all, anywhere. Quite likely, you will work away at your manuscript on a laptop. You’ll send it to an agent by email. Any editorial work will be conducted by email and an e-copy of your manuscript. When the thing is ready to go out to publishers, it’ll go as a computer file, only. It’s referred to as a manuscript though: it’ll only become an actual book once it’s been typeset and bound (and becomes an actual hard copy, dead-tree book), or once it’s been formatted and packaged up as an ebook. (As a matter of fact, I think some of the kudos that still attaches to trad publishing as opposed to self-publishing has to do with the way it marks out that transition.) Manuscript Basics So your manuscript is basically just a computer file that lives (for now) on your home computer only, but may in time come to sit on the e-reader of your literary agent and (you hope) a whole bunch of editors too. While the manuscript remains on your laptop and nowhere else, then you can format it just as you please. There are no rules at all. No one will see. No one will care. I know one (really good) literary author who has poor eyesight and weirdly bad spelling. So he types in a huge font size – Arial, size 16, often all bold – and just ignores the spelling errors. If he sent out his work out like that, it would make a terrible first impression on anyone reading it. But he doesn’t. That’s just the way he works.. So manuscript formatting rules only apply when you’re ready to go out to agents . . . and even then, you need to realise that there are no rules, exactly. There’s no standard manuscript format. No required novel template that you have to follow, or else . . . So the only real rule of manuscript presentation is a simple, ordinary one: Your manuscript should look like a clean, professional document. If you obey that one single rule, you’ll be just fine. That said, there’s a follow-up quasi-rule, which can be expressed as: You probably want to set out your manuscript in a way that is most helpful to a literary agent. Those guys read a lot of new manuscript submissions, so if you make their life harder, you are – even if just in a small way – acting against your own best interests. Ways you can make an agent’s life easier include: Helpful choice of filenamesMaybe the file on your computer is called novel.doc, because you hadn’t settled on a title when you started to write. That’s fine – plenty of my novels have started out that way too. But remember that an agent may be looking at your submission alongside 50 others. So don’t call your documents novel.doc / synopsis.doc / query.doc – you’ll confuse the agent almost instantly. Best practice would be to name your file something like The Great Gatsby, Scott Fitzgerald, first three chapters.doc. [Except I think that title might already have been taken . . .]Clean, clear title pageI’l give more detail on that in a secondNo unnecessary additional textYour manuscript is just a working document, that has – prior to publication or the offer of a book deal – no special status in life. So don’t write dedications in here. Or Author’s Notes. Or long acknowledgements. If there”s a really compelling reason why you need to do these things, then OK. But in most cases, all that stuff can wait.Easy readability for the main text itselfMore on that shortly as well! Oh yes, and I should probably also say that in the screenwriting trade, there are fierce and important rules about formatting. They matter because of an equation like this: length of screenplay = run time = production costs. That equation does not apply to you novelists or non-fictioneers, and the result is that publishing industry requirements about format are much looser. And quite right too! How To Format Book Title Pages Applies both to novels and non-fiction books. Your title page should contain: The book’s title in a large fontA subtitle, if the book has one. Most novels won’t.A quick genre specifier, if you want it. “A crime thriller”, for example. I’ve added “A novel” to the page below, only because this page was prepared for the American market where “a novel” is quite often used as a kind of subtitle.Your nameThe book’s rough word count, rounded to the nearest 1,000 or 5,000 wordsYour contact info (Email, phone, address) in the bottom right hand corner, or otherwise somewhat secondary It doesn’t need anything else. It doesn’t need and shouldn’t have a copyright notice. (See an example of the title page for one of my novels.) Oh, and NO ARTWORK. Unless you are a professional illustrator, say, you just want to keep the front cover bare of anything except text. Remember that the publisher, not you, will decide what the final book looks like, so sticking your own imagery on the book will, in most cases, look a awkwardly amateurish. Epigraphs, dedications, acknowledgements and all that kind of stuff can be left for when your book makes it into print. At this stage, you really don’t need that kind of thing. If you really must put in an epigraph, you can certainly do so on the second page or (probably italicised) on the cover itself. Your cover page would ideally not have any page number on it but, as you can see from the image, I didn’t bother eliminating the number from my title page. It’s no big deal. Manuscript Text Formatting Guidelines Follow this broad template, and you’ll have a happy literary agent . . . The following guidelines will mean that you deliver the kind of manuscript that any literary agent will instantly consider professional and easy to navigate. If you want to deviate from any of these exact strictures, you probably can. The golden rule is to deliver something that looks like any normal, professional document AND one that is laid out like a book, not a business letter. (ie: indented paragraphs not line breaks in between.) And even that rule about indenting the paragraphs is often not followed by first time writers. But are literary agents going to turn down great work just because they don’t love the paragraph formatting? Of course not. So don’t worry too much. OK, enough preamble. For a nice looking manuscript, you want to present it in something like the following way: Make sure to use double or 1.5 line spacing.Use a nice ordinary font. (Times New Roman, Garamond, or Georgia are all good choices. Arial is quite common, but maybe better avoided as sans serif text is just harder to read at length.)Ensure that you use a font size no smaller than 12, and no larger than 14.Use standard margins. Your existing defaults are probably fine, but check.Chapter breaks should be marked by page breaks, so each new chapter starts on a clean sheet.You can mark each new chapter with a number, if you care to. Or anything at all, really, just so long as it’s clear what’s going on. (If you’re worried about how long your chapters are, or how many pages are in a novel, then read this and put your mind at ease).Don’t forget to insert page numbers (though, truth be told, all that matters less now that everything happens in e-form. It’s still a nice touch.)Indent paragraphs (using the tab key or the paragraph formatting menu – don’t rely on the space bar). Do not leave a double space between paragraphs except as a section break.Oh, and don’t overuse the ellipsis (“…”) or the exclamation mark. Professional authors use those things very sparingly. This page shows my own choices: a nice looking chapter header (but mine is a lot fancier than you need.) Modest paragraph indentation, I like 0.3″. A personal, but not wacky font. (I usually use Garamond, though I’m not quite sure what I used in this example!) Line spacing that’s clear, but not too spacy. (I use generally use 1.5 line spacing, though you can go as low as 1.25 if you really want.) Plus a nice neat page number, of course. It would be good practice to include your name and the title of the book in a header or footer, though I haven’t done so in this image. Oh, and did you notice that the very first paragraph in that page was not indented? That’s technically correct and looks quite classy . . . but don’t worry if you haven’t done it. At that level, no one will care. (And that’s one big thing to remember about manuscript presentation. You need your work to look clean, professional and literate. If you check those boxes, then you’re fine. Really, truly, nothing else matters – except the quality of your actual book, which needs to be amazing.) Manuscript Format: Dialogue Presentation This isn’t a full guide to dialogue format, so do check more complete sources if you need, but for a quick refresher: Dialogue counts as new paragraphs, so it should be indented.When speech by one character is interrupted by a descriptive line, and then the speech continues, this all counts as one paragraph. Begin the next paragraph with the next speaker.Use single quotation marks for dialogue. When dialogue is followed by ‘said X’ or ‘chortled Y’ you should not capitalise either the s of said or the c of chortled. This is true even if the dialogue ends with an exclamation mark or a question mark.If the speaker quotes someone else within dialogue, you show that inner quotation with double inverted commas. Like this, for example: ‘No,’ said Hugh patiently. ‘What Sophie actually said was, “Go to hell, you bloody idiot!” Words to that effect anyway.’For more help on writing dialogue in the first place, then nip over here. Again, though, that rule about quotations within dialogue is hardly ever going to matter . . . and no one at all will care if you get it wrong. It’s your novel or non-fiction which matters! Dialogue Format: An Example    ‘This manuscript is nicely presented,’ said the agent.   ‘Indeed it is,’ said the publisher. She paused briefly, to strike off a few zeros from an author’s royalty statement. ‘It is well presented. And intelligent. And beautifully written.’   ‘But Oprah won’t like it.’   ‘No, indeed. Nor the Chief Buyer at Walmart.’   ‘So we’ll reject it!’ they chorused, laughing wildly.   Their limousine swept on through the rainy streets, leaving a faint aroma of cigar smoke and Chanel no. 5 lingering on the mild springtime air. Use the example above for guidance – or, if in doubt, open any paperback book. The way it’s laid out is the way yours should be. Manuscript Presentation: Punctuation Basics Your presented manuscript needs flawless punctuation. A few last tips. There is one general rule for punctuation. It is there to help avoid ambiguity.Commas are tricky, but often missed out before names. Get into the habit of putting them in and you will avoid absurdities like ones noted by Lynn Truss in Eats, Shoots and Leaves.Hyphens are an endangered species, and only the writer can save it. Again, it is vital to avoid ambiguities and absurdities – for instance, the white toothed whale. Is it the whale or the teeth that are white?It is a good rule to avoid lists of adjectives but, when you have them, check to see if any should be hyphenated. You can have a dining room, but a table there becomes a dining-room table.Semi-colons are also endangered, yet can bring a deal of subtlety to a writer’s style. A semi-colon links two related sentences; the second often elaborates or adds context to the first. A semi-colon is stronger than a comma, not as strong as a full-stop.Colons are used where one sentence introduces another. The rule is simple: use the colon when one sentence introduces the next. The three mistakes that our editorial team sees most commonly are these: Not enough use of commas.Commas are like a tiny pause within a sentence and they can divide sentences into little blocks of meaning. They can make (especially) long sentences much easier to parse and comprehend. And commas are free. Use them!Use of commas instead of fullstops / periods.Yes, we like commas, but commas aren’t there to divide one sentence from another, if you use commas where you mean to use fullstops (periods), you will end up with sentences that never seem to end, writing of this sort will drive your editor mad, punctuation-related homicides are rising sharply as a result. (*)Misuse of apostrophesThe mistake which will have most agents screaming has to do with apostrophes. These are simple, so get them right. (‘It’s’ means ‘it is’, It’s raining, for example. ‘Its’ means the thing belonging to it, The mouse gnawed its cheese, for example – and ‘its’ is correct. No apostrophes are added to other possessive pronouns like his or hers, either.) If you’re unsure, look these things up. * – Oh and if you wanted to know how that sentence ought to look, it’s like this: Yes, we like commas, but commas aren’t there to divide one sentence from another. If you use commas where you mean to use fullstops (periods), you will end up with sentences that never seem to end. Writing of this sort will drive your editor mad. Punctuation-related homicides are rising sharply as a result. If you wanted a semi-colon instead of a period after “mad”, that would be very elegant and your editor would probably want to give you a kiss. Instead of shooting you. Which has gotta be a win, right? Get Help Writing a book is hard. Getting an agent is hard. Getting published – well, that’s still harder. And getting well published? Actually making a career out of this thing? That’s never been even remotely easy, and (if you’re talking about traditional publication) may be harder than it’s been for decades. So get help. Don’t start spending crazy money, but get help. Did you know, for example, that we at Jericho Writers have an entire video course on Getting Published that covers everything you need to know, soup to nuts, nothing left out? That’s ten hours of tuition from a presenter whose books have sold worldwide, hit bestseller lists and been adapted for the screen . . . and issued by Jericho Writers, a company that has helped hundreds of authors like you right through to publication. Now, OK, that course isn’t cheap (take a look – yikes!), but we make that course available to members of our club completely free. And they get full access to our How To Write course and our filmed masterclasses. Plus our amazing Jericho Cinema. And AgentMatch, the world’s premier literary agent search tool, and so much more besides. 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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Vanity Publishing & Austin Macauley

A short journey to the sewer We’re always on the side of the book. We’re always on the side of the writer. With books, we want them to be as good as they can be – written well, edited well, pressing clients to be as wonderful as they can – and if you have the guts and determination to pick up a pen and write a book, we’re on your side. And that’s why we are firmly, emphatically, viscerally opposed to vanity publishing in all its forms. This is a story, yes, about Austin Macauley, but it is also a story about a whole raft of other vanity presses too. Snakes, worms and weasels, every one. Why such strong language? Because vanity publishers take vast sums of money from authors to publish their books. This is in contrast to how to best practice in both traditional publishing (where publishers pay you), and modern ebook-led self-publishing where it costs nothing to upload your book to retailers like Amazon, and where per book royalties are excellent. So if you want to know more about what to avoid – and about Austin Macauley Publishers specifically – then read on. A more complete guide to (proper, legitimate, profitable) publishing can be found here. What Is Vanity Publishing? Vanity publishing is where authors pay for their book to be ‘published’ and where ownership of the book passes to the publisher as part of the contract. Vanity publishers never call themselves by that name. They’ll say they offer ‘partnership publishing’ or ‘hybrid publishing’ or say they offer a ‘contributory contract’ or anything else of that sort. But if any publisher: Asks you for moneyEnds up owning the rights to your book you should regard them as a vanity publisher. That’s if you’re polite, and inclined to be generous. Quite frankly, we prefer to think of them as thieves and fraudsters. To be clear: they are not breaking the law. But whether some narrow legal test of fraud is or is not met misses the ethical heart of the issue. The fact is that these publishers are offering writers a contract which they basically know will not meet the legitimate dreams and aspirations of those writers. What Vanity Publishing Looks Like We’ve spoken to one writer who was offered a ‘contributory contract’ from one vanity publisher (not Austin Macauley), requesting from her a staggering £7,000 to publish her poems. This lady was dying of cancer, and she wanted to earn a little something for the son she’d leave behind. Thankfully, she called us first, and asked for our advice. What we told her was this: There is not meaningfully any market for poetry, and certainly not of the (sincere, but quite home-spun) verses she’d written.She would never see that £7,000 againSales would be modest in the extreme. Aside from any sales she made to friends and family, her sales would quite likely be zero, nothing, nix, nada.She almost certainly would get a nicely produced book to hold in her handsShe would not find that book being sold in bookshopsYes, the book would be available on Amazon, but so are 5,000,000 other titles. Uploading a book to Amazon is easy. Selling it once it’s there – that’s hard.She would not, meaningfully, get any marketing support from the publisher once the book had actually been produced.In effect, she’d be paying £7,000 to have her book printed & the rights owned by somebody else. You could easily spend no more than £1,000 for a book of that length, print as many copies as you wanted, work with lovely, truthful, well-intentioned people, and still retain all the rights to the book. Naturally, she did not use that publisher to ‘publish’ her work. Instead, she went to a reputable local printer and, for a modest sum, got the thing printed up for local distribution. She told me that she wanted everyone who came to her funeral to get a copy. And look, there’s something good here and something awful. The good thing is that a dying woman made a book that she wanted to create. That spoke her thoughts to those she cared about. There is nothing at all of vanity in that impulse. In that sense, the term ‘vanity publishing’ is a total misnomer. I’ve seen a lot of people snared by vanity publishers, and in not one single case was vanity the issue. On the contrary, it’s naivete, hope, and nothing else. So that’s the good thing. A dying woman wrote and distributed some verses. And here’s the bad thing: someone wanted to steal £7,000 from her. Sick, dying, and not at all wealthy. Did I say bad? I meant awful. The thing about vanity publishers is they don’t really publish at all. They get books designed & printed. You can do that too, just google “typesetting”, “cover design” and “book printers” and you’ll have everything you need. Or use an ethical outfit like Matador, or Lulu, or CreateSpace, or IngramSpark, or Completely Novel, and you’ll get a fair service at a fair price. (What each of those outfits offers is different, so you can’t just compare prices – it’s more complex than that.) So if you just want to pay something to produce 10 books (or 100, or 1,000), you need to work with a company like one of those guys. Or source your own design / copyediting / cover design, etc. It’s not hard, and it can be very rewarding. What Are The Alternatives To Vanity Publishing? A word about traditional publishing and modern self-publishing [This section talks about the alternatives very swiftly. If you need more help, go to our main publishing advice page that gives you a load more detail in a very helpful format.] Traditional Publishing Or you can publish in the traditional way with a regular publisher. The advantages of that route: you get paid, upfront plus (potentially) royalties as wellyou get a real publisher working hard to market your bookyou will be sold in bookstores and have the pride of having done a hard thing well. There’s also one obvious disadvantage: It’s very hard to get accepted by a traditional publisher – the rate of success is probably 1 in 1000 submissions (or even worse) If your work IS of that quality, you probably need a literary agent. Details on how to do that can be found here. We answer further common questions about literary agents here. We also offer free lists of agents in the US and the UK. Self-publishing If you don’t want to go that route – too hard? too slow? you don’t want to lose control of your book? – then modern self-publishing is also an excellent answer. Modern self-publishing involves selling your book via Amazon and/or the other e-tailers such as Apple. You will make a majority of your sales – perhaps over 90% of them – via ebooks, but it’s perfectly possible to create and sell print-books as well. They’ll be of good quality and will be available to readers all over the world. The advantages of self-publishing include: Royalties are superb: Amazon pays 70% royalties on ebook sales, whereas traditional publishers will pay just 17.5% (or less, if you inlcude the amount you’ll owe your agent.)It’s easyIt’s fastYou reach readers right across the globe The disadvantages include: you have to handle the various bits and pieces yourself: cover design, ebook formatting. Most people will just outsource those tasks, but you still need to find the right people for the job.Because of those tasks, you are likely to pay something to get our book published – but $1500 / £1000 would be a perfectly reasonable  budget for most.You have to market your book. Amazon is a platform; it’s not going to market on your behalf unless you have some prove sales potential already.There is still a difference in kudos between self-publishing and the traditional sort. That doesn’t really make sense to us. (Who do you admire more: someone who sold $100,000 worth of self-published books on Amazon? Or someone who got a £1000 book deal from some remote bit of Penguin Random House?) But still: it matters to some people. If you want to find out more about how to self-publish your work, you can find out with our (characteristically comprehensive) guide here. Info on book descriptions here. Info on categories and keywords here. Advice on getting your book covers here. It’s also true that writing really well is a skill that can be learned – and then learned some more. If you’ve struggled with literary agents in the past, it may well be that your actual book isn’t as strong as it could be. For that reason, we’ve got useful advice on how to write a book right here. Learning About Writing And Publishing Also – this does’t quite fit on this page in a way – but: it’s possible you don’t yet know enough about the whole writing/publishing industry to yet make a decision on how to proceed. And if you think, yes, maybe that applies to me, what then? Well, there’s a LOT you can do. If you feeling like flashing the cash (a very little bit), I’d urge you to become a member of Jericho Writers. You’ll get access to the world’s best resources on writing, publishing and self-publishing. Info here. You should also, certainly, join our Jericho Townhouse writing community, that just gives you an exceptional way to meet other writers, and exchange questions help and community. View our forums, our blogs, our groups. Austin Macauley – A Close-up Look At One Vanity Publisher Hold your nose, folks. We’re heading down . . . This post grew (as you may have guessed) out of an encounter with Austin Macauley, a vanity publisher. Or rather: multiple encounters, all of them negative. We heard about authors feeling cheated. We heard about authors being threatened with legal action if they spoke out about their experience. We heard about authors going to court against the firm. We heard about a prominent blogger – a person of integrity and intelligence – being threatened with legal action for speaking out about these things. So we thought we’d look into Austin Macauley reviews . . . and we did not love what we saw. If you\'re asking yourself \'is Austin Macauley publishers reputable?\', we have the answer. No. In this updated post, we take another look at Austin Macauley – but please remember that ALL vanity publishers operate in much the same way. What we say about this firm could, mutatis mutandis, be said about all its snakelike brethren. Indeed, we DO say it about all those firms. Oh, and to be crystal clear: we do not believe that Austin Macauley is engaged in illegal activity. In our opinion, what they do is totally unethical and close to cheating, but some bad things are within the law; vanity publishing very much included. (Alas.) Okie-doke. So- If you Google “Austin Macauley”, as I just did, you may find this: Screengrab taken 17.5.2020 And – huh? A publisher who advertises? Go and Google Penguin Random House. Or HarperCollins. Or Simon & Schuster. Those guys don’t advertise. Why not? Because their business model works like this: Find great books. Publish them well. Make money. No part of that relies on advertising to authors and luring them in. (So how do they get those great books? They pay for them. And authors and literary agents bring them all their best stuff.) But the Austin Macauley model works like this: Find authors willing to part with cash. Part them from their cash. Deliver some kind of book. That’s it. The book doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to actually sell. AM doesn’t even actually have to try to do all the things that real publishers do to make sales. Of course not! They’ve already made money. From you! Bu I get ahead of myself. Here’s what they say on their website home page (text copied 24 April 2018) We pride ourselves on our hybrid publishing model, a progressively more popular means by which both new and previously published authors can establish themselves in the increasingly competitive world of books. This is horseshit. Here’s that same bit of text with my explanations in brackets: We pride ourselves on our hybrid publishing model [we take money from authors which no reputable publisher does. Deep in our snakelike hearts, we know that this is a horrible way to make a living, but we may as well make a virtue of it and pretend it’s normal.]a progressively more popular means [Rubbish. Traditional publishing is great. Self-publishing is great and has zoomed up in the world. Vanity publishing is used only by those who don’t know any better. It’s “popular” largely with those people who don’t know better and who are taken in by flashily effective advertising.]by which both new and previously published authors can establish themselves in the increasingly competitive world of books [Double-rubbish. You want to know if Austin Macauley establishes writers in the the world of books? OK. So do this. Go to the biggest bookstore near you. See if you can find any Austin Macauley books. Browse the shelves. Ask a checkout clerk. Seek specific titles by name. You will find almost none, and most likely none at all. And if I’m wrong, I’ll give you a dollar and a kiss for every one you find.] Indeed, let’s take the partnership / hyrbid / vanity agreements that Austin Macauley and its peers offers. We’d want to ask: What is the median cost to the author of these partnership agreements?Partnership implies some joint sharing of risks and rewards, so do these firms contribute a sum broadly equivalent to that contributed by your authors?What are the median sales of partnership titles? Note that ordinary averages (means) can be distorted by one or two high-selling titles, so a median figure would be helpful. This is a crucial question, and you should not part with a single penny before getting an answer.What, loosely, is the median financial outcome for partnership authors? Do they recover their contributions via royalties? Do they generally make a profit, and how much? And if they make a loss, what is the average magnitude of that loss? I hope it’s obvious why these questions are important. Austin Macauley Publishers operates within the law insofar as it prints books, makes those books available on Amazon, available for order by bookshops (not the same as saying that these books are likely to be stocked in bookshops). It makes modest efforts to secure publicity for its books and authors. All that does not amount to a good deal. It amounts to a right royal stinker of a deal. Avoid Austin Macauley. Avoid its peers. And may they, one day, all bite the dust! 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 To Get A Book Published In 2020

The all you need to know guide Getting a book published, even your first book – that sounds like it should be pretty do-able, right? And so it is, but the publishing industry is (inevitably) pretty complex, and can generate massively different outcomes depending on the choices you are about to make. In the same way, you might want to be a professional musician … but does that mean you do a paid gig in a local bar? Or get signed by a massive record label? In this blog post, we will weigh up the options and show you how you could get your book published. It’s possible to get published for free, and it’s also perfectly achievable even if you are a first time author. It’s also true that the publishing industry has got way more complex since the rise of Amazon and all that went along with that. That complexity is confusing, for sure, but it’s also good. The fact is there are more routes to publication than ever before in history. You just need to pick the route that works for you. And that’s what this post is all about. We’ll tell you: What your options areWhich option is right for youWhat the pros and cons are, andHow to access the particular publishing route of your choice If you need extra info on any topic, we’ll direct you to a resource that gives you everything you need. Oh – and you probably want to know about me. Well, I’m Harry Bingham. I’ve been traditionally published all over the world, with in the company of the world’s top #3 trade publishers. Furthermore, I’m the founder of Jericho Writers, so I’ve helped literally hundreds of writers just like you through to publication, so I know exactly what’s involved for a writer like you. But I’m not just about traditional publishing. I’ve also self-published (and love it.) I’ve sold fiction and non-fiction. I’ve sold full-length manuscripts and skinny-as-you-like book proposals. I’ve also had experience of plenty of other publishing routes. And this post is going to tell you EVERYTHING. So: How to get your book published in 2020: Traditional publication, via a literary agentTrad publication, but without an agentTrad publication, via a book proposalTrad publication, via a micro-publisherSelf-publishing on AmazonPublishing via a digital-first publisherPublishing via APub, Amazon’s publishing armPublication via a vanity publisherPublication via a print/design companySelf-publishing leading to a trad dealCrowd-fundingPublishing via a social platform That’s a lot to get through, so buckle up and read on … The Secret To Getting An Agent Option 1: How To Publish A Book Via A Literary Agent And A Large Traditional Publisher What’s Involved? The “Big 5” traditional publishers (outfits like Penguin RandomHouse or HarperCollins) dominate the world of trade publishing. They have huge financial resources. They have huge marketing and sales reach. They already publish a stellar list of names. And they reach right across the English-speaking world – so in that sense getting published in the US is much the same kind of process as getting published in the UK or Australia … and quite likely with the same group of firms involved as well. Obviously, those big publishers need to acquire material to publish, so they go out and buy it. They buy manuscripts (ie: novels or non-fiction which haven’t yet been turned into actual books). They buy those manuscripts off authors in return for an upfront cash advance. That advance is highly variable – think anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000+ for a book – and will be supplemented by royalties if sales are sufficient to ‘earn out’ the advance. And the publisher isn’t just there to write the checks. They are also there to sell your book, which they do by: Working on the manuscript editorially. That’ll normally involve a structural edit, a copy edit, and a proof read – layers of editing that in turn fix story, then typos/clarity, then a final check before printing. (More on types of editing.)Designing cover art and preparing the book for production. Books are normally produced in four formats (hard cover, paperback, e-book, audio)Selling the book to bricks & mortar retailers. Retailers – such as Barnes & Noble in the US or Waterstones in the UK don’t automatically stock all books that are printed. Far from it. So arguably the key part of a publisher’s job is to convince specialist retailers (basically bookstores) and generalist ones (notably supermarkets) to order and stock the book. Ideally, your book will be entered into promotions, that place your book in the most visible store locations and with an attractive price reduction.Selling the book via online retailers. Although Amazon pretty much does stock every book out there, publishers still have to persuade Amazon (and Apple, and Kobo, and so on) to promote your book as much as possible. That means your book will start popping up in “deal of the day” or “recommended for you” type promotions.Marketing the book. That will probably involve a mixture of traditional publicity (such as newspaper interviews and book signings) and digitally driven campaigns, probably involving social media, email marketing and perhaps some use of pay-per-click advertising. To most writers, all that sounds pretty good, but – no surprise – there’s a catch. The catch, quite simply, is that your book has to be pretty damn good, because there’s a hell of a lot of competition out there and publishers are only interested in buying the very best crime books / romances / diet books and whatever else. So how to publishers find those amazing books in the first place? Well, the shortest answer is that they focus nearly all the efforts on the manuscripts that come to them via a literary agent. Literary agents are basically salespeople who sell manuscripts from writers like you to the big publishers. They don’t charge any kind of upfront fee for that service; they take a commission on sales made, typically 15%. Just to emphasise that point: agents cost nothing until they make you money. So (setting aside all your trouble and effort in writing the damn thing), with the agent/publisher route to publication you will get your book published for free. Not even free actually: you’ll be paid. You won’t be expected to buy your agent coffees or fund the cover illustration or anything like that. When I wrote my first novel, I didn’t spend a single penny (other than for paper and ink and stamps – we used all those things in those days.) Next thing I knew: people were offering me six-figure sums for my work. OK. So agents are good; they make sales; they work on commission. But it gets better. In addition to that basic sales activity, literary agents also: Offer you editorial advice to help you get your manuscript in shape for saleRun the auction processNegotiate the resulting contractSupervise the publishing  process, advise you on it, and act as your bull terrier if any conflicts ariseSell other rights, such as foreign language rights, audio (if not part of the original deal), and film and TV rights. In short, a good literary agent will end up making you far, far more than the cost of that 15% commission, so you should have no hesitation in working with an agent, if you get the chance. Because the Big 5 publishers publish all types of work – adult novels, children’s novels and plenty of non-fiction too – literary agents work with all these things too. Most agents aren’t that specialist either. Yes, a children’s literary agent may exclusively work with children’s books, but most literary agents for adult work will work with novels and non-fiction. In that sense, how your publish a novel (for example) works exactly the same as publishing any other type of book. How Do You Get An Agent? If you’re getting a book published for the first time, you need an agent. And the only really difficult step in getting an agent is the very first one: you have to write an absolutely superb book. Remember that, as a rough guide, a literary agent is likely to take about 1 manuscript in every 1000 that they come across. If you’re writing a spy story, your work will be competing head-to-head against John Le Carre, Tom Clancy and every other great spy novelist out there. So your manuscript has to excel. It has to dazzle. It has to be wonderful. But let’s assume you’ve already got a great manuscript, what then? The steps you need to follow are these: Generate a longlist of literary agents. You’re looking for agents who are taking on new clients and who are interested in work in your genre. You can find a full list of literary agents here for the US and here for the UK. If you sign up for AgentMatch (free trial here), you can use simple tools to filter by genre, client, and more.Whittle that down to a shortlist of 10-15 names. To generate your shortlist, just go through your longlist and look for possible points of contact. An agent represents one of your favourite authors? They’re a keen rider and your book is set in a racing stable? The agent has Irish ancestry and your book is about Irish emigrants in the 1920s? Any of those gives you a good reason to pop the agent onto your shortlist. (Oh, and why only 10-15 names? If you send your material out to about a dozen agents and don’t get a positive response, that’s a pretty damn good signal that your manuscript is not yet strong enough to get a book deal – in which case, getting third party editorial feedback probably needs to be your next step.)Write a query letter. That tells that agent why you’re writing (you’re seeking representation), what your book is and who you are. It’s easy to write a great query letter. Just follow the advice and look at a sample query letter here.Write a synopsis. A synopsis basically summarises your story, and it’s a quick way for an agent to get a handle over whether the basic structure of your story feels OK. A synopsis can be a nightmare to put together, but it doesn’t have to be that way. All the advice you need, plus a good example of a synopsis, can be found right here.Double-check your opening chapters. Most agents want you to send them some sample chapters along with the query letter and synopsis. Typically, those sample chapters will need to be the first 3 chapters of your book, or about 10,000 words. So make sure that opening chunk is looking great. Tips on presenting your manuscript right here. Tips on the commonest errors in first time novels can be found here.Send your submission pack out to your shortlisted agents. You need to allow about 8 weeks for agents to read and decide on your submission. And, sorry to say, but loads of agents don’t even have the courtesy to send out a “sorry, but no” email if they are rejecting a manuscript, which means that you have to work on the assumption that, after 8 weeks, no news is tantamount to rejection. At this point, you have other won – you’ve been offered representation, in which case, congratulations. Your path to publication is now in the hands of a very experienced professional, and you should be fine from here. If there are problems en route to getting published (and, believe me, there will be), your agent should be able to guide you. (For what it’s worth, I’d guess that agency representation leads to a publishing deal in about two thirds of cases. Your mileage may very though – this number varies widely.) Or you’ve lost – that is, you have no offers of representation, and not even any close misses. In that case, you really need to go back to your manuscript, figure out why agents aren’t getting excited by it, and then fix whatever needs fixing. The best way to do that is by getting pro editorial help, of the sort that we at Jericho Writers can offer. But there’s a middle ground too, where you haven’t quite won but you haven’t quite lost either. That’s the ‘nice rejection’, often where an agent asks for your full manuscript but ends up, reluctantly declining. If you’re in that category, then it’s GOOD NEWS. The fact is, you’re in a zone where some editorial work really should ping you over the line. Again, we can help. Extra Resources We have a whole bunch of resources available if you want to pursue these topics further. (Clue: yes, you definitely do.) Free resources: How to get a literary agent Do literary agents charge fees? How to write a query letter How to write a synopsis All your literary agent questions answered Additional resourcesThese resources are for Jericho members only. Not a member? Then join us. Behind the scenes at a Big 5 publisher (feature length film). Interviews with literary agents Diana Beaumont, Kate Burke, Piers Blofeld Finally, we have a complete course on how to get your book published – and not just published, period, but published well, published successfully. That course (here) is costly to buy but it’s free to members. Do consider joining us if you need that further help. What Kind Of Writer/Book Is Right For This Publication Option? The first question is whether or not you want to pursue traditional publication. Trad publication will suit you, if: You are writing literary fiction or one-off non-fiction (eg: memoir)You are writing genre fiction but aren’t super-prolific (eg: you don’t want to write more than a book or two a year)You want the kudos of traditional publicationYou want to be sold via physical bookstores, as well as via AmazonYou want a shot at newspaper book reviews, book signings, radio and newspaper interviews etcYou don’t want the hassle of self-publishing If that sounds like you, then traditional publishing should certainly be your goal. The next question is whether you need an agent. You basically have to have an agent, if: You are writing fiction, for adults, young adults, or childrenYou are writing mainstream non-fiction (of the sort that might sit on those front-of-store tables in a large bookstore)You are writing specialist non-fiction in a big, rich category (such as diet or cookery, for example) If your book is very niche, your likely advice is small, which means an agent’s 15% won’t be especially tempting. In all those cases, you can forget about getting a literary agent and just proceed to option 2, which is traditional publication, but without a literary agent. Pros And Cons The advantages of trad publication are: You get an advanceYou get some experienced professionals handling the production, sale and marketing of your workYou have a literary agent to guide your journeyYou have all the kudos and other pleasures of traditional publication: you will have become a published author and will have earned all the respect of your new role. I bow to thee. The disadvantages are: You lose control over your intellectual property – you’ve sold it, remember? The book now belongs to the publisher, not to you.It’s harder to make a living as a trad author than it is as an indie one. Watch our YouTube video on author incomes here.Traditional publishing is a bit of a crap-shoot. Most bestsellers are made via huge supermarket sales, but there are many fewer supermarket slots than there are books, and the process by which supermarkets choose which books to stock is scarily random (for newbie authors, at least.)Traditional publishing isn’t so great at publishing on Amazon. You can see my thoughts on that (via Publishers Weekly) here. Option 2: Get Published Via A Traditional Publisher, But Without A Literary Agent What’s Involved? The actual publication process is exactly the same as for Option 1 – so everything I’ve said above applies here too. The big difference with this route is that you’re not going to send your work out to literary agents; you’re going to send it direct to publishers. Obviously, the publishers you choose will need to be carefully chosen. So if you are looking to sell a volume of military history or something on Early Colonial interiors, you’ll need to approach the publishers who work in that field. Otherwise, the basic approach is the same. You locate your targets. You send a query letter. You include enough sample material that the publisher can make up their mind. And that’s that – you see what responses come back to you. (The big difference: agents are slow, with response times often around 6-8 weeks. But publishers are way slower: you need to allow 4-6 months to get a proper response. That’s crazy, I know, but …) How Do You Find A Publisher? Not easy. Services like Jericho AgentMatch don’t really exist in the same way for publishers. Yes, you can trawl through the membership pages of the American Association of Publishers or (in the UK) the Publishers Association … but those guys have a lot of members, the vast majority of whom will be irrelevant to your needs. So really the best way to find a publisher for your book is to find other titles in your niche. That should be easy for you, because it’s your niche. So if your book is about motor maintenance, look at the other engine-related books on your shelves. If you’re writing about bonsai growing, look at who publishes books about bonsais. How to find who publishes a book is simple – just look inside the front cover. That page with all the tiny, boring print about copyright and that kind of thing will also tell you who the publisher is. Note that publishers (eg: “PenguinRandomHouse”) generally operate through a multitude of imprints, eg, Bantam, Ballantine, Doubleday…). You need to identify both the publisher you want and, where relevant, the imprint in order to wriggle through to the right desk in the right office. Make a list of those publishers – then approach them direct. They’ll welcome your submission and they won’t expect you to have a literary agent. (In fact, they’d be mildly frightened if you did have one.) What Kind Of Writer/Book Is Right For This Publication Option? Assuming you definitely want traditional publication (and again, see Option 1 for more on this), you should only really avoid using a literary agent, if: Your work is in a small subject-led, but consumer-oriented niche (eg: “How to Maintain Your Motorbike” or “The Complete A-Z of Roses”)Your work is academic and destined for an academic publisherYour work is business or professional, and destined for the kind of publishers that handle that kind of thing Agents don’t want those kind of books and they don’t add much value to the publication process either. For those reasons, direct submissions to publishers make the most sense. Pros And Cons The advantages of this route are that: You get the pluses of trad publicationYou get to publish work that’s too niche or specialist to warrant an agent’s involvement The downsides are simply that: Bookstores don’t shift very many copies of niche books – they’re mostly sold via Amazon. But in that case, self-publishing looks like a particularly attractive option, because you can retain all the proceeds from sale for yourself. If you have a mailing list or other platform – for example, you have a popular blog on rose growing, and your book is all about growing roses – then self-publishing should be very simple and immediately lucrative. Option 3: How To Get Published Via A Book Proposal What’s Involved? When we talked above about trad publication and literary agents, it was kind of assumed that you’d already written your book. If you are looking to sell a novel, then you basically have to have written the book and edited it until it sparkles. But that sounds like a hell of a lot of work for a project that might never sell, right? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just outline a project, see if anyone wants it, then complete it only if a sufficiently attractive deal is laid under your nose? Well, luckily for you, that option certainly exists. It exists only for non-fiction, and not even for all types of non-fiction, but yes: you can offer literary agents a book proposal in place of an entire book. That book proposal might in total amount to only 10,000 words, and should include: A query letterA personal bio, including any platform or authority you bringAn analysis of the market and audienceAn introduction to the bookApproximately three sample chapters. Unlike with fiction, it isn’t always necessary that these chapters form the first three chapters of your work, You can read much more about what’s needed right here. What Kind Of Writer/book Is Right For This Publication Option? The book proposal approach will work, if: You are writing non-fictionThat non-fiction is not narrative-led (in which case, an agent or publisher might need to read the whole book before making a decision)It’ll work especially well if you bring significant authority (“I’m a top physics professor”) or terrific platform (“I’m a teenager with 2,000,000 Youtube followers.”) Read more about author platforms here. If your work is mainstream and could provide a ton of sales, then you will want to navigate via a literary agent. If not, you can go direct to publishers. Pros And Cons Pros? Simple: You can secure a contract and get paid before you’ve done a ton of work. I once secured a $250,000 / 2-book deal on the back of a book proposal that ran to about 10,000 words. Nice, right? Downsides? I can’t think of any. You’ll have to invent your own.
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How To Write Erotica – And A Damn Fine Sex Scene

Writing Erotica – What You Need To Know The formula for great erotic writing is a pretty simple one. Here it is, in full: Write a great book Include plenty of steamy, arousing sex And that’s it. You’re done. Structure Your Story Now I’m not going to go into a ton of detail about how to write a great book and all erotic romance authors will have a different story to tell. All I will say is that you do need to respect your basic story structure. The teasing quality of a suspense-driven story (Will the heroine succeed or not?) matches up perfectly with the will-they/won’t-they quality of the romantic/erotic dance. That said, your story can be relatively simple – and relatively short. A 50,000 word story wouldn’t work so well as a crime-thriller, but it’s plenty long enough for erotica. Think Character But if your story is simple, your characters shouldn’t be. The power of sexual tension (and release) is multiplied tenfold on the page if there is some conflict and resolution between the characters. That doesn’t have to mean the two people are always shouting at each other (though that could work.) It does mean that you have some kind of push-pull dynamic that will have to be resolved somehow … and often via them taking all their clothes off. It also means that characters have to develop through the course of your story. The sex they have on first meeting won’t feel the same as the sex they have at the end of your book. Show Don’t Tell The last big tip I’d give in relation to writing erotic stories is that here, more than in any other literary art form, showing beats telling hands down, and a million times over. We read erotica to be part of the sex. That means you can’t merely report that character X had great sex with character Y. You have to let the action unfold, action-by-action, on the page. Keep plenty of dialogue there too. Remember that interesting character interplay = interesting sex. How To Write A Great Sex Scene Here’s how you write a great sex scene. Create A Picture Of The Characters. Imagine The Flow So, how to write a sex scene assuming it to be the first time for the characters. (This advice refers specifically to erotica, the genre my Unbreakable trilogy, starting with The Silver Chain,is written for.) Details, location, dynamic etc. can evolve as the novel progresses. Put yourself in there if you like, if it doesn’t inhibit you. Otherwise superimpose famous heart-throbs, or a secret crush, on to the characters. Even imagine it flowing visually in front of you on a screen. The best comment I had from a favourable reviewer was when she put up a photograph of a sensationally beautiful redhead who she imagined my character Serena to look like. Make Us Care Make us care for your characters. They may come from different worlds, or there may be a difference in age or in the balance of power between them, but they are drawn to each other like a couple of magnets and once we know how this dynamic works, we will know how and why they fancy each other, and your readers will fancy them, too. And remember these characters have one aim, now that they’ve gotten to know each other. To have sex. And our aim is to see them at it. Voyeuristic (see also my character Serena Folkes), but true! Choose Your Location So next, place them in a sexy environment for this first time. Depending on their age, situation, energy, athleticism and/or pure machismo, the back of a clapped out Ford Cortina or the bins behind the Plaza cinema might be just the place for a quick, rough first time, and that will certainly do it for some readers. Any good erotic writer is more than capable, like the old Martini adverts, of creating a sex scene any time, any place, anywhere! But others usually pick up an erotic novel to get away from the dirty old mean streets of real life. We’re after escapism! So hie your characters off to a place you’d like to be. A moonlit beach, or a sumptuous penthouse hotel room, or a soft rug in front of a roaring fire. Make sure there is low lighting and great music or some other subtle sound track. Garish lighting and deadly silence are not always the sexist ambience, at least for the first time. You can really have fun with your characters as the novel progresses, having them so hot for each other that after the first seduction they’ll do it anywhere. A lift, a restaurant. A riding stable. An art gallery. And to keep us on our toes, you can also later on play with the dynamic, too. Have the meek heroine take the lead, for once. See how the hero responds to that. Don’t Forget The Build-up / Foreplay Build up sensuously to the physical act with suggestive conversation which will either be blatant and in your face, or playful, teasing, even holding back. Remember that characters don’t stand woodenly about like actors in a bad am-dram before they get down to it. Have them eating, drinking, dancing, singing, involve us in that experience, then show us their clothes, how well they fit, are they too formal or tight, how good does it feel as they come off? Unbuttoning cut-off jeans can be just as sexy as unzipping a ball gown. Make it tense, passionate, breathless, but … Take It Slow In real life the first time you have sex with someone new is often urgently desired but ends up fast and disastrous, but this is fantasy! So although there can be some hesitation, shyness and teasing, ultimately everyone, reader included, needs to be on tenterhooks to get their hands on each other. To get down to it. Restless, like scratching an itch. Salivating, like the desperation to drink cold water in the desert. Structure Your Scene Structure your scene like the sex act. That is, foreplay, action, climax, wind down. Too obvious? You might think so, until you start writing the scene. Think of the foreplay as the aforementioned setting. The removal of clothes, the first sensation of skin on skin starts the action rolling in the obvious direction. If it helps, think of a movie scene. I know actors always say how pedestrian and workmanlike it is simulating sex in front of a crew of burly cameramen, a bank of arc lights and a demanding director, but imagine yourself as an extremely involved, generous, hands-on director with your characters, but make sure the bed is soft, the studio is warm, and soon they’ll take off on their own towards the strong, satisfying, long-awaited penetration! As for the climax, well, no beating about the bush, is there? This is when the glorious pinnacle of where we all want to be is reached, and tread carefully here with the language (see below). Challenge yourself to find different ways of describing that rush of ecstasy. Avoid waterfalls, avalanches, orchestras! What actions or words stimulate the eventual moment? Keep A Tad Of Realism Alive Slightly unrealistically erotic couples tend to come together every time but if you want to be more realistic, let one come before the other and show who is the generous one, who the thoughtful, who the selfish one? Or are they both equally considerate, and if not, will they become so as the novel progresses. Finally, the wind down is often the hardest. After the shivering and shuddering, do they fall asleep, or analyse, or do it all over again? I often have a knock at the door, or a phone call after the act, so that in the early days the couple are never at leisure totally to relax or take each other for granted until the next drama occurs. Find The Right Balance Of Cinematic And Plausible Make it dramatic, but human. Not impossibly athletic, but not mundane either. The characters will already be attractive and/or beautiful, or arresting in some way to turn us on. The men have got to be strong and well hung and very experienced. The women curvacious, soft and wonderfully proportioned, and if not experienced, then primed and ready to learn. If this is a romantic setting, lots of kissing and stroking, exploration. If this is more down the BDSM route, then the participants will get their kicks from spanking, binding, and pain. But there is always room for sensuousness and tenderness. Don’t Get Coy With Your Language Keep it simple, punchy, evocative, but not obscene or anatomical. Don’t, like John Updike, veer away from simple words and use hideous ones like ‘yam’ to describe a penis. Don’t use euphemism or flowery words, either. ‘Cock’, ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck’ are acceptable with some publishers, but not others, and certainly not in the new mainstream type of erotica. I have written a trilogy where those words are only uttered in the words of a character who should know better – not the narrator, or the main characters themselves. Believe me, you have to use your powers of evocation very carefully to avoid sounding awkward or coy. So ‘manhood’ and ‘sex’ can be used, but sparingly. Read erotic romance books and other works of your chosen genre, or find a publisher’s house style, to find what is acceptable. Use The Rhythm Method Next try to get into a rhythm similar to the rhythm of sex. Slow, slow, quick slow. Yes, that’s it. Like a dance. Why else to you think dancing was considered so daring in the old days? It was the nearest people could get to each other in public. And have you ever seen sex better choregraphed than in the Argentine tango? That’s it. Hope that helped. Go write a great book – and have a wonderful time doing it! 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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