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My path to publication by Ruby Speechley

My Path to Publication by Ruby Speechley

My path to publication by Ruby Speechley

My Path to Publication

by Ruby Speechley



Ruby Speechley got her big break after winning best Opening Chapter at the Festival of Writing in 2017. Now, nearly two years later, her debut novel Someone Else’s Baby has just been published. Here Ruby tells us about her path to publication and how the Festival of Writing helped her on her way.

My Writing Journey



My debut novel, Someone Else’s Baby was published by Hera Books on 25 July 2019. It won ‘Best Opening Chapter’ at the Festival of Writing in 2017, so it feels very special to be asked by Jericho Writers to blog about my publication journey.

I’ve been writing on and off ever since I first picked up a pencil, but it wasn’t until thirteen years ago that I took my writing more seriously and applied to do a part-time MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam University. My second child was only two and it meant driving to and from Cambridgeshire once a week, but I was determined to do it. Three years later, in 2009, I graduated with my first completed novel. But I needed a break from that book, and I wasn’t ready to start approaching agents, so I wrote another novel whilst being mentored on the Gold Dust scheme.


Header 2-plotting-novel

In 2012 I heard about the Festival of Writing and decided to go, partly to meet my new Twitter friends, Amanda Saint and Isabel Costello and partly to see if there was any interest in my second novel. I came away from the full weekend experience buzzing with everything I’d learned in some of the best workshops I’d ever been to, given by the now legendary, Debi Alper, Andrew Wille, Emma Darwin, Julie Cohen, Shelley Harris and Craig Taylor. I made lots of new friends, but there was no interest from agents.

I went home and dug out my first novel and worked on it again. In 2014, I went back to the Festival of Writing and this time three agents asked to see the full manuscript. Despite the positive comments, the rejections came in. After a further edit, I took it back in 2015 and again more agents were interested, but no offers of representation followed.

I skipped the Festival the following year and started work on a new novel, but in October 2016, another idea came to me while I was watching a FoW friend on a TV show. Another guest, a surrogate and the couple she was having the baby for, took my interest. The surrogate’s pregnancy was fraught with problems, not what she’d expected at all and to me she seemed incredibly naïve to think she’d breeze through the experience. I wondered how well she really knew this couple who were promising to involve her in their baby’s future. What obligation did they really have to this woman once they’d paid her? I had so many questions!

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For the next two months I researched my idea as much as I could and on 1 January 2017, I started writing my messy ‘zero’ draft by hand. Four months later, my third novel was completed. I typed and polished the beginning and sent it out to competitions, including the Festival of Writing, to gauge the response.

I arrived at the Festival of Writing a couple of months later, not knowing that my novel was on the shortlists for the Best Opening Chapter and Perfect Pitch competitions, because they’d forgotten to send out the email! So it was a shock to be called up on stage and even more of a shock to win Best Opening Chapter and be the runner up for the Perfect Pitch. I was asked to read out my prologue and it received a fantastic response. A flurry of agents contacted me on the night and over the following days, but my manuscript wasn’t quite ready. A couple of agents were prepared to wait for the next edit but one, Jo Bell at Bell Lomax Moreton, who I’d subbed my first novel to a year before, asked to meet me and to see my second novel, which was in a more publishable state. She loved that novel even more! When she offered to represent me, it was an easy decision because she loved my writing and all my novel ideas. I felt at ease in her company as soon as I met her. Although Jo isn’t an agent who edits, she offered insightful suggestions, as did her assistant. A few writer friends read it for me and I took on board their helpful and detailed comments in the final edit.

Sending my novel out to editors was a drawn out and painful experience. Weekly rejections for months is not something I was prepared for. My novel received mostly positive feedback but there were no offers from traditional publishers.

I believed in my novel and so did Jo. By this point it had won and been listed in eight competitions. I’d been told enough times that it was a unique take on surrogacy. I was determined to keep going so I worked on it again. This time Jo sent it out to a few digital publishers and an offer to publish quickly came back from a big publisher’s digital imprint. A few days later another offer came in from an established independent. While I was weighing them up, a third publisher, Hera Books contacted Jo. I loved reading their editor’s response to my novel – the big reveal made her gasp! They were a new company, set up by Keshini Naidoo and Lindsay Mooney. I remembered feeling excited reading in the Bookseller about this dynamic, female-led publisher only a few months before. Their entrepreneurial spirit spoke to me (I founded and ran my own local magazine business while doing my MA and successfully sold it on four years later). I consulted my scribbled wish-list – Hera Books were at the top.

Once I’d heard from all three publishers, about their thoughts on how I could edit and improve my novel, I knew for certain that Hera was the right choice for me. Keshini completely understood the true story I was trying to tell. She did an incredible job in helping me improve my manuscript through a round of structural edits followed by line edits. With her expert guidance, I worked as hard as I could to make Someone Else’s Baby the best book it could be.

My path to publication by Ruby Speechley

The Festival of Writing has been such an important part of my journey to publication. Each time I went, I used the festival dates as deadlines to finish whichever novel I was working on. The workshops and agent one-to-ones were always helpful, relaxed and friendly. It’s an incredible experience to be in a room with so many writers, all at different stages – people who really understand the ups and downs of trying to break into the business. Hats off to Harry Bingham and his team of dedicated organisers and tutors who give everything to make the process of building writers’ skills and knowledge enjoyable and accessible.

I’m back working on the novel I put aside to write Someone Else’s Baby. I was stuck, not sure how the story could develop and what the ending would be, but it worked itself out as I wrote the first draft in a month using NanoWriMo (National Write a Novel in a Month). Writing never ceases to delight and surprise me!

About Ruby



Ruby Speechley graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with an MA in Creative Writing. She is a Faber Academy alumna and prolific writer whose work has been longlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction prize, Exeter Novel Prize, The Caledonia Novel Award, The Bath Novel Award, and has won the Retreat West First Chapter Competition and Best Opening Chapter at the Festival of Writing in York. Someone Else’s Baby is her debut novel.

You can follow Ruby on Twitter here and have a look around her website here.

Have you been to the Festival of Writing before, or will this be your first year? Head on over to Townhouse and join the festival conversations. We’d love to hear from you!

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My path to publication by Sarah Linley

My Pathway to Publication by Sarah Linley

My path to publication by Sarah Linley

My Path to Publication

by Sarah Linley



This week’s entry in the My Path to Publication series belongs to guest author, Sarah Linley. Sarah’s debut novel, The Beach, will be published in 2020 by HarperCollins’ digital publishing division, One More Chapter.

Me, Myself and my book



I have wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl, but I didn’t really do anything about it until I reached my early 30s and decided that if I was ever going to get published, then I needed to take it seriously.

In 2014, I booked on to the Festival of Writing and entered all the competitions with my first novel. I was incredibly lucky and was shortlisted for Friday Night Live. At this point, I had no idea how big or influential the festival was. I thought I was going to be reading to 20 people in the back room of a pub. That was terrifying enough. I had never read my work out loud before.

I arrived to find a huge room, a stage, a microphone and an audience of around 200 writers and literary agents. Cue major stage fright and the conviction that I was going to vomit in front of everyone. I eyed up the exit and considered making a run for it. Fortunately, the other writers were equally nervous, incredibly supportive and I got through OK. People even laughed (which was good – it was a comedy). Joanna Cannon won that year and became a major literary superstar. I had two brilliant one-to-ones. I had requests for full manuscripts. I thought ‘this is easy’. I was so wrong!

That book did OK. For a first attempt, I’m surprised that I did get full manuscript requests and helpful feedback but ultimately no agent. Fair enough, I thought, I’ll try again.

I switched to crime. I read a lot of crime. I know and love the genre. My favourite books are psychological thrillers and I felt that was the right fit for me. I wrote another book. This time, I knew a bit more about story structure (thanks to Julie Cohen); psychic distance (thanks to Debi Alper) and the four-act structure (thanks to Allie Spencer). Harry Bingham had taught me to challenge my prose and to really care about its quality. I realised I needed to include some setting (which was conspicuously absent in my first book).

I went to the next Festival of Writing feeling confident with my first chapter and my synopsis fresh off the printer. In retrospect, I should have waited. It bombed. The feedback from my one-to-ones was completely true, but hard to swallow. There were tears.

I got onto the Curtis Brown Creative novel course, which was fantastic, and I learned to accept, welcome and value criticism. I met my amazing critique partner, Phil, and I revised the novel. I went to the Festival of Writing again and the feedback was more positive but still generally ‘meh’. To be honest, I was feeling the same way about book two myself.

I gave up on trying to win over the industry. It just wasn’t going to happen. I licked my wounds a little and then decided to write something just for fun. If it didn’t get published, so what? I was just going to write something that I loved and if no-one liked it, then at least I would be proud of it. I wrote my third novel free from expectation but there was something deep inside me whispering ‘this is the one’.

I started looking at digital-first publishers who would read manuscripts without an agent and had a faster track to publication. When I got the email from Killer Reads, a digital imprint of HarperCollins, I automatically thought it was another ‘thanks, but no thanks’. I had to read it several times to convince myself that it was a ‘yes’. I had a book deal. I stared at it for a long time, wondering if they had made a big mistake, sent it to the wrong person, but no, it definitely had my name on it. (NB Killer Reads has now amalgamated into One More Chapter).

By the time The Beach is published in February 2020, it will have taken the best part of a decade to get a publishing deal. And I still haven’t managed to secure an agent!


My path to publication by Sarah Linley

From manuscript to publication



I got the book deal in March, just as I was about to embark on my third and final backpacking trip with my husband.

The next stage was structural edits which came at the start of June. I was really pleased with the suggestions put forward. I thought they made the book stronger and I felt that my editor really understood what I was trying to achieve with the book. I didn’t have much to do with the title and the cover, but I thought they were both great, and I absolutely loved the blurb. They did a much better job than I could have done! I am now just awaiting the copy edits.

I have just the one contact at HarperCollins – my editor Kathryn Cheshire – and everything is done via email. I did get chance to meet her at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate this summer though which was lovely.

Surprises



It would have been so helpful to have had an agent when I received the publishing contract as I didn’t have a clue what to look out for! Harry Bingham’s Getting Published was invaluable for helping to explain the terms and conditions and I am fortunate that one of my best friends is a lawyer, so she helped me to understand what I was signing.

I had read a lot about the industry beforehand, so I haven’t really been surprised by anything so far. I suppose the weird thing about getting a publishing deal is that suddenly people are interested in your writing in a way they weren’t before. You go from writing something quite secretly, perhaps sharing it with some writing friends, to everyone from your boss to your next-door neighbour promising to read it, and that feels very strange!


My path to publication by Sarah Linley

Letting go



I think you have to accept that your novel will never be perfect, so my test for letting go is: if this version was published tomorrow, would I be happy for people to read it?

Beta readers are fantastic for letting you know what’s working and what isn’t. Pick people who are going to be honest with you; there’s no point otherwise and listen to their feedback. You don’t have to agree with it, but you should always consider it.

Also, deadlines help. Either your own or your publishers. As a former journalist, I am used to working to deadlines and I take pride in always meeting them, so if someone asks me for something by the end of July, it’ll be ready by the end of July!

What’s next?



I am currently working on my second novel. It’s the same genre and style as The Beach, but it’s not a sequel. I am trying to finish a complete first draft by Christmas and I’m really enjoying being back at the start of the process again, creating and developing plot and characters. Also, the research for this new novel is a lot of fun!

About Sarah Linley



Sarah Linley lives in Yorkshire and works as a Communications Manager for a housing charity. She spent two years backpacking around South-East Asia with her husband. Their travels inspired her debut novel, The Beach.

The Beach will be published by One More Chapter in February 2020 (ebook) and May 2020 (paperback).

You can follow Sarah on twitter here and keep up with her travelling adventures via her blog, here.

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Literary agents for paranormal romances

Literary agents for paranormal romances



The vampire boom isn’t what it was, but the success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight created a prominent sub-genre in paranormal romance.


That said, writers like Anne Rice have been around a long time and point to the genre’s longevity.

The whole nexus of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and YA dark romance. It’s a genre tailor-made for the e-book generation and (not surprisingly) one that has spawned plenty of films and TV series.

The entry criteria are threefold. One, you need good, clean, readable prose. Two, you need a twist on the basic genre that feels new and compelling. Three, you need a romance that will truly capture your audience’s heart.

AgentMatch and how to use it

On AgentMatch, there are plenty of vampire-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. paranormal romance) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want.

The site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members.

Become a member.


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Literary agents for women’s fiction

Literary agents for women’s fiction




Are you writing predominantly for women, about women, and in search of an agent?


Women’s fiction is an incredibly broad and rich genre to be aware of as a publishing label.

There is romance, there is domestic noir, there is literary fiction, and a novel being literary fiction need not cancel out it being a romance, etc., etc. Nor does any given sub-genre (e.g. domestic noir) mean that this is a genre read only by women, even if in the publishing world, it may tend to be marketed as such.

So you need to be careful how you choose a book genre. Is it really a book group type of novel (i.e. accessible and literary)? Is it romance? Is it erotica?

Just because your book might be about a woman sorting through a relationship (not necessarily a romantic one), doesn’t mean that you’ll to describe the novel as women’s fiction.

Better to think more about what kind of book it is and what kind of agent you want.

Luckily, we’ve made your agent search easy with AgentMatch.

AgentMatch and how to use it

On AgentMatch, there are plenty of agents who love women’s fiction (including, by the way, plenty of male agents since this is not a girls’ only preserve), and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection.

You can select by genre (e.g. romance or literary fiction) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want.

This site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members.

Become a member.

AgentMatch provides:

  • A list of every agent in the UK;
  • Masses of data on each one (photos, biographies, client lists, genre preferences, likes and dislikes, and much more);
  • Search tools to make it easy to sort through all our goodies;
  • Submission info for every agent;
  • Further links to any other key information we’ve been able to locate on the web.

Become a member.

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Literary agents for crime, thrillers and action novels

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.

  1. Head over here.
  2. Click on the “select genres” box and choose “Crime & thrillers” from the pop-up list.
  3. 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.
  4. Then dive into individual agent profiles and read what each agent says about themselves.
  5. 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.

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Literary agents for horror

Literary agents for horror



Ever since the horror genre was so memorably revived and expanded by Stephen King, horror has been a reliably steady element in the publishing canon.



The advent of teen paranormal sagas has brought new readers to the genre (while also altering its boundaries). The ebook evolution has also, arguably, brought new readers to the field, as young men (always more reluctant book-readers) have been more willing to purchase long-form fiction via their tablets and phones.

What’s more, the genre shouldn’t be seen in too restrictive terms. Classy contemporary authors such as the award-winning Lesley Glaister add quality to the genre. And then you could also argue that such very well-respected authors as Susan Hill have in fact been writing ‘horror’ for years, albeit not for the audiences normally associated with the area.

Many crime and thriller authors also effectively plough through classic horror territory.

(Oh, the noises from that old stone cellar? They’re nothing. No. Honestly, nothing.)

AgentMatch and how to use it

AgentMatch is designed to let you easily filter on and find the agents you need.

There are plenty of horror-loving agents and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection.

You can select by genre (e.g. horror) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want.

All you need to do is become a member.

More on UK literary agents

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Literary agents for romance

Literary agents for romance



Romantic fiction, from Jane Austen onward, is one of the most enduringly popular of all genres.



That doesn’t mean the genre always gets the respect it deserves. The way romance is usually used in modern publishing distinguishes “women’s fiction” (a loose label, which can be fairly literary, upmarket and serious) from “romance”, a term that encompasses such happily mass-market brands as Mills & Boon and Black Lace, but also fun, frolicky romances issued by the big publishers.

Because the genre is so broad, it’s not enough simply to look for agents with an interest in women’s fiction, though. You do need to find those who are interested in fiction at the more commercial end of the market.

Luckily, we’ve made your agent search easy with AgentMatch.

AgentMatch and how to use it

On AgentMatch, there are plenty of romance-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. romance or literary fiction) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want.

This site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members.

Become a member.

More on UK literary agents

The secret to getting an agent



Free submission pack template


Literary agents for travel non-fiction

Literary agents for travel non-fiction



So you’ve written a travel memoir and want to find an agent to represent it?



Easier said than done, because there are so many agents, with so many preferences and requirements, so many different sites to explore and notes to take.

If you’re writing a travel tome, it also needs to set itself apart. Think about what makes books like Into the WildEat Pray Love, or Under the Tuscan Sun appealing to readers.

We’ve at least made your agent search easy through AgentMatch.

AgentMatch and how to use it

On AgentMatch, there are plenty of travel-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. travel) 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.

More on UK literary agents

The secret to getting an agent



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literary agents for food and cookery books

Literary agents for food and cookery books

literary agents for food and cookery books

Literary agents for food and cookery books



The cookery market remains a solidly dependable corner of the books market with many literary agents representing the non-fiction genre.



What’s more, it’s an area which is still dominated by full-colour, hard-copy books, which means that the ebook revolution has done little to change the basic market.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the market dynamics remain challenging for most potential writers in this area. The one sure fire way to get a cookbook published is to make sure that you have a TV show first. Or a column in a major newspaper. Or you’re a celebrity with some lifestyle angle to promote. For ordinary cookery writers, it is hard to get publishers interested enough to invest in a book, not least because the high production quality now expected in this area means that a book needs to shift a lot of copies to break into profit.

But faint heart never won fair maid, and there are still opportunities for new, unknown writers. Especially if you can bring a particular expertise in an under-explored area of food and drink.

AgentMatch has a complete list of every agent in the UK with full details about what genre they handle and much more besides. If you’re looking for an agent, then you’re in exactly the right place.

You just need to become a member.

AgentMatch and how to use it

There are plenty of cookery-loving agents and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection.

You can select by genre (e.g. food and cookery) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want.

Become a member.

More on UK literary agents

The secret to getting an agent



Free submission pack template


Literary agents for fantasy fiction

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 MievilleNeil GaimanIain 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

The secret to getting an agent



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