We'll talk more about self publishing as this series of blog posts on The Publishing Journey develops, but for now let's continue with the journey itself.
Here are 5 things you should be doing whilst you attempt to find an Agent and / or Publisher for your work.
Note: I wasn't doing any of these so I know how important they are! Now I am doing them, I'm reaping the benefits - small scale - but still, in my eyes that's progress.
1) Get your name out there by building an author platform through a website, a blog and Twitter and Facebook presence.
2) Start marketing yourself by following Agent and Editor blogs (and your fellow writer's blogs) and commenting on them.
3) Network with local libraries, local book store managers and fellow authors. When visiting libraries and book stores, leave a business card and offer to do a book signing once your book is published. After publication, give them signed copies with Local Author stickers for recommendation purposes.
4) Attend Agent, Editor and Publisher events to get to know them and vice versa.
5) Above all, keep writing. The professionals are interested in your career as a writer so don't be a one-trick pony. Try to stay one book ahead...
Carrying on with the theme of proving you have an audience for your book before trying to get a traditional publisher interested ie. going down the self publishing route first, here's an inspiring story that it really can work:
In August 2011 I found myself reading about Louise Voss who put her novel on the Kindle for 96p and landed a six-figure, four-book deal with HarperFiction.
At the time I worked out she was making the same amount per eBook as I was - and mine was 5 times the price!
As a result of the deal, her eBook would now be printed and stocked in book shops in the traditional way.
She promoted it through social networking and by asking independent reviewers (AKA Indie reviewers who specialise in reviewing self published material) to write about it online.
Entering the Amazon Top 100 UK downloads must have been a thrill, but she built on that momentum and quickly shot to the top of the Amazon Kindle and Amazon Fiction charts.
The book sold 50,000 copies and stayed at the number one UK download spot for the whole of June.
It didn't cost her anything to load up the book on Amazon. All she paid for was an image on the front cover.
She made around £20,000 on the combined sales of her first novel and second novel using this method. Not bad going at all!
My next series of blog posts are going to be about the publishing journey, which is actually very very different to how I imagined it.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, I thought you signed a book contract and were instantly propelled to fame. My dream was shattered at a Legend Press event in 2011 where I met real life Publishers, Agents and Editors. So, as promised yesterday, here is some advice from the experts.
Ideally, have a good ponder on the pointers in this post before attempting the book proposal… and then try and say that after a few bevvies...
Today we’ll be covering:
What Agents are recommending you do before you submit your manuscript
What Editors are looking for in a good novel
What Publishers are expecting from you the author
The Agents on the panel were quick to slice through our dreams with the reality.
They advised the following:
As you know from reading my blog series, this is what an author platform should contain:
Check out more information on developing your online presence and author platform here.
Harder to obtain but pure gold if you can get your hands on them:
Be able to answer the “marketing questions” using these 4 headers:
YOU – Why did you write the book? Are you social networking yourself as a brand? Are you marketable as an author?
BOOK – What is the hook? Is it marketable? Does the story link back to you and life experience/s?
TARGET MARGET – Who will buy your book, and why?
APPEAL TO TARGET MARKET – How will your book appeal to the target market?
REMEMBER, THIS IS BUSINESS AND THE PROFESSIONALS ARE INVESTING IN YOU, ME AND HIM OVER THERE
YOU, ME AND HIM OVER THERE NEED TO BE A BRAND
WE DO THIS BY CREATING AND CULTIVATING OUR AUTHOR PLATFORM
Journalists love an easy headline and people are intrigued by real life.
We had an Editor from Headline and one from Simon & Schuster on the panel. These were the things they wanted from a new manuscript:
There are only 5 or 6 key book buyers for the UK. Even if an Editor loves your manuscript, they still have to get it passed their marketing and sales team and convince them it’s a winner.
Nowadays, Publishers want hard evidence of tangible sales. This is why many debut authors are going down the self-publishing route first. Their aim is to prove there’s a market and readership for their work. If you can self publish, market and sell 2,000 copies of your book, AWESOME. If you can self publish, market and sell between 4,000 to 5,000 copies, that’s exceptional and a Publisher should be knocking at your door!
Publishers expect your input in the marketing strategy and campaign. They want to know your REACH – how many people can you target in one hit with each individual marketing idea?
THERE IS NO MARKETING BUDGET FOR DEBUT AUTHORS
Traditional publishing houses still believe in reviews, but to move with the times, think about the hooks and angles of your story for a book feature. This is much more powerful.
From signing the book deal, it’s usually a year until the publication date – and guess what – the publication date is just the beginning…
It’s not just about the writing anymore. Check out the 10 jobs of a modern day writer to prepare yourself for this mammoth and exciting journey!
I still consider traditional publishing the bees knees even with the advent of self publishing on Amazon and co., so in today's blog post we'll be covering how to write a book proposal and query letter. I'm going to share with you the way I've been taught to approach this task.
Always start with The Writers & Artists Yearbook. This is a great resource for finding potential Editors and Agents in your genre, but be sure to double check the information listed by them on individual websites. People come and go all the time and you want the most accurate information. If you find the book doesn't match the website and you're still not sure (because the website looks like it hasn't be manned for several months), make a phone call to the company to find out the name of the Editor or Agent. The number one rule is to address your proposal / query to a named person, so it is worth all this extra effort. If you simply write Dear Sir / Madam, expect to find yourself on the slush pile in no time at all.
Before you write your proposal, make sure you have a completed manuscript and it's edited to the best of your ability. In the past, I've let potentially great opportunities slip through my fingers because I'd only written five or six chapters and that's all I had to show.
In the good old days I used to write query letters that were three A4 pages long because it was ok to do so. Nowadays, however, it's preferable to write just one A4 page with approx three to five paragraphs. Remember, you want to hook the Agent or Editor in within the first few seconds, much as you do when writing a book, so keep your proposal succinct and to the point. Even if you're emailing the query, keep to the structure and format of a letter and don't send attachments unless you're allowed to. Only include your website or blog in your signature because they are unlikely to click through to these unless you've impressed them and they are keen to see more of what you can do. Everything you want to pitch about your book should be expressed in the confines of the letter, not tucked away on your website or blog.
So that's the basic principles of the layout covered. Now, what should the proposal contain?
Start with a paragraph about your book. This is a chance to pitch your story in a way that will simply blow the Editor or Agent away. Show them your irresistible hook and they will already be thinking about possible marketing opportunities. Tell them about the authors you admire and who of those you write like. X meets Y with a touch of Z. Don't be too cocky (setting yourself up for a fall), but be confident in your style, flair and content.
Next, write a paragraph about yourself and link it back to your book. Explain why you're qualified to write this story. Also mention you're a first time novelist, active on Facebook and Twitter, running a website, blogging regularly... All of this shows to them evidence you're aware of the importance of author platform and social networking. Most marketing filters through these channels if the budget is limited. If you do have a publishing history, now is the time to sing your praises. This "history" can include published articles, web copywriting, etc etc. It all makes up your published portfolio.
You need to clearly state your chosen genre, where you think your book will sit in a bookshop and which authors it will sit next to. Research thoroughly and don't make up a genre.
Be sure to let the Editor / Agent know what's available if they request to see more ie. a complete manuscript.
Finally, check the submission guidelines and most important of all - follow them. If you are being asked to send the first three chapters with a short synopsis, ONLY send the first three chapters with a short synopsis.
Using this format won't necessarily guarantee success, but what it does do is take you out of that fiction bubble and drop you into the publishing industry world. Putting your marketing head on and getting you thinking like a pro. The easy part is writing the damn book. The hard part is pitching it for sale.
I'll be continuing with this subject tomorrow and sharing tips from real life Editors and Agents.
Receiving and understanding feedback is so important for a writer to progress, but I especially love it when people just get it - they get what I'm trying to do and what I'm trying to say. Thinking outside of the box is so important when you read anything. Never take the words, the situation or the characters at face value. When you get feedback like I received yesterday (which prompted this blog), your heart quite literally sings and it's the best feeling because you're changing someone's perception, you're enlightening them and touching them with your words. Writing empowers you. It gives you the power to make things right, cause utter devastation, challenge the status quo, turn life on its head and unleash torrents of emotion - heartache, humour, distress, excitement.... You hold destinies in the palm of your hand. I don't yet know the fate of some of my characters in The Dalton Bridges saga, but that is definitely all part of the fun.
On many writing sites we're encouraged to review our fellow writers, so we can all learn and improve and help each other on our respective writing journeys. What should you be looking out for? Well today's blog post will give you a 4-step plan to ensure you're covering the relevant areas and helping your fellow writers gain the most from your comments. We're going to be looking at character creation, plot structure, descriptions and the technicalities.
First up - characters. Some authors go down the descriptive route heightening the senses with carefully crafted places and scenes, while others write a blinding plot that keeps you turning the pages. But for me, characters are the heart and soul. Good character creation will have you connecting with them from the off. You should feel like you know them, be able to describe them, understand what motivates them and distinguish between each character you come across as the story unfolds. Personality traits should be relevant and speech should reflect personality.
Nowadays plot structure is being challenged and writers are keen to break from the norm. Essentially though, every good story has a beginning, middle and end and includes conflict and resolution. A plot line should never start with too much information, but rather allow that flow of information to penetrate throughout. Is the author using everything at their disposal to disperse detail - through dialogue, character action and description. A good writer mixes it up and mixes it up well. As a reviewer, this is what you're looking for. Does the storyline flow? Is it jumpy? Is there too much suspense, or not enough? Are you anticipating the protagonist's next move with ease, or with too much difficulty?
One thing to check with description - do you feel your senses are being assaulted in a good way? You will know if the author is "showing rather than telling" because you will see, hear, taste, smell, feel each scene and everything belonging to the scene like you are standing right there with the character/s.
Lastly, the technicalities. Check for the usual things - grammar errors, misspelled words, commas in the wrong place, never ending sentences... Also, is the tone of the narration fitting with the mood of the story?
Using the above plan will provide a good basis for your review, but remember to keep it positive and upbeat. For any writer, criticism is tough to take when we've laboured for so long over our pride and joy.
This post is simply a list of bullets to get you pondering on with regards to your writing career...
In today's blog post I'm going to take you behind the scenes of writing a novel. Hands up if you thought writing a book meant sitting down and tapping away approx 100,000 words on your laptop in some kind of sequence and hey presto - finished!
It's ok because actually that's what I used to think before I started to learn my craft...
Many authors will write draft after draft after draft before getting to the finished product. I know when I was writing scenes for my first novel, some had multiple edits as I twisted and turned the plot (and because I was writing it over a period of 10 years). Just remember however long it takes and however you do it, there are four stages to take yourself and your book through before you submit the finished manuscript - and they require equal amounts of your time, dedication, focus and energy if you want your work to be the best it can be.
The four stages are:
1) First draft - Writing the story freely from beginning to end. Let the words flow and don't worry about indulging yourself - that's all part of the fun of writing something new for the first time.
2) Re-work - Checking sequence, timing, realism of plots and sub plots, depth of characters and descriptive text. Break the story down. Analyse each of the above separately and then bring them all back together. If something isn't working for you, now is the time to change it before you go too far down "that road".
3) Bulldozing - Cutting out unnecessary scenes, making the story more succinct and word counting so you fit the length of a novel in your chosen genre. If you weren't sure about a part of the story in Stage 2 but you left it in, this is your final chance to make the change. Guaranteed it will be more work if you left it until now, but better late than never!
4) Final edit - Includes a line by line analysis (painstaking work!) and grammar, spelling and punctuation check. Ask somebody to do this for you if you prefer. Not many of us have the luxury of an Editor, but friends may be willing to help you proofread. They will see things within your story that you've overlooked - and trust me, you'd rather hear this criticism now than after you've gone to print.
Here are 10 things I didn't know about writing for a living:
1) There is only a slim possibility you will be able to give up the day job and live off your book sales
2) Non fiction writing is more rewarding and profitable - easier to find a publisher, higher paid, more books produced
3) To have a shot at success, you must write within a genre
4) To build on that success, you should think about writing a series
5) Each book within the series should have its own conflict and resolution
6) Ideally the second book needs to be written before the first goes to print
7) Even if you manage to get traditionally published, unless you're a Bestseller, be prepared to dirty your hands and market your own work
8) Advances are only loans. Until your book sales pay off the advance, don't expect any royalties
9) Most authors will never "pay off" the advance ie. won't make enough sales to cover the "loan"
10) You'll only make between 50p and £2.50 on a book sale
Still want to give it a go? Of course you do! But stay realistic and plan your finances wisely before you take the leap of faith.
However you edit - whether it's after a page, after each chapter, or once the first draft of your novel is complete - there are certain things you should do to make sure your work is the best it can be.
You can get people to edit basic spelling, punctuation and grammar for you, but when it comes to the "heart" only you know how the story, the tone and the voice are supposed to play out.
Read your work aloud.
Read each and every sentence.
Read them separately and then read the complete scene. Does it work? Do you stumble over words? Is one sentence too long making you lose the thread of all the others? Do you pause where you have commas? If not, you need to make adjustments.
When you're struggling to piece a block of text together, or a conversation, say what you want to be said out loud first and then write it down.
Imagine your readers reading the story. Is the language appropriate? Will they connect with the messages?
Does the plot flow?
Are the sequence of events logical?
Are there long periods where nothing is happening?
Is the mix of speech, description and action equal throughout the whole story?
Use verb contractions to lighten your character's conversation. Instead of "I will do it", use "I'll do it". Write speech how it's really spoken using the different emotions of your characters to dictate that.
Avoid cliches - they are the devil. It's actually a really hard thing to do.
Avoid exclamation marks too. Try to bring out the emotion of the text without over emphasizing it with a ! If the sentence falls flat once the exclamation mark is removed - that sentence needs re-writing.
Finally, take out unnecessary words. Every word should earn its place.
I'm sure there are many other aspects to be thinking about, but these are the most important to me.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.