Prompted by an enquiry from a writer who has just completed her first novel – and hurrah for her since that is a brilliant feat in itself – I’m offering to you what I offered to her, which is my own personal take on getting it out there. It’s all very subjective and all I can suggest is what worked for me…
Once you have a manuscript you are happy with, make all your friends and family – especially big readers, teachers and literary folk – comment on what they like or not – what works and what doesn’t. Get them to mark up copies for you. Don’t forget to acknowledge their help in the back of your novel.
Edit and proof read again yourself, working with the comments with which you agree, and then ABSOLUTELY if you are serious about getting it out there get a professional to do a proof read and edit for you. It costs but is worth it if you are serious about being published. I used Megan Kerr for The Thinking Tank before I had a publisher. I found her great for what I wanted. There are lots of people out there to choose from so do your research to find the right person for you. http://www.megankerr.co.uk/
Be prepared to adjust your novel according to what the editor suggests as they know what works. It’s quite hard to let go of paragraphs you judge as your finest work but if it’s deemed unnecessary it will have to go! However, if you feel strongly you can always argue your case – which I did and now realise that my editor was right and I was wrong!
Even with millions of edits there will still be errors – sad, frustrating but true.
Get hold of a Writers and Artists Yearbook for 2013: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1408157497/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=103612307&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=1408135809&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_r=1ARCDBD3GZFRBZ81H500
(or whatever year is when you reach that point!). Inside you will find a guide to all the UK and US agents and publishers. There is no point submitting to an agent who doesn’t deal with your genre – so read carefully and only choose appropriate targets. Then, go to their websites and see what they want as a first submission. Sometimes it’s three chapters and synopsis, others want the whole thing – just depends. Some want email, others only manuscripts.
Then you just have to keep sending out and wait until someone likes what you have to offer.
It can take a very long time with lots of rejections. I was so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time with the right novel. Use any contacts you have – it can’t do any harm.
If you find an agent/ publisher, be prepared to let them have some control as they will know what is commercial and what is not.
I was picked up by a publisher and have no agent, which means I have to do most of my own PR, which is time-consuming and hard work, especially if you want to get down to writing again, so there are definite advantages in having an agent who will represent you. That said, you are more in control doing your own thing – but it might not always be the right pathway.
There is a magazine, published by Warners of Bourne, called Writers’ Magazine and there are often competitions. It’s a good way to get involved and get your name out there. I did this through features for educational journals.
Also – start a blog about something you love – even the process of writing your book. Be on Facebook and Twitter, join reading/ writers’ groups online as well as in life. Anything that helps you get your writing out there.
I love doing book signings, going into schools to talk to AS/ A Level students about dual narrative and other aspects, being grilled by reading groups and anything that puts me in contact with people. What I am not so keen on is the whole cyber side of promoting online – but it all has to be done.
Also, bear in mind that unless you happen to become a best seller/ movie made of it etc, there is not a lot of money in writing fiction until you really make it! Plus what motivates you to express yourself might not be what is commercial. I think the best test for me is to ask myself if I am writing something I would like to read – and maybe you can only really be true to yourself and the writing ‘voice’ that you find.
All of the above still holds true if you decide to self-pub. I know folks who have gone through Matador/ Troubador and also Createspace and who have done lots of networking and been successful. Fifty Shades of Gray is a brilliant example of a do-it-yourself success.
Check out my website for news and reviews: http://www.jaedewylde.com