Archive for the ‘submitting to agents’ Category

Here is a long overdue blog post about things that have been happening with me. The unexpected side of being a published author – both positive and negative.

First of all this may seem like I am complaining – I absolutely am not complaining! I have been so happy lately I’m beginning to wonder if I can drag my mind back down to the depths I need to go to in order to finish the second book… I’m sure I will manage!

Getting Lucky

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So I ‘got lucky’ and got published. Suddenly I find myself on a ‘side’ – I didn’t know there were sides! I am very naive when it comes to the politics of these things because all I have done is keep my head down and write. I have faced a little resentment from a couple of people, probably because I seemingly came out of nowhere, because I got lucky and published my first book which then rocketed into the charts and has been doing steadily ever since. Its taken me a while to crack this writing malarkey and I have had my fair share of rejection – but I changed what I was writing and tried to get better every time, if you learn from rejection its not quite so bad! So being jealous or resentful because I am not out marketing myself at every turn, being annoyed that this is some kind of cake walk for me- is rather silly because it was not an easy path – yes the last year has been utterly phenomenal – but it took me a long time to get there. I really haven’t just walked into this, its been my dream for most of my adult life.

Overcoming Shyness

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Getting over my crippling shyness – this has been the biggest obstacle for me. Both in writing and in self promotion I am very secretive and ‘closed’ and so it took me a long time to send off for an agent, it took me a long time to have enough belief in myself to do that. I have had to let it go a little and just trust that other people who know what they are doing believe in me and so I should stop trying to self sabotage and start behaving like an author would (whatever that means!} The anxiety I first felt of how peoples perception of me would change after they had read my book is mostly gone now. I don’t think its something that will ever truly go as its such a private thing. If a little bit of your soul doesn’t go into everything you write then you just end up with a hollow mash of well constructed sentences. I personally think its important to write what’s uncomfortable. Write the dark things because those are the thoughts that people latch onto and identify with.

Getting reviews!

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Reviews! Getting reviews for my book has been both amazing and challenging at times. I have had a lot of 5 star reviews – over 200 now (over 300 4/5*) which I am stunned by. You see I wrote the book that I thought I would enjoy to read, and its nice to see so many other people enjoyed it too. I have around 50 one star reviews – either I’m pretentious or my grammar is so appalling they couldn’t possibly get past it! Some of the other less favourable reviews have mentioned my use of the word saline – instead of tears – my mother also mentioned this to me. Its not something that I would get my knickers in a twist over if I read it in someone else’s work but point taken, I wont use it again! Also my daughter is obsessed with my use of the word wainscotting, because apparently no one knows what that is. I know I should be grateful to even have reviews – and believe me – I am! I have learned to laugh at some of my reviews, especially one who referred to me as Katerina DIEmond (in exactly that way!) and try and take some pointers for the future from others. I am not averse to constructive criticism (as long as I agree with it!). Still hard to read a dismissive review when you have spent literally YEARS working on something. Dont even get me started on reviews with spoilers in them!!! grrrr!

Meeting great People!

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I have met some great people since being published – this is possibly partly due to the fact that I feel I have the right to call myself an author now, instead of muttering that I like to write stories – which people just don’t get or take seriously. Being a published author gives me a feeling of legitimacy. I think generally I have been more open to new friendships. The support I have received from other writers is just brilliant. I have so many questions all the time which must make me seem like I have been living under a rock for my entire life. For the most part I have been quite moved by the support and sense of community I am experiencing. Also the book bloggers (who I didn’t know existed) have been so supportive as well – some have even become friends. As mentioned before there are a couple of people who I sense some deep resentment from but I see that as their issue and not mine as almost everyone else has been great. I have had one person get the hump with me for not promoting their book online but the fact is, I barely like promoting my own book – I certainly don’t want to promote something that I haven’t read. I don’t mind retweeting things that other people ask me to retweet – but I feel newly constructed or written tweets should be FROM me, about things I want to say or feel passionate about! The marketing side of things does my head in a little bit, I am so pleased I am not in charge of that myself. I really admire anyone who has the ability to both write great books and market themselves successfully without being pushy and in your face – that would be my main concern! I absolutely LOATHE clickbait and couldn’t bring myself to post any – even when I repost clickbait I put a synopsis in my post! it just seems so damn dishonest!

Having a great Agent and Publishers.

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I was a total novice and this is where I truly believe I did get lucky. My agent Diane Banks saw something in my book that she liked. My publishers Avon felt the same way. I sent off to a few Agents, and my Agent sent off to a few publishers for me to have landed with the team of people that I did was incredibly good luck on my part. I get warm squishy feelings about all of them (and I am not a warm squishy person). I think this was the best possible outcome for me – on all fronts! I think it shows in both my sales and the great working partnership I feel I have with both my previous editor and my new one. I have heard so many horror stories from other writers about shocking behaviour from both agents and publishers I didn’t realise it could be so bad! I would be utterly USELESS as a self published author, I probably would have sold about 12 books by now, and that’s even less impressive when you consider the size of my family alone. As it stands I have been in the Sunday Times Best Seller list 3 weeks in a row (what??!!) and I was a number one kindle best seller (??!!) I’m still holding into the top 5 on kindle although I feel that’s about to change as some great titles are being released over the next couple of weeks. My book will also start moving internationally soon and that’s just amazing, too.

Being a success!

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Well I always said I was more afraid of success than I was of failure. Its a new feeling but its a nice feeling. The main thing I am noticing is that the hard work has just begun. I had my own time and pace to get my foot through the door but now its there I have more books to write and actual deadlines instead of self imposed ones. I have had so many people ask me when the second book is coming out, its such a great feeling. I am so excited for the next few years of my life. I’m also so grateful to everyone who has been so incredibly nice to me. I was feeling a little fragile on entry into the world of being an author – on publication day I came down with the flu and was in bed for 4 days! intermittently tweeting a gif between naps through my fever.

Anyway – I’m on holiday at the moment so its back to the pool for me!

live long and prosper!

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Since getting an agent all I ever get asked is how I got an agent. I’m going to be honest and say it was 90% per cent luck at the right person to read my submission at the right time. But its the other 10% that you need to concentrate on.

Firstly (and most importantly) – write a killer book, like not a book about a killer but a book that feels as complete and brilliant as it possibly can to you. Don’t put your faith in an agent being able to see past the mistakes to the core of you as a writer, Why would they?

Remember that some agencies get thousands of submissions a week, the world is full of aspiring writers. Don’t get your work tossed out on a technicality. get someone to help you if you struggle with any of these points below.

  • Grammatical errors are probably the first most jarring for someone who is reading your book – so make sure thats all good.
  • Punctuation – this is my downfall (you may or may not have noticed) – I have been told by a few people how bad my punctuation is. I think I am getting better – I must resist the urge to put commas everywhere. maybe because Im a rambler and I type as i think i dont really think about sentence structure. I bought a book on punctuation which i read a little bit of and then gave up, watched some documentaries. Eventually I just kind of worked it out mostly. Its not perfect but i really did try my best to make it as good as I could. I put a lot of effort into my punctuation.
  • Spellings – silly but I kept finding spelling mistakes – or words that were spelled correctly but were incorrect in the context i was using them and so were not flagged by any spell-checker.
  • Continuity – I found a massive continuity error in my book after reading it for the 300th time, I cant believe I missed it (fortunately my agent missed it too) – but if I had been reading a book other than my own then i would have totally noticed and been infuriated by the error.
  • READ – and re read. I could probably quote my book verbatim because I have read it several times. Over 100 times easily. i can honestly say I have found something wrong with it every single time that I read it. Over time you will find less and less mistakes. Once you have read it a few hundred times, read it aloud to yourself, that should throw up some interesting observations on your “flow”, find out if it works.
  • FINISH YOUR BOOK – no point having three great opening chapters if your book isn’t finished. What if the Agent wants to read the rest of the book? (Just hold that thought for 8 months while I attempt to finish it) Starting books is easy (I know – I’ve started hundreds) but finishing them is hard. Don’t think like – oh but is there any point in me writing the rest if no ones going to want it. Have a little confidence in your work. Do you want to be a writer or not? finish the damn book, then submit
  • Although the rules are different for screenplays i would definitely say that these things all apply to that too

As far as submission goes – well this is where it gets tricky. I deliberately tried my hand at crime fiction because my favourite books and movies are thrillers and so I thought it would make sense to do that. I had never tried it before and trying to get suspense into a book was a no easy feat. I also knew that crime fiction was a hugely popular commercial area of fiction and so there was likely to be more demand for that kind of story. This may seem cynical but at the end of the day I did want to get published. I had spent years with the bitter disappointment of submitting screenplays (not very often – I don’t handle rejection well ) and so I wanted to give myself the best shot possible.

So I looked for a list of agencies – I found a great comprehensive list on literary rejections website (link below) and i went on each agencies website – I looked firstly at whether they were taking submissions, secondly at what kind of submissions they were taking, then i picked my favourite ones based on my preliminary search. For each agency i carefully read the guidelines on how to submit, they are not all the same but you can bet your backside they have that submission process in place for a reason. Most of the agencies were a cover letter, a one page synopsis of roughly 500 words followed by 3 chapters of your book (this ALWAYS  means the first 3 consecutive chapters – not 3 random chapters that you think are great examples of your writing skills). One agency however wanted the first 50 pages, and another the first 100 pages. Some wanted email submissions only, some only want hard copy. Its up to you to make sure what the requirements are.

http://www.literaryrejections.com/uk-literary-agencies/

I sent to 14 agencies, i made a table in “word” and listed the date I had sent the original email with the cover letter and the sample of my work. I wanted to be able to keep track of who i had sent to – the name of the contact and the date i had sent the initial correspondence. I didn’t want to get rejected because i had messed up the submission process basically, it was important that I got that part right after spending so much time on doing the work of actually writing the novel.

As for the cover letter, i kept it short and concise. In fact I cut and pasted an example cover letter then substituted the relevant information in it. I am full of self doubt when writing letters to people and so I thought taking myself out of this part of the process as much as possible was a good idea. Don’t overcomplicate things, keep it as sharp as possible.

Well a week after I had submitted I had already received 4 rejections when I got an email from an agent saying she liked what I had written so far and could i send the rest – this was on the Monday- so i did – On the Friday late afternoon the agent asked me if i could meet up to discuss representation. I met with the Agent the next Friday (10 days ago) and now I’m signed to an Agency. Incidentally the Agency that liked me I had addressed their submission letter to “whom it may concern” but all of the other Agents I had names for. I looked specifically within each agency for the person who dealt with crime thrillers or who i thought would be most open to my work.

I had lots of advice not to just accept the first Agency that offered me a contract but in all honesty – even though I was so excited that wasn’t the decider for me – I met the agent in person and we got on really well, I was happy that they were so enthusiastic about my book that i had slaved over – trying my best to make it the best i could do. (which I really did – it may not be the best book ever written – but its the best book I could write) I had researched the Agency and knew that I would be well represented by someone who was passionate about my work. What more could i ask for?