Claire King


£1000 to spend at Writers Mart today! Kerching!

Posted on: December 4th, 2011 by Claire - 25 Comments

Here’s how it works. Imagine you have £1000 / €1000 (US $1500 or thereabouts), and you have to spend it on your book. The aim is to get your book to market, and make as much money as you can out of it. Here’s a selection of products available to you in Writers Mart:


Money tunnel


1. Make your Writing Better! Is your work even ready to be presented to agents and publishers?

– Get a professional critique of your work. For a full length novel expect to spend between £500 and the whole £1000. Here’s a good article on critiques. You could spend less than that of course, but is a critique of the first three chapters going to help you if something is broken in your plotting or character arc, for example?

– Go on creative writing courses, such as Arvon Courses. Most people have heard of these. A week working on your novel will cost you around £625 plus travel. For me That’s £750, for you maybe £650.

– Try a Writing Festival. Get workshops on writing and sessions with agents and publishers. Expect to spend about £350 -500 for a weekend, including your accommodation, meals, talks etc.

Writing Mentors  – pay for the services of a published and experienced author to coach you and help edit your work. You could easily spend the whole £1000 here, buying around 4 hours of mentoring from top authors through to quite a lot more time with cheaper outfits.

– Take out  a subscription to a writing magazine, such as Writers’ Forum or Writing Magazine, for a steady flow of hints and tips. Or  else literary journals such as Mslexia, Granta etc. £30 a pop.

– Read more contemporary books. Learn from other successful writers in your genre. Buy a big pile of books to read. £100 for enough to keep you going.

– Try something like the Faber & Faber Academy. A three day course on bringing your book to market –  like this one with Ben Johncock and Catherine Ryan Howard costs £425 plus travel and accommodation.

– Practice writing. This costs nothing. But if you’re struggling for time, treat yourself to a weekend writing retreat for £250/£400 plus travel like the one I did in September. Or a week long retreat somewhere like Anam Cara, with or without workshops.

– Get your book copy edited before you submit. Expect to pay in the region of £750.

– Get writing advice free online. If you don’t know where to look, network with writers and publishing professionals on Twitter. Also free.


1b. Blame your Tools!

– Scrivener £30 ish

– A new computer, or an old classic typewriter £500

– A better printer £200

– Moleskine notebooks, for the authentic author longhand experience. £7-10 each


2. Is your book astonishingly good? Make your Submissions Better!

– Writers & Artists Yearbook, for the tailoring of submissions. £16.99

– Pay for help with your synopsis. £150 – 200

– Use fancy stationery and include chocolates personalised with the literary agent’s initials and date of birth. £250.

Just kidding


3. Is your book excellent and your submissions splendid? Raise your profile as a credible writer, boost your CV. 

– Raise your profile by winning competitions or submitting to radio programmes like BBC Radio 4 . Competition entry fees in the £5-£15 range.  Consider The Bristol Short Story Prize, Fish, Sean O’Faolain, Bridport, Willesden Herald, Manchester…there are so many! And if you win, they actually give YOU money!


4. Self Publishing!

– Design the cover £200 – £700

– Interior design & layout £750

– Also see costs of editing, above.


5. Your book is with a publisher, or self-published. Get those sales up! Marketing!

– Get a blog up and running. £75 for your domain name and hosting, then it’s just your time.

– Get people who have read it to review it on Amazon. Very valuable. Costs nothing.

– Look the part. Get an author photo professionally done. £500

– Advertise. Facebook lets you pay per click. Meet the Author charges £400

– I also heard recently of an offer where you could have your work featured somewhere on a writing competition’s website, with claims that it will provide ‘visibility’ to agents and publishers (though no footfall data, or qualitative data about the site readership was available at the time of writing). Cost £995 for a year.



The above are all just ways in which you could spend your money. I’m not endorsing them, just showing you the opportunities to spend your cash! Also all prices are approximate. I’d be interested in which ones you would endorse though, and any feedback on costs. Please tell us in the comments.

I would also like to apologise for the profusion of exclamation marks. It’s not really my style, it’s more a nod to the “Get Published Now!” sales pitches we see so often, offering to take our £1000 in return for a few months of deliciously raised hopes and then an opportunity to spend the same amount again, and more, on what is essentially vanity publishing. Look at some of the cheaper – and free – options above and weigh up the relative benefits before spending lots of money, I suggest.

Remember Yog’s law – “Money should always flow towards the writer.”


25 Responses

  1. Arvon does offer bursaries to those on low income, benefits etc, which is worth checking out and you can lower the cost by opting to share a room.

    Also The Guardian do writing courses for about £450 but I *think* they’re only day-long courses (albeit with big name authors).

  2. martha says:

    Give it to charity. Ask to spend a week working with the charity.
    Write a real story.

    Interesting post. I would add that there are some great professional photographers out there for a fraction of that price. Shop around, buds. x

  3. Hi Claire
    Great to see all these options listed so well.

    Having been barking up the wrong tree for so long with my writing, I decided about 2 years ago to get a critique on my last effort. I have to say I didn’t do a huge amount of research but went for a well known company. I think I paid around £400- £500 approx and what I received was a very thoughtful analysis. Some things I agreed with and some I did not, but as time has gone by and given me some distance from the book, the critique has become more and more useful to me. I learnt about my strong points as well as my faults and the praise I received has given me a lot more confidence.
    On the strength of that critique I eventually decided to dump that book for now. I realised that as a debut novelist I needed to write something different. So it worked for me.

    I also tried a writing festival which was fun and inspiring, but I totally funked pitching my book to agents and found that I had the networking skills of Howard Hughes.

    I’d definitely consider doing an Arvon course if I could afford it, but I look at the Faber Academy courses and all the rest and I sigh. There are so many aspiring writers, and the mix of their desperation and the almost palpable sense of those designing these courses to part people such as I with their last red cent, doesn’t seem quite decent. I’d be really interested to know what others think.Thanks Claire!

    • claire says:

      That’s very interesting. It’s true that there’s a whole industry set up to give aspiring writers ways to *potentially* improve their chances of getting published, and all at a cost. If I had £1000 to spend (which I don’t) then I would lean towards critique or mentoring. I’d tend to see the most return on investment coming from improving my writing rather than anything else.

  4. Pete says:

    I might just leave the £995 offer thanks very much! A blog will do far more for you and it’s not that difficult to set up. Any form of online advertising needs to be considered carefully. It seems a good way to blow money quickly for the unwary!
    As a photographer, I’d be really happy to help anyone out at £500 but being objective, I’d put it somewhere down the list. I’ve never read a book because the author is hot.
    I don’t know about many of the options for courses etc. I would recommend Scrivener though if anyone doesn’t have it. It is quite simply brilliant. Perhaps a guide to grammar and punctuation might also be a good investment for many?

    • claire says:

      If you want to parade your work in front of publishers etc, there are always sites like Authonomy. I also know agents keep an eye out on the bigger competitions, perhaps if a name keeps cropping up and the writing is good, they may have a novel on the boil. All nice cheap options.
      I don’t think I can have understood the £995 offer at all…

  5. Debi Alper says:

    Emma Darwin and I have just finished running a 6 wk online self-edit your novel course. Feedback from these courses has always been very positive. Cost £295.

    Online writing forums vary, but many have regular contributors who can be relied on to give solid and authoritative advice. Some have a minimal charge. Others are free.

    My Real Life writers’ group is a diverse mix of people at different stages of their writing careers. Without their support and encouragement, I might never have started writing and could never have dreamt of being published. Free.

    Spending money publicising your unpublished novel (apart from the minimal amount it costs to set up a blog) as opposed to improving it, makes no sense at all. Agents and publishers do wade through slush piles. They don’t trawl the net in the hope of stumbling across a gem nestled in a website.

    Good post, Claire.

    • claire says:

      Thanks Debi. Fully agree that publicising an unpublished novel is a waste of money. I wish I had a Real Life writer’ group. One thing that’s hard to find when writing in a language different to the country you live in.

  6. Catherine says:

    Thanks for the mentioning the Faber Academy course, Claire! I’m really looking forward to it.

    I would just say this about cover design: I don’t think you have to spend that much. None of my covers cost more than €200 including purchased images, because of exactly that: we bought images. Original illustrations, etc. will obviously cost considerably more, but if a photo will do, you can save some cash there.

  7. claire says:

    Thank you Catherine, I’ve updated the text!

  8. Interesting post – there are certainly loads of large holes in the ground waiting for aspiring writers to fill em with money…

    I guess what works for some writers may not work for others – but I found a few of these were worth their weight in gold, and without them, I would not have written ‘The Coward’s Tale’ –

    Anam Cara Writers’ and Artists’ Retreat – in West Cork Ireland. Been going there at least twice a year since 2005. Thats where all the cash I earned in comps or from CW teaching went. People ask why do you need to go to a retreat when you can go to your head. fair question – but ‘home’ is where I am a wife, a mum, and until this May, daughter of a father with senile dementia. I have a house where things go wrong and need fixing, washing machines, central heating, I need to think about feeding people, shop for food, do the cooking. I need to think about a million things other than…
    At Anam Cara I am none of these things. I am only a writer. The other roles drop away during the journey, and cram themselves back into my head when I drive and fly back…

    Arvon. I went on a fiction week back in 2007, where I was tutored by the writer who would become a supporter, a mentor, and a friend. Another writer on that course, Selma Dabbagh, has her novel ‘Out of It’ published this week, with Bloomsbury.

    Mentoring. Perhaps one of the things we need to learn, as aspiring writers is when we have reached the end of our abilities. I had 100,000 words – and needed to shape them. Without the Arts Council funding a period of mentoring with Maggie Gee (The Arvon tutor mentioned above), even thought the book was 75% there, I would not have handed in a good manuscript. It might not have been accepted. Today, publishers don’t have the time or the £ to work for ages with writers helping them to get it right. We need to get it right before handing it in.

    So those are the things I have spent serious ££ on, and they have been worth every penny.

    I’ve also paid entry fees to well-respected competitions – and been pleased with the outcomes, sometimes.

    I’ve also, sadly been caught in a scam. Once, early on, when I had come out of a writing group, and was feeling lost – I sent a few short stories to a ‘scout’ who contacted me via email, having read a story online – offering to read a story for nothing. It all sounded great. I sent a story, had excellent feedback, plus the offer of further ‘help’ with more stories to make them publishable, they were so nearly there, I was a clever girl, wasnt I, wow, etc etc, then the scout agency would send them to her real live literary agent contacts, who would really love my work, and there wold be a collection soon, and where would I like the launch to be, must plan ahead… (not quite, but absolute certainty, at that point…, which was very sexy.). Wheeee!! I was nearly there. I sent the cash, (a few hundred quid…) waited a month or so, and got a few unhelpful paragraphs in return, and the immortal words “on reflection, my colleagues and I do not feel your work is of a standard to send further…”

    One of those stories went on, when I realised what had really happened, to win at Bridport. Unchanged.

    Oh I wish I could remember the name of that bloody ‘scout’ agency…!

    But the old adage goes – never hand over cash to anyone purporting to be an agent, or a scout for one.

    • claire says:

      Wonderful response Vanessa, and thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m actually pleased that in the last few years we have been on such a limited budget that there was no slack in it for anyone who wanted to prey on my aspirations.
      When I first came back to writing I did read all the advertisements for ‘get published now’ quite carefully, hoping that somewhere in there really was a holy grail. Never found one. I also found some of my work in what I would call ‘vanity anthologies’. It’s a bit of a let down to have your work ‘chosen’ for an anthology only to realise when it’s published that it’s you and 200 other writers and the books cost £25 a shot. Can’t afford to buy one for me, let alone for family and friends, no matter what the congratulatory email says.
      The money I spent on the writing retreat weekend I found very well spent for me. I’m still getting mileage out of some of the sparks it set off, and as with yourself, I find it hard to retreat into my own head when there’s a tiny person playing the toy saxophone besides me.

  9. Janet O'Kane says:

    I’ve been offered a £995 option too. Unfortunately I can’t tell anyone about it as the email came with a confidentiality clause. Shame.

  10. Debi Alper says:

    I’ve never had the money to spare for a paid retreat, though they sound wonderful. But a dear friend offered to let me stay at her home for a few days. She and her partner were out at work all day and I spent every moment writing. Cost: a bottle of wine and some chocolates.

    • claire says:

      This is starting to sound like a Visa advert! I had a major kick start to my last novel when staying at my mums for a week. 1 hour babysitting per day – priceless!

  11. D.J. Kirkby says:

    Oh your posts are always so interesting. How I wish I had £1000 to spend just on writing related indulgences…

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