Claire King

Author
Claire King Edited Choices (10 of 10)

Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

We’re in the Business of Selling Dreams.

Posted on: November 19th, 2013 by Claire - 17 Comments

I want to talk about becoming an author. About publishing a book.

So you’re a writer. You get up early in the morning and you write. You drop the kids off at school and you write instead of doing the hoovering. You commute to work and you write on the bus. You stay up late at night and you write. And your dream is that one day, hopefully very soon, you will see your work published. In a book. A book that you can hold in your hands. If that’s you, I’m talking to you.

If what you dream of is your book being available in ebook format only, I’m not talking to you. Because you know that there are many options now for doing that. And personally I know very little about them, and you too have Google and Twitter. You will find your way.

But back to you, the dreamer, the one who wants to hold the solid block of pages in your hand and see your name on the cover and the printed words inside that you created and pulled together and spun into a story to be told to thousands of readers. You, who wants to be paid for your work, perhaps even for writing to be your actual job. You would like to make a living from it. Yes, well I’m really happy you’re here. Because that’s what I want to talk to you about.

Without money

If you are anything like I was, you’d be delighted to hear that somehow there is a shortcut. That agents can see through a first draft of a manuscript to the dazzling novel you know it eventually will be. Or that publishers right now are trawling the electric interweb for rising stars to pull under their wing and lead through the golden doors of literary fame and fortune. Or how the publishing landscape is changing and that now the gatekeepers have left and you are the most powerful person in the publishing supply chain, if only someone could explain to you how that works. You might even be willing to pay for that advice.

Well, my advice – which is free and you take it as it is – is that as far as I know there are no shortcuts, and you are certainly not the centre of the publishing world. Sorry. It’s not you. If I were to go out on a limb and say who I think does occupy that position, thinking about agents, publishers, bookshops, online retailers, authors, editors, and all the others, I would have to say that the most powerful person is likely to be…the reader. Maybe. But in any case it’s not you.

You are the writer, you are the author, you are the person who will create a story, and you will send it out into the world and you will ache with every rejection and bad review (and later you will soar with the offers and the delight of five fat golden stars). Or maybe you have thick skin or pure genius and that won’t happen at all.

But in the meantime I’ll tell you what you *are*. You are a market. Because of that ache for something that is out of your reach, because of your dream of something that is hard to achieve. Because there is something you really, REALLY want. Because of that, there are people out there ready to sell to you.
They are not there to sell you the magic formula, because if they had it, we’d all have it, and we’d all be hitting the jackpot, riding our fat advances to the top of the Sunday Times best-seller list. Oh but wait…
No. But what they are there for is to sell you back your own dreams.

They will tell you there are no guarantees. They will not promise you a publisher, or an advance, or literary prizes. But they will tell you that by buying something off them, a product or a service, you will be doing the right thing, putting yourself in the best position to publish that book, to be that person, the best-selling prize winning author who can give up their day job and set off on tour, gathering movie and foreign language rights as you go. They may throw in a lavish drinks reception or a star studded evening mingling with agents and publishers. Lovely. But the champagne is on you.

Do they have something that is worth your money? It’s your job to work that out. These people are in business. One of the many businesses that are set up to take advantage of the hungry market of aspiring authors. Legitimately. They are not there to take on the establishment, or create a new publishing paradigm, all for one and one for all. They are there to make money. For some that’s all it is, although of course some, often those run by well established writers, also have the very best of intentions and really want to help you succeed.

So if you are thinking of making money from writing, if that’s one of your goals, then before you pay out anything, *anything* to advance your career as a published author, be that writing courses, editorial services, social media publicists, conference fees, subscriptions to writing websites, publishing services or anything that wants your money, take yourself seriously. Make a business plan.

It doesn’t have to be complicated:
1) How much do you expect to earn?
Do you hope to earn a side-income or to give up the day job entirely? Do some research and find out how much an average debut novel earns, and an average second novel. Look into different genres too. Look at self publishing versus the traditional route. Look at advances and royalties and do some maths. Work out the probabilities.
2) How much are you willing to invest?
Do you have money to spend? If so, where is it best spent? Improving your craft; making new contacts; paying to be published, building an author platform on social media or buying a decent desk chair? Taking some paid leave in order to write, perhaps? What would each of those things give back to you and how would they help you to succeed?

I’m not suggesting at all that writing is all about making money. If you’re like most writers you do this because you love it. Because you can’t not tell stories. And sometimes we can buy things that help us along, even if it’s just a copy of Writers’ Forum or a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. But as soon as the question of handing over your money to other people comes up, and you’re tempted, think about it. And whatever you do, don’t become part of someone else’s business plan just because they talk a good talk.

That’s makes them the salesman, and you the punter.

The Novel Edits (Part 2)

Posted on: January 25th, 2012 by Claire - 24 Comments

In September I met my editor, Helen, to go through the structural edits for The Night Rainbow. If you missed it, you can read about that here. The next part of the editing process, which happened in quite a whirl last week, was the copyedits.

I thought that the copyeditor was there to ‘correct my mistakes’. I was really looking forward to what she would find, because before submitting I’d already done many passes of edits for typos, punctuation, and grammatical errors. I’d also paid attention to ‘continuity’, drawing up detailed maps of locations and timelines with character clothing, mealtimes etc. I didn’t go so far as a style sheet, but I’d thought about it.

Last week was quite an education…

My copyeditor got in touch and she said my book was ‘astonishing’. I loved her immediately. She said she was sending over the queries, and that there ‘weren’t many’. There were, in fact, 10 pages of them. 175 in total. And these were just the queries – obvious typos and missing punctuation had already been corrected without bothering me.

The copyedit was much more than ‘just’ about correcting mistakes. Yes there were some, but attention was also paid to to smoothing out inconsistencies in style, for example where I had used ’grownup’ vs ‘grown up’. My editor also checked facts, questioning things as odd as ‘are puffballs safe to eat?’ and the correct references made to music. Despite my best efforts there were still ‘continuity’ queries - one minute a door was closed, the next it was open…

Responding to the queries took hours and hours. Agreeing that I should change from one kind of punctuation to another was an easy one. But where the suggestion was to choose a different word or re-phrase something it was much harder. Even though I could agree that it was necessary, working within the vocabulary limits of the narrator took a lot of thought and deliberation.

By the time I reached the end of the query list I was feeling quite anxious. Had I managed to get back into the ‘voice’ of the book seamlessly? Had I made the ‘right’ changes? And what about all the mistakes? As soon as a query drew my attention to something I then spotted the same mistake over and over in the text. Even though my editor had told me that she only queried something once and then it would apply throughout, it was very unnerving to see the repeated mistakes and inconsistencies cropping up again and again.

But the biggest revelation for me last week was that my copyeditor not only understood the rules of spelling, grammar and punctuation (of course), she also understood where I had intentionally broken the rules to use punctuation or rythym creatively. She understood my intention.

Then she worked with that intention, with my rules, to make the writing more elegant, so the words didn’t get in the way of the story.

The whole experience was really impressive, and I found myself enormously grateful that such painstaking attention is being lavished on my book.

Once the queries were dealt with and the TS returned to Bloomsbury,  I asked my lovely copyeditor, Sarah-Jane Forder, if she wouldn’t mind answering a few questions:

1) I edited The Night Rainbow many times before I submitted it. I would have said I went through it with a fine toothed comb. And yet I had 175 queries in total, which you described as ‘very few’! If we imagine I’m towards one end of the spectrum, what does the other end look like?

It was obvious to me when I first read your TS that I was dealing with a very meticulous author. Yes, there were odd things you’d missed in however many edits but that is always the way. I missed things too, which you picked up: remember? My point about the relatively few number of queries, and the absolute ease of my job, was that they were minor things: the odd bit of punctuation here, a tiny bit of garbled text there. Nothing major whatsoever. Many authors, believe me, have neither your eye nor your ear. When you answered my queries you did so with confidence, saying no when you knew absolutely what you wanted. Which is a wordy way of saying that the other end of the spectrum might have multiple typing errors and inconsistencies as well as careless repetition, holes in the plot and characters whose eyes change from blue to brown according to the weather.

2) Many of your queries represented changes that needed applying several times through the book and after you’d mentioned something once I came across dozens of subsequent errors that I’d made (consistency of spellings etc.) Do authors get ‘better’ at noticing these, the more books they write? So fewer slip through to copyedit stage?
I think, the more they write, authors do become aware of certain tics in their writing: words and phrases they perhaps rely on; that sort of thing. It’s great if an author can get it near on 100 per cent accurate (Anita Brookner, whom I copyedited at Cape, was one), but they are rare.
I have to say that I don’t regard picking up spelling mistakes or typos necessarily as part of writing: you can be dyslexic and still express yourself fluently and vividly and with originality, which is the really important thing. If writers made no errors whatsoever, what about us poor copyeditors? You’d be doing us out of a job!

 

3) In terms of your process – do you read the book first as a ‘reader’, or immediately with an editor’s eye?

I always do a first read as a reader, or as near as I can get to a reader when I’m working (you’ve sussed that in my leisure time I read in an entirely different way), with an eye out for plot, pacing, characterisation and so on. I will also at that point make a note of any inconsistencies of style (‘girl-nest’!) and make a ‘style chart’ to follow for the edit proper. The edit proper is slower, and usually said out loud in my head. I find it helps to hear the words – you yourself mentioned rhythm and I think that’s really important.

 

4) How did you become a copyeditor? What do you like about the job?

 

I fell into copyediting! I graduated in English with a vague idea of going into publishing: no more than that. I was lucky enough to be appointed at Jonathan Cape as an editorial assistant working with Liz Calder, one of the top literary fiction editors at that time. Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, John Fowles, Anita Brookner, Ian McEwan: they were all Cape authors. Later, when Liz went to set up Bloomsbury, I followed her. 

I’ll be honest: the job can be extremely tedious (depends what you’re working on!) but it’s always fascinating to work one to one with authors; it can feel like a real privilege, in fact. There’s the satisfaction of making a difference, however small. The devil’s in the detail! Having been freelance now for about 15 years, one of the things I love about my job is being able to work from home, at no one’s beck and call. I like the freedom, I like the quiet! The money sucks: you don’t go into it expecting to become rich. But I specialise in editing literary fiction, and how can you put a price on the pleasure of being paid to read wonderful writing?

 

Huge thanks to Sarah-Jane for taking the time to answer these questions in her busy schedule. I hope you find them as illuminating as I did.

Next steps for The Night Rainbow? First Pages for proofreading in a few weeks, and the cover! It’s also off for translation. Still a year to go until publication, but we’re well on our way!

The Six Figure Advance

Posted on: November 29th, 2011 by Claire - 21 Comments

So, Pippa Middleton has signed a contract with Penguin to publish a book on being a perfect party hostess. The book is to launch 2012 and the advance is reported as £400,000 or thereabouts.

Cue people going nuts. Authors, agents, all manner of literary types. “It’s not fair!” They cry. “It’s a travesty.”

People are being rude about Pippa and her family. They are being rude about the book. And they are being rude about the publishing industry as a whole, taking this as a sign that it is terribly, irretrievably broken.

Can we just stop here for a second? What exactly is broken here?

Is it the author?

Pippa is the media-appointed celebrity sister of the Duchess of Cambridge. She never asked for that celebrity, nor any of the personal infringements it entails. It seems to me she bears it with good grace. If you suddenly had a money tree growing in your front room, wouldn’t you pick the fruit?

Is it the book?

The book was sold on concept, it’s still being written, so I’ve no idea.

Is it the publishers, then?

Because you know, it wasn’t just Penguin. There was an auction. Editors fought each other with cheque books. Why? Because their publishing houses know that in the UK and the USA there will be a huge market for a ‘celebrity’ book of this kind. And party planning seems to fit neatly in alongside celebrity chefs. Poor Pippa would have found it tougher if she’d been an investment banker. ‘Pippa’s guide to mergers & acquisitions’ doesn’t have the same ring to it, eh?

So what is it, then?

‘Readers’/Buyers of celebrity-top-ten-best-selling-autobiographical-tell-all-memoirs, spin offs and the like. I’m talking to you.

There is a big fat advance for this book, I think, for the same reasons there are helicopters circling Pippa’s home. Because there is a market for it. People will pay actual real money for this. No $2.99 e-book for Pippa. The voracious mass market hunger for voyeurism – living vicariously through others, watching them rise and fall – seems insatiable.

So, as businesses, publishers want to publish these kinds of commercially viable books. Book sellers will want them on their shelves. There is money to be made. Made from you, and your interest in ‘celebrity’ (or of course, your interest in parties, and who doesn’t like a nice party?).

It is what it is.

Writers – is this really relevant to us? We cannot compare our journey to be published to this phenomenon. It’s apples and oranges.

Pippa’s advance has absolutely nothing to do with my advance, for example. Not just because we’re with different publishers. I’m not entirely sure how it works in publishing, but I doubt Penguin would have said at the editorial meeting “Well folks, we’ve got half a million, so we can either publish fifty novels, a few literary, a Regency Romance or two, some YA, perhaps some crime thrillers…or we can take Pippa’s party book. What’s it to be?”

There’s still a market for the books we write, and most of us will not be earning the six figure advances.

If the idea of Pippa Middleton’s deal leaves you incredulous you are probably not the target market. But there is a market. Let’s move on?

Interview with Jonathan Pinnock

Posted on: September 5th, 2011 by Claire - 12 Comments

CK: Hi Jonathan and congratulations on the publication of your first novel! Thanks for coming over to my blog, especially now you are famous, to be grilled about Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens and to answer other impertinent and only tenuously relevant questions.

JP: Thank you for having me. I will try to behave myself.

CK: Let’s start with the hardest question for many writers: In a nutshell, what is your book about?

JP: Well, the clue’s in the title. Sequel to Pride and Prejudice. With aliens. I would, however, like to point out that I’ve taken considerable care to make sure it fits seamlessly with the original (or, as I tend to refer to it, “the first book in the series”). Much of Wickham’s behaviour in P&P, for example, can be explained in terms of him being an undercover agent for the Department of Unusual Affairs. I’ve also devoted a fair degree of attention to developing a credible character arc for Austen’s characters. For instance, it seems clear to me that the only way Charlotte could cope with marriage to Mr Collins would be to become a laudanum addict. Especially if she happened to bump into Lord Byron.

CK: What is it like being sandwiched between Rosamunde Pilcher and Bella Pollen?

JP: Odd. I bet they’re both thinking “There goes the neighbourhood”. Actually, I had to look up Bella Pollen, because I’d never heard of her and she sounded like something out of a Roald Dahl story. Her books look quite interesting, though.

CK: You describe the work with Salt, in particular with your editor, as being published ‘well’. Has your experience changed the way you view the book market and the options for publication? What advice would you now give to other writers hoping to publish a novel?

JP: Good question. I don’t think it’s changed anything particularly in that – despite the fact that I ended up serialising the book online – I’ve always wanted a traditional publication with a good-looking book for sale in the high street. Somehow or other that actually came to pass, and I feel very lucky. My advice to a first-time novelist would still be to aim for a traditional publisher because that’s still where the credibility is. However, if you do decided to self-publish, be prepared to shell out for a decent cover and an editor. And be aware that before he made his million sales, John Locke was also a millionaire insurance salesman. If you want to achieve his level of sales, you probably also need his sales and marketing skills. Then again, even if you’re aiming to be traditionally published, you probably need a fair bit of self-marketing nous. I had to pull quite a few stunts to make myself noticed after all.

CK: Have you considered that the cover art for Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens could also represent the two sides of Jonathan Pinnock – Respectable Software Developer and ….well, that other one?

JP: Ha. That hadn’t occurred to me! I would however question the juxtaposition of “Respectable” with “Software Developer”. It’s hardly a proper job, you know.

CK: You initially published Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens on the internet, where it was available for free. What was your thinking behind this? When is it OK for writers to give away their work without payment?

JP: It was borne out of desperation, to be honest. I was fairly sure that what I was writing was worthy of publication, but it kept running up against the idea that it was just another of those Pride and Prejudice and Zombie things. So I thought, well, I’ve got a decent social networking footprint and I’ve been writing it in short chunks: let’s see if I can persuade a few people to read it as a serial. I still can’t really believe that the strategy worked.

As for when it’s OK for writers to give away their work without payment, that’s a much thornier issue. The intention with Mrs Darcy was always to take the serialisation down as soon as I got a deal, and that’s exactly what I did. I’m pretty certain that most of my regular readers from last year will buy the book, because that’s what I would do myself. Also, I don’t have a problem with giving my short stories away to ezines like Eclectica or indeed The View From Here, because I know they’re not going to be making loads of money out of me and I also know that they have credibility as a platform for getting my work out there. But once again, the long-term goal is to get a traditionally-published short story collection out – in fact, like the one I’ve got lined up for 2012! With the likes of the Huffington Post, however, the long-term advantage is a lot less clear cut, and I’m not entirely sure it’s a healthy trend.

CK: Do aliens exist?

JP: Whoa! Curve ball alert! I’m sure they do, although it’s a little surprising they haven’t bothered to come knocking yet. Either way, they probably don’t have tentacles.

CK: What are the top 3 reasons why people should click here and buy Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens right now?

JP: 1) It’s got aliens.
2) It’s got Lord Byron.
3) It’s the most fun you can have with a bonnet on.

You heard it here 5th! Thanks again, Jonathan and good luck with the book sales!

For more information and sample chapters, please click
Sample from the novel
Special Novel Publication Day episode
The Wickhampedia

£12.99*

Posted on: August 2nd, 2011 by Claire - 41 Comments

Here are five questions for you. Answer fast. No need to write them down:

 

1) What is your favourite beer/wine/fizzy drink?

2) What toothpaste do you use?

3) How do you choose what films to watch?

4) If you could eat out tonight (at your own expense) where would you go?

5) What does the price of a book tell you?

 

Got the answers? Good, because today I want to talk about authors as brands. Not about your ‘social media strategy’ or how you wear your hair at book signings. No, I want to talk about what messages you want to send out about your work to people who might want to buy it.

I’m neither a publisher nor a book marketeer, but I do know something about brand management. Once upon a time I used to work for these people:

And what all those brands have in common is that they aim to stand out in some way. We call it product differentiation: They make your clothes softer, your shave closer, provide greater protection for your baby’s delicate bottom cheeks against the evil of poo. They bring health to your teeth and the appearance of health to your hair. It takes fewer sheets to wipe up a spill, or indeed to, well, wipe. In this way you are better served by the products, your life is made more comfortable or pleasurable in some way. This does not just happen because the TV commercial tells you so, but because a lot of clever people have been working hard for a long time in order to try and make it that way. It is product differentiation that leads you to be able to answer questions 1-4 above with anything other than “I don’t care, whatever is cheapest.” Did any of you say that, by the way?

Delivering product differentiation comes at a cost, of course. Cost of materials, research, packaging design, advertising and marketing costs, paying the sales people who ensure it’s available to buy wherever you shop, etc. etc. Which is why you’ll not find these products at, say…99 cents.

In the world of publishing, how do books differentiate themselves?

  • Author credentials (she’s always really funny/moving, he’s famous, her books are always page-turners…)
  • Publishing house credentials
  • Literary prize endorsements
  • Reviews
  • Word of mouth
  • Retailer credentials?

You tell me. What’s clear is that differentiation is an evolving strategy. It’s a busy market, competition is fierce. You have to keep improving, keep innovating, keep surprising and delighting the people who buy what you have to sell. This is a GOOD THING. And in that way you have the right to sell your product – your books –  and for a decent price, in a world where choice has gone crazy.

I’m interested by choice. In developed economies it overwhelms us at every turn. People think they like choice, but in reality they don’t, not so much. Choice is complicated. Packed supermarket shelves are stressful and time consuming. Shopping where you have the choice between apples, oranges and peaches is far less stressful than a choice of a hundred different fruits. And when consumers are faced with a choice where they don’t have the information – or time –  to decide, they tend to use price as a measure of quality.

There is an implied value in certain prices. If you see a packet of sausages on sale for 50 cents and another on sale for 4.00€, and you’ve never heard of the manufacturers, chances are you will make a leap of logic as to which will have the more quality ingredients. Which will taste the best. Which will not only satisfy your hunger but also nourish you. In general:

  • Very low price = utter rubbish. Does not work, falls to bits.
  • Low price = low quality. The thing works. Often sells in bulk.
  • Mid price range = mid quality. Mass market. Nice. Towards the bottom end of this range are cheap brands, towards the top end are pricier ones.
  • High Price = high quality. It’s durable, or niche, luxurious or has a monopoly on the market.
  • Very high price = status symbol.

 

So what did you answer to question number 5? What does the price of a book tell you about the book and/or the author?

As with any market, I think it’s clear that there is room for a broad spectrum of prices. OK, I took a pop at 99 cent novels earlier, but I imagine there are many people who simply can’t afford full price books. A 99c e-book could be an affordable way to satisfy a thirst for reading. I would like here to mention libraries, but fear that is for a different post.

I will mention J.A. Konrath, though. He sells his ebooks at $2.99 (about 2€), which he has identified as the sweet spot between low pricing and high volume of sales. He’s a smart guy – that strategy is really working for him. However he recommends that all authors self-publish and keep pricing below $3.00 for e-books. He acknowledges that not every self-published author will earn the revenues he does, but that if you choose any other way to take your brand to market you are effectively losing money. Is he, in effect, advocating the collapse of differentiated pricing for books? Or that some authors should sell their novels at 50 cents a pop?

There is (usually) a massive amount of effort goes into writing a book. Effort and time. How much time? What is it worth to you? Would you say you put in a year’s work? Half a year? And on top of that are there costs such as editing, copy editing, cover design, sales effort, marketing effort… how can that all be represented in such a diminutive price tag?

The other problem that I have with Konrath’s model is the assumption that there is a market out there for most unpublished authors to make an average writer’s income.

 

The thing is, the global market for books is estimated at 80 billion euros and is not expected to grow significantly:

“On aggregate, it looks likely that the €80 billion number will remain relatively stable, as lower e-book prices are compensated for by increased purchases on the part of book buyers as they adopt more tablets and reading devices.”

So the pie, in terms of money, is not actually getting bigger. Which means thousands more authors get a little slice of the pie, but there’s only the same amount of pie to go round. So in the end we all earn less for our efforts.

That is BAD.

One last word about *promotions*.

There’s a big difference between pitching your books at a permanently low price, and running price promotions. A promotion can do a number of things: Get people to try you out, boost your sales (a lot in the short run, a little in the long run), tactically swamp the market with your product in order to push out competition…99 cent promotions – go wild! Use them wisely, reap the rewards.

But I still feel strongly that a permanently low price for high quality writing sends out all the wrong messages. I have been wracking my brains trying to find an example of a successful product or service launch – in any market – that chose the strategy of a permanently low price point for a high quality product. So far I am really struggling. Can anyone help me out?

 

*£12.99 is the RRP of The Night Rainbow in hardback. I hope, when the time comes, you’ll consider that it’s worth it.

No-one is buying debut novels

Posted on: May 24th, 2011 by Claire - 53 Comments

No-one is buying debut novels these days. Publishers don’t want them. Agents don’t want to take on new writers because they can’t sell debuts. Booksellers are closing down and the way forward is 99cent ebooks. It’s all doom and gloom out there. So why bother? The chances are infinitesimally slim that you will ever get the book deal your heart is set on. Why not go to the pub, or get comfy and watch re-runs of Friends instead?

‘They’ would have us believe that this is true. I wonder if the reason ‘They’ would have it that way is because ‘They’ are writing their own books and don’t want the competition? Maybe not. Maybe just because dismal news seems to sell. Unlike debut novels.

But wait!

For about 18 months now I’ve been using Twitter to meet and chat with writers all around the world. A few of them were already published writers, but most were like myself – scraping time to write in jam-packed days, entering writing competitions, occasionally getting shortlisted, or getting short pieces accepted in literary magazines. For me it’s been one of the best things I ever did in my writing career – in my Twitter stream I’ve found encouragement, wisdom, cheerleading, information, coaching, tips, consolation…and I hope I’ve managed to give back, which is in the spirit of Twitter.

And recently, in the last few months, some of the debut novelists on my twitter network are having breakthroughs.

These people are not different from you and me. They are not better educated. They are not richer. They are not people with industry connections. They are people who sat down and wrote. A lot. And re-wrote. They have families and day jobs and they are busy too. These people are getting agents and they are getting book deals. Three cheers for these people:

Maria Duffy, who signed with Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown last autumn and has just signed a two book deal with Hachette Ireland. Her debut novel, Any Dream Will Do, will be published November 2011

D.J. Kirkby, who writes fiction and non-fiction and after self publishing her first novel, Without Alice, has just signed up with Judith Murray at Greene & Heaton

Liz Fenwick recently signed with Carol Blake at  Blake Friedman and signed with Orion for her debut – A Cornish House - and a second novel…

Claire LeGrand (Who is 24, by the way!) has just sold her debut novel to Simon & Schuster

Kate Brown who just signed with Jamie Coleman at Toby Eady Associates for her debut historical novel.

Mariam Kobras who just signed her contract with Buddhapuss Ink independent publishers for her debut contemporary romance The Distant Shore

Kerry Hudson whose debut novel TONY HOGAN BOUGHT ME AN ICE-CREAM FLOAT BEFORE HE STOLE MY MA comes out from Chatto & Windus in summer 2012

Claire McGowan whose debut novel sold in February to Headline and will be published in 2012. See her blog post about living the dream here.

Jonathan Pinnock whose debut Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens is out this September from Proxima Books

Rebecca Emin whose children’s novel New Beginnings will be published next year by Grimoire books.

Hip, hip, HOORAY! And many congratulations to all these writers!

I’m NOT saying that it’s easy. The market is difficult at the moment and I know several brilliant writers who have got great agents and are still waiting for a publisher to buy their book. That must be so frustrating after that magic moment of finding an agent raises your hopes…But what they aren’t doing is sitting around moaning about it. They are all, without exception, writing the next novel.

And as well as those people there are still many of my twitter friends submitting to agents, getting rejections, revising and submitting again. And of course there are those still climbing the first draft mountain. But I’m convinced that many of them will succeed because it’s clear they are determined to do so.

So, what’s stopping you?  Write. Write today. And come and find us on Twitter – make friends, watch others succeed and be encouraged (keep an eye on the #writegoodnews hashtag). Or occasionally drown your sorrows together.

Claire King on Twitter

 

Have Book, Will Travel

Posted on: March 29th, 2011 by Claire - 12 Comments

I was thrilled recently to hear that my first foreign rights deal for The Night Rainbow has been made, for Dutch rights, by auction! The rights have gone to Jacqueline Smit at AW Bruna/Orlando whose wonderful enthusiasm for my novel matches that of my agent and my UK editor. How exciting is that? (Really exciting!)

I hadn’t really been thinking much about foreign rights up until now, and now I do I’m aware how little I know about this aspect of the publishing world. Twitter is also ablaze with people talking about various book fairs…so I decided it’s time to find out more.

I’ve asked Clare Wallace, fellow alumna of the 2010 Bristol Short Story Prize, and now a rights manager at Darley Anderson literary agency, to answer some of my questions:

Congratulations on landing a job at Darley Anderson! Can you tell us what your job title is and what it involves?

Thank you! And massive congratulations on getting an agent, getting a UK deal and selling translation rights! Wow! It’s incredible news! My job title is Rights Manager which means I negotiate deals for translation rights all over the world for all of the Agency’s authors.

For anyone reading who is looking to work in publishing, what skills and characteristics would you say are important to be a rights manager?

I’m still new to my role and I’m learning all the time but I would say you need to be very organised, methodical and good at multitasking – which also means you need to be able to handle pressure. You need to like building lasting relationships with people but also enjoy negotiations and making deals. You need to be driven and incredibly passionate about your authors and their work – you want to build every author in every territory and create internationally bestselling books!

Are there big differences between selling a book to home publishers and selling foreign rights?

Not really. The process is the same; you select the editors that you think would want to publish a particular author and then you submit the author’s manuscript for consideration.

My editor told me recently that my manuscript had been read by “lots of literary scouts…who were now writing favourable reports to their clients.” I have to admit I didn’t know these people existed! Do you have contact with literary scouts? Do they contact you, or vice versa, and at what stage of the game?

I am in constant contact with literary scouts. Having literary scouts writing favourable reports for your novel is the best position to be in because literary scouts act as a filter and a matchmaker for the publishers that they work for – it really has an impact if a literary scout recommends your work to their clients. At the Darley Anderson Agency scouts get in contact with us if they hear about a manuscript they think their clients might be interested in, and when we send a manuscript out on submission all over the world it goes to scouts too.

You’re very busy at the moment getting ready for the London Book Fair and for Bologna. What kind of preparations do you need to make? What will you be doing during the actual fairs?

At a book fair the Darley Anderson rights team have back-to-back appointments with publishers. The rights team pitch their rights list to publishers and talk about their debut authors, pitch existing authors’ backlists and describe their big titles. We prepare for every appointment by looking at what has previously been bought and by having an idea of which titles might fit each publisher’s list. It’s a lovely opportunity to actually meet all the people you work with face to face because most of the deal making and negotiating I do is via email. And it’s the perfect place to make new contacts, learn more about the different markets and talk to editors about what they are currently looking for.

Does your busy lifestyle leave you any time to write? What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment, because I’m fairly new to the role and because Bologna is closely followed by London Book Fair there isn’t much time to do anything except work and read. But I still love writing and don’t ever want to give that up. There’s an idea for something lurking around and I hope I’ll have a bit more time to work on it over the summer . . .

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Before I go, I just wanted to say that at the Darley Anderson Agency nearly all of our authors are found in the submission pile – we are always on the lookout for new talent and the next bestseller – so if anyone is thinking about submitting have a look at our website and see if you think we would be a good fit – and then just follow the submission guidelines.

Thank you very much for having me along! And please keep me posted about The Night Rainbow because I can’t wait to read it.

Many thanks for coming to my blog, Clare and for taking the time to answer these questions when you’re obviously so busy!

You can follow Clare on Twitter @clarewallais

A Mountain Lover’s Life

Posted on: November 9th, 2010 by Claire - 13 Comments

Q: Do you know what can you see when you get to the top of a mountain?

A: Other mountains.

Today I received the email I’ve been waiting for – a wonderful literary agent would like to represent me. Not only that, she would love to represent me. She stayed up until the early hours reading my unsolicited submission, she fell in love with my MC, she sees a clear placing for the novel…it’s really all very very good.

So I thought those of you who know how much I’ve wanted this, and those still on the same journey would want to know how it felt to me?

0) Disappointment – I saw the email appear in my inbox just 3 days after I sent the full manuscript and I thought ‘Oh no, it’s not a phone call it’s an email, that will be a no.’ And then I read it and…

1) Excitement and Joy – How wonderful it is to hear a well respected, successful literary agent say things like this: “simply one of the best contemporary debuts I have read in a long, long time…I stayed reading until beyond midnight yesterday because….. well, because it is THAT good. I can think of a number of editors of literary lists who will be blown away by it… Please say you will sign up and then I can get working on your behalf!”

2) Nervousness at the first call with my new agent – Unnecessary. Annette is lovely.

3) Questions for the agent – Where do you see it fitting in the market? What sort of publishers? How many edits?

and then, once I said, “Yes please!”…

4) So where are these new mountains? –  Edits, submissions to publishers, edits from publishers, publication, writing the next novel…

A friend once told me that each time he has achieved something that he has been striving for (like climbing a mountain) he enjoys the view momentarily and then he sees it for what it is – the other mountains waiting to be climbed. I think I’m like that too. Once I reach the top of a mountain (writing, redrafting, redrafting, submitting) I catch my breath and I’m already looking at the next few peaks.

Writing what we love

Posted on: August 26th, 2010 by Claire - 5 Comments

I got some great food for thought from a writer friend this week.

This friend, a very successful author, has written in a couple of genres under two different names. The second of these genres, which at the time had just been a sort of side project, was the one that his publisher jumped on and said “Yes, yes! Write this, lots of this. This will sell books. Lovely.”

Imagine if you wrote, for example, science fiction, and suddenly you were handed a three book contract for historical fiction. On the one hand it’s all very well, but on the other hand, if it’s not really where your literary heart lies, can you spend the next three years writing historical without getting some sort of personality disorder?

Do you write what you love and accept it may never get published or read? Or do you snatch off the hand of the publisher for your three book contract and write what they want instead? Both, as it happens.

Geoff might have had to cross the ocean, but he did it his way.

Yes, my friend obviously wanted to be published, make a living and so on. But like most of us, he writes because he loves it. So he found a way to write the books the publisher was asking for, but in a way that he was still honest to himself as a writer.

What he told me was that even if the genre is set for you, it is the author, ultimately, who creates the characters. It is the author who throws conflicts at them and tests them time and time again until the resolution of the story. The characters and the themes are still yours. You can have your wicked way with them. You can, effectively, have your cake and eat it.

It doesn’t mean that the itch is gone for writing what your heart wants to write. On the side my friend continued writing novels in his preferred genre, in which he enjoyed past success but with no current publisher interest. He has a nice stack of unpublished novels. What now for those? That is another story.

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