What Happens Now

I said in my last post that at various points in the journey towards putting my debut novel out in the world, I was faced with variations on the question ‘and then what’ll you do?’

Originally, people were questioning the specifics of my grand plan for submitting the book via traditional means. Then the questioning turned to contingency plans, as the original plan didn’t go to… well, plan. (How many times can I use the word ‘plan’ in one post? Let’s see!)

Well. Plan A was a bust, as was Plan B, BUT Plan C is working.

Just in case you didn’t see the news elsewhere on social media: the crowdfunding campaign for Full Term was a success!

As of right this second, it is 113% funded.

So, you might be wondering, what now?

There is still time left to donate and/or claim perks, so if you had been planning to support the campaign but now thought there was no point, please don’t let the fact that the original target has been reached put you off. That goal was only the minimum amount needed.

As the funding deadline creeps closer (twenty days to go, at the time of writing!), I have been looking into funding to cover the editing costs of books two and three in the series, been finalising the cover design for the trilogy as a whole, designing a couple of other marketing images, and looking into a few legal and admin-y things.

The final edits of book one are starting fairly imminently, and so my main task right now is figuring out who I can get to write me a nice quote for the front.

I’m fully planning to document these behind the scenes things here, for anyone interested, so stay tuned!

On Having Finally Made a Decision

There comes a day when enough is enough.

So many times on this blog I debated the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Both generally, and in terms of trying to decide what was right for my own books, in particular.

Having announced last week that I was making a leap and starting a crowdfunding campaign to put my novel in print, I wanted to delve in and explain how I finally made the seemingly impossible choice.

May this year was the most recent time I approached the topic publicly. In my post ‘Thoughts on Legacies in a Time of Lockdown‘ – in which I was discussing how living in scarier times gave me new perspective and had me questioning what to do with my extensive body of work – I said, “I talk about choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing like it’s a decision, but obviously it’s not as simple as that. If I could just decide to be traditionally published, I would. It is what I prefer, but whether someone else publishes me or not is ultimately out of my hands.”

At that point, I also said I wasn’t ready to self-publish, but was leaning ever closer to the idea of doing so in the “next six months.”

It was following this post that I had an epiphany; a brainwave so simple and straightforward that I felt like a complete idiot for not having it before, instead wasting literal years torturing myself over this decision that, as I’ve said, isn’t really a decision for me to make. Continue reading

Nice Things Agents Have Said to Me

A number of people have read my first, so far unpublished novel (Full Term) at this point. Friends and beta-readers, mostly, but in the process of submitting it various places at various times, some agents have read it too. In the video above is a small selection of their thoughts, from when I pitched Full Term at last year’s SCBWI conference. And below are snippets of feedback I got when submitting traditionally.

All such lovely, wonderful comments that made my heart happy.

You might wonder why, if they liked it so much, I still don’t have an agent, so for context, I will also put in their reason for turning it down, too. As is often the way of things, it’s usually not an actual fault with the book. Marketing reasons. Timing reasons. All things out of my (and their!) control.

I just thought it would be interesting to collect the comments and decisions here, in one place. So have a look – and then read right to the very end, where I have an announcement.

Here’s the very first one I got, containing both praise and reason for rejection succinctly in one sentence:

I really like your writing and found this very engaging, but I’m afraid in the current YA market I’m not confident of being able to place it with a publisher.

Side Note: I thought about putting names beside each of these quotes, but then thought it might be considered bad form. If you’re really interested in who said what, you could turn it into a very difficult guessing game (that I’ll never admit the answers to).

Agent Two:

The writing is pretty good, pretty strong. You’re a good writer but with the YA market not as strong as it was and the amount of competition out there….

Agent Three – a matter of personal preference: (This one read and requested the full manuscript)

I think you have a really gripping premise and setting here, and that you are a very talented writer. Despite this, I am sad to say that I am going to pass on this. I appreciate that Mya’s experience is realistic of a vulnerable young person but it is simply a bit too dark for me.

One agent read my submission and was really positive about it, but told me the subject matter hit too close to home. Which is fair.

Here’s another one: Continue reading

The Numbers Game

I think about submissions a lot. Not just figuring out what I will send where next, but bigger picture stuff like how many submissions is “normal” or “enough.” How many acceptances equals success. Torturous questions like that, that don’t really have a real (i.e. definitive) answer. I adore definitive answers. Objective feedback. Hard and fast rules that tell me when things have worked and when they haven’t. With such a mindset, it’s hard to know why and how I ended up writing for a living – where I’m not sure certainty ever happens – but, you know, such is life.

Further to thinking about submissions a lot, I have this one particular friend (hi, Elizabeth!) I talk about submissions with a lot. She’ll come over for tea and a chat, and that chat will almost always turn to which journals are open, who has a good reputation for replying fast (or at all), and whose guidelines are completely incomprehensible.

Even further to this, it has not been unknown for me to start making notes during these chats or periods of intense thought. I will often look up my submission folder in my email inbox, or pull up one of my many spreadsheets. But in all this, I wondered, has anyone else perhaps looked into the submission process more thoroughly? Has anyone ever sat down and researched the stats behind this seemingly mysterious process of firing your word babies out into the void, hoping one of them will land somewhere and… I’m not honestly sure where I was going with this metaphor, ‘word babies’ is maybe one of the worst phrases I’ve ever written and I apologise, but I’m sure you catch my meaning.

It’s all well and good to torture yourself, wondering if the five submissions you made yesterday were “enough,” or if that one you spent two weeks on a month ago was “worth it.” I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be much more effective to torture yourself by the cruel and unusual means of comparison? Continue reading

Thinking

I’ve been thinking again about my past projects (pictured above), now have a bit of distance from them. They haven’t been out in the world for a while – I unpublished them over a year ago – and, in fact, one of them never even made it out to begin with. I killed my micro-poetry project before it ever really saw the light of day.

But anyway, I’m thinking about it because… because I’m kind of itching to start something new.

And I’m nervous.

I don’t know if anyone has been able to tell, but I’ve been finding it hard to blog, recently. Hard to motivate myself to do it. The words you’re reading now are the first ones I’ve written this month. Maybe I’ve lost momentum. Maybe I’m burned out. Maybe both?

Either way, I think I need a break. Which is funny, actually, because I’m not sure if I know what one looks like. A lot of the time, a break for me just means switching gears to do something else rather than stopping entirely. And it’s kind of the same here. I don’t want to stop entirely so much as I… well. This might sound weird, but I want to draw.

I’m not actually good at drawing, but I want to learn. I want to try.

I actually think I want to try Inktober, and I’m itching to put together a somewhat rough and ready zine from what I create.

…reading back over that last sentence, I am relieved that I still want to create. Maybe it means everything isn’t so bad as it feels right now.

I’m just tired.

I don’t know when I’ll blog again, but words will most certainly return in some way at some point. Maybe it’ll be in a month. Maybe it’ll be a few hours and I’ll then feel silly for having written this. Regardless, I’m gonna doodle in the meantime.

A zine is a fun idea, but I’m playing with it as just that; not committing myself to anything just yet.

I have mixed feelings about putting another thing out into the world, because of the aforementioned past projects. They all took so much time and energy (some more so than others) but, ultimately, I was unsatisfied with them. My standards kept rising and the books kept falling short.

No wonder I’m a little gun-shy.

…I’m not really sure where I’m going with all this. Maybe that’s my point.

I’m just thinking. Musing. Having a little doodle.

I’ll be back.

Thoughts on Legacies in a Time of Lockdown

Content warning for mention/discussion of death. 

This is a post about publishing, about career-making (or breaking) decisions, and about having a life’s work to leave behind you. In the grand scheme of things, it’s perhaps not the most important topic, but I find importance to be a fairly relative thing.

I feel the need to justify talking about publishing decisions at the minute, given the current state of the world, but I’m not sure how logical that is. What I can say is that it matters to me, personally, and I’ve found the current global situation has given me a little perspective.

Previously, I’ve spoken about my thoughts and feelings about mortality, and I’ve written here ad nauseam about publishing and self-publishing and hopes and dreams. Now I find all these topics overlapping in my brain, mixed in with an unhealthy dose of anxiety.

My thoughts about wanting to see myself in print have gone on a journey from wanting to get really far really fast, to finding folly in being ill-prepared, to slowing things right down and waiting for the right time. And I’ve documented pretty much all of those thoughts as they evolved.

Well, now they’ve moved onto this new place where, on the one hand, I still want to be cautious and careful about making the right decisions but, on the other hand, am worried about what happens if I wait too long and I lose all my opportunities through indecision.

I guess what I’m looking for is a middle ground. I haven’t found it quite yet, but am writing this post as a means to help me do just that. Continue reading

What To Do When Offered A Publishing Contract

Some people might rightly assume there are only two things you should do when you finally get that precious publishing deal: sign on the dotted line and open the bubbly.

I understand this impulse, but I have five other steps you should also maybe consider.

  1. Read the fine print
  2. Have the Society of Authors read the fine print. This is a free service they offer to members. Because of their expertise, they will be able to see any potential red flags better than you.
  3. Contact the other places you’ve had your manuscript on submission to let them know about the offer. This is courtesy but, aside from making you a good person, it might also net you a second (or third) offer.
  4. If the contract you have been given is by a publisher directly, ask an agent to come in and broker the deal. Even if you’ve previously submitted to agents with no luck, they will likely reconsider given this new circumstance and can probably get you a better deal.
  5. Consider your options. While you don’t want to leave your interested party waiting indefinitely, lest said offer expire, you do want to to give the people contacted at stages three and four of this process long enough to get back to you. Also consider, in the case where you’re given multiple offers, that the largest cash advance might not be the best deal for you/your book. Ask your publisher/agent what vision they have for marketing it and what level of edits they expect.

What Literary Agents Do For Authors

This post comes directly from my notes of the recent publishing conference I attended in Dublin. For more general info and advice from that event and another one I attended in Belfast, please click here

If you’re new to the world of writing and have heard people talk about trying to get an agent, you might well be wondering what these mystical creatures are and what they do. Well, wonder no longer, because I’m about to spell it out. And – spoiler! – it’s more than just taking a cut of authors’ earnings.

Agents are…

1 – Advocates

On the most basic level, an agent is a third party who can enhance (or engineer) an interaction between two other parties. In the literary world, they are the middle man (usually a woman, in fact) who brokers a deal between writers and publishers.

Can’t writers submit to publishers directly, though? Some of them, yes, but the ‘big five’ publishers (and their imprints, who make up most of the market) usually only take submissions sent via agencies.

2 – Buffers

Imagine the scene: you’ve managed to get a publishing deal all on your own, but something has gone wrong. Perhaps the publisher has chosen the most hideous cover. You’re upset and you have no idea how to communicate this to your publisher. You worry they won’t take your criticism well, or that they’ll change their mind, so you’re left with the choice of accepting a cover you hate or risk rocking the boat by being seen as difficult.

Well, with an agent, you don’t need to worry. They will have this conversation for you.

3 – Knowledgeable

These points are in no particular order but if I was to rank them, this would probably be first.

Publishing deals are complicated beasts involving the sale of rights in a number of regions and formats: paperback, ebook, and audio as well as film, TV, and stage. Got an agent? You don’t need to stress over the fine print of any of it! They know all about shifts in the market and changes to the going rate. Nine times out of ten, they will get you a better deal than you could on your own. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Publishing Conferences: Part Two – Belfast

The second self-styled publishing conference I attended in recent weeks was in Belfast, organised by Writers & Artists/Bloomsbury Publishers and the Open University.

This one was different in a number of ways to the Dublin event. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. There were fewer people involved, for one thing; fewer attendees and fewer speakers (the event made up more of talks rather than panels), but still just as rich in terms of content.

The focus, I found, was actually less about publishing and more about writing. Paul McVeigh (author and playwright) gave a fantastic talk on ‘how to build a narrative’ by crafting the very best sentences, using foreshadowing and backstory; Garrett Carr (lecturer of Creative Writing at Queens) spoke on how to research a book (something I’m going to come back to and talk about in a separate post), and Geraldine Quigley (author of ‘Music Drugs Love War‘) gave us insight into how she creates her main character(s).

Lots of practical advice from all of them but, as I said, mostly focusing on writing rather than publishing. That came a little later, in the form of a joint talk by literary agent Laura Williams and editor Patsy Horton.

A while ago on this blog, I said that writing and publishing were practically two different animals, and I stand by that, but at the very heart of publishing is good writing. Therefore, I do not mean it as a criticism when I say the focus of the conference was here rather than on submission tips. You could follow all guidelines to a tee, but if your story isn’t up to scratch, you’re not going to get very far.

And speaking of submissions: one note I made to myself during the event is that, although they’re often called ‘guidelines’ they should be read and followed as rules. Agents and publishers get so many manuscripts they can barely read them all. Don’t screw yourself over by making yours an easy pass.

A Tale of Two Publishing Conferences: Part One – Dublin

In recent weeks, I have attended two publishing conferences: one in Dublin, and one in Belfast. Below, I’d like to compare and contrast what happened at each.

I’ve already touched on one particular take away I had from the Dublin conference in my previous post, so you might want to read that here first, but – putting that aside – the first event was part of International Literature Festival Dublin in association with Writing.ie. There was a ‘Date With An Agent’ element to the day for selected people, but I’m not going to cover that because I wasn’t one of the chosen few.

The day itself was split up into four main slots (not accounting the aforementioned DWAA) topped and tailed by comfort breaks and question & answer sessions. There was a panel with agents, one with editors, one with traditionally published authors, and a slightly more general talk by literary scout Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin (who runs Writing.ie and Inkwell Group).

Vanessa was the event coordinator throughout the whole day. Her talk covered lots of practical tips about the submission process, particularly writing pitches, covering letters, and synopsises.

It was really interesting to hear the perspectives of agents, editors, and authors to see where they agreed and where they didn’t, but I think what was most interesting was not that the different groups had differing opinions with the others (agents with editors, or editors with authors), but that there were differing opinions within the groups, particularly the agents. This really underlined how things can be entirely different for everyone. There’s no one-size-fits-all path to publication. Continue reading