With my debut novel coming out at the end of this year, I have started to learn and understand the publishing program in order to go from your work on a computer to a published novel.
It is not an easy process, it takes a lot of time and effort with no award. Not to mention that I struggled with finding many resources out there to help me achieve my goal. Therefore, I thought it would be worth my time to post a series on this blog to help those out there who are trying to achieve the same dream. As I go through the different stages, I will post a blog post about what it is that happened and my experience with it. Hopefully, this series will help those inspiring authors out there who need a little extra hand to get their work out there.
This first post will be about how I managed to sign my contract with the publishing company I am with. It is not a quick easy process you can do in a day. I realistically took a whole year until I signed on the dotted line.
I first had my idea for my debut novel — Angel in the Mirror — when I was fifteen. Back then, I did not know much about writing a novel, but I did know it was something I wanted to give a go. I wrote it first back then, and it is safe to say that it was possibly the worst thing I ever wrote. But I gave it a go, and that is really what story writing is all about. I didn’t touch it for many years after that, mainly due to finishing school, then doing my A-Levels and then my degree — I just didn’t feel the motivation to do more work that didn’t have a deadline. It wasn’t until good old 2020, where the world went into chaos and we found ourselves shut down in our homes. This was the time, where I knew if I didn’t pick my idea back up then I never would. So it’s safe to say, I got to work. I had a good routine and I managed to re-write the whole story in about a month.
So you might be asking, the book was done by May 2020, why isn’t it that it won’t be out until the end of 2021? Well, I would simply say that just because you finished your first draft, it is no where near ready to even contemplate sending it to publishers.
For the next six months, I repeatedly went over it. They joke saying you will be sick of your own story by the time it’s out, and in a way you are because you have to go over it so many times. I have honestly lost count how many re-writes and read-throughs I have done. I almost feel as if I could relate everything that happens in every chapter start to end. But this is necessary, and if the passion is there for the work, even though it can get tiring, you never stop wanting to do it. It’s your baby, your project, and you want it to be the best thing you ever did!
This is where the next stage happens — asking others to read it. There are a few ways you can go about this. You can sign up to websites where you have anonymous readers called beta readers. They will happily go over your story and give you feedback. Some do it for free, others you give a small sum. But if this is what you want, you do not worry about the money — trust me. But if you’re too worried to ask strangers to go over your work, then you can ask friends and family. This is what I did, because I knew I wanted full on conversations about my work and I didn’t feel I could do this with a random stranger. Besides, I had been telling the people around me for years about this story, so it felt exciting to be able to share it with them. But if you choose to do this route, you need to have thick skin. You need to pick those you know who will not simply tell you it’s good because you wrote it, you want criticism, harsh comments — because this is the only way you can improve. I chose friends who had English degrees, who I knew would be strict and tell me the truth. It’s safe to say that I got that, and the draft I completed after their comments was no where near the draft I had sent them. One friend even annotated the entire manuscript and I took weeks going over it and changing it due to her feedback. This is tough love, and all my friends were worried that I would take it to heart, but instead, I praised them. I wanted feedback to improve my work to a publishable status, and if they sugar coated it then I would not be sitting here saying I will be a published author.
Now you have a completed manuscript that you feel is at the best quality. Whether it has taken you weeks, months, years, this part of the process can not be rushed. Only when you feel you can not improve it any more and it is at the stage where you would happily pick it up in the book shops, only then do you want to head to publishers.
The first thing I did was simply look up on google Literary Agents. I had read a while back from an author that this is the route you want to go for. A Literary Agent is simply like any other agent, they will help you throughout the process and even after your book is published. They will be your number one fan and will take on any future ideas that you have. I found a website that luckily listed every agent in the UK. But this is the important part — ONLY SEND TO THOSE THAT APPEAL TO YOUR WORK!
Simply, if they say they only do adult thrillers, don’t send them your young adult fantasy. If they only do memories, don’t send them your new adult romance. You need to filter through the list — and it’s a long list — to pick the ones that fit your work. Also, read up on their bio. If you don’t think you would see eye to eye, then skip them. The relationship needs to work both ways, otherwise you are already on track for a disaster.
This is the website I used = http://www.litrejections.com/uk-literary-agencies/
The last thing I quickly want to go over is something that even I struggled to the day I got my offer. You’ve worked hard on your story, have gone over it many times to improve it as much as possible. You have a synopsis to help to try and sell your work. But what is often forgotten is that you also need to have a well rounded query letter. This is going to be the first thing that the agent sees. It will be the opening to your writing style and already they will be judging it to ensure your written work appeals to them or not. It’s simply like a cover letter for a job, only your not trying to sell yourself, but your work.
I will quickly bullet point a small check list that you need to have within it.
- Begin with the name of the novel, the genre it is in, the target audience and the word count. E.g. I am writing to you about my debut novel Angel in the Mirror, a YA Fantasy of 100,000 words.
- Then you want to seek the story in a simple two sentence structure — name the main character, the problem they face and the possible solution (but don’t give it away)
- Next you want to try and raise the stacks — what is so important for the protagonist to try and solve this problem? Is someone they love in trouble? Are they in trouble? Is the world in trouble? You want an emotion connection, so sell one.
- Next you need a quick couple lines about yourself. Don’t waffle saying you had a dream of being a story teller when you were younger. They simply just want to know what might qualify you. Have you had something published in the past? Do you have a degree in the genre your writing in? Have you won any writing competitions? If you don’t have anything you deem as a qualification, don’t worry. They just want to know what drove you to write so they can use that to sell your book.
- Then sign it off by simply saying you have attached a section of the book and a synopsis and look forward to hearing from them soon. And at the bottom, put your name, email address and contact number. To me, this shows more professionalism as you are showing the ways to contact you.
I also want to quickly note here that you need to check what each agent is looking for. You don’t need a long list to try and note why your story covers it, but if you could try and make your query letter sound more personal to the exact agent, it might help sell it to them. Also, note how much of your story they want first. No agent wants the whole manuscript. Normally they want the first three chapters or the first ten thousand words. Note how much, and ensure you only send that part.
Here is the final check list to ensure you are ready to send out your work.
- A completed manuscript
- Feedback and improvements from third parties
- A full synopsis selling your story
- A well written Query letter
With all these completed to the best of your ability — then go ahead and send out that story!
The next stage I will post about is how to know whether an offer is the right one to take or not, so stay tuned for that. Also, I will try and go through different possible solutions if it doesn’t look promising with an agent.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and I will try and answer them as best I can.