Tag Archives: book submissions

Diary of a hopeful author: How schools kill creativity

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

I remember my school days. Do you remember your school days? And how where they for you? Fun? Deeply profound? Or mind numbingly boring ala the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in the scene where the kids are asleep on the desks, dribbling, as the teacher’s mouth hangs open like a carp, saying, ‘Bueller….Bueller.’

School’s a funny thing. It’s like educational marmite: you either love it or hate it. Call me a nerd, but I loved school. Not the horrendous who’s friend with who bit – you can leave that stuffed in a locker – but I mean the study bit. Come sixth form, and I may have gone off the rails a tad (I went to a college run by nun’s..), staged a small teenage rebellion, but I still loved a good study.

Thing is, as a writer, I think the big question is, does school do the job? In terms of encouraging creativity, how do schools perform and could they do any better? Take that one step further, and how, once you have left school and you are dumped by  the busy motorway of life, does school equip us to be creative?

So this week, as I put the final finishes to my book before it goes off to Adam the Agent, I’m taking us back to school. But don’t panic. This back to school is via TED talks and Sir Ken Robinson with his formidable, thought-provoking, hilarious  talk on how schools kill creativity – and what they should do to win it back. You don’t have to have anything to do with a school to get some handy thoughts out of this one.

Bell’s gone. End of lesson. Cue Sir Ken Robinson…

Does school kill creativity? How did cool play a part in your career, in your writing? Let me know. 

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

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Diary of a hopeful author: The interview: meet my agent, Adam Gauntlett of PFD

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

As promised, I am mighty pleased to introduce you to Adam Gauntlet, my agent at Peters Fraser & Dunlop (PFD). I have quizzed him about what it is to be a literary agent, and, crucially, what he is looking for from prospective author, and he has kindly answered below. A true gent. He is a cracking agent – and he won’t mind me saying this – rocks a great hair cut. Let the Q & A begin. Hope it helps…

What qualities do you need to be a literary agent?

A keen eye, strong editorial instincts and persistence.

Adam Gauntlett, literary agent with a good haircut
Adam Gauntlett, literary agent with a good haircut

How did you get started?

I started off working over PFD’s backlist titles, before moving over to work in our Dramatic Rights Department, selling book-to-film/TV rights and book-to-stage rights. Aside from book agenting, I now handle all dramatic stage rights at the agency.

What’s the best part about being a literary agent?

The thrill of closing a deal for a client you love and seeing their work reach a wider audience.

What mistakes do prospective clients make?

Uninspiring pitches fed by half-baked submission letters.

Describe the perfect approach from a prospective client.

I don’t think there should be a prescriptive answer to this. What I will say, as a continuation of the above, is that a well-wrought and thought-out submission letter can really make all the difference.

How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy?

Beautiful and erudite writing will always transcend the whims of the market and ultimately find its natural home.

 What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

I expect an author to be dedicated to the refinement of their craft and be willing to take onboard constructive criticism.

What’s something coming out now/soon that you’ve represented and are excited about?

 A memoir by Bob Dylan’s tour manager, Victor Maymudes, titled Another Side of Bob Dylan. It will be published by St. Martin’s Press in autumn 2014.

What sort of genres are you on the lookout for in submissions?

On the whole I’m more drawn towards commercial literary fiction and narrative non-fiction, though am perennially interested in crime and thrillers. That said, good writing can often be difficult to categorize; I’m happy to consider most things.

How can aspiring authors contact you/send in a submission?

Email (preferred) or postal submission. My email is: agauntlett@pfd.co.uk

 What’s your advice to an aspiring author?

Believe in what you’re writing and always be aware of the market.

 

So if you needed to discover what agents are looking for, now you know! Adam is open to queries. To read more about what Adam & PFD represent, plus see their submissions guidelines, please go here. A huge thank you to Adam for taking the time for this post.

 

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: High five! I have a literary agent.

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

I bring you good news. I have myself a literary agent. Tis the really lovely Mr Adam Gauntlett of literary agency Peters, Fraser and Dunlop (PFD), and I am chuffed to bits. With everything now confirmed, the work has begun immediately. I have an editor meeting next week and already things are afoot to prepare to get the MS ready for Frankfurt Book Fair – a big get together where agents and publishers do their business thang.

It’s all still a touch surreal, but oh my days, I am LOVING having the opportunity of a very experienced team of people helping me get this novel to the very best level it can be to secure a publishing deal. I know! I know!

So, due to the amount of work I’ve now got to do over the next month (and I still have a column to write today. Heck) I am keeping this post short. But, just wanted to keep you updated. Adam has kindly agreed to do a Q&A for the blog, so once I get myself organised, I’ll get that sorted. If there’s anything specific you would like me to ask Adam – say getting an agent etc – do let me know.

Right, off to roll a shoulder then continue writing.  Have a cracking week.

You can follow Adam on Twitter @Albioneye

You can take a ganders at PFD’s website here

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. …**

Diary of a hopeful author: Me & meeting with literary agents

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Time doesn’t half shift fast, does it? It rockets on like a toddler rolling down a hill picking up grass and muck and, if you’re unlucky, the odd slick of dog excrement. No one said it was an easy ride. Except now, now for me after years of writing, of scrawling on pages and tapping on laptops, life is smelling a little less of, what I like to call dog noodle, and more of, basically, sweet smelling perfume.

You see, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to peddle my blog waffling wears to you on a Wednesday – and there’s been a reason. Several actually, but let’s start with the main one, namely, I was editing my novel. A psychological thriller, it not only went through one edit, but, as it turned out, five. Uh-huh. I know. And that takes me to my next reason for not blogging for a while – I was on holiday. And on holiday the fifth edit took place, cold beer in one hand, iPhone with Kindle app on the other thus enabling me the invaluable ability to read my book as a reader would, and therefore spotting any proof errors/major mistakes/daft spellers.

And, my friend, my beautiful blogging comrade-on-the-web wonder, it seems it has paid off. I say this still, at this stage, quietly, but oh my days. Oh my blooming days. Because I’ve only gone and got interest now in my novel from a literary agent or two, and like looking at a Dali painting, the entire situation is currently feeling surreal. There have been meetings in London – with more still to come as I write – and I cannot quite believe it. Because, as all us wanabee novelists know, you get an agent and they can go get you a publishing deal. Hopefully.

My friends, my family – and especially my husband, bless his cottons – are going all space cadet on it. They are so excited, whooping, smiling, playing fantasy book deal. Yet, I am not. I cannot whoop, scream or, if I’m honest, even crack a smile, and here’s for why: I am hardened to knock backs. As a writer, one that wants to really make it, you get used to rejections. You get used to them so much, so ingrained do they become in your life that when a huge massive positive walks into the room, you simply look up, smile and then ask them to close the door before returning to the paper and wondering who it the person is here to speak to.

There was a moment, in the car park with my kids the other day, when I received an amazing email from a literary agent confirming a meeting, that it hit me and the tears flooded. It hit me that, after all these years of writing, of practicing my craft, of perfecting and researching and reading my heroes, I had done okay. That I had, in fact, in full-colour reality, got to a point that previously I had literally only dreamed about. Sorry to get all ‘reality music TV contestant’ on you here, but I guess it’s true. I dreamed of getting somewhere, of hearing from an agent good news, nay amazing news on a novel of mine. And here we are.

So this week is now one of figuring out the London underground map and puzzling over what on earth to wear to a major meeting when the air is clammy and the clouds wet. But still, at least I know time will move fast, and soon those damp clouds will pass and the sun will eventually shine. And I will take off my jacket and don my shades, and do something that, to date with my writing achievements, has been long over due: I will smile.

 

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How to submit to a literary agent

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Apologies for the last post – it went all wrong! No idea what happened , but, good news, here’s the post you are meant to get…

I’ve never been one for rules. Nine years old and an obsessive tomboy, I refused point blank to accept the rule at our school that girls could not play rugby. But, show me a challenge and I’ll show you the steel of my gut, and so one campaign and several sharp letters later, we had ourselves a rugby team – not just for girls, but a mixed team. The victory was ours. I mean, sure, two months later we discovered we didn’t actually enjoy playing rugby, but still, at least we had the choice to refuse it.

And so to literary agents and the getting of one.  There’s something about the mention of an agent that sends our writer hearts palpitating and our brows sweating. It seems unreachable, impossible almost, to get one, such is the high esteem they are held. And quite right, too. Indeed, so competitive is this writing lark, so hard is it to get a bite at the publishing cake these days, that you’d think as writers we need to make any submission we send agent wise stand out, right? Well, I am here to tell you are wrong. You see, this is where rules, and the ignoring of should not happen. In fact, the one huge mistake I think aspiring authors make is ignoring the rules.

Now look, as explained above, I am no lass for accepting the norm. But I am also something of a realist. And a determined gal. As yet, while I have a self-published book that’s popular, plus some writing newspaper columns, I still want that publishing deal – and that means playing by the rules. It seems so obvious, really, but you’d be amazed how many writers just ignore this, frankly, really easy bit of the submission machine.

Agents give submission guidelines for a reason – they are stacked busy. They want submissions to adhere to the guidelines because it makes their life easier, and here’s the thing – it means they can spot a good piece of work a mile off. As writer, we have a lot of hoops to jump through.  We have to first send a query letter, a synopsis, the first chapters. And that’s before an agent even considers requesting the full manuscript. In fact – and you may want to close your ears at this one – the amount of full manuscripts taken on my agents is only 1%. I know.

But have no fear! While my first book didn’t bite publishing wise, the full manuscript was read by three agents, which I am mighty chuffed about. So, while I am still something of a novice myself, some things are still blindingly clear, and therefore, as we’re all in this together, here are my little top tips for putting together a submission:

  1. Follow the guidelines exactly. Do not deviate AT ALL. No jokes, no scented paper. NO DODGY PHOTOS. Forget it – you will just end up in the bin. If they say they want a query letter, one page synopsis and the first three chapters, send that only.
  2. Send chronological chapters. Vital this one. Some people think they should send the ‘best’ chapters that represent their work, despite what has been requested. If they ask for the first chapters, send them. Simple.
  3. Be professional. Think of your submission, effectively, like an application for a job. You wouldn’t mess about in that. Sure, give across your personality, but keep it professional.
  4. Be polite when rejected. Everyone gets rejections, everyone. JK Rowling famously had her Harry Potter manuscript rejected SEVEN TIMES. It happens. What you don’t want to do when receiving a rejection is get shirty with the agent. They are just doing their job. So be polite, be professional and move on.  It will do you good in the long run.

So there you go. My top tips. But, I can now, if I may, direct you to an actual agent who can give you the skinny even more than I can. Said agent is Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group. Here is a link to her dos and don’ts for submitting to an agent – follow them to the letter.

And finally, my last tip. There is, actually, one thing we can do to make our submission stand out. No, it’s not a inserting a musical card, nor, indeed, giving said agent tonnes of cash. Nope. The most toppest tip for making your submission stand out is this: TELL A CRACKING STORY.

See? Simple? Hmmmm…Good luck.

LINK to Juliet Mushens’ Dos & don’t of book submissions

**I’m away for a few weeks now, so have a brilliant summer of writing and see you back for more wafflings late August.  MASSIVE Thanks for reading! **

 

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How to submit to a literary agent

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

This week I am going through another inevitable writer’s wobble where I am doubting my work and, basically, lacking a tad of confidence. So, as I was going through my old blog ramblings for my Wednesday Wafflings post, I came across this one I wrote back in January that’s, funnily enough, about self-doubt. So I read it and, hey, it helped.

Writing is a funny thing where we sit at home on our own, which on one hand is great because you can wear your pjs and stuff your face with popcorn and no one can see; but the downside is you are, well, on your own, your tod, if you will, and with that comes creeping doubt. So if you’re having a little writer’s wobble, I hope this candid analysis of my own neurosis’ will help. And I hope this makes you feel you’re not quite so on your own anymore.

Some things scare the crap out of me.  Dogs, massive insects, seeing a fleece being teamed with heels. Republicans. They just make me freeze with fright.  But there’s another thing that scares the bejesus out of me. Something that, if I let it, would take over me and, like a fossil frozen in time,would immobilise me to the spot, never moving on, always preserving me at the exact moment I left off. That thing is self-doubt.

Doubting myself is my running-naked-dream, one of those where you look down and realise you have nothing on. Like a shadow creeping across a field, it dawns on you that you’re unclothed. Naked, wearing nothing but your birthday suit. In a room full of people. The agony that comes with this is that you are mortified, utterly, devastatingly mortified.

Self-doubt as a writer is a double edged sword. In my line of work, I have to approach people. I always have. I am, outwardly, what they call a ‘people person’. I am smiley. I have that annoying habit of engaging everyone in the room so they feel involved. I network, listen, understand, mingle. I nod at bad jokes. Think of it as a swan, gliding, confident, chin slightly beaked, whilst underwater, the feet are kicking, frantic, mad.

Self-doubt, you see, is my swan feet. I am awash with the stuff. It cripples me, sometimes so much that I will start a project often only to stop it half way through declaring it to be ‘rubbish’, then start again from scratch.

Flip side is, I know I have a good radar, a kind of instinct I suppose, for what works and what doesn’t. This is the other side of that sword. It comes into play a lot in writing, thank God. It’s an instinct that tells me when to revise a chapter, when to really cut a joke out of a column and when not to write a blog on self-doubt… Trouble is, when you mix this handy instinct malarkey with this self-doubt cess pit, you end up with something that resembles an oil slick, something that renders you unmoveable, sticking you together until you are blinking through dripping oil and wondering how in the hell you are going to make it out.

This week I’ve had to approach people – and I’m drenched in doubt. I am freelance, my promo person is me. I am the one who has to shout about me, even if, inside, it’s absolutely the very last thing I ever want to do. The approaches this week I’ve had to make are to do with festivals, things like that, speaking, if you will, at big literature events. I have done this on a a few occasions before. Heck, in my marketing life guise, I’ve presented to rooms of over 300 delegates. I’ve been on the radio – live. I do actually like it. So, clearly, being there isn’t the problem.

It’s getting there in the first place that’s the issue. I just assume, you see, that I’m pants. It’s my default button. But I know it shouldn’t be, though.  And so, mercifully, just when I feel as low as a river in a drought, I get a life line, a little splash of rain. Writing is that line. Writing. I love writing. My dream. It flies in just in time, swoops me up and saves me.  The thought of writing is the thing in me that says, ‘just keep going, just do it, do it. Stuff it. What’s the worst that could happen?’

And that’s it, really, isn’t it, in all this writing lark, in this profession where you are critiqued by everyone, up against thousands of others, shooting your arrow to hit a target 100 miles away. Before you throw in the towel on it all, you have to stop, you have to, and ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’

‘Cos the answer is nothing. Nothing could really happen if you approach people, if you try, if you give it a shot. So why not just do it? Just sod it, and do it. The worst they can say is no, at which point you smile and move on to the next.

Because – and here’s the really scary thing -if you don’t do it, if you end up jacking it all in and packing your dream – whatever it is – into a box, if you find yourself about to do that, then ask yourself, in that scenario, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ and I’ll guarantee you, that answer will scare you the most.

So me, I’m off to scare the living daylights out of myself and approach people. Sod it. Take that, self-doubt! I mean, what’s the worst that could happen..?

What scares the pants off you? What stops you from moving on and what do you do to get going again?

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about  the Severn Barrage in Gloucestershire…**