Tag Archives: Juliet Mushens

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…**

Diary of a hopeful author: My top ten fantasy party people…

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

Do you sometimes find yourself getting lost in your own little world. God, I do. It’s a nightmare. Not where I get lost to, although sometimes…But no, I refer to the art or rather action of ‘getting lost’ in my own world that’s the nightmare.

The reason I say this is due to The Sunday Times. Not the entire paper per se, but rather its magazine. You see, Christmas is coming and what with pressie frenzy, teeth-grinding on-loop Xmas jingles in the shops and the constant requests by kids of’how many sleeps till Christmas day’, the world has gone festive crazy. And specifically, party crazy.

Now I love a party. Who doesn’t? What more opportunity do you need to prove to everyone how much your body can’t handle in drink whilst simultaneously bad-mouthing the entire cast of X Factor contestants? When I was little, parties meant people. Friends, if you will, who charged in, grabbed food and generally made a mess.

30-odd years later and things are still the same. Not necessarily the mess (actually, maybe), and certainly not the food grabbing (unless you count drunken New Year’s table tumbles), but people. People maketh a party, and, according to The Sunday Times, we should have a wish list of said people.

Now, since I am mid-book edit, I am finding that, as it is all going surprisingly well and I have now just 6 (only 6!!) chapters to complete, I have realised that I clearly need to issue myself with some procrastinating distractions. Step forward daydreaming. Yes, getting lost in my world whilst writing is coming to the forefront, and, courtesy of The Sunday Times, that world now consists of my fantasy party people.

But, since this blog’s all, you know, writery stuff, I thought I’d give my list a literary edge. And I use that word literary loosely. So here you go, my Top Ten fantasy writing party people….

10. God – he’d do, wouldn’t he? Okay, so the chances of the big fella turning up at the table I know are slim, but imagine the dirt he’d have on everyone. Not that’d he’d blag. And we couldn’t get him drunk either.

9. JK Rowling – I’d feed her, say, newts, then get talking Potter. At some point I may ask how much she’s earned. Worth a shot.

8. Stephen Fry – need I really explain?

7. Someone from a publishing house – anyone would do. Preferably an MD, then I could implore to them how just really great my latest book is.

6. A literary agent – now that’d be handy, obvs. Juliet Mushens at PFD is a sharp dressing dude. And Oliver Munsen at Blake Friedman is really lovely. For a Spurs fan.

5. Caitlin Moran – Sunday Times columnist, in case your question marking. Trouble is, I think she’s so great, I’d only sit there staring at her, get trolleyed and then beg her to be my best friend. Not pretty. See guest no.1 for help.

4. E.M. Forster – he’s the man. A legend in the novel-writing world. I mean, okay, he may be dead, but this is fantasy, right? His legend lives on.

3. Miranda Hart – okay, so a comedy actress entrant here, but she just seems so much FUN, and what’s a party without a bloody good laugh. Oh, and she’s just written her autobiography, so writing box ticked.

2. Tina Fey – for the same reasons as Miranda. And, the Fey is a comedy screenwriting LEGEND.

1. My best mate, Katrina – she clams right up in social situations, which is the ying to my verbal diarrhoea yang. So, if at said fantasy party I waffled on too much because I was star struck, she could administer a strategic dig to my ribs to silence me (see guest no.5…). And when she’s too quiet ‘cos she’s star struck/asleep, I can stamp on her foot. Ah yes, no party would be complete.

 So, what’s your fantasy top 10 writing party people? Come on, fess up.

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about cuts, communities and why we should all pull together…**