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There is a new novel competition launching in January for unrepresented writers (non-agented or self…
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Today was the cover reveal for my debut novel NOBODY BUT US! It's been a crazy and amazing day and I…
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Call me biased but after today's judge announcement this competition offers writers to chance to get…
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Happy New Year!One of my short stories 'Light is Merely a Distraction' is part of the Unbound Series…
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I hope everybody is enjoying the holidays.Even though it is the festive season it hasn't stopped my …
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2020 is almost over and I thought it would be nice for people to share their top three favourite rea…
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  •  · Pratchett was a genius, no? Hogfather, Thud, and Fifth Elephant get better each reading.

Hi Anne, 

Do you mean you have approach freelance editors to help edit your book before you self-publish or are you talking about editors at main publishers in view to be trade-published? 

The reason I'm asking in that in the 2nd situation publisher editors only take submissions from literary agents, apart from some smaller indie publishers who sometimes accept direct submissions. So in that situation they wouldn't respond and the proper process would be for you to be submit to literary agents to find one happy to represent you and submit to publishers on your behalf.

Hi Cat, 

Congratulations on the offers.

Have you spoken to both agents already? From your post it doesn't seem like it (I might be wrong). I wouldn't suggest anybody to make a decision about an agent without at least having a Zoom call with them first (not everybody can meet in person because of location).

Questions that can be useful to ask agents when considering representation (this is not an exhaustive list):

* What edits and how much edits do they have in mind for the book? Where do they see your book sitting in the present market? What's their comps titles for your book?

* What's they editing style?

* How would they pitch it to publishers?

* Which editors and imprints would they submit the MS to?

* How do they handle foreign rights?

* What happens if this book doesn't sell?

* What's their communication style with their authors? How many active authors do they have right now?

* If you have doubts you can also ask if you could speak to one of their authors.

Also when you speak to them don't ignore your gut instinct as well. You will be working closely with that person and they will be your champion in the publishing world so you have to make sure that you are compatible and you can see yourself working with that person.

If they are UK agents, and you have any doubts on how legitimate they are you can check with Association of Author's Agents http://www.agentsassoc.co.uk 

I hope this helps.

There are a lot of different factors, but one of the main reasons male readership is declining is because men seldom read outside of their gender. In the article the breakdown was 80% male authors to only 20% female authors, whereas women readers are less selective and the breakdown was 60% female and 40% male. Another article showed that the readership for the Reacher novels is about half women when I lot of people consider it "men fiction". JK Rowling used her initials because she was worried that boys wouldn't want to read stories written by a woman.

Personally I don't believe agents are heavily skewed towards women's fiction: most of the mainstream agencies tends to have at least a couple of agents looking for what I call the trifecta — women's fiction, crime/thriller & historical fiction. Same again a lot of agencies/agents specialised in picture books, MG and/or YA. The only exception is SFF/Fantasy, the market is smaller in the UK (publishers & imprints) so there are less agents representing those genres, the market is a lot bigger in the US and there are a lot of agents over there repping those genres. Agents do state what they want — if they say they are looking for YA, historical fiction and women's fiction that's what they want. You can send them the most brilliantly written thriller but they won't take in on because it's not their market. Agents specialised in different areas so if they are looking for historical fiction that's because they know which imprints at which publishers are buying historical fiction, which editors at those imprints are looking for new books, their likes and dislikes, they cultivate relationships with those editors. If you send them a brilliant crime novel they won't know who to sell it to and therefore very unlikely to make the best sale possible for that book. That won't reflect good for them because also if they don't know their stuff or are not sending what editors are looking for then it will tarnish their reputation and their submission will go to the bottom of their submission list. 

Also bear in mind that each year, imprints are only going to take on 2-5 debuts to very little slots for agents to sell a new author so if an agent is going to sign someone new they're only going to take what they absolutely love and believe it so something they like is not going to be enough, something well-written is not going to be enough. Also it is worth bearing in mind that it's not just about your work it's also about how does it compared to the other submissions an agent has received. And there is the element of luck, maybe your novel is great but the agent signed something similar just the week before, or you wrote a cosy crime and their submission is flooded with those, and even though yours is brilliant another submission just beat you to the post, or they just cannot connect to the voice.

Agents are not like double-glazing salesmen because they are not selling double glazing. They are not selling a tangible product, novels are a lot more subjective. They need to believe in what they are selling, and if they are a great agent they can read your full MS and already know which editor at which imprints that might appeal to, start putting out feelers and letting editors know they have something in the pipeline as soon as they sign a new author. As I said earlier if they are not performing then the word will spread in the industry and their submission won't be the priority.

Don't get me wrong it's not a perfect system, even agents recognise that. Furthermore, agents are like any other profession there are some good ones and bad ones. And if an agent request the full MS then they definitely should provide feedback and get back to the writer, that's common curtesy bearing in mind the agent requested the material.

Thank you so much Libby, I'm so glad that you've enjoyed it! I am currently editing book 2 so it is coming.

Can I ask you a favour? If you haven't already would you be able to leave a review on Amazon? It helps a lot. Thanks! 

Congratulations Janet and happy publication day! xx

In thriller/crime fiction the inciting incident is often expected to take place very quickly. For example:

* In Will Dean's First Born, it opens with the MC doing something that very quickly established her oddness, and by the end of chapter 1 she receives the call which is the inciting incident

* In Robert Harris's Red Dragon, the opening chapter set up Will Graham's world in Florida and at the same time delivers the inciting incident which is Crawford going to see him to ask for his help with a serial killer.

* In Guy Morpuss's Five Minds, the opening chapter set up the world while at the same time delivers the inciting incident which is one of the consciousness discovering that one of the other consciousness has agreed to a bad deal.

To extend on one of Slago's points — it sounds pacy but it isn't. The pace and the narrative are being slowed down a lot by too many stage direction and blow by blow description of people's movements. It's great that you have a clear picture of your story and scenes, but too much of it and it inflates the word count and slows the pace when the genre you are writing relies on a pacy narrative.

Added a comment to Blurb help?  

I agree with Slago, it sounds like a blurb but it is too vague and generic to be enticing. You need to show/hint how unique your world is and specific stakes for your story. My advice would be look at the blurb of about 20 fantasy debuts and analyse how they show the specific and USP (Unique Selling Point) of their world/story.

The other thing that I would add is that irrelevant of the genre, the most important is your main character (MC) you need someone we want to root for or against. Here we don't have a name until the 2nd paragraph and it's a just vague description. I don't know what they do in the story and what the stakes for them. A lot of fantasy involves the rise or fall of a kingdom, but what does that mean for your MC?

Blurbs are tricky and can sometimes feel harder than writing the actual book! I hope this helps.


It's a very big topic but I'll try to cover the basics. How you want to be published will determine if you need an agent. 

1. You can self-publish — you can publish your novel yourself on Amazon and you don't need an agent for that. The great thing is that you have total control, however that also means you will have to do your own marketing and publicity and it will be difficult to get your book in main book stores.

2. Small press — there are some small press and indie publishers who accept submissions straight from the author. They are smaller outfits so they don't have the same resources as the big publishers especially regarding, publicity, marketing and distribution, but because they are smaller they can offer a more personal feel. The publisher will buy the rights to your book and then you will work with an editor to make sure your book is in the best shape possible before publication. 

3. Big publishers — they are known as the big 5 (Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster). Each publisher has dozen or even more imprints. Big publishers only accept agented submissions (submissions made by an agent on behalf of the author they represent). They will normally publish your book in a combination of the following: e-book, hardback, paperback, audio

I have a blog which explains how an agent will submit to publishers on behalf of their clients: https://www.laurevanrensburg.com/blog-1/what-happens-after-you-get-an-agent 

Getting an agent is not an easy task. In the UK an agent can receive an average 3,000 to 4,000 submissions a year and only sign about 5 people, so the competition is tough. Each agent represents different genre and each agency have their own submission guidelines. Basically you need to get your novel as close to ready and polished as much as possible before submitting to agents. That is basically done through several rounds of editing, and getting people to read your work and give you feedback and use that feedback to edit your work some more. 

This place will have lots of resources to help with editing and developing your craft. Good luck with your novel.

Hi Alan, 

Getting to know your character so you can write the story and what the reader needs to know about the character for them to enjoy the story are two different things. As writers we need to know more about our characters in order to write the story, however we often over-estimate the amount of information a reader needs to enjoy a story.

To be honest you shouldn't be looking to introduce a character at the start, this is normally a pitfall that tends to end up with a lot of backstory and info dump. The best is to start with your character in scene in action (by action I mean doing something) and then slowly reveal who they are throughout the story. After that it's trial and error and what subsequent drafts and edits are for. Some people over-write a first draft and then use further drafts to strip the info that are redundant or unnecessary for the reader; other writers produce a lean first draft and then spend edits adding layers and depth. 

Beta readers can be really useful for that as well. They can tell you when you are revealing too much or on the other side if you are too opaque and not giving away enough.

I hope this helps.

As far as I am aware agents, like most sales people are paid on a basic salary + commission based on the size of the deals they negotiate for their clients so the more deals and the bigger they are, the more they earn. If they don't make sales they won't have a job for long. Plus agents are passionate about their jobs too, it's not just purely down to the money. Ive' been around a few agents in the last couple of years and the ones I've met absolutely love the feeling of a) discovering a new author or a great new book b) selling their client's work on submission and giving that news to their client.

Agencies and agents tend to specialise in particular genre(s), which allows for a greater expertise. For example, if an agent represents sci-fi and fiction it means that if a MS comes in they can suss out straight away where it sits on the current market which imprints and which editor it will appeal to, or if a particular editor is actively looking for that particular kind of story. You don't want that agent to take on a children's MS just for the sake of diversity and them having little chance to sell it because they don't know the children's book market or which children's editor is looking for what.

Agents get a commission on any deals they negotiate for their client. An agent is not involved in self-publishing so the agent gets no commission on that.

At the end of the day you have to find what works for you. Personally, I’ve never used anything other than Microsoft Word to write and an Excel spreadsheet to plot. I tried Scrivener once for a couple of weeks but it didn’t work for me. 

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