Sarah Juckes | Head of Membership | Jericho Writers

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Hello!

My name is Sarah (Ann) Juckes. I work on the team at Jericho Writers as a Content Creator, which means you'll see emails in your inbox from me from time to time, as well as my face in various Feature films, Conversations and other films on Jericho Writers. I look after new exciting stuff for members too, so let me know if there's something you'd like to see in the membership, and I'll do my best to make it happen. 

I was writing for 12 years before I stumbled across Jericho Writers. They introduced me to an agent at their Getting Published day, and that agent ended up securing me a publishing deal for my debut novel 'Outside' with Penguin. What?!

I love writing for Young People, dark stories and quirky voices. I want to learn more about how to plot a book, because I do tend to make things difficult for myself. 

Looking forward to getting to know you!

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Show, don’t tell. Write drunk, edit sober. The road to hell is paved with adverbs. We’ve heard these…
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1: Is this any good?  Sometimes (okay – all the time) we just need someone else to justify our writi…
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Using a synopsis as a tool to help you plot your book somehow makes both writing a synopsis and work…
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  •  · I have to say no Sarah, ideas to me come first, I may think about the type of character I need in th…

2020 has shown us that distance can mean both everything and nothing at all. Whilst we’ve stepped back from seeing loved ones in real life, many of us have also reached out further than we might have ever done before – stepping up our video call game, and connecting with people in different timezones.  

We’re super-proud to have such a diverse and far-reaching membership here at Jericho Writers. Our members reach across all seven continents around the world (yes – even Antartica!) Our brilliant editors are also scattered all over the globe, bringing all-important market insight to Australasia, Europe, Asia and the USA and Canada. If you drop our Writer Support Team a line, you might also notice French, Maltese, Welsh and Northern-English accents! 


2021 promises to have much more on a global scale. We’re pleased to welcome writer and Publisher’s Lunch reporter, Erin Somers, to the team, who is already commissioning some exciting content for members, giving us a key insight into the US market. We’ve also been widening the net of our expert editors and all be adding ex-commissioning editors and agents from around the world to our list very soon. 


So – where are you from? What’s the writing and publishing scene like in your area? Drop a comment below and say hello!


Show, don’t tell. Write drunk, edit sober. The road to hell is paved with adverbs. 

We’ve heard these writing rules so much they’ve become cliché. And whilst they all hold a nugget of useful truth in them – rules are there to be broken.  


The purpose of the rule ‘show, don’t tell’ is that new writers tend to fall into the trap of telling the reader what’s going on, rather than showing it to them. As kids, we wrote diary entries beginning: ‘today, I went to the park and it was fun’. Whereas as writers, we should be going for something more like: ‘the wind stung my smile as I swung higher’.  


It's the same with ‘write drunk, edit sober’. Of course, a glass of wine on your desk can be a great motivator, but this rule alludes more to the idea that first drafts should be uninhibited. And I’m with Stephen King on adverbs.  


Sometimes though, we need to tell. We need to let the reader know some important bit of information, without turning it all into a whole paragraph of description, or backstory. Sometimes we need to sober up and reconsider the direction our wacky first-draft is going in. And - okay - maybe the odd adverb is okay for dialogue? (She said, quietly). 


What do you think of writing rules? Which ones do you follow, and which ones do you delight in breaking?


1: Is this any good?  

Sometimes (okay – all the time) we just need someone else to justify our writing. Even if we’re pleased with what we’ve written, nagging doubt-fairies will whisper in our ears, telling us it probably isn’t that great at all. Thankfully, editors are here to squish doubt-fairies and replace their words with constructive praise. Phew. 

2: Do you get that the antagonist is actually the protagonist’s evil twin? 


Okay, so this exact question probably doesn’t get asked all that much. But some form of a specific question will often come with a manuscript. “Is it clear that...?” - “Do you understand that...?” We all have things we want to be crystal clear in our worlds and other things we want to hint at, but keep secret until the end. An editor can give you their perspective as a reader and – if it isn’t quite clear yet – advice on how to make it so. Handy.  


3: Can you help me get this published?  


Great editors are often published themselves, or have worked in publishing houses. Surely they have connections that could help you get on the ladder? The truth is – they probably do. Jericho Writers certainly does. And we often use them too (see our success stories!) BUT. If an editor says “sorry - but no”, trust that this is the right decision. It could be they don’t know the right people for this project. Or – like us – it could be that they’ll only do this when they are 100% SURE than the work is absolutely ready for it. Otherwise, they risk the agent not taking your work seriously and possibly hurt their own relationship with that agent for future.  


So – what would you ask an editor? Do these questions sound familiar? Share your FAQs below!


Using a synopsis as a tool to help you plot your book somehow makes both writing a synopsis and working out your plot that little bit easier. So much so, that the first thing I do when I think of an idea now, is write a full synopsis for it (helped in part by the fact that an agent and publisher will ask you to do this after your first book is out, so they can green-light your next idea!) 

For me, plotting is hard as I struggle to hold an entire novel in my mind at once. And writing a synopsis is hard, because once I have that sprawling, many-legged novel, I struggle to squish it back inside a two-page box. 


Writing a synopsis at the idea stage lets me think un-emotively about the structure of the story I want to write, without getting bogged-down in sub-plot. I usually couple it with a sexy three-act-structure drawing, plotting my character arcs in a line and then summerising it all in neat little sentences on a couple of pages.  


Sure – the eventual novel with often look nothing like that original synopsis. But it will help you get to the end.  


Have you tried writing a synopsis before you start writing? What other plotting tricks have you heard about or mastered yourself? Share below!


Learning to self-edit has been a decade-long trial-by-fire for me. I remember sitting at my desk pulling out my hair – knowing that something was wrong with my book, but having no exact idea what that was, or how to fix it.  

And then I got bought a whiteboard for Christmas. I don’t remember why now – perhaps as a joke? Or perhaps just because I was at university at the time and that’s the kind of thing you might find on a student’s wall. But it ended up revolutionising the way I edit my work.  


When I come across a problem now, I stand up and write it down on a whiteboard. I’ll then pace, ask myself questions out loud and write the answers down on the board too. Maybe in a different coloured pen (oof). I’ll write what I DO know and stand back and look at it as a whole.  


Maybe this has something to do with me being a visual thinker. Maybe I think better on my feet. Or maybe it just feels nice to be doing something other than pulling out my hair. But whatever it is, I now can’t edit a book without a whiteboard. 


Do you use whiteboards? Is there something else that helps you work through a problem that refuses to fix itself any other way? Tell us your secrets!

What does ‘writing for children’ mean when that includes babies all the way to teens thinking about university? 

The market tends to shift every few years, but in general, the categories within children’s books look a bit like this: 


  • Picture Books (0 – 5 years) Between 300 – 1000 words, depending on who the book is aimed at (babies 300, toddlers 500, pre-schoolers 1000). 

  • Early Readers (5 – 7 years) Less than 10,000 words. These books can be illustrated and are divided up into chapters. 

  • Lower Middle Grade (7 – 9) Between 10,000 – 40,000, depending on the reading age they are best suited for. The lower the reading age, the lower the word count. 

  • Middle Grade (9 – 11) Between 30,000 and 60,000. There is a bit more room in Middle Grade to push the boundaries of wordcount and theme, within reason. 

  • Teen (12+) Usually around 70,000, but there are books in this category as low as 40,000 and as high as 90,000! 

  • YA / Crossover (14+) Over 60,000 words. Fantasy books in this category can push the wordcount to more like 100,000+, but usually around 60,000 – 80,000 is the magic number.


So – what age range are you writing for? Do you feel like you’re writing in the middle of these somewhere? Share your thoughts below!


Self-publishing and want to give traditional publishing a whirl? Most agents are more than happy to hear from indie authors. Although there are a couple of rules of thumb to keep in mind when you’re querying.  

  • Have you sold upwards of 10,000 copies of your self-published books? If so, this might be something an agent wants to know. Publishers seem to love picking up indie authors with books that come with a ready-made audience – just look at authors like E. L. James or Kerry Wilkinson.  

  • Are your sales less than 10,000? An agent needs to know if the title you are sending them is currently published and available elsewhere, but they don’t necessarily need to know your sales figures if they’re considered ‘low’. A short note in your cover letter saying ‘this book is currently available via KDP on Amazon and I retain all rights’ should tell them everything they need to know. If they’re interested in taking you on as a client, they will be able to advise on what to do with the title before sending to traditional publishers. 

  • Submitting a brand-new, unpublished book? If you’re not a big-selling indie author, there’s no need to mention your previous self-published work in your initial submission. Write your query letter in the same way you would usually.  


Are you a self-published author looking for a literary agent? Or perhaps you had a traditional deal and are now looking to make the switch to self-publishing? Share your stories below. 


What does a successful query letter look like? 


You only get one chance at a first impression. This newsletter spotlights practical tips, examples and templates you can use when writing your agent submission query letter.  



BURSARY: We’re giving away 10 annual memberships! 


To celebrate all the exciting new stuff going on at Jericho Writers, we’re giving 10 under-represented writers a free membership for a year. To enter, simply send an email to info@jerichowriters.com with the subject line ‘MEMBERSHIP BURSARY ENTRY’ by 24 September and tell us why you want to join Jericho Writers in 50 words. 


EMAIL YOUR ENTRY 


Spotlight 


SNAPSHOT: How to write an agent query letter (FREE for members) 


Learn exactly what an agent wants to see from a query letter by listening to an agent herself in this five-minute tip video from Laura Williams at Greene & Heaton. 


LOGGED-IN MEMBER LINK

NON-MEMBER LINK


BLOG: Advice on your query letter + a template 


Query letters don’t need to be fancy. This blog explains everything from tone to sign-off, with a handy template you can fill in with your own details.  


READ NOW 



WEBINAR: Slushpile LIVE with Sam Copeland (FREE for members) 


22 September 2020. Put your query letter to the test with one of the biggest agents in the UK.  Submit yours before the end of the day for the chance to have your work featured in this live webinar. 


LOGGED-IN MEMBER LINK

NON-MEMBER LINK


Join the community 


Get feedback on your work, share the challenges and joys of the writing journey and chat to like-minded authors on our friendly and free community. 


JOIN FOR FREE


How NOT to write a query letter 


Are you making any of these most common mistakes in your query letter?  


Dear Sirs [NEVER address an email this way, especially to a female agent.] 


Firstly, I wish to describe to you the way in which I was birthed. ‘Twas 1959... [Query letters should start with a short snappy sentence on your BOOK.]  


Please read the following 1500 word pitch... [Keep your pitch to two paragraphs!] 


This book is the next Harry Potter. [Don’t use big books like this as a comparison title – show you know the current market in your genre.] It will be loved by ages 1 – 100. [This may be true, but unfortunately that is not a market publishers can sell into.] 


I have never written anything before and probably don’t know what I am doing. [Even if you feel this is true, don’t say it in a query letter. Instead, talk about how you might have attended courses or are a member of Jericho Writers.]  


I don’t like any of the other books you have on your list, but you seem okay I guess. [You’ll be working with this agent for a while (hopefully!) Keep on their good side and don’t ever be rude.]  


Laters, [A bit of informal chat is nice in the latter half of your letter, but keep the overall tone professional.]  


Do you think this might be the worst query letter of all time? Think you have written worse? Join for free and share your query letter nightmares in the Townhouse here. 


Sarah J 


Plus, don’t miss: 


New Mentor added: Michael Braff (Discounts available for members) 

Say ‘hello’ to our new mentor, Michael Braff, who has worked as a fiction editor in the US with the likes of Penguin for dozens of years. Michael wants to see your sci-fi, fantasy and horror and can work alongside you as you write or edit your book.  


Agent Submission Pack Review (Discounts available for members) 

Our experts will review your query letter, synopsis and opening 10,000 words – perfect for anyone who needs actionable feedback on their agent pitch. 


New programme of events for members (FREE for members) 

Join authors such as Catherine Johnson, agents such as Sam Copeland and editors such as Debi Alper for five webinars every month between now and the end of the year, exclusively for members. 


 JOIN JERICHO WRITERS



Are you making any of these most common mistakes in your query letter?  


Dear Sirs [NEVER address an email this way, especially to a female agent.]


Firstly, I wish to describe to you the way in which I was birthed. ‘Twas 1959... [Query letters should start with a short snappy sentence on your BOOK.]  


Please read the following 1500 word pitch... [Keep your pitch to two paragraphs!]


This book is the next Harry Potter. [Don’t use big books like this as a comparison title – show you know the current market in your genre.] It will be loved by ages 1 – 100. [This may be true, but unfortunately that is not a market publishers can sell into.]


I have never written anything before and probably don’t know what I am doing. [Even if you feel this is true, don’t say it in a query letter. Instead, talk about how you might have attended courses or are a member of Jericho Writers.]


I don’t like any of the other books you have on your list, but you seem okay I guess. [You’ll be working with this agent for a while (hopefully!) Keep on their good side and don’t ever be rude.]  


Laters, [A bit of informal chat is nice in the latter half of your letter, but keep the overall tone professional.]  



Do you think this might be the worst query letter of all time? Think you have written worse? Share your query letter nightmares with us!


There’s never been a better time to join Jericho Writers. 

We’re so excited to announce a NEW programme of live events kicking off next week, exclusive for members of Jericho Writers. This is the start of a very special year for members, with more opportunities to pitch your work to agents; more courses from top tutors and more feedback than ever before – all included.  


If you’re thinking of joining – now is the time. Join for a month or save over the year, with no lock-ins or hidden small print. We genuinely want to help you write, edit and publish your book (like we’ve helped these brilliant writers over the last fifteen years!) 


JOIN JERICHO WRITERS 


WEBINARS: Announcing our NEW member events! (FREE for members) 


On the back of the success of our Summer Festival of Writing, a Jericho Membership now includes access to over five webinars a month, featuring top agents, editors and experts on writing and publishing.  


Kicking off with a special event with our team, your autumn/winter could now include special feedback events, live courses and one-off workshops.  


LOGGED-IN MEMBER LINK

NON-MEMBER LINK


What’s included in a Membership? 



WEBINAR: Slushpile LIVE with Sam Copeland (FREE for members) 


22 September 2020. Slushpile LIVE is back! We’re kicking off with one of the biggest agents in the UK, who will read members’ query letters and opening pages and give feedback live. Join now and submit yours before 15 September for the chance to have your work featured. 


LOGGED-IN MEMBER LINK

NON-MEMBER LINK



FEEDBACK: Ask Jericho about your query letter (FREE for members) 


A hidden gem of the membership, submit your query letter to our team and we’ll give you feedback on it – all included when you become a member. 


LOGGED-IN MEMBER LINK

NON-MEMBER LINK


VIDEO COURSES: How to Write, Getting Published and Self-Publishing (FREE for members) 


These professional video courses offer you everything you need to know to start writing and publishing. Watch them at your leisure, as you need – they’re yours when you join. 


LOGGED-IN MEMBER LINK

NON-MEMBER LINK


ALSO: Members get access to... AgentMatch – our literary agent search engine. Masterclasses – filmed live at events. Features – with behind-the-scenes interviews with authors, agents and publishers. And Snapshots – quick five-minute tips. 



Exciting things are happening behind-the-scenes... 


Thanks to the tremendous success of the Summer Festival of Writing, we’re able to invest in some very exciting things – all soon to be free and forever available to our members.  


To kick things off, we’ve brought in Anna Burtt as our new Events Manager whose sole job is to bring experts to your door. She’s created a programme of 5+ live webinars every single month for the rest of the year, including old favourites and brand-new names. Going forward into 2021, Anna will be adding more and more live events to the membership, so you can connect with experts from all over the world. This all kicks off with a special ‘Ask Jericho Anything’ webinar on 14 September. 


One thing I’ve noticed when speaking to members is that not all of us learn the same way. A key thing I’m working on now is how to bring non-video content into the membership for next year, including transcripts for our key videos. I’m also looking to bring some new video courses to 2021 (perhaps with some exciting names attached – watch this space!). And – because we all love the chance to get feedback on our work – we’re looking into how to make this available exclusively to members, too. 


Change is coming and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Expect to see updates to the website as we introduce more stuff and make it super-easy to navigate. Until then – what do you want to see in the membership in the next year? How can we help you take your writing to the next level? Sign up for free to the Townhouse and share here. 


Sarah J x 


Plus, don’t miss the stuff members get discounts on:  


Manuscript Assessment  (Discounts available for members) 

Our most popular editorial service matches you to your dream editor and gives you tailored feedback on your work. It doesn’t get better than that. 


Complete Novel Mentoring (Discounts available for members) 

Write or edit your book alongside one of our expert mentors, including multi-bestselling authors and commissioning editors. 


Agent Submission Pack Review (Discounts available for members)

Our experts will review your query letter, synopsis and opening 10,000 words – perfect for anyone who needs actionable feedback on their agent pitch. 


JOIN JERICHO WRITERS 


Thanks to the tremendous success of the Summer Festival of Writing, we’re now able to invest in some very exciting stuff – all soon to be free and forever available to our members.  

We've created a programme of 5+ live webinars every single month for the rest of the year, including old favourites and brand-new names. We're looking at how to bring non-video content into the membership, including transcripts for our key videos. We're also looking to add some new video courses to 2021 (perhaps with some exciting names attached – watch this space!). And – because we all love the chance to get feedback on our work – we’re looking into how to make this available exclusively to members, too. 


Change is coming and we couldn’t be more excited about it. But first, we want to hear from you. 


What do you want to see from your membership in the next year? How can we help you take your writing to the next level? We'll do our best to make it happen!


What makes a prize-winning story? 


Entering writing competitions can be a brilliant way to build your writing CV and confidence as a writer, with the extra bonus of having the possibility of a prize at the end. But with writing being so subjective, what makes a story potentially prize-winning and how does the process of judging usually work? 


MEMBERSHIP: We’re cooking up something exciting... 


The Jericho team are working hard behind the scenes to bring some exciting new changes to the membership over the next year. If you’re thinking about joining, now might well be the time..! 


JOIN JERICHO WRITERS 


Spotlight 


FEATURE: How to win a writing competition (FREE) 

We interview the team behind the international Bath Novel Award to find out how writing competitions are judged and what it takes to win.  

LOGGED-IN MEMBER LINK

NON-MEMBER LINK


BLOG: KDP’s best kept secrets 

Our Publishing Manager Rachael Cooper reveals the tips she’s picked up from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing whilst setting Jericho Writers up as a publisher. Interesting stuff! 

READ NOW 


SUMMER FESTIVAL: Congratulations to the Friday Night Live shortlist 2020! 

500 entries have been whittled down to just 6. Congratulations to Rachael Dunlop; Marian Smith; Carys Shannon; David Congreave; Tamara Henriques and Fiona Muxlow. We wish you the best of luck for the final live event on 4 September! 

GET YOUR TICKET 


Why the winners of writing competitions aren’t always the ‘best’ entries 

As brilliant as it is to win a writing competition, it can be pretty disheartening to find out your entry didn’t place. I’ve entered a LOT of writing competitions over the last decade. One or two I was lucky enough to place on. But most, I never heard anything from at all.  

It’s hard not to feel down when you don’t win. However, since I’ve been on the other side of judging competitions, I’ve learned something that’s made me feel much better about all those lost places:  

The ‘best’ entries aren’t always the ones that win.  

How come? Well, competitions can be judged by upwards of five people – all with their own subjective tastes. Each judge might have their own different winner. So how do you choose just one?  

More often than not, the winner of a writing competition is the one all judges can agree was pretty good. It might not be anyone’s number one choice. It might be number two for a couple of judges and a ‘maybe’ for others. The winner is the entry that everyone can decide on. The safe choice. The one that doesn’t divide people to love or hate it – just like it enough to agree on.  

If you didn’t win a competition recently, it could be that your entry divided opinion. And as writers who want to push boundaries and stir emotion, that’s not an outcome to feel down about.  

Have you ever won a writing competition? Do you have any of your own insights into the inner workings of writing awards? Do you wish writers would just get feedback on this stuff? Sign up for free and share in the Townhouse.  

Sarah J x 


Plus, don’t miss: 


Manuscript Assessment  (Discounts available for members)

Our most popular editorial service matches you to your dream editor and gives you tailored feedback on your work. It doesn’t get better than that. 


Complete Novel Mentoring (Discounts available for members)

Write or edit your book alongside one of our expert mentors, including multi-bestselling authors and commissioning editors. 


Agent Submission Pack Review (Discounts available for members)

Our experts will review your query letter, synopsis and opening 10,000 words – perfect for anyone who needs actionable feedback on their agent pitch.  


JOIN JERICHO WRITERS

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Sarah Juckes | Head of Membership | Jericho Writers
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