Sarah Juckes | Head of Membership | Jericho Writers

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My name is Sarah (Ann) Juckes. I work on the team at Jericho Writers as the Head of membership, and you'll see emails in your inbox from me from time to time. I look after new exciting stuff for members, 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?! Since then, Outside has found its way onto a few prize lists and my second YA novel 'The World Between Us' will soon be published in five languages and counting. 

Looking forward to getting to know you!

Sarah Juckes | Head of Membership | Jericho Writers Discussions
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Just created an account and not sure where to start? This post is designed to give you a quick-fire …
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  •  · Ah, yes it does. The 'new forum' thing was the stumbling block. Thank you so much, Jon!
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Hello and welcome to the new Community! This forum is free to writers all over the world and is…
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  •  · Happy New Year all! I'm delighted to have joined this wonderful writing community! I've been ploughi…
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When we think of traditional publishing, we often think of the route where an author gets an agent –…
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  •  · HI Sarah, thank you for this post, and for all of your organising this month. I am thinking of submi…
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When wielded properly, a short flashback can help enrich characters, ground emotionally-charged scen…
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  •  · I suspect the weaving in of backstory depends on where you are in the tale.  If it is a fast action …
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Our Getting Published events are a personal highlight for me, as it was during one such event in 201…
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  •  · I've signed up for March  - two down five more to go. I've also been looking at past webinars. They …
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Some books fall into neat genre categories, like crime or romance. Others can fall back on age group…
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  •  · That's a lovely place to set a novel, I have relatives there. I've definitely heard of Laura Purcell…
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When we think of traditional publishing, we often think of the route where an author gets an agent – that agent lands them a publishing deal at a large publisher – and they go on to publish multiple books with that same publisher. But not all traditional publishing deals look like that. And I think this is a particularly important thing to normalise for writers, as there are so many more opportunities available to us to get our work in front of readers.  

Take digital publishing for example. This has boomed so much in the last decade, several publishers now skip the need for physical books altogether and publish straight to eBook. In Thursday's webinar for Getting Published Month, you’ll hear from our own Sophie Flynn who landed one such deal with a Big 5 publisher before she even had an agent.  

There are also smaller independent presses. You don’t always need an agent to submit to a small press either. And this doesn’t make them any less worthy of a deal – many indie publishers go on to sell more copies than some Big 5 deals.  

There are also publishing deals via competitions; non-fiction direct pitches to publishers; hybrid publishing; storytelling using non-book media; and more. If you want to learn more about these, do join Jericho Writers and jump into Getting Published Month!

Meanwhile – what non-traditional traditional deals are you aware of? Have you spotted an interesting publishing opportunity recently? Share them below.

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When wielded properly, a short flashback can help enrich characters, ground emotionally-charged scenes and help readers better understand the world they’re reading. However, used improperly, flashbacks can make readers feel a bit like riding in a car with a learner driver – shooting forwards and backwards and leaving us with whiplash.  

To stay with the driving analogy for the stick drivers out there – mastering flashbacks is a little like mastering the bite of a clutch. To avoid the jolt forwards or backwards in time, the reader needs to lifted out of the present scene slowly – using a natural trigger point to transition so seamlessly, they shouldn’t even really twig that you’ve changed gear at all.  

My favourite triggers are based around senses – a song playing that reminds the character of a past event; the smell of their mother’s perfume etc. The flashback should then be short, interesting, and advance the action in some way, so the reader better understands the immediate situation because of it, before moving seamlessly back into the present again.  

How do you use flashbacks in your writing? Share an example from your work-in-progress below. 

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Our Getting Published events are a personal highlight for me, as it was during one such event in 2017 that I met my agent after twelve years of back-to-back rejection. So I am SO EXCITED to see a whole month of online events for Jericho Writers Members that could well open that very same door for you. Here’s my round-up of what’s to come.  

As with all good Getting Published events, there are a smattering of sessions focusing on polishing your manuscript (this is, after all, the thing that will determine your deal). We have the brilliant Debi Alper on Managing Expectations (never to be missed), and Helen Richardson on Getting Ready for Publication, which will cover the steps you can do now to help you publicise your book later (you’ll thank yourself for going to that one!) 

We also have webinars about the nuts-and-bolts of getting an agent, including a webinar from world-leading agent Juliet Mushens on crafting your submission package; Harry Bingham’s ever-popular interactive event on elevator pitches; and a special one going through the full process of using AgentMatch (which is included as part of a membership). Add onto that the opportunity to pitch your work to agents at a special US-edition of Slushpile Live and one-to-ones opening again soon (watch this space!)

Of course, getting published isn’t all about agents. Learn about the other routes to publication in A Case for Publishing; find out about author funding and competitions with Katy Massey, and how other members have done it in our special Inspiring Jericho Stories event.  

You can see the full list of webinars here or on your usual webinar page if you're already a member. All you need to do to access all of them is become a member for a month, or a year. I can’t wait to see the success stories that come out of this one. I promise you – they really do happen.  

What are you most looking forward to in the Getting Published Month? Share your thoughts on the programme below!

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Some books fall into neat genre categories, like crime or romance. Others can fall back on age group, such as young adult or middle grade. Other books however, almost refuse to be categorised. They might straddle crime and thriller; borrow from literary; fall between the cracks of romance and erotica.  

So, what do you do with books like this?  

One tip is to rely on previous books to do the hard work for you. If there’s an already-published book that you think vaguely looks like yours, head to their Amazon page, scroll down and see the categories they’ve been shelved in.  

Another way is to splice genres. Perhaps your novel is mystery noir? Perhaps it’s literary women’s fiction. Perhaps it’s even paranormal suspense thriller.  

If you’re looking for an agent, then the point of genre in your query letter is really to describe the type of book you’ve written. An agent might open an extract expecting a murder on the first page of a crime novel, or aliens landing in sci-fi. You don’t have to nail this on the head – just use it to describe what they should prepare for (so they don’t wonder why those aliens are landing in the middle of your historical romance and think something, somewhere, has gone wrong).  

If you’re self-publishing, then use Amazon’s weird categories to your advantage to get a bestseller flag in a niche genre. Choose ‘books about washing machines for young adults’ and bask in the glory of your number one spot.  

How do you choose your genre? Are you splicing a few to make your own? Share below!

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Not all fantasy is Lord of the Rings style high fantasy. Below are some sub-genres you might already be writing.  

1) Magic Realism: Your world might look and work exactly like our own, but with one magic element. This one is found in more novels than you might think! Example: Harry Potter. 

2) Urban Fantasy: I see this one in quite a few of your cover letters. Similar to magic realism, in that it’s often set in a familiar world, but with an (often gritty) urban feel to them. Example: City of Bones. 

3) Paranormal: Popularly known in crossover with ‘romance’, this fantasy type features ghosts, werewolves and the supernatural. This was HUGE in YA a decade or so ago. Example: Twilight.  

4) Fairy Tale Retellings: Perhaps set in an entirely non-magical setting, these stories take influence from classic stories, perhaps twisting them for a modern audience. Example: Surface Breaks. 

5) Speculative fiction: Not technically a sub-genre, but related. This super-genre is a combined term for the likes of sci-fi-fantasy; space operas; dystopian and alternate reality fiction. Example: The Handmaid’s Tale. 

Are you writing in some of these sub-genre categories? Do you have another you’d like to add to the list (there are a fair few)? Reply below! 

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Are you looking for a literary agent? What have you learned in your search?

Five things that might be useful to know are:

1) They are avid readers. Non-readers need not apply to be a literary agent. Any agent you submit to LOVES books. They open your submission wanting to find a read they can’t put down. 

2) They are real human beings. This one is obvious, but easy to forget when finding an agent is so difficult. It’s important to remember in your submission though, and – as with all people – a bit of genuine thoughtfulness, kindness and professional humour goes a long way in an email.  

3) They often read submissions in their spare time. Important to know for two reasons: a) because they’ll possibly be tired or distracted, which is why it’s so important to have a clear, exciting pitch. And b) because they’ll possibly be reading your submission on an eReader or tablet. Pay attention to your file names (keep them simple and descriptive), and don’t include special images, characters or fonts unless it’s integral to the story.  

4) They make their money by making you money. If they reject your submission, it’s because they can’t see a way that they can make a return on their investment. It's not personal (although it’ll most certainly feel like it). For them – it's a livelihood.  

5) They all talk to each other. If you’re thinking of being rude to an agent – think again. Literary agents do talk – and not just within agencies, either.  

What five things have you learned about agents? Share them below!

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Have you ever paid for professional feedback (such as the services offered by Jericho Writers here)? 

How did you find it? What's the biggest thing you learned from it? Whether you got a manuscript assessment, a developmental edit, or something else - we'd love to know! 

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I’m writing this as the UK has plunged into yet another lockdown and my activities have been legally limited to work, TV, books and walking once a day from my front door.  

In some ways, lockdown should give us MORE time to write. Social obligations are no longer a worry and writing is - I suppose – something we do for fun. So why is it somehow so much harder to put pen to paper?  

Those of you with kids will be pointing at them mouthing ‘homeschooling’, and this is something that’s going to swallow both time and energy for thousands of writers. There’s also the whole ‘working from home’ thing for those of you who can, and although sitting in my pajamas all day does have its perks, it does make it harder somehow to open my laptop again after a long day and work some more. 

I’m really looking forward to Holly Seddon’s webinar on 14 January on this – not only as she has four kids, a work-from-home job AND a career as a bestselling author – but also so I can check in with members who are all battling the same things. We really are all in this together and that really does help to know.  

For me, my tricks to write during lockdown are bitesize chunks. I’m not going to attempt to write every day, because I know my brain can’t do that around work right now. I will though be writing at weekends. In the morning as soon as I get up, and then perhaps after a local walk. I’ll reward myself with treats (because dry January isn’t a thing this year!), bad TV and good books. And – at the end of all this – hopefully we’ll have something positive to show for it. And if not – hey – sometimes there are bigger things going on.  

So tell me – what are you doing to motivate yourself through lockdown? What are your tips for finding time to write – whatever your personal circumstances right now? Share them below. We’re all in this together.  

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1: Title – ‘In the Silence’. 

Write this title at the top of your page and then write the story or poem that goes with it.  

2: First line - ‘The first time it happened, I was...’  

Write this as the first line of a story and describe what happens next.  

3: Character – this picture. 

Can’t see the link? A lady stands on the edge of a lake with her arms out. Write her story.  

BONUS PROMPT: Write a story or poem inspired by the last text you sent.  

After you’ve done these, share them below! I always love seeing how one prompt can inspire us in so many different ways. Looking forward to reading them x

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What's the elevator pitch for your work-in-progress? Share them below!

(For anyone wanting to know more about how to write these, we have a webinar / competition on 14 December for members, featuring two literary agents! Register if you're a member, or find out more if you're interested in joining us). 

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One-to-ones with agents can be career-changing. Not because they always lead to representation (I’ve had dozens in my time and none of them lead to that!) - but because they offer you professional advice.  

Most one-to-ones are quick. You’ll often only get 10-15 minutes to chat to them. They SHOULD have read work that you’ve submitted beforehand – in which case, follow all the usual submission rules you would if emailing them.  

Try to avoid too much chitchat on the call. A little bit at the beginning can be nice to settle your nerves and as a reminder that agents are just people. The agent should usually do most of the talking for you – the good ones will have made notes on your work. Have a pen ready to write all these down. You can also download an app to record your conversation if that’s easier – just make sure you let the agent know that’s what you’re doing.  

It’s also useful to have your own questions prepared. Think about what it is that you’d most like to know. Perhaps it’s a simple: “what can I do to make this better?” Perhaps it’s more directed at the unique perspective an agent has, such as: “is there a market for this right now?”  

Sometimes, you’ll come away from a one-to-one annoyed. The agent might have said something you don’t agree with, or something you’re not ready to hear yet. It’s okay to disregard advice if your gut says ‘no’. But do think about it carefully. I once had a feedback from an agent that got me fuming mad, only to realise a day later that she was absolutely right. I changed my manuscript and that became my debut novel! 

What are your tips for meeting agents? Or are you nervous for an upcoming one-to-one? Share below!

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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!

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Sarah Juckes | Head of Membership | Jericho Writers
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