Currently I'm doing some heavy breathing. After exactly twelve months of daily writing I have finished the first draft of my manuscript “Motherlands,” a family saga spanning one hundred years and focussed on three generations of women from the same family. All 86,849 words. And years of imagining, writing it in my head, as Annie Hall (Three Kookaburras Press) generously reminded me.
Now comes the real work. You thought writing a book was straightforward? Wrong. Maybe you thought the turnaround between completing the manuscript and publication would be the fast part of the exercise? Wrong again. The path to publication is fraught, confusing and overwhelming. You have to plot your own path, that's the bare truth of the matter. It would take a madman or a supreme optimist to suppose that a publisher is going to scoop you up, no matter how much you love your characters, your story or your settings.
Better to take it slow but sure and edit your book to within an inch of its shelf-life. And that you have a KILLER Query Letter and Bio to go to the publishers.
A leading writer suggested I contact a major firm of literary agents. They were very responsive and cordial, but as he said, he’s never heard of anyone he’s referred to them being taken up. Famous last words. I took it on the chin. There are two schools of thought on engaging a literary agent:
On the plus side, publishers are more likely to pick your book up because they know that your agent has read the book or
On the negative side, it just digs into your income from the book (about 30%).
A few publishers take submissions from unpublished authors, look around. I’m looking in the UK mainly, because I think there are a lot of people who have experienced war, displacement, trauma and have shown remarkable resilience. But I’m also looking at smaller feminist publishers here in Australia and Canada.
In the meantime, to keep your spirits up, join a writers’ group The solidarity and collegiality have a miraculous impact. Plus, you learn a lot about the trade. I learned that you can self-publish via Imgramspark, for example. Every town and city has Writers’ Meetups.
So, a discussion with Annie Hall was gold, for starters she quickly took in my Query Letter and told me I had to cut it by half. "Nobody in publishing has the time." As a result of my meeting with her and with the Writers' Centre that day, I came away with these tips
1) EDIT EDIT EDIT, CUT CUT CUT
If you just love your outcuts, then save them for another story. Get a line/ copy edit and comprehensive (story arc, pace and progression) “Kill your darlings” www.killyourdarlings.com.au If it's not clear, it has to GO. Never write a book promising to include a person in the narrative. Sometimes names have to GO. No reader can cope with a squad of people they don’t know or they have no background on. They will give up. Whatever your self-indulgent little idiosyncrasies, they have to GO. Dialogue or description that does not progress the narrative or the characterisation: CUT. Dialogue is not the same as spoken conversation. It gives the illusion of dialogue and it should shed light on the characters, the settings and move the action forward.
So I gave a thorough edit (I thought) then I passed it onto my trusty journalist friend who edits everything for me and at my request, he patiently and carefully “MANGLED” my manuscript. And now I am giving it ANOTHER edit, before paying a not insignificant fee to a professional editor. Getting the picture? This journey is not for the faint-hearted.
2. PUBLISHER SUBMISSION APPRAISAL
Usually this goes like this and can cost you $200 - 300 and more. It depends. Follow the publisher’s criteria to the letter! Write a KILLER Query Letter including a synopsis of the story. your bona fides and your writing. In my case, after taking Annie Hall's advice, the synopsis was 111 (gripping?) words plus 180 words for the rest. Along with that, submit the first 6,000 words of your book. If that doesn’t pass muster, you probably won’t be taken up. According to Annie Hall, literary agents, editors and publishers have NO time and their workload is onerous.
3. UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT AWARDS - (Enter 4)
If you live in Australia try submitting to at least four unpublished manuscript awards on these links. If you live elsewhere, use a similar strategy. THEN you need a REVIEW. There are people who do that…. don’t ask me yet.
The Victorian Premier’s Award
Allen and Unwin https://www.allenandunwin.com/being-a-writer/the-australian-vogel-s-literary-award
Dorothy Hewitt Award https://www.booksandpublishingA.com.au/articles/2017/07/18/93397/prh-https://www.perilousadventures.net/0904/opportunities.html-new-20000-prize-for-an-unpublished-manuscript/
Penguin Random House https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2017/07/18/93397/prh-announces-new-20000-prize-for-an-unpublished-manuscript/
4. PUBLISHERS (Australian, British, Canadian)
Join a society of authors, it's invaluable, e.g. the Australian Society of Authors https://www.asauthors.org/membership - Research publishers who produce books like yours.
And don’t turn your nose up at self-publishing. www.ingramspark.com
5. LITERARY SPEED DATING at the Wheeler Centre in June. ($35 members)
Most writers’ organisations run Publisher’s Speed Dating sessions. Book into one. You get THREE minutes to pitch your story, genre and bona fides. Be prepared.
And lastly, for some further TIPS:
Pitch Perfect (Melbourne) are a book marketing firm. Check them out.
Consult this year’s Australian Market Place ON-LINE https://www.awmonline.com.au/
Last of all, I highly recommend you purchase a copy of the book below. It's short, succinct and packs a wallop with advice and EXAMPLES of good and bad writing.
OK, good luck and keep writing. As Isobel Allende said, ”Turn up, turn up, turn up to the page.”
COPYRIGHT - Magz Morgan 2018
Also find me on: https://www.worldwriterscollective.com/
To write is to surf a wave.
You turn up, turn up, turn up for the ride.
The horizon sits there
Flat, limpid, immense,
Until that moment where the wave rises,
Higher and higher skywards.
Then comes the thrill, a burst of light and air and energy
Until the inspiration flows like life-blood
Coursing through the veins, the arteries, the senses
(While you still have life).....
And each time, you ride it until its spent....