Saturday, 24 August 2013

How to get a publishing contract

What are the publishable classes? It's an expression coined by my virtual friend, Iain Manson, and means the sort of people who find it relatively easy to get an agent and a publishing deal, unlike most of us who find it next to impossible. It includes (and I'm relying on Iain to tell me if I've missed a category):
  • Journalists
  • Anyone with a contact in publishing
  • Anyone famous for something other than writing
  • Anyone related to someone famous
Recent examples include 21 year-old Samantha Shannon; from the Guardian article: "Her father knew someone in touch with literary agent David Godwin and, after an email exchange, he agreed to look at her manuscript. He was 'kind' about it but also turned the book down. Yet it was this connection that would not long afterwards lead to Shannon doing a two-week summer internship with his agency (in Seven Dials, Covent Garden), which was to prove illuminating about 'how the industry works'." David Godwin subsequently became her agent and sold the first three novels in her fantasy series to Bloomsbury for a six-figure sum.

Lottie Moggach is doubly qualified by being a journalist and daughter of Deborah Moggach, the successful writer. Her first novel, Kiss Me First, has recently been published by Picador. 

Then there's promising newcomer JK Galbraith, who turned out to have got a deal for his first crime novel by actually being JK Rowling.

I haven't read any of these books, and I'm not implying they are not excellent and worthy of a publishing contract. But I think this nepotism matters, because the pool from which publishers select authors is in reality quite small, however vast the slush pile may be. It seems to me self-evident that there are many equally good or better writers who are rejected time and again after a cursory glance by an intern. And these days when the future of Big Publishing is uncertain, they cannot afford to miss the next Big Thing just because it happens to have been written by a nobody.

P.S. On a happier note, self-publication has again proved the best way to go for most of us. Steve Robinson has accepted an offer from Amazon for a four book deal with an option on book five following the huge popularity of his genealogical crime series, now on special offer. Go Steve!

Friday, 9 August 2013

My 3rd self-publishing anniversary

This day three years ago I self-published Remix on Amazon.

Self-publishing wasn't what I really wanted. I believe I still hankered after the dream - an agent, a publisher, a stack of books in a bookshop which I could go and secretly gloat over, maybe a desk, a pen, a queue of fans... 

But the dream had made it clear it didn't want anything to do with me. I couldn't even get to first base and find an agent to take me on, though several trifled with me.

So I gritted the teeth, concocted a cover, worked out how to format for Smashwords and KDP, and committed to the move.

Back then - and how quaint it seems now - writers on forums would give dire warnings that you were using up your first publication rights (que?) and said no big publisher would consider a book once it had been self-published (pause for raucous laughter). They also opined that no book without the input of a publisher's team of editors, designers and marketers would A) be any good and B) sell any copies.

How wrong they were. Those of us who jumped in at that point caught the first wave of indie opportunity, a boom time that will never happen again.  So favourable to popular books were Amazon's algorithms in those days that Remix spent over eight months in the UK top 100. 

Now that almost everyone agrees that self-publishing is a valid way for a writer to proceed, it's way tougher to make an impact on the charts. Three years ago, I was lucky.