Wednesday 29 May 2013

Every writer should have one – a submission strategy!

We often hesitate to submit. Is it laziness, lack of organisation or fear of failure? Or even possibly fear of success? What if you did become a writer with a great reputation and had to live up to it?  Or was so in demand you didn’t have the time or the brain-space for writing?

Rejection as a part of acceptance

Yes, I’m afraid it is. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a novel accepted quite quickly, your editors will ask for more work on what you thought was your perfectly polished script and once it is published not everyone will give it a 5* review. In fact, some will give considerably less and a reading group’s verdict will often read like a school report. No matter how good your work is there will always be a but.
And no matter how much you’ve had published so far, you’ll still get rejected. I’ve had two novels out this year and a third comes out in July. Yet I had one rejected yesterday by a similar company to the others who’ve given me a green light.  I had a lot of hope.
You have to develop a thick skin, you have to keep faith in your writing and you have to have another go.
One writing friend doesn’t talk about rejections. She’s more likely to say, “Ah here comes the post with a load of rewrites.” What a healthy attitude.
And indeed, the rejection I got yesterday was quite a helpful one. They actually liked my writing.  The topic was good. The work was polished. There were some concerns about the very opening. Aha! Rewrite coming on. In fact, anyway, I’ve changed the title and rewritten a couple of pages further in since I last sent it out. I’ll respond to the screen full of advice they gave me too. So, in a couple of weeks’ time a slightly different version will go out to more agents and publishers.   

Fishing rods

The fact remains that if you don’t submit you can’t have your work accepted. Another writing friend once said that you have to be like those men on the end of the pier; they have half a dozen or so fishing rods dangling into the sea. Eventually they get a catch.
The said novel is actually out with another publisher and an agent as well. I’ve also got some flash fiction and some short stories out with certain publishers and entered for competitions. One publisher is looking at a whole collection of flash fiction. So, yes, I have cast my rods.

Keeping on top of it all

You have to keep good records and you have to build in routines for chasing up work. You also have to look for the opportunities. It’s hard and slightly boring work. However, it must be done. Naturally the writing comes first. This probably comes a close second. Steaming up behind in third place come the conjoined twins of marketing and publicity.    

But what about an effective strategy?

I’m always looking to refine this but at the moment it sort of works for me.
Once a work is finished I put it on my To Do list. That means when it comes to the top I’ll take one more look at it and then send it out to three agents if it’s a novel and three publishers looking for submissions or competitions for shorter fiction.
As soon as something is rejected, it goes back on to my To Do list and gets sent out twice more after I’ve got a some distance from it and the rejection and after I’ve refined it a little. After all, we constantly grow as writers.  
Periodically, when my To Do list tells me to, I got through all of my submissions and see if any need chasing.
I also keep a list of opportunities. Once I’ve exhausted the yearbooks, I go through this list. Every so often, again when my To Do list tells me to, I go through the opportunities and see if there isn’t one I’d like write something new for or if there is one that suits a piece of work that hasn’t been out for a while.
I always work the most proactively with the latest completed work. When I’ve finished something new, I put most of my energy into trying to sell that. However, I also keep an eye open for new opportunities and again see if older work might suit.

Identifying opportunities

I find these from friends, through Twitter (two books this year!), Linkedin, Facebook, NAWE and Mslexia. As I lecture in creative writing, several people approach me and offer opportunities. I vet these carefully and publish my own list of opportunities that are fair to my students. I use this list for myself as well. You too can sign up for it here.                        

Monday 13 May 2013

Radcliffe Library

I was very saddened when I went there the other week to find out that this library is ear-marked for closing or downsizing. Librarians will be made redundant. The book stock will disappear. The lovely old building will be used for something else.
It seems such a shame.  I can walk to it from my house – admittedly a bit of a trek and through the woods. But I was looking forward to that when I retired and got my dog.
I’ve filled out the consultation survey. I’ve said how important the library is to the local community. Now it seems I still need to argue with the politicians.  
A local councillor was due to come and answer questions that morning. S/he didn’t show.  Did they know that I and another stroppy, grumpy old woman were waiting for them and they couldn’t face us?
The place is always vibrant. There is always something going on. “The children form the local primary school come in together and choose their books,” said one of the librarians. “They would never be able to do that normally.” They certainly won’t if the nearest library is Prestwich.
I guess I’ll drive there to get my books. I can. But what of the old-age pensioners without transport and the young mums stuck at home all day? It’s not the same, bundling your little ones on to the bus. The fares aren’t cheap either.
Ironically, the day before I heard this news, a local company pulled all of its buses off the roads. It couldn’t afford to pay its insurance. No library, then and no bus to take you to the next one.
I’m forever grateful for the excellent library in the town where I grew up. I don’t think I’d be a writer and university lecturer now if it hadn’t have been for that wonderful collection of books – Enid Blyton and her Famous Five to start with, then stories about young women finding their way in life and finally books in French and German as I studied these subjects for A-level.    
Later, I enjoyed taking my own children to the library almost as much.
Some say it’s all different now, that young people have greater access to books without going to the library.  I’m not so sure. Time is limited at school and other ways of obtaining books cost money. The library still has its place.   

Friday 3 May 2013

The Tower

I have a new book out!
The Tower is the third part of the Peace Child trilogy. Now alone again Kaleem tries to adjust to life without Rozia. A natural catastrophe happens on Zandra and threatens to undo all the good work that Kaleem had done in reconciling this planet with Terrestra, his birth planet.  Complications set in as huge economic problems come to light. He continues to be plagued by the Babel prophecy.
I’m offering Babel free as an e-book from 4 – 8 May. Check it out. You can also read Rozia’s Glog, which links Babel to The Tower. You don’t have to read it in order to understand The Tower, but it just gives you a little more story. You can read excerpts of The Prophecy on my Sample Sunday blog. Babel and The Tower also include a glossary. So lots of ways of getting up to speed if you haven’t read the first two volumes.
I’m again offering school visits to do with The Tower. This will include one free copy of the book – perhaps for the school library - readings, a question and answer session and a creative writing exercise. I’ll also bring postcards for the students and I can arrange to have a supply of books if you wish. If you are connected to a school and would like one of these visits, please email me at gill dot james at btinternet dot com.  I can also turn this into a longer visit.
 Note that The Tower is suitable for  students 14-18.
I’m seeking book reviews on this title, so please email me at the above address if you would like a copy and specify Kindle, PDF or hard copy.