Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Questions about the publishing process

I recently answered some question over on Sarah's blog and thought I'd reproduce my answers here in case they're of any help to anyone else. Hopefully Sarah won't mind me reproducing her questions...

NB: These are my opinions on the matter (based on research I've done and writing forums I've visited). Other people may disagree with my advice!

1. In Writers and Artist Yearbook in the Literary Agents section is says 'No unsolicited MSS' in some of the agents profiles. What does that mean?

It means - no unsoliciated manuscripts i.e. don't just package up your entire novel and send it to them! It may also mean 'don't send your synopsis and first 3 chapters either'. If you REALLY want to place your novel with someone who says no unsolicitated manuscripts you should just write them an email or letter instead. Kind of like a cover letter - telling them what your novel is about, what market it is aimed at, what the title and word count is and some background about your writing history. Oh and a stamped addressed envelope. If they're interested in your novel they'll invite you to sent in the synopsis and first 3 chapters.

2. Can you send to more than 1 agent at at time or is it best to wait for a response first?

Most people tend to send their novel out to between 5-10 agents at a time. As I said in my blog agents can take between 6 weeks and 9 months on average to get back to you so if you only send to one at a time and each one takes 9 months and then rejects you it could take a long, long time to get an agent! As/if the rejections roll in you should send it out to some more agents so your novel is always 'out there'.

3. What is the better route of sending your writing, agent or publisher first?

I'd suggest you send it to an agent first and only approach publishers directly if you can't find an agent. An agent will negociate your deal with the publishers, could potentially set up a bidding war between different publishers and will handle any foreign rights issues/publishers. If you go straight to a publisher you'll have to handle those negociations yourself.

4. What kind of word count is best to aim for when writing? My genre of choice is what is sometimes classed as 'chick lit'. Some people like that term and some don't. I don't mind it.

Chick-lit is around 80,000 - 100,000 words although the more established authors are normally asked to up that to around 120,000 words for their later novels. There's a rumour going around that Marion Keyes new novel will end up over 200,000 words! That's the exception rather than the rule and debut novelists should stick to 80,000 - 100,000 words.

5. is it best to have completed the whole book before sending off synopsis and first few chapters or do you have to send off the whole thing?

Most people say you should at least complete the first draft of your book before sending it off to agents. Otherwise, if they like your first 3 chapters and ask to see more you'll end up in the slightly embarrassing position of having to say "Um, can you hold on for a bit - I haven't written it yet". It's better to finish the book first, especially as your synopsis may change as your novel progresses.

p.s. Some very good advice here Writers and Artists Yearbook


Jude said...

HI Cally

Good advice and certainly what I'll be following come the end of August when I'm going to start sending the first three chapters of my novel out.
As for Miss Write, only 8 working days left till the end of August... I best start writing those covering letters soon, me thinks!
When I work with magazines in my PR role, they ask for copy up to two months in advance. God knows, maybe the winner already knows...


Jude x

CTaylor said...

Hi Jude - yeah, I'm becoming increasingly more sure that the winner has already been informed. As I've mentioned before I was told in June/July last year that I was a runner up in the Woman's Own competition and asked to provide a bio and a photo and my story was published towards the end of August - so a good 6-8 weeks before.

That said, Louise Candlish said in her Cosmo blog that the shortlist would 'literally be the last thing to go to press' in the next issue of Cosmo but I can't see that being any later than 30 August considering they'll have to get the mag printed and distributed to get on the shelves for 14 September.

I'm going to start putting some of the hints and tips I've gathered about cover letters to agents on the blog very soon as, very shortly, there will be up to 2,332 Miss Write entrants wanting to know what to do next!

p.s. Do you do band PR? ;o)

Helen Redfern said...

Thanks for the advice Cally. I'm hoping to have mine ready to send out before the end of the year.

Jude said...

Hi Cally

Not band PR unfortunately - just wine! But if you want some brainstorming ideas for your boyfriend just let me know and I'll throw together some thoughts.

Jude x

A. Writer said...

Fantastic advice Cally! Thank you for sharing it!

CTaylor said...

Helen & AWriter - my pleasure. Glad it was of use.

Jude - may have to take you up on that. Thanks so much. Will have a word with the boyf.

Lane said...

Hi there
Great post - thanks for the advice.
I left a message at novel racers re - joining (god that makes me feel like a kid in the playground!). Helen dropped me a line to say I should contact you - so..voila.
All the best and good luck:))