Sunday, 19 November 2017

Let's Talk Writing, Agents and Publishing

                                  Click to watch the video from the Festival of Writing 2017

It's been a while since I attended the York Festival of Writing in September 2017, but the memories are still fresh in my mind. The last September event was not my first. The first time I attended the Festival, I found myself very much out of my depth. Intimidated by the great minds floating around me. Still, I stayed the course and did what I had come to do. The experience opened my mind, and I took away a lot with me. Since then, there have been other events. For example, The Barelit Festival which I found inspirational and another eye-opener.

During the last event, I felt more prepared. Knew what to expect and felt determined to make the most of it. I met with agents who are the gatekeepers of the publishing industry. Met other authors in the same situation as me. We exchanged ideas, shared writing experiences and encouraged one another. I left the cold but peaceful York feeling more energised, motivated, determined and inspired. The highlight was listening and reading the positive and encouraging agents' feedback. 

I had submitted the first chapters of the manuscript I had been working on for the last eighteen months to two years to the agents for them to read in advance. Accompanied by the chapters was my query letter. Simply put, the query letter is the pitch of one's book (manuscript). In the query letter, the writer gives a concise description of their book, selling their idea and themselves as an author, to an agent. Also in this query letter, one needs to have a clear hook for their novel. The hook then develops into an elevator pitch which is a summation of the whole story in one or two sentences leaving out the boring bits! The elevator pitch expands into the query letter. Part of the query, the bit that talks about the book, will become the book blurb. Besides the query letter or cover letter, one then weaves the synopsis of the book which is a detailed summary in which you spill the beans of your plot. Confused yet?! Well, these are some of the few things a writer needs to grasp.

It has to be said that the traditional route to becoming a published author is not the only option. I self-published my first book A Life Steered, and I found the process satisfying. I’ve had positive reviews too. The reasons for choosing any given route are personal and valid. But for a writer to even begin to think about publishing or going through all that I've outlined above, one needs to write a brilliant book first. That is crucial.

I have matured in the way I understand writing, and I continue to develop. A few things have become clear to me - if you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you cannot rush the process. You cannot give up. You should not be solely driven by what you think your readers expect you to write about, by money, neither should that determine or decide your narrative. Write what you want to write and from the heart. Write because you love to write. There will always be readers out there who will connect with your writing. What matters is that your writing comes from a genuine, heartfelt and inspired place. There will be agents, publishers who will appreciate your work and want to work with you. Those who will embrace your passion, ideas, style and want to sell your work. Learn to accept criticism and embrace rejection. Read, read, read, and keep honing your craft. We live in the 21st century, and we have options now. Different formats to suit our preferences and inclinations. Just make 'shite' happen. You are the master of your writing career.

During the festival, I met bestselling authors who spent years in what I call doldrums. They dealt with rejection and chose not to give up. They persevered, exercised resilience and patience, believed in themselves and their writing. Now they get to reap the rewards.

So, to those who keep asking 'When is the book coming out?', the answer is 'It will come out when it comes out.' I have completed two manuscripts in the last three years, which makes me very proud, and I will not rest until my two babies find a home. 

Take care!

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