Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Francesca concludes the series on our publishing world observations.

The expression ‘All human life is here’ was once the motto of the now defunct News of the World. This seems to be true of the publishing world itself. Not that I mean it’s full of scandal and outrage (though I imagine they have their fair share) but that the people who inhabit that world are many and varied.

FB publications sampleI’ve dealt for many years with magazine publications and on the whole my experiences have been positive. You send a short story; you wait a while; it’s accepted or rejected. There were always two or three magazines that only contacted you if it was an acceptance, which is irritating when you don’t know whether you can submit it elsewhere. Recently there’s been a worrying trend towards this method, with other magazines jumping on the bandwagon, making the whole process much more fraught. Part of it seems to be due to lack of editing man (person?) hours, so not always the editor’s fault. But as usual, it leaves writers up poo creak without a paddle. The best thing is to impose your own waiting period, say three months, as a reasonable time before sending a story elsewhere.

Incidentally, the longest I’ve waited for an acceptance is two years and eight months. A nice surprise but still rather shocking!

As for book publishers, often they just don’t understand our brilliant work. Yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek as this analysis tends to come from a particular type of writer. These are the ones, and many of us have met them, who think their novel (dashed off and unedited) is the best thing since pot noodle and should have been snapped up within the week. It’s often members of one particular gender who have this outlook (sorry!). Though not exclusively.

LBF sign smallIt’s true, some book publishers can be disagreeable. I’ve had a few industry appointments with publishers and editors and talked to others on spec at events such as The London Book Fair and the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. A couple have been moody, maybe because they were fed up sitting in one place all day talking to a numpty would-be novelist like me. Happily many more publishers are perfectly helpful, appreciating the part writers play in the publishing process. You never know which sort they’re going to be before you meet them so it’s always a little fraught. If they turn out to be less than pleasant then I can’t help feeling that’s their problem. It’s pointless taking it personally.

To end on a positive note, I do currently have two publishers interested in one of my novels, which shows it can happen even to a pessimist like me. Both have suggested changes (entirely different from each other!), after which they’d like to see the novel again. I’m well aware that this doesn’t guarantee a sale, but it’s a start.

Encountering publishers personally is a scary notion, but if I hadn’t overcome the fear (or rather, felt it and done it anyway) I wouldn’t now have this chance of publication for my novel. So, if you’re thinking of approaching a publisher and feel a bit nervous, remember the old saying:

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

Me and the Publishing World

With two books published in the past three months, Natalie Kleinman talks about her experiences in the publishing world.

What little I knew about the publishing world a year ago could have been written on the back of a second class stamp. Twelve months and two published books later I know so much more – I could actually cover the back of one of those large stamps we use when submitting our short stories by conventional post. So what have I learned? british-postbox-100157072 Well, not very much, I thought at first. I was familiar with the process from a short story writer’s point of view.   Submit on line or put it in an envelope and into the mouth of the red box on the corner of my road…and wait.     Some  editors will reply fairly quickly, some will take several months and some not at all, though to be fair this is rare. I am  comfortable with this system, if sometimes a little frustrated at the wait. However, I appreciate my story is but one of  a huge number of submissions.

The book world – now that is another thing entirely. Sad to say there are some publishers who neither acknowledge your submission nor send a rejection. I imagine they are just as overloaded as their counterparts in the short story world but with even longer and therefore more time-consuming pieces to read. However, even an automated email response is better than wondering, sometimes for months, if your manuscript was received. Bad news in the form of a rejection is better than no news at all.

That said, I have been very lucky. Both of my book submissions – Voyage of Desire (Safkhet) and After All These Years (DC Thomson) – were acknowledged and indeed accepted within days. This though was probably the only similarity between them. The first, an e-book, took several months to turn around though when I was finally sent the edits – fortunately they were few – everything thereafter happened in a couple of weeks. I was sent a cover picture to approve and I believe had I not liked it I would have been presented with another choice. However, I was delighted so the question didn’t arise.

The second, a pocket novel, was After All These Yearspublished almost three months to the day from submission. I wasn’t required to do any edits, any that were needed were done in house. I had no say in the cover but I am delighted with what was chosen. They also changed the title – far better than the original. Since publication of Voyage of Desire, Safkhet have ceased operating from the UK and will only be publishing e-books in my chosen genre in the future. Because I would dearly like to see my book in print at some time in the future, we have agreed by mutual consent to terminate our contract and I am now looking for another publisher for this book.

I know nothing about the process of traditional publishing, not even enough to put on the back of that postage stamp. Consequently, halfway through my next book, I began seeking representation by an agent in the hope that someone who knows far more about the publishing world than I will be able to take me to the next stage. I was fortunate to meet Lisa Eveleigh of the Richford Becklow Literary Agency at an industry one2one session at the recent Romantic Novelists’ Association annual conference. Following several emails, and after chatting with Lisa, she has agreed to represent me. I can’t wait to get started.




Money, Money, Money

What’s happening in the publishing world today? What’s changing, and is it always for the better? In the latest in our series of personal views, Viv Hampshire talks about the important role of money.

When it comes to my life as a writer, there are two topics that matter to me and, I’m sure, to all working writers: the future of books and, even more importantly, the future of authors. And I can’t help feeling that the answers to both have one vitally important element at their heart – money!

Let’s start with the abysmal results of a recent survey undertaken by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) which showed that the average annual income of an authBanknotesor is now not only less than £11,000, but has actually fallen by 29% since 2005. The public perception, I’m sure, is that all published authors must be raking in thousands, if not millions, of pounds. They’ve read the hype about J K Rowling and the Fifty Shades books and celebrity authors who don’t even write their own so-called autobiographies, and they assume we must all be in pretty much the same boat. But the truth is that many of us aren’t in a boat at all. We’re sinking, or drowning, with virtually nothing, in the way of income from our years of hard slog, to keep us afloat at all.

£11,000? If that’s true, then how can anyone who is working for a living be expected to survive on so little? And the answer, of course, is that they can’t! That’s why so many of us, if we are serious about pursuing the dream, have no choice but to squeeze writing our novels into the gaps left by the ‘day job’, writing early in the morning before the children wake up, writing on the train, writing late at night, giving up our weekends and having to forgo the pleasures of watching the latest TV programmes or enjoying regular nights out with friends that other ‘normal’ people take for granted. I am lucky now, having reached the grand old age of sixty, to have a small pension coming in that will be paid for the rest of my life, so I have a buffer and I can dedicate myself to writing without the need to go out and find a job to support me while I do it. But writing a novel these days, whatever our financial and family circumstances, demands high levels of time, commitment and dedication, and without the added prestige and sense of awe that holding the title of ‘author’ once brought with it. And we do it (often spending as long as a year or considerably more writing just one novel) without knowing if that book will ever even get published, let alone bring us in any financial reward at all.

And what about the books themselves? There was a time when my parents’ generation would save up to buy the latest hardbacks in their colourful dustcovers, always reading them through to the end, placing them lovingly on their bookshelves, treasuring them as old friends and never ever throwing them away. I did much the same with paperbacks, building my collection of Jean Plaidys and later Maeve Binchys, and feeling pride not only in having read them all, but in owning them too. But, when times are hard, unemployment is high, and family budgets are tight, what gets dropped from the monthly shopping basket? We all need to eat, pay our mortgage or rent, cope with rising petrol or travel costs, worry about keeping our fuel bills down, perhaps indulge in the odd drop of alcohol or packet of cigarettes, but do we really need to buy books any more?

The library offers them, in their thousands, so we can still read – but we can do it for free. But, from an author’s point of view, a small PLR payment is no match for the royalties we might have expected from a sale. And now the supermarkets are operating ‘pile them high, sell them cheap’ deals. Once they’ve been read they end up in charity shops and at boot sales or, God forbid, in the bin! Yes, books are becoming more and more disposable, if they exist in paper form at all. Magazines provide quick-fix stories and celeb features to fulfill our reading cravings, and they take far less time to read- a real plus in our modern hectic lifestyles. Then there are the hundreds of new ebooks  that pop up every day, often available at a fraction of the cost of paper versions, and many downloadable at no cost at all. After all, with self-publishing options and easy uploads to Amazon available, anyone, with or without talent, can call themselves a writer nowadays, can’t they? It’s only too easy for the ‘real’ writers’ work to get lost and buried under a pile of trash, with many a hurried browser/buyer unable to take the time to try to tell the difference. And if an ebook has cost mere pennies and doesn’t measure up to expectations, it can simply be deleted at the touch of a button.

So, where does all this leave the poor author? Well, that’s exactly it … POOR! Who, in their right mind, would choose to become an author in this climate? A year’s work with little social life and no guarantee of being paid, and if you do strike ‘lucky’ you might just scrape £11,000 for your trouble? And, let’s not forget that figure is an average and inevitably includes a fair few high earning well-known names, so the reward for ‘Mrs Unknown Brand New Author’ is going to be a lot, lot less.

Books being borrowed, sold secondhand, included in two-for-one discount deals, given away for free. Royalty rates cut to the bone, and many publishers no longer even offering an advance. Books being deleted at the touch of a button. It’s incredibly depressing, yet still we do it. Why? Are we suckers? Are we giving up our blood, sweat and tears to pursue a dream? Of course we are, but (and I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think I’m too far off the mark when I say this) we write because we want to, and because we need to. However bad the rewards in money terms, there are other rewards that money just can’t buy. There’s no feeling quite like typing the magic words ‘The End’, and knowing we’ve done it, achieved what started out as the impossible dream but has become a wonderful big pile of printed paper reality – or a hell of a large file on the computer anyway! And nothing quite like seeing the finished published book on the shelves in bookshops, and holding it in our hands, with our own name, as the author, emblazoned across the front for all to see. That’s what I am still aiming for…

And it’s somethinbooksg you just can’t put a price on!



Join us again on 24th August to find out what Natalie Kleinman has to say about her experiences of the publishing world.






Be professional from day one!

Elaine Everest reflects on the publishing world and the writers who one day hope to be part of this wonderful profession.

For the past ten years part of my week has been taken up teaching creative writing classes. I was employed by Kent Adult Education Services before setting up The Write Place creative writing school in 2009. From beginners through to novel writers most students have the dream of becoming published – many wishing to make it their occupation. I’ve been privileged to see quite a few students sell short stories, articles as well as non-fiction books and recently novels. Something I’ve noticed without fail is that those who succeed have been professional from day one. They’ve treated their writing as a job, studying the markets and reading about agents and publishers so they know about the movers and shakers in our world and who is looking for new talent long before they are ready to submit.

Amongst a sector of wannabe writers there seems to be a certain arrogance. The moment these people swagger into my classroom (yes, women can swagger as well as men) my radar picks them up. Here we go, Elaine, you are in for an interesting evening. These days I find their antics funny. Hey, if they want to waste their time by disbelieving advice on how to become published who am I to complain. They’ve paid me a fee! However, it saddens me that arrogance stops a good writer from succeeding – sometimes they even influence a good student and they too give up on their writing. One such chap demanded to be in my novel class even though he had never really put pen to paper. Each week he had some grand idea for an earth shattering plot along with an excuse as to why he’d not written a word. Come read back night and he would spew forth his advice to fellow students on where they were going wrong. Fortunately no one listened, he was not allowed to hog the limelight and he soon faded away.


Every writer’s dream is to see their book at the London Book Fair.

Another lovely man (can you see a pattern here?) would not listen to me and insisted on heading to London to reclaim his tome when an agent had held onto it for one month. However much I explained about waiting a while longer –especially as the agent had requested sight of the full novel – he was adamant that one month was long enough. The agent later told me that she had tried her utmost to speak to him and explain she was already reading the book and loved what she’d seen but this man took his heap of paper and headed for home. To my knowledge he was never published.

Being professional is also about presenting work in a reasonable way, regardless of whether it is sent by email or post. A polite letter, clean paper and a front sheet set out neatly will mean the work is a pleasure to read. I’ve worked at administrating writing competitions and believe me, many well published writers cannot layout a front sheet. It’s no different to writing a letter – perhaps they haven’t written many of those either?

Moving on to the publishers themselves. The least I expect from them is an acknowledgement of my work and within a decent length of time. I know of short story magazines where the editor continually allows submissions to be held for over one year and only then rejecting in vast numbers. Another publication, overseas this time, does not reject but simply lets submissions fall off the cliff at the end of six months and suggests we resubmit. I’m not a lemming and I will not be following other writers over that steep cliff. Magazine publishers need to realise that writers submit because it is their job, they need to pay the mortgage or eat sometimes!

My final word is for the unprofessional ebook publisher who is incapable of responding to a submission after raving how my book was perfect for the new ebook section of the mega company she works for. The woman gushed and raved and insisted that I send the book to her. One year on (and counting) since that industry one2one she has yet to reply – even with a rejection. She also ignored my polite enquiries, as did her assistant when she was made aware that I, and many fellow authors, had been ignored. Perhaps if I was unprofessional I would name and shame. Catch me on a bad day and you may just know the name of this publisher…


If at first you don’t succeed…


Elaine Roberts shares her experience of the publishing world.

I have been submitting short stories for approximately eighteen months. After several rejections, I finally received an e-mail asking to buy one. I was at home on my own, I couldn’t believe a magazine would want to buy something I had written. I danced around my front room, phone in hand, stopping intermittently to re-read the e-mail, I was convinced I had read it wrong, or worse, they had sent it to the wrong person. That was about ten stories ago, but I still get a thrill when I receive an acceptance and I don’t dwell on the rejections.

The success with my short stories has added to my already existing appetite to succeed in my novel writing. It has taught me to write tighter and sharper, because it’s all about the word count.

Since joining the Write Place, I have been lucky to receive guidance and encouragement to attend the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) Conference, where there are opportunities to have one to ones with agents, publishers and editors. The first type of these events was the Curtis Brown Discovery Day, where I had a chance to do a thirty second pitch and hand over the first page of my novel for feedback. I have to say, up to that point, it was probably one of the scariest things I have ever done. It was with shaking hands and a pounding heart that I stepped forward to take my seat opposite the agent, yes, it was very nerve wracking. To say I was stunned when the agent asked me to send in my first three chapters is a massive understatement. However, it did get rejected, but when I read it again I could understand why.

It is important to say, in my limited experience, that everyone I have met or corresponded with, has come across as keen to advise and point me in the right direction. I do believe they want you to succeed and I’ve been fortunate to always receive good feedback about my work.

At my first RNA Conference last year, it soon became clear that the digital age has assisted new authors in becoming published. Yes, authors would like to see their book in a major bookstore, me included, when I get published. However, in the past, most major publishing companies only took on a couple of new traditionally published authors a year, against an average of half a dozen a month now being published digitally. Therefore, while we want to see our names gracing our bookshelves, there is more opportunity for new talent to be discovered. Yes, I’m aware I could digitally publish myself, but personally, going through a respected publishing company is confirming my writing is at an acceptable standard, and that is what I’m striving for. My confidence is rising everyday; it’s just a matter of time before I finally become published. It’s all about perseverance.

The modern world dictates that we use social media to market ourselves and our creations, which is something I fought against for a while, but my fellow blogger, Elaine Everest, kept telling me I had to embrace it and I hate to admit, especially on such a public forum, she was right, but please don’t tell her I said so.