June 7, 2010
The journey to becoming a published author can sometimes be quite daunting, no matter how good your writing skills. But there are resources out there to help you along your writing and publishing journey and here are just some of those I found helpful, not just in terms of advice, but also support. I believe there are two things a budding author needs to succeed – apart from the ability to write well – and these are: the discipline to write and re-write until the novel is the very best it can be, and someone who believes in you and encourages you. I am afraid I can’t help with the last two, but I can suggest some helpful resources and tips …
Sydney Writers’ Centre
The Writers’ Studio
Varuna The Writers’ House
The Australian Writer’s Marketplace
Australian Society of Authors
Sisters in Crime
International Thriller Authors
Some tips on preparing your novel for publication
Writing the novel:
- Takes hard work, discipline and time.
- Try to have a writing routine – Alexander McCall Smith and Stephen King believe in writing every day without fail
- Read your genre and learn from the masters of your genre
- Don’t write novels to make money – initially, you don’t. Most Australian authors have a second job
- Get yourself an editor. But, make sure they know the rules of your genre
- Join professional organisations that can help you. For example, The Australian Society of Authors, NSW Writers’ Centre
- Be part of a writers group – for feedback and support
Some questions you should ask yourself before you go down the publishing path:
- Is my manuscript the best it can be?
- Does my opening sentence / paragraph / chapter hook the reader?
- Is my story climax satisfying / rewarding?
- Am I prepared for rejection?
- What is my elevator pitch?
To whom should you send your submission?
- Check the Australian Writers’ Marketplace
- Don’t waste your time and their time by submitting your work to agents or publishers who don’t cater for your genre
- Follow their submission guidelines
- Don’t pester or rely on gimmicks, but do follow up if you don’t hear within the time stated by the manuscript recipient
- I would advise you pitch to an agent, rather than a publisher, but other authors may advise differently.
How to write a pitch letter:
- Keep it short and double check spelling, correct names etc. This is a demonstration of your writing skills, so make it powerful.
- Think about who will be reading it and what they might be looking for
- Read the book reviews sections of papers so you learn about publishers
- Define your genre, who you compete with in book stores, and what makes your book different
- Know who will buy your book
- What qualifies you to write this book – does your background give you credibility?
- Have a short bio, highlighting things that demonstrate your writing skills and knowledge of your subject
- Write you back of book blurb – this sells the story. It will help you focus on the crux of your story, and your publisher may ask you for it later.
What I have found agents / publishers are looking for in thrillers:
- Something that excites, captivates and emotionally engages
- Something they think will sell
- Longevity – have you already written your second book or do you have a synopsis for it? Are you more than a one book wonder?
- Is the timing right? Is your story topical? Is an agent looking for a new thriller author to add to his / her list?
- Are you personally marketable?
Learning from the masters
If, like me, you are writing thrillers, then there is nothing better than to learn your craft from the masters themselves. Here are a few of my favourite thriller / crime authors:
John Le Carre
Robert Ludlum (sadly no longer with us)