The Journey – Part 1. Research for Novelists with a newly completed book, what to do next?

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So,  let me begin by saying a few things… Firstly, I want you to ask yourself which part, from starting your book, to becoming (hopefully) a published author; do you think is, or will be (depending on what stage you are at) the hardest?

Well that’s easy, actually writing the novel duh… what could possibly be harder?

The simple answer to that? Everything. Shit, if I had realised that just writing the book was the easy part, I… No lets not lie, I probably would have still written it regardless. But still, there’s so many things that you don’t think about whilst your fingers slap those keyboard keys like Chris Brown on Rhianna’s face. typing-on-keyboard-widescreen-2-hd-wallpapersWhoops, I mean… oh no wait that is what I meant.

What are you on about? whats Rhianna’s face got to do with anything?

Never mind… Anyway, what im talking about is the doubt, the rewriting, the rewriting again, then the rewriting again… It never seems to stop. You think you’re finished? WRONG. If this is your first book, and I mean first serious book, none of that “Da burd flewd ova to da snek and da snek et him in one byte!” kiddy crap that you’ve no doubt written some years ago, which when you look back on makes your face literally fold in on itself with an omega-cringe at the thought of anyone else ever discovering you wrote such nonsense, then you’re without a doubt going to get these feelings.

I uh… no.. I never, I mean… It wasn’t THAT bad? Mum said she loved it anyway.

Oh yeah? well your mum also tells you that you’re handsome, momma’s special little boy; therefore it’s obvious she’s somewhat of a professional liar, I mean special yeah; but not in the way she meant it. So back on topic, firstly, the first thing you notice is that whilst you wrote and as your story progressed, so did your skill at writing. For example, by the time I finished my book; every chapter I finished towards the end I was proud of, it left me happy in the knowledge that I’m a literary genius and you’re all mongrels. Did I mention im super super modest? yeah I did. But then, upon completion, I started reading my book from the beginning, of course as you do… this is when the problems started. home office desk background, Desk musicians, hand holding pencilWhere my writing had developed so vastly, the beginning of the book seemed so… primitive, as if an ape (Or the songwriter for Drake’s tracks) had temporarily taken control of my mind to scrawl a bunch of unintelligible scribbles down onto the page before me. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on myself, it was nowhere near as bad as a Drake song, but written by an ape? potentially.

So what did you do?

Really? At least my primate possession wore off, what’s your excuse? I re-wrote it of course. But, unfortunately my problems were just beginning. On a serious (and again modest) note, even in its primitive stage it was still brilliant, but it could be better… so as I said, I begin to rewrite; wording changed, descriptive words added and removed etc. But as  I proof read it back to myself, I realised what I had done had changed the entire tone of what was already there, my “voice” as such, had been destroyed… I had overcompensated for what it lacked, now I was left with a page with too many descriptive words, not enough things for a reader to relate to and something that was probably worse than it was before. If you take just one thing away from this, please let it be this: Make sure you don’t over edit!

It’s such a fine line between editing and over-editing that sometimes its impossible to tell if you’ve crossed it, the only way for me; was once I had finished editing was to take a break, or a kitkat as they say; really distance myself from those accursed pages for a substantial amount of time, before I once again returned and reread what had been written.

Then the second minor issue I faced, and by minor I mean hugely overwhelmingly ridiculously gigantic; was the fact I had no idea, where the hell to begin, how to even start going about becoming a published author; even as I write this I still only have an extremely vague impression of what I need to do… I don’t really know what I expected to be honest, maybe upon the completion of my novel, the knowledge would just miraculously come to me, it would be easier than getting laid in a brothel and I’d become rich and famous overnight. Well it turned out that magic doesn’t exist and there were no hoe’s in the whorehouse. I was stumped. So, I did what any modern-day genius does in this situation… and typed a load of shit into google the all-knowing.

From here, if you know your shit then this is all going to be fairly obvious to you, but this is aimed at the clueless (Like me), so bear with it.

Right, so what I discovered was that , as previously mentioned in the “first steps” post, was that if you planned on becoming published without self-publishing, there were two ways to go about it…

  • Self submission. Kind of obvious this one, as the descriptions in the name… if you can’t work that one out, you probably shouldn’t bother anyway, as it takes at least a  moderate IQ to write a book worth reading… But I suppose I’ll humour you. A self submission is where you submit your manuscript… believe it or not, yourself. This then gets chucked into what’s known as the “Slush” pile.Office Worker with Mountain of PaperworkThe Slush pile is the mountain of self submitted manuscripts that the publisher has received, a monstrosity. So as you can imagine, it is incredibly hard to get a book deal from this technique, although I must admit, not impossible… Most of the submissions don’t even get read, but as I said, you may get lucky so go ahead, contribute to the growth of the monster if you want.
  • Literary agent. A literary agent is the equivalent of a… well an agent for an actor I suppose. except with one major difference. A literary agent does not get paid unless he finds a book deal for the manuscript he takes on, once he does he receives a cut of the total amount; therefore, this makes people in this profession extremely picky… which to be honest, you can’t really blame them for. So anyway, if you actually do manage to get one of these guys on board, you’re pretty much sorted; seen as they will no doubt know a hell of a lot more about this type of thing than you do, and if they say yes; then they have the belief that your book is something that will sell. (If there’s any literary agent’s reading this, Hi i’m Matt and my book is just as sexy as I am.)

Alright Mr full of himself, so how pray tell; how do I land one of these badboys?

It’s Fuller, but good attempt at spelling you little star, remind me to buy you a cookie some time. To land one of these “Badboys” as you so eloquently ask, really depends on two things. the first, and the most major seems to be your cover letter, from what I’ve researched so far.

My what?

C-O-V-E-R L-E-T-T-E-R. Shit, I don’t have time to spell everything out for you, just shut ya’mout and read. Fountain_pen_writing_(literacy)The cover letter, from what I’ve read; needs to be short, concise, formal but not impersonal, well written, spell-checked, contains a paragraph that sums up your entire book and to be pretty much perfect. Horrifying right? What’s worse, is that after reading multiple articles written by literary agents, it seems every single one of them have different requirements for what they look for, it all seems so incredibly daunting. for example, below is a link to a short, but incredibly helpful article written on the Scottish book trust website by Lucy Luck, the owner of her very own Literary agency.

http://scottishbooktrust.com/blog/writing/2015/07/from-the-agent-what-i-look-for-in-a-cover-letter#author-bio

Other places, if they have a website often list the requirements they look for in a submission, so always research who you’re sending your manuscript to beforehand. My personal advice, although It may not mean all that much as if you’re reading this because you’re at this stage, then im at the same stage as you; just with a little more research done, would be to research who acted as the agent for your favourite books. for example, as previously stated, one of my favourite trilogies of all time is the “Broken Empire” by Mark Lawrence, a quick google search showed that his agent was a man named Ian Drury, whom worked for a company called Shiel Land Associates, one of the top 5 literary agencies in the UK.

So from here I researched Shiel Land… what I discovered was disappointing in one aspect; the agents that work for them cannot be contacted directly, all submissions go through a generic mailbox and I suppose are then shared out internally (if picked up at all). But on the plus side, the Shiel Land website, very helpfully; has a list of requirements for all submissions (See below).

http://www.sheilland.com/book-submissions

So, ladies and gents; here I leave you as I prepare a submission for Shiel Land

on a side note before I sign off, Brian G. Turner of Sffchronicles.com actually scored an interview with Mr Drury himself  if anyone also fancies a read, the links below.

https://www.sffchronicles.com/threads/560227/

One more thing, please dont forget to subscribe if you found anything here helpful; I aim to update the blog with at least one review and one progession report with all research and info per week (provided there is anything to report on), so if you’re nearing the stage where you’re going to be seeking a publisher or a literary agent, this could potentially turn out to be a priceless resource for you. The subscription buttons are up at the top right and bottom of the page, any questions; feel free to ask!

As always, Thanks for reading!

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