I have signed with a publisher – Crooked Cat Books – so I thought I should give some insight into the process and what I did to get here, in the hope that it might help someone else along.
Everyone in the business offering advice to aspiring authors says that you should never give up. There are many tales of famous authors who have had tens or even hundreds of rejection letters before achieving success.
However, I took a slightly different approach. I did get lots of rejections. The real problem was that I was getting either no response or form letters. I think I had only one personalised rejection. So, after a period of getting a bit down about it, I decided that I needed to do something different.
To back up a bit, I’ve been writing for about 25 years without much success. But, just over five years ago I went on an Arvon course and learnt that writing was a skill that can be honed like any craft. I got stuck into reading books about plot and structure. I started to look at my earlier books as practice pieces. If you imagine writing is like, say, carpentry, then my earlier books were slightly wonky tables and chairs. No shame in learning that way, but if you keep making the same mistakes, well then, you’re not making progress at all.
So, I had this book that had a solid structure. The characters were well formed, had crises and showed development. As I couldn’t see what I was missing, I went to a professional literary consultant. I chose Cornerstones, but others are out there. They put me with an editor and I saw the flaws. For me, it was primarily point-of-view that needed tweaking.
Also, I never stopped thinking about the opening sentence and the ending. Those two bits I rewrote probably five or six times over the last year. Because it wasn’t getting picked up, I knew I had to keep changing things until it did.
As well as viewing writing as a craft, the other change I made was to view it as a business. I have a head full of ideas but I realised that as an unknown, first-time author I’d be asking a lot of an agent or publisher to take on a challenging cross-genre book. So, I decided to home in on one tightly defined genre – crime. It’s not that I’m not writing what my heart wants to write, it’s more that there’s now a negotiation between heart and head. I love puzzles and thinking beyond a normal plot to what happened next. So it was very natural for me to write the kind of “what happened twenty years ago” crime novel. While I love writing it, it was also a business decision.
Likewise, around the end of last year I was still getting nowhere with finding an agent. I had a professionally edited manuscript, well honed pitch letter, list of agents, everything together. So, I decided to go in a slightly different direction. Recognising that I was still a big risk, being unknown, I targeted digital-only and digital-first publishers. These have lower overheads so can take more risks.
So, after making all these changes, I was very quickly accepted by Crooked Cat. I have read some of their books and feel at home here.
My takeaway message then is to have persistence. But don’t have blind persistence, do it with knowledge and a clear head.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Good luck and thank you for reading!