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Monday, 14 May 2018

Your first moments as a writer, probably mermaid-free.

Now that you are about to become a fully fledged author (or are thinking about it, or even if you aren't you are reading this, so you must be mildly interested), you may think that signing that first contract for publication will be the high point of your career.

Well, it might. But, on the other hand, it is almost certain that the contract will arrive by email, you will have to print it out and then sign and post it back. It will not - contrary to what you may imagine -  be hand delivered by mermaids on unicorns. Actually, a mermaid probably wouldn't be able to ride a unicorn, when you think about it, she'd just keep sliding off. Even sidesaddle wouldn't help, because you have to sort of cock one leg over the top of the other, and a mermaid hasn't got any legs to cock.
I think we can all see that this isn't going to work, can't we?
So, whilst it might be a nice idea that just results in a faceful of pavement for your mermaid and a unicorn galloping unrestrained around your local streets, you are probably not going to have this problem.

Almost positively, the day your contract comes by email will be the day the dog swallows a pair of tights, a child comes down with an illness you are sure is chicken pox, there will be Marmite all over the kitchen and a strange smell behind the fridge. You won't have seen the cat for three days, the TV remote will have vanished and there will be a letter from the bank that has a tint of red around the edges.

You will print out the contract with one hand whilst on the phone to the vet with the other. With your third hand you will take the temperature of the ill child. When you finally sign and return the contract, you will be so distracted that it will hardly even register. And your pen will probably run out half way through, so part of your signature will be done in green pen, because it will be the only one you can find that works, but will make you look as though you forgot your own name part way through.
You will have had a lovely pen all ready for this momentous..errr...moment, but you'll forget all about it when the time comes. You'll probably be so distracted that you will post the contract back without a stamp.

Don't worry. The rest of your writing career will consist of moments like this all joined together, so you might as well start as you mean to go on.

Monday, 7 May 2018

The publishing equivalent of Those Men on Facebook

It's a Bank Holiday Monday, the sun is shining and I can't wait to get outside and run for a few miles..., sorry, I can't even type it with a straight face. It is a Bank Holiday Monday, and one on which I am not at work, but far from being consumed with a desire to go for a run, I'm sitting indoors, in my pyjamas, wondering whether I can legitimately start eating chocolate at not-quite-ten in the morning. I will go for a run later but...yes, later...

So, here I am to talk to you about the next stage in your writing journey. I'm calling it 'When To Say No', but it's not some long tale about Dubious Consent (which is a whole other topic in the romance writing fraternity, regarding sexual consent - yes, cream cakes are nice, but you don't necessarily want to have one forced down your throat when you are trying to watch NCIS, and associated imagery), it's about not jumping on the first publishing offer that is sent your way.

I KNOW that when you get that e-mail (or letter, if you are old-school), your first instinct is to punch the air and leap about all demented yelling "Somebody wants to publish me!!" Of course it is! You've worked long and hard to get here! All those biscuits! All that sobbing over the keyboard while the cat stares at you!
But, just sometimes, The Offer is not all it appears to be.

You know those men on Facebook? The ones that want to Friend you, and have a picture that makes them look like a cross between Keanu Reeves and Mark Harmon (go and Google them both, if you must, quite frankly I despair of you!) in a uniform? Well, there's a publishing equivalent.

If a publisher emails you (or, as previously mentioned and old-school, writes you a letter), and it goes along the lines of 'hello lovely Lady, you have such a pretty smile I can't help myself but write to you and want to be your friend,' BEWARE.

Although the letter will more likely go 'Dear 'AUTHOR' (sometimes they will spell your name wrongly, but this is merely a courtesy detail).

'We, here at Boggin Books, have read your submission' (which will carefully not be named here) 'and are delighted to say that we would love to publish it.'

This is the point at which you whoop, punch the air and, usually, stop reading. Sometimes you break out the gin or champagne. Someone loves your book! They want to publish it! You have practically made your first million, and you start planning your poster campaign and what you will wear to your first book launch party.

But hold hard.

Dubious people out there know how desperate authors are to be published. They will leap on your hope. Beware of ANY letter (or email) from a publisher that doesn't mention your novel by name, and also doesn't mention any kind of contract, because the follow up letter to the one I mention above, once you have confirmed your interest, will often go...


We are delighted you have expressed an interest in using Boggin Publishing Services. We would ask for a small contribution towards the cost of publishing YOUR TITLE HERE, in order to maximise your reach.'

or some such.

AUTHORS NEVER PAY TO PUBLISH. Except self- published authors, of course, and they know that they are self-publishing. Don't EVER get duped into paying any money to produce your book, not for 'cover design rights' or 'for a top notch editor to work with you' or 'to have your book listed on Amazon'. Publishers, proper publishers, pay these costs for their authors. It's why they get first grabs at the money and your royalties are what's left - because they've taken the risk of publishing your book and put money into it.
I know, but it's fair when you think about it. So, if you get an offer that you think might be too good to be true...

think of those widowed single dads in the US military who inexplicably want to be your friend.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Those three little words...

So you've submitted your first three chapters, and you've heard those magic three words for the first time..

No, not 'I love you'. It would be odd to be hearing someone say I love you in response to submitting your novel, unless you have submitted it to your Significant Other, which would be, largely, pointless unless you are dating the head of Random Penguin or whatever they call themselves today. Plus, if you are dating the head of a random penguin, your problems may well be further reaching than I can deal with in this blog.

The three words to which I refer are 'Send. More. Please.' There is a caveat about making sure that these words refer to your words, and not, say sandwiches or cake or biscuits - it's always wise to double check, but in the event that you've heard a publisher or agent say them, and you have therefore Sent. More. Words (those words being further words of your novel, not just stray words you happened to have lying around the place), now you need to fill your time until you hear back about the satisfactory nature of those words.

This can be a hard time. You will obsess. You will have the e mail button open on your laptop at all times, and every time a new mail pings in you will open it with your heart thumping. Unless you are expecting your credit card statement, of course, in which case you will close down all means of communication and probably move to the moon. You will make bargains with Fate, wandering around muttering 'if they promise to buy the book I will never again eat four Walnut Whips in succession' and suchlike. Usually with at least one Walnut Whip in your hand.
Unless, as previously stated, you are talking to a random penguin head.
You will read books published by the publisher (or represented by the agent) and try to work out whether your work is in any way comparable. You will also eat a lot of chocolate and sleep standing up.

What you should be doing:
 Apart from pledging yourself to diet off those biscuits and chocolate at the first opportunity, this is what you should do: Get Yourself On Social Media. If you haven't already got one, get a Facebook profile, get on Twitter and make yourself a blog. (What? You didn't think I was doing this for FUN did you?). Because the first thing that publisher or agent will do, on receiving your treasured manuscript is Google you. And it's all very well keeping a low profile and being all mysterious and unavailable and everything, particularly if you have either recently robbed a bank or have more injunctions taken out against you by a certain Sir Tony Robinson, but what a publisher or agent wants is someone who knows how to sell themselves.

I tried to sell myself to Sir Tony, but he returned me with the receipt and asked for his money back. I was, apparently 'not fit for purpose'. Sigh.