Yesterday I attended part of the Hexham Book Festival. A panel talked about how to get published and writing in general. Taking part wereMark Stanton, agent (Jenny Brown Associates), Alison Baverstock, publisher, writer and teacher of creative writing (Kingston University) Jo Dickinson, editor (Quercus).
MS wants a brief query letter, 3 chapters and a synopsis which he may read after he’s looked at the 3 chapters. He gets on average 10 submissions a day, every day, and may only read the first page before deciding he won’t go any further. He wants good writing he can sell, relies on his own judgement of good writing and storytelling that appealed to him. He thinks if he likes it, others will, too. (He once passed on Alexander McCall Smith’s Lady’s Detective Agency and tried to sell an author called Dennis Donnelly, but no publisher would accept the book.)
His method of working sounds fine – but when asked if he ever put forward something he considered good writing even though he didn’t personally like it, he said no. Challenged that this bordered on arrogance, he had no answer except that he was happy to work that way. The challenger agreed that it was his prerogative to do so. Rustlings around the room suggested his audience disagreed with the statement.
JD wanted commercial fiction and looked for good storytelling that gripped her.AB thought that these days e-publishing has empowered authors. They can chance work agents may not like on the market place and discover that the public likes it.
The UK is a couple of years behind the US, where publishers are discovering they must cater to the public’s requirements. Agents may lose out in this new world.
Editing is vital before any publication. Time is good, too; finish a story, put it away for three months before looking at it again. The distance enhances critical faculties, and results in a better book. In e-publishing, Amazon holds control and agents dislike and fear this. 10k sales via Kindle may interest a mainstream publisher, but if the book is selling copies in excess of 70k, why is a publisher needed unless the author wants the kudos of holding his book in his hand, or seeing it on Waterstones’ shelves. The other reason is that PR etc leaves little time for the self-published author to write. Having a publisher takes care of that side of things and leaves the author free to write.The panel agreed tht Authors get 25% of each book sale as opposed to 10% of a hardback sale, which I found debateable, for I know that Independent e-publishers sometimes offer more, and noone mentioned that Amazon Kindle promises 70% on books priced over $2.99.