I am now offering a critique and manuscript assessment service. For further details, please e mail me at

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Working with an editor. Or, not actively against one.

So, you've signed your contract, sent back the mermaid, and it's all gone quiet.

Make the most of it. Because soon it is going to get really REAL. Because the first thing your publisher is going to do is get an editor to go over your work.
How editors look while they are reading your book
Now, do you remember all those things I told you about dealing with rejection? Go and practice them. Because you are about to get something called an Editorial Report on your manuscript, and it will cause you to experience Going Full Tea Towel all over again. Also stock up on biscuits (it's hard to swear with a mouthful of HobNobs, at least, it isn't hard but nobody can tell what you are saying, so you get away with more), wine and clean pyjamas, because nothing much is going to get done for the foreseeable future, and as long as you have wine, HobNobs and clean pyjamas you are going to be fine. Or, maybe not fine, as such, but you will be fed, drunk and not smell, so that's all good.

Oddly enough, because the publishers have bought your book (remember, you signed the contract whilst extracting tights from the dog?) the first thing they want to do is change it. Okay, they aren't changing it because it's not good, or they had a quick whim that they wanted a book that was almost exactly like yours only completely different, but they are changing it because they think it will be better done a different way. Or with more characters. Or less. Or located in Dorset. Enid Blyton's 'Five Go To Smuggler's Top' was originally called 'Four Go To Hayling Island' before the editors got their hands on it, you know.
Except none of the editors knew where Hayling Island was, so it had to go...
 And you will look upon your editor's words, ye mighty author, and you will despair. Oh boy will you despair. This is where the swearing comes in, by the way. Because you will find yourself looking at lots of comments like 'I love this bit, but why does she say.........?' You remember writing that bit and laughing like a drain at your heroine's witty comeback, but you are now forced to realise that nobody else understands why it's witty. Just because the phrase 'no, you're a banana!' makes you roll around slapping your thigh and giggling, doesn't mean that anyone else is going to find it amusing. Remember - if you have to explain a joke, it isn't funny.

In essence, your editor is going to make you rework your book. It's going to be like doing the ironing. Hopefully it won't be more than smoothing out a few creases and getting the corners to lie flat, but it might be the literary equivalent of putting the pleats in a kilt and 101 Ways with a Lace Collar.
I've never ironed anything, but I understand this is a suitable analogy.
 Don't be afraid to stand up and tell your editor that you can't pleat that way because it will affect the way your sporran hangs later in the story, but do be guided by them when it comes to the book version of the Fitted Sheet. They know what works. Take their advice.

Oh, and don't turn your editing iron up too hot. Nobody wants a melted plot device.

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.