Short of giving you a recipe that includes mixing petals from a rare mountain flower, a peregrine’s feather and three teardrops from a unicorn, there is no clear-cut answer to this question.
I’ve been asking published authors for years how they did it, but now that I’m on the other side of the fence, with people asking me how I got published, I realise why it’s such a difficult question to answer. There are just too many variables. I don’t think any two authors get published in exactly the same way and it would appear that we each have to set out on our own, private journey to get there.
For some, the trip may be short, the terrain relatively smooth and their belief unwavering. For the rest of us, it’s a circuitous route with many wrong turns, dead-ends, seemingly insurmountable obstacles and the voice of doubt constantly in our ears. Some authors find an agent first, others manage perfectly fine without. Some authors (including me) self-publish and then move on to be traditionally published and yet more authors make the same journey, only in reverse! Depending on the author and the genre, they might be better suited to an indie publisher, whilst other thrive with larger, more commercial publishers. Some have their very first manuscript accepted, even an incomplete draft (yes, we all despise those people!) and for lots of us, it takes quite a few go’s, and a couple dozen more go’s before we find our perfect match. Maybe it’s a bit like dating – some lucky buggers find love at first sight, but perhaps it’s all the sweeter when you’ve had to kiss lots of frogs along the way!
The one constant in all of this though, is the rule that we must all abide by; you must write a good book. I know that sounds trite and probably self-congratulatory, so let me put it this way – you must write the best book you can write. And then go back and do all you can to make it better. If you’re not willing to do that, then you’re not ready to be published. It’s as simple as that. Because even your best book will still have to be edited professionally, so don’t fool yourself into thinking they’ll spruce up your first draft and then you can all sit back and plait each other’s hair!
So, what practical advice can I give writers who want to sign a book deal? Network. I’m rubbish at networking in real life, but online, I spent years making connections within the writing community. It didn’t happen overnight, but over time I started ‘hanging out’ with like-minded people and was then in the perfect position to hear of agents seeking to represent, publishers seeking unsolicited manuscripts, competitions etc. So much of getting published is down to being in the right place at the right time, so become a part of the community. Author Sharon Thompson runs a group called #WritersWise on Twitter and that’s a really great place to start.
Keep your options open and be flexible. I didn’t set out to become a self-published author, but when the editors I approached kept sending rejection letters, I decided that the only way for me to get my work out there was to do it myself. It was the best thing for me because I learned so much about self-promotion and how the book world works. It also gave me an audience for my books and the motivation to keep writing. By the time it came to submitting The Story Collector (my third book), I was able to prove to a publisher that I wasn’t a one-book-wonder and actually had a lot to bring to the table, as regards experience and readers.
Look outside of Ireland. Again, I never thought I would sign with a publisher in the UK, but yet again, it’s the best thing that could have happened. My books will be stocked in shops like Foyles, WH Smith and Waterstones and I’m reaching a far greater audience than would have been the case if I had signed with a publisher here. Ireland is a very small country and it can be really difficult to find publishers that are willing to take a risk on a new author.
Keep writing. That’s the best advice I can give. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t always hit the bigtime with your first novel. It always pleases me when I see an author make it on their second or third novel, because it can take a while to build that kind of traction. The truth is, writing is a long, hard slog so you have to really love it to want to stick at it. So, unfortunately, there is no magic formula. Just write your best, keep trying to get better and hang out with people who do what you do. Then cross your fingers and keep an eye out for unicorns!
(c) Evie Gaughan
Evie Gaughan is the bestselling author of The Heirloom and The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris.
Living on the West Coast of Ireland, which is not renowned for its sunny climate, Evie escapes from the inclement weather into a converted attic to write stories and dream about underfloor heating. Growing up in a walled medieval city, she developed her love of storytelling and all things historical. Her books tread the intriguing line between the everyday and the otherworldly – but always with an Irish woman’s wit. With a taste for the magical in everyday life, her stories are full of ordinary characters with extraordinary tales to tell.
When not writing, she also works as an artist, creating stories on canvas.
About The Story Collector:
A beautiful and mysterious historical romance from the author of The Heirloom and The Mysterious Bakery on Rue de Paris.
Thornwood Village, 1910. Anna, a young farm girl, volunteers to help an intriguing American visitor, Harold Griffin-Krauss, translate ‘fairy stories’ from Irish to English.
But all is not as it seems and Anna soon finds herself at the heart of a mystery that threatens the future of her community and her very way of life…..
Captivated by the land of myth, folklore and superstition, Sarah Harper finds herself walking in the footsteps of Harold and Anna one hundred years later, unearthing dark secrets that both enchant and unnerve.
The Story Collector treads the intriguing line between the everyday and the otherworldly, the seen and the unseen. With a taste for the magical in everyday life, Evie Gaughan’s latest novel is full of ordinary characters with extraordinary tales to tell. Perfect for fans of Jess Kidd and Eowyn Ivey.
Order your copy online here.