Lessons Learned on the Path to Publication by Kieran Crowley
I had the lucky experience of being published first time out. The opening chapters of my debut middle-grade novel were the first three I ever sent to a publisher and they were accepted immediately, which surprised and worried me. It surprised me because I hadn’t expected to hear back from them so quickly and it worried me because I hadn’t told the publishers that the other thirty chapters had yet to be written.
Lesson – Write the book before sending it to publishers.
I did write the rest of the book, quite speedily, in what I’d like to think was an on-the-fly Jack Kerouac style with an added touch of California cool, but was in actual fact just a quite stressed North Cork man staying up late into the night with an occasionally malfunctioning Windows Vista computer and a stockpile of Yorkie bars.
Luckily, it worked out and the book was fairly well received and garnered a few fans. I’d learned from my mistakes. I wasn’t going to rush through a book again. Which is how I ended up taking too long to write the sequel. The fans of the first book had become teenagers and moved on to Stephen King and Call of Duty: Black Ops by the time the sequel had come out. I should have known better. I wasn’t The Stone Roses – the world wasn’t going to wait for me like it had waited for their second album.
Lesson – Waiting too long to write a book isn’t always a good idea either.
I buckled down and wrote another book about two children lost in the Canadian wilderness. Not too quickly, not too slowly either. I was the Goldilocks of middle grade – it was just right. The moment I’d finished it, I resisted the urge to send it out and instead began a new book, a supernatural adventure story. I finished that and went back and rewrote Canada until it was as good as I could make it. I submitted it to my publishers. They didn’t like it even though I thought it was my best work. I sent it to other publishers. They didn’t like it either, so I submitted Supernatural. No luck. I sent the books to literary agents – all at once, not one at a time – and spent months checking my email inbox for their replies. Or would they ring me rather than email? Surely, if it was good news they’d ring? Finally, I got a reply, by email, and some encouragement. It was slow process, but in the end I got plucked from the slushpile and signed with a literary agency.
Lesson (not a lesson, an observation) – I don’t understand anything about the publishing world.
My agent liked the two new books, but didn’t think they were quite right for the market. Yes, I’d learned a lot from working on them and it made me a better writer and nothing is wasted and so on and so on … but still, it was two books. Two books that I’d spent ages on! Gone, just like that.
She told me to write the story I’d always wanted to write. She was encouraging and supportive and I got swept away on a wave of enthusiasm. I’d always wanted to write a book about soccer/football, not about the Premier League and all the glory, but the joyous side of football : friendship, exhilaration, bickering and playing on a terrible pitch on a summer’s evening. I was straying into jumpers-for-goalposts territory, but I didn’t care. I spent a lot of time writing it. And rewriting it. A lot of time.
For a while, the book became the most important thing in my life. For those of you who’ve seen it on the shelves The Mighty Dynamo may look like your average soccer book for children, but to me it’s far more than that. I put everything into it – my thoughts on friendship, fitting in, diversity, feminism, teamwork, on not giving up, on my philosophy of life. My agent sold it to Macmillan and I got a two book contract.
Lesson – All that stuff they teach you about putting your heart and soul into something might actually have a grain of truth to it after all.
By the time it came around to writing my latest book, I knew what I wanted to write – an adventure story about a group of kids who spend their time trying to solve mysteries. And they have their own clubhouse. That sounds familiar, right? When I was younger, I loved Enid Blyton’s mystery stories. I wanted to be in The Secret Seven or The Famous Five. Or even Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Investigators. But my friends didn’t think being in a mystery-solving gang would be cool – they were wrong – so I didn’t get the chance. I decided to write about it instead, a modern, sarcastic version of what I like to believe would have been the kind of gang I’d have been in. That’s where The Misfits Club came from.
People say that you learn from your experiences and your mistakes, which is true, but sometimes I wish I’d learned from other people’s experiences and mistakes. It would have saved a lot of time. Other things I should have learned earlier are that writing a book is just the first step of the journey. The idea of a book I’d written being on shelf in a real shop was a magical and romantic thing for me, but getting it to remain there is a practical thing. Which means promoting yourself. As someone who grew up in the 70s and 80s, this was morally repugnant to me. Shameless self-promotion is both a sin (second only to murder, I believe) and just not Irish. Networking? Public speaking? Social media? All far from the delicious idea of sitting alone in a room writing stories, but it has to be done too. Because despite the struggles, the doubts and the seemingly endless wait to hear back from anyone, writing books is fantastic. And once you start, it’s very hard to stop.
(c) Kieran Crowley
About The Misfits Club:
When Brian, Hannah, and twins Chris and Sam start their summer holidays, they know it’s going to be the end of an era. The Misfits Club is disbanding and they still haven’t managed to solve any real mysteries. But when they persuade new club member, Amelia, to go and investigate a spooky old house, they unexpectedly discover some stolen goods. Could this be The Misfits’ chance for one last adventure as they try to track down the crooks behind the theft . . .?
A funny, warm-hearted mystery adventure from Kieran Crowley, author of The Mighty Dynamo.
Order your copy online here.
I’m from Mallow, Co. Cork and I’ve written four books for children (9 years +). The Mighty Dynamo was shortlisted for the Hull Children’s Book Award. The Misfits Club was published by Macmillan in Ireland & the UK in June 2017.