Dear writer, your book is written, your friends loved it, your mother loved it and she sobbed with pride. My mother, by the way, read my book – a paranormal horror story called Medium Wave – and she asked if there was something seriously wrong with me she found it so disturbing. You have fantasies about seeing your name at the top of the Sunday Times bestseller lists and imagine doing book signings where the queues stretch are out the door. My favourite fantasy is about seeing someone reading my book on a train and seeing a look of terror spread across their face as they get deeper into the story. However, my fellow writer, dream away. The hard work is only just beginning.
Two events stand out in my mind on the road to publication. I went into a bookstore just after I finished the final draft my novel, Medium Wave, and I stood and looked at the rows and rows of books and I remember thinking – all these authors have an agent and a publisher, all of them. I felt daunted, encouraged and not a little envious. I also took comfort from the words of JK Rowling who said she could ‘have papered a room with rejection slips’. I gathered myself together and the search began…
First up, you will need an imaginary carpet bag, call it a survival kit, stuffed with the following. Firstly, have a total belief in your novel. Then, a tin bucket to put over your head when you get rejected or, worse, completely ignored. You will need to resist the urge to throttle a literary agent when they do reply and have taken the time to tell you they just don’t have the energy and time to edit your work. Then bolster your patience and remember all this process takes time. I once got a rejection letter six months after I’d submitted the first three chapters. Six months! I had agreed publishing deal elsewhere by then. I did wonder if the powerful art of being a literary agent ran in a parallel universe.
You should do your homework. I bought the Writers and Artists Yearbook for the UK and USA and spent hours looking at agents who specialised in my genre, paranormal horror. Then you discover sub genres – paranormal romance, for example, which mine is not. I weeded out the sub genres from the main genres and looked at who else they were publishing. This took days. Some agents turn up at literary conventions – you can actually get to meet them – do it, if you think that will help. Follow them on Twitter, but do not stalk them. Get a feel of what they’re doing and which authors they take care of. Take advice from published authors in your genre – most do interviews or have YouTube channels. You can also look at literary agent interviews on line and read all about them. Do not give up hope. Follow their submission guidelines very carefully. Think of it as an exam where you have to follow their rules.
The best move I made was to get my book edited. I am a broadcaster and journalist by trade. The techniques of writing fiction – whatever your background – may well need polishing. I was given a useful tip by one big literary agent who suggested getting my novel professionally edited. He said he would look again when I did, and that it was ‘almost there’. I did resubmit after editing but never heard anything again, of course.
But, I found my editor, Lesley Jones from Perfect The Word (www.perfecttheword.co.uk) at The Society For Editors and Proof Readers (www.sfep.org.uk) by looking on line. Lesley had edited some very successful books in my genre. I rang her up to discuss it. She later told me – we are friends now – that no author ever calls, they email. I wanted to see if she could do the job for me – she could. When we had finished editing, it was my voice, but better and I learnt a great deal about ‘point of view’ and ‘show not tell’. Those two phrases will be very familiar to you if you are hearing from disinterested agents. This act of getting an editor got me a publishing deal. Just do it.
I submitted the first three chapters to Caffeine Nights, an independent publisher who specialise in horror and crime. They publish several best-selling authors in both genres. The day I got the email asking for the rest of Medium Wave, I danced around my kitchen – cautiously, as requesting the manuscript isn’t a prerequisite to publication. Then, the phone call to say they wanted to publish. Then a came a contract and now there’s a paperback book, an ebook and an audio book on the way. The day I heard the words ‘publish’ I think the entire Hallelujah Chorus was being sung by a heavenly choir from my rooftop. I can still hear it now.
So, plan, research, get an editor and hold the faith. This was a whole new world for me. Marketing a book once you get a deal is also incredibly time consuming. Do not discount self- publishing but be aware its more work than you ever thought possible.
Dear writer, as you look at your finished manuscript, imagine there’s a very high mountain in front of you still waiting to be climbed but don’t feel discouraged. I have heard of authors who quickly found the best agent, best publisher and topped the best seller lists like someone waved a magic wand, but not many. We write because we want to tell stories, create new worlds, to take our readers somewhere only we know. If you write longing for fame or money you may as well get your coat and leave now. Welcome to the world of hard commerce, marketing and sheer luck in the hope that someone, somewhere, will take a chance on you.
(c) Rose Zolock
Author photograph (c) Andrew Ramage
About Medium Wave:
`This thing has no defined shape. Whatever energy exists within it, it cannot settle on a shape. The strands of darkness curl out and then wrap back inwards. The bulk of the shadow becomes concave, then bulbous, the height building in on itself but lacking any skeletal structure to wrap itself around. There are no eyes, no clearly defined head shape. It is creating itself from darkness, like a swirl of ebony ink dropped into a vat of putrid water, spreading silently….’ Becky Moran has built a career claiming to talk to the dead. A successful clairvoyant medium, a Cambridge graduate with her own radio show `Medium Wave’ and a team dedicated to crafting the celebrity myth – because Becky Moran is a fake. Until, one night, something supernatural, inexplicable, breaks through live in air as she is broadcasting. Becky Moran discovers the paranormal is real, the dead can indeed speak and she is being pursued relentlessly towards a battle for her very survival.
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