My earliest memory is sitting on my father’s knee listening to him read me bedtime stories. Dad was an avid reader, mostly crime fiction, true crime and westerns, but he read everything.
As I grew older, I started collecting articles of interest and writing down words or phrases that resonated or conjured up ideas in my mind. Years later, some of them became foundation stones for two completed novels (that’ll never see the light of day!).
Fast-forward to 2012. By the year end, I’d written my third book, Hiding in Plain Sight, a 100,000-word manuscript, read and reviewed by friends and ready to publish, but just to be sure, I enrolled in an eight-week writing course titled ‘The Second Draft,’ run by the Irish Writers’ Centre with author Mia Gallagher as tutor. This was the first time my work was critiqued by a peer group and the expected confirmation didn’t materialise. Mia’s feedback, plus comments from the other writers showed me I’d still a lot to learn. Mia became my mentor. She pulled the story apart and taught me how to build it back up again, scene by scene. (That last sentence, 18 words, reads very blasé, but it summarises four years of painstaking work).
I thought each new draft was the finished product and I began submitting to literary agents. A handful commended me on the characters but didn’t ask to read the full script. Most didn’t reply. (Within the publishing industry no reply means “I’m not interested).”
I re-wrote and edited some more. Any extra time, I attended writing courses or literary festivals. In 2015, I enrolled in Maynooth University’s Creative Writing curriculum, under the tutelage of John McKenna, Shauna Gilligan and Orla Murphy. Apart from crafting my short story skills – which had lain dormant for years – I used this time to edit my novel again, working on feedback from an inspirational group of writers and teachers.
Other shorter writing courses followed. An eight-week programme with author Louise Phillips, http://www.louise-phillips.com/ a six-week Edit and Pitch your Novel online course with Curtis Brown. One day tutorials covering synopses and cover letters, and the excellent Getting Published Workshop course run by Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin (aka Sam Blake https://www.samblakebooks.com/). Each completed module stretched and increased my knowledge, offering new perspectives on my work-in-progress and the industry as a whole.
In another class, the facilitator, a respected publisher, suggested I self-publish, as it could be a way to get noticed by an agent. Until now, I’d never considered this option as I’d my heart set on traditional publishing.
In 2017, the manuscript was long-listed in a U.K. novel competition. An Irish editor requested the whole script and liked it enough to pass it onto her submissions department. It didn’t get any further. I got shortlisted in a Novel Pitch Competition with another U.K. literary agent and met with him. He decided it wasn’t what he wanted. I continued sending out my work and in 2018 another agency requested the full copy. Their reply? Another positive “no.”
Rejection is a bitter pill that makes staying motivated much harder, but you’ve got to believe in yourself and your work. Writing is subjective. One person’s dismissal is someone else’s masterpiece. Eoghan Egan
I took a break from Hiding in Plain Sight, started work on the sequel, and also began writing short stories again. One was shortlisted for The Bridport Short Story Prize in 2018, and another for the 2019 Listowel’s Bryan McMahon Short Story Award Competition.
Back for another round of redrafting and editing on my work-in-progress, and during March 2019, it won Litopia’s https://litopia.com/ prestigious Pop-Up Submission.
As I learned more about publishing, I realised that while agents are a superb addition, it’s a myth that they do everything for their authors. Yes, they negotiate with publishers who have the clout to execute a lot of the heavy lifting with regard marketing muscle and distribution before, during and immediately after a book launch, but writers have to promote themselves – now more than ever. When the launch euphoria dies down, they must keep the momentum going by becoming their own agent, publisher and marketeer, while simultaneously growing their writer platform… and deliver the next book on deadline.
Self-publishing gives writers creative control, but requires several extra skill sets. The options are:
- Do everything yourself.
- Continue writing and project manage the operation by delegating social media, book cover design, copy editor, formatter, audio narrator, advertising, publicity and promotional activity.
- A mixture of A & B. It’s an exceptional person who has a flair for every phase of the procedure, so C is the preference for most indie authors. Each writer has to do the best they can with their own talents, and then buy in the services of professionals to cover the rest. Today, freelancers can deliver any piece of the process writers aren’t comfortable doing.
- Another alternative is hybrid publishing – also called “author-assisted,” “partnership” or “co-publishing. This model allows writers to find high quality publishing services within one company. In some cases the publisher will carry a portion of the financial burden for editing, printing or marketing, since both author and publisher will share in profits from the book sales. That’s what differentiates this standard from vanity presses.
To anyone who wants to fulfil their dream of writing or publishing their work in 2020, here’s my advice:
- Think about the story you want to write. Plan out the location and add shape to characters. Don’t feel you need to know everything. You’ll learn on the fly. If you wait around to figure out every detail, you’ll never progress. Start writing.
- Write every day. I repeat: Write. Every. Day.
Success rarely occurs from what you do occasionally; it comes from what you do consistently. Eoghan Egan
- Develop your social media base.
- Write your novel and at the same time attend some literary courses. The Irish Writers’ Centre https://irishwriterscentre.ie/ is an amazing resource that runs a plethora of programmes, but most towns have book clubs and writing groups. Ask your peers to read and critique your work – you’ll never improve if you don’t benchmark yourself against other writers. Listen to their feedback, but remember, they’re telling you how they write and what works for them, so use their advice (and mine) as a foundation to build your own style.
- When your manuscript is ready, submit to agents or self-publish. Acquiring a literary agent is most writer’s favoured route to market, but even if you decide to self-publish, I’d recommend submitting to agents. Any feedback you get will improve your manuscript.
So, from concept to final edit took me seven years of writing, redrafting, deletions, rejections, revisions, attending literary festivals and learning from writing courses, getting feedback from beta readers, followed by other rounds of editing. There are no short-cuts. It’s like climbing a mountain covered in mist; the way forward is obscure, yet every step takes you closer to the summit. Then, you reach the top and the fog clears … that’s when you see the struggle has been worthwhile.
To date, this self-publication journey has been – and continues to be – scary, at times overwhelming, but ultimately rewarding. And just when I think I’m getting a handle on things, along comes a new batch of processes to manage: QR codes, trim sizes, bleed lines, digital rights management, copyright registration, eBook formatting… Isn’t life great? There’s still so much to learn.
Happy New Year everyone. May 2020 be the year all your literary dreams come true.
(c) Eoghan Egan
For more on Eoghan’s writing journey visit his blog at: www.eoghanegan.com
About Hiding in Plain Sight:
A successful businessman has found the perfect recipe for getting away with murder. No bodies, no evidence. No evidence, no suspect.
High art and low morals collide when graduate Sharona Waters discovers a multimillion euro art scam in play. She delves in, unwittingly putting herself on a direct trajectory with danger as the killer accelerates his murder spree.
When Sharona gets drawn into the killer’s orbit, she peels away his public persona and exposes the psychopath underneath. Suddenly, the small town has no hiding place…
Hiding In Plain Sight is the riveting debut thriller by Eoghan Egan.
Order your copy on line here.