America offers a massive English speaking market to Irish authors – Elloras Cave author Caroline McCall shares her experience of getting published in the USA with writing.ie, revealing her top tips for anyone wanting to make it across the pond.
If you have trailed around the writing seminars, or spent your Saturdays attending courses about how to get published, you’re probably feeling a little depressed right now. You’ve spent a year or more, writing and polishing your novel, but you have nothing to show for it except a growing pile of rejection slips. The publishing companies won’t look at your novel without an agent, and the agents are too busy taking care of the clients they already have. It seems that nobody wants to take on a newbie author.
In 2010, dismayed by the prospect of never being published, I decided to do what generations of Irishmen and women had done before me. I set my sights on the States. Two years later, I’ve just had my second novel published and I’m currently working on my third. This is how I did it.
Who are your favourite authors? Why do you like them? What is your favourite genre? Is it Romance, Thrillers, Adventure? Take a trip around the bookstores some Saturday afternoon, bring a notebook and pencil and identify what publishers specialise in the type of books that you read and write. If you are clueless about crime, or you got an F in history, steer clear of thrillers and historicals. Unless you plan to do a lot of research, your readers will spot your clunky mistakes a mile away.
Read the reviews and check out the discussion boards. You will be surprised by what turns up. Every day on websites, including Amazon, there are hungry readers seeking recommendations for novels with particular themes, stories and characters. This information is free. It’s up to you to find it and use it.
Kindle and other eReaders have taken the world by storm and for the first time ever, ebooks have outsold paper books. E-publishing is not the same as self-publishing. Most of the big traditional publishing houses are now releasing books in different formats. This growing trend means lots of opportunities for writers. The eNovella is alive and well and publishers are hungry for them. For a new writer, it’s a perfect way to showcase your talent and get your name out there.
You may have written your novel with an Irish or UK publisher in mind. It will almost certainly require tweaking before you submit to an American publisher. Put it through an American spell checker in Word and watch all those little red underlined words appearing. As Oscar Wilde once said – we are two countries divided by a common language. American spelling is different, the grammar may be slightly different, so it is vital that you do an ‘American’ read through of your novel. Watch out for common phrases and cultural differences – parking lot instead of car park, elevator instead of lift and don’t get me started on vests and pants!
My mother always said that Ireland was very small and she didn’t just mean size. You can hardly walk into a bar here without meeting someone who knows someone that you know. If an Irish agent or publisher gets a bad reputation, you can be sure that everyone will hear about it. So it makes sense that you do your homework before you send your manuscript to another country.
Who are the editors in the publishing house you are submitting to? Check out their websites and blogs. Check the Preditors and Editors website for the latest literary villains. Steer clear of anyone who looks for money from you to publish your masterpiece. Watch out for publishers who offer ‘marketing courses’ to help you promote your book. Remember that the money should only flow in one direction – into your pocket.
Most publishing companies will have a link on their website to their submission guidelines. Print the guidelines and make sure that what you submit is exactly what they are looking for. I cannot stress this enough. Publishers and editors are very busy people. The receive thousands of submissions each year. On average, only four per cent of unsolicited submissions make it out of the slush pile and on to the bookshelves or eBookshelves.
You do not want your novel to be rejected because you didn’t adhere to their guidelines. It can take three or four months to get a response from a publisher, so don’t be afraid to submit to several places at once. If you do get an acceptance, be nice, and let the other companies know that your book is no longer available.
Cry. Pet the cat. Go out with your friends. Rejection is part of a writer’s life – get used to it. If you are lucky, the rejection may contain some useful criticism which can help you improve your novel. If an editor takes the time to do this for you, don’t forget to send them a thank you. If it’s a form rejection, put it in the pile with the rest.
You might think that all this research looks like a lot of work. You’re probably telling yourself that you don’t have time. The reality is, that you don’t have time not to. You wouldn’t dream of setting up a factory and producing something that no one wants to buy, so why would you write something that no one wants to read? Bear that in mind the next time you switch on your laptop.
Best of luck, I hope to see you on the bookshelves.