The Many Routes to Publication by Elizabeth Dunne

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Elizabeth Dunne

Elizabeth Dunne

Elizabeth Dunne, author of the forthcoming mystery novel The Murderous Misses of Concord, describes her personal route to finding an agent and, ultimately, a publisher.

I can’t describe the feeling of elation knowing my debut mystery novel, will be published soon by a US publisher. Although I’ve been writing for years, it was a Writing.ie event “Date with an Agent” back in 2016 which really sparked my fire. I didn’t make the cut, but Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin contacted me separately to provide the encouragement I needed. She liked my writing and advised me to keep going, pointing out correctly, that agents look for books based on a range of needs – their own list; the concept; the writing; the market. You have to be mindful of commercial trends but be original and do not take it personally if an agent won’t take your work on – it’s a subjective business. On hearing the good news, she reached out to ask me for details on the debut and the process, so far.

I took my craft seriously from Date with an Agent, refused to take rejection personally, and experimented with ideas. Securing a literary agent was a personal choice for me. You can self-publish, or you can approach publishers and agents directly where unsolicited submissions are accepted. Getting a literary agent, however, is almost as difficult as getting published. I can’t state enough how valuable the pitch contests on Twitter (X) are or for that matter, entering competitions. It exposes your work and ideas to a broad range of editors, agents, publishers and readers. It also gets you over the initial shock of receiving well-meaning negative or positive feedback.  I entered #pitmad and other pitch wars / parties on Twitter (X). Getting out there and networking as much as possible, is critical to success.

I found my agent, Cindy Bullard of Birch Literary on Savvy Authors in one of their pitch fests they post in different genres. You get one paragraph, much like a book blurb, to catch an agent’s attention, and for me it worked. You need a tightly drafted query letter, a clear hook, and ideally a one-page synopsis ready to go. Before that, your manuscript needs to be in the best possible shape you can get it.  I also used Manuscript Wish List  and #MSWL on Twitter as a useful resource for finding out what agents were actually looking for. Cold querying agencies doesn’t always work, as agents may not have updated their bio pages or wish lists in sufficient detail to know if you’re going to be successful, and of course, this all depends on whether you’re open to global reach or specific agents – for example UK and Ireland only. Another invaluable resource is Litopia Writers’ Colony and pop-up submissions hosted by literary agent Peter Cox with guests from the literary industry. I won this in July 2021 for a different submission, and it provided more insight into how well my work was received with the benefit of a public platform and industry experts. Litopia use a “genius room” of readers who provide real time responses to a submission – and a baptism of fire.

The Concord Mysteries featuring Louisa May Alcott as a sleuth, is a three-book series with US traditional print publishers, Level Best Books. The premise for The Murderous Misses of Concord, the first in the series, came while researching an idea for historical mystery based on true events. It quickly evolved into re-imagining one of my favourite writers. Louisa May Alcott wrote for commercial success – underpinning Little Women with an ironic permissive indulgence, and I personally found the woman herself more fascinating.

Louisa penned what might just be the first “stalker” novel, A Long Fatal Love Chase which I finally read this summer 2023. Under this pen name, A. M. Barnard, she wrote Love Chase and sensation stories dripping with revenge. She had a deliciously controversial, sinister side – one I couldn’t wait to explore when writing the novels.  Re-imagining an historical figure, especially one as iconic as Louisa meant giving her a living, breathing existence, outside of history and literature amid the context of the Civil War and lingering effect of the witch trials.

I sincerely hope she’d approve.

(c) Elizabeth Dunne

About The Murderous Misses of Concord:

Louisa May AlcottIn Concord, Louisa May Alcott farms pigs after success with Little Women, but as New England’s freezing winter approaches, death is on the horizon.

Concord’s Misses, armed with wit and elegance, money and secrets are present when Miss Emily Collier, dies at her 42nd birthday party. Louisa is embroiled in the intrique. They will lie to her, set traps and blackmail to avoid justice. And Louisa is now an outsider in what was once her home.

She’ll swallow her pride and join the community she no longer fears, worming her way into the dark secrets the Misses possess, to get to the truth.

To test her mettle, local Magistrate Captain Briers, a man compromised by lust for one of the Misses, enlists her to quietly bring order to the twisted loyalties, land feuds and underlying shame which fuels a seditious desire for revenge not seen in Middlesex County since the witch trials.

Due January 2024. For further information, see here.

About the author

I have always made up stories and filled them with colorful characters, sharing them with anyone and everyone who would listen. I write mystery and humorous fiction. One of my books “Single Assassin” won Litopia’s Pop-Up Submissions in July 2021. My Concord Mysteries Series is due to be published in January 2024. Born in New York, I’ve lived most of my life in Ireland and worked as a privacy lawyer for many years. I studied English Literature and Irish Folklore in University College Dublin providing me with a lifelong love for the written word and storytelling.
I’m represented by Cindy Bullard at Birch Literary.

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