Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Submission Planning 2: Direct to Publishers.

As I have already mentioned, my preferred route to publication is through a Literary Agent, and this is the route I am currently actively pursuing. But I know that the agented route isn’t for everyone and so I’m going to talk about another option – submitting directly to publishers.

There are a few disadvantages to going this route.

Many larger publishers only take agented submissions

You’ll have to negotiate your own contract.

There will be nobody to fight your corner if things go wrong.

In short you will effectively be doing the role of an agent yourself. But if this is something you feel you can manage then it is a perfectly viable option. There are plenty of publishers out there, many of which may, at sometime or other, be willing to take a look at unagented submissions. So in order to help you to find yourself a publisher I’ve listed below a few possible opportunities to watch out for.

Small publishers who routinely take un-agented submissions
These vary considerably, some being better than others. Often they don’t offer advances and the royalties can differ. Also many may be e-publishers and only offer print runs if a certain threshold of sales are reached or use POD technology, in which case your books are unlikely to make it into bricks and mortar bookstores. My best advice here is to do your research. I’ve talked about some of the things you need to consider before signing in another post here.

Imprints of larger publishing houses
Some of the bigger publishers have imprints which are open to un-agented submissions. Very often these imprints are genre specific. Here is a useful list of some of them.

Open submission windows
Keep an eye out for publishers with open submission windows. They crop up from time to time. They do tend to get inundated but you never know. You could be just what they’re looking for.

Twitter pitch parties
These happen on a regular basis and it’s a good exercise anyway distilling your pitch down to the side of a tweet. However a word of caution – do check out any agents/editors that show an interest very thoroughly before submitting anything to them.

Make the effort to get out there and meet people, be it literary festivals or writers conferences. For example book a slot for a 1-2-1 with an editor at a literary festival. (Go into these to learn something rather than expecting a book deal, but that editor could prove to be a useful contact). You never know when you might meet someone who you can submit directly to further down the line.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Guest: David Pipe, author of Sacrificing Starlight

Today I would like to welcome David Pipe to The Scribbling Sea Serpent, to talk about how Cornwall inspired his debut novel, Sacrificing Starlight.

Sacrificing Starlight

Time’s running out for DCI Hunter. His wife and child are missing, perhaps even dead. Unable to pursue those responsible he has been transferred to the wild landscape of Cornwall where he must smash the local branch of an international paedophile ring. But can anyone in this remote location be trusted? 

Alice Trevelyan’s father has his own agenda and wants retribution for the loss of his child. When he hears that small children are being abused in a disused tin mine he metes out his own violent justice. 

As Hallowe’en approaches, will Trevelyan help or hinder? Hunter must make his move if he wants to save Starlight.

Over to you, David:

I’d always wanted to write. On a bike tour my last stop was a village where a folk festival was taking place. The tourist office found accommodation in an isolated farmhouse. In ten minutes the landlady told me her life story. She and her two children had been abused by her husband. The daughter was given up for adoption. At age 21 the son committed suicide, 25 years previously. I had a story.

I don't plot. I use the Stephen King method. Ask, what would happen if? Put a character on the page, watch what he does and write it down. So I asked, what would happen if my landlady used her B&B to trap young tourists and hold them prisoner, as substitutes for her beloved son. You don’t believe it works? Try it.

I had lived in Cornwall so I moved the story there; old monasteries, ruins on misty moors.

Danny Payne is doing a bike tour. I put him on the page and followed him. He led me to Sacrificing Starlight.

Sacrificing Starlight is a gritty thriller. It asks with whom we can trust our children. Who is protecting the predators and hindering the investigators? What would you do if your child had been ‘taken’ and you caught one of the perpetrators?

If you liked Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you’ll love Sacrificing Starlight.

This is my first book. Of all of the self-help books I read Robert McKee’s Story tells you all you need to know about structure and design and Rayne Hall’s The Word-Loss Diet turned my text into a manuscript.

Whatever you do don’t skimp on editing or the cover. My brilliant editor, Helen Baggott, turned my manuscript into a book and the amazing Jessica Bell designed the awesome cover.

I hope you enjoy Sacrificing Starlight.

Buy Sacrificing Starlight at Amazon(UK) or Amazon.com

David Pipe is an Essex man. He studied Chemistry at Hull University and after six years in the pharmaceutical industry in England and South Africa did a Ph.D at Imperial College. After postdocs in Geneva and Mulhouse he moved to the oil industry in Hamburg. In 2003 he set up a private consultancy and in 2008 gave it all up to scratch the writing itch which produced his first book, Sacrificing Starlight.

David keeps fit with swimming and Nordic Walking. When he’s not writing you’ll find him creating something delicious in the kitchen.

He lives in Hamburg with his wife and their Border terrier, Henry.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Multiple First Person Points of View

I’ve noticed that multiple first person POV narratives are becoming increasingly popular. Sometimes this can be really effective, skilfully executed by the author, and other times it can be confusing, the narratives merging together, all the characters sounding the same.

Why would this be? you wonder. Well I’ll tell you what I think. I reckon it’s all about Voice.

Finding your voice is something all writers have to do, but for a beginner this can all seem a bit puzzling. What exactly is 'voice' and how do you find it? Well the best way to find your voice is to write, and write, and to pour your soul into your words. And your voice will come to you.

Not being very helpful am I? Let me put this another way.

There are two types of Voice.

1. Your unique voice.

This is you, the way you write, the way you use words to get across your meaning. Every writer’s voice is distinct. It is unique and when you have ‘found your voice’ people will start to recognise your writing, simply because it is a reflection of you.

2. Your character’s voice.

Each character also has a voice and when you write and you immerse yourself into the head of your character and so you release that voice.

A good way to find your character’s voice is through role play. Pretend to be your character, walk like your character, talk like your character. Maybe put yourself, as your character, in the ‘hot seat’. I’ve done this in writing workshops that I’ve run and it is fascinating to see how people transform, they talk differently and sit differently as they get into character and the other group members quiz them.

So for each character’s POV the voice of that piece becomes a unique blend of your voice and your character’s voice.

It is the way the voices blend that determines whether a multiple first person narrative will work or not. If the author hasn’t developed the character’s voices enough the author’s voice will dominate and both POVs will feel the same. But develop the character’s voice and the POVs will feel distinct. The reader won’t be constantly checking back to see who is speaking. They’ll be in no doubt.

This, in my opinion, will determine whether a multiple first person narrative works or not.

What do you think?

Monday, 6 March 2017

Squally Seas

It was squally down at the beach today. 

One moment the sun broke through, lighting the shingle golden and turning the sea to jade, then the skies darkened and the rain swept in. 

We took shelter down by the shore and watched as the rain pocked the surface of the sea and the wind whipped the waves into spray. Out in the bay the ships looked as if they were floating on mist.

Then the rain passed, clouds dragging their burden out to sea and the sun lit up a rainbow, brilliant against the darkness of the sky.

Our world may have entered squally times - but there’s always a rainbow.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Review: DRIFTFISH (A Zoomorphic Anthology)

Zoomorphic is an online magazine dedicated to celebrating wildlife and nature through the written word and DRIFTFISH, their first anthology, has a particular focus on the marine environment. So it goes without saying that, as a marine scientist, I was instantly drawn to it.

The anthology itself is a beautiful creation. The cover art, three gannets plunging into a tranquil sea, says so much about the drama that hides beneath the surface waves and in a way is a metaphor complementing the contents of this gorgeous little book. For inside that cover, within these pages, are a collection of essays and poems that will transport you, wherever you are, back to the sea.

This isn’t a book to be read in one sitting but one to be taken in small chunks, each poem or essay pondered over and allowed to resonate. For resolute they do, each unique and powerful in the own right. It is a joy to discover so many authors who love the sea as much as I do.

I would be hard pushed to pick out any favourites from within these pages for all the content here is powerful and evocative but the opening essay, Standing on Stromatolites certainly appealed to my inner geologist and I found the Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals particularly poignant.

All in all this is a gorgeous book, a real gem to be treasured and I challenge even the most hardened of land lubbers not to feel moved by the spirit of the sea.

This is a book that would make a wonderful gift – although you might want to get yourself a copy as well because it’s something you’ll want to keep to immerse yourself in again and again. That is the joy of pieces like these. Each time you read them you take something new away from those words.

And now the sea is calling to me too.


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Library Love and PLR

Today was PLR statement day.

In case you’re not an author I’ll explain. PLR stands for Public Lending Rights. Authors receive a payment every time someone borrows their books from a public library. Currently this stands at 7.82 pence per loan and the number of loans is calculated from a representative sample of libraries.

This was my third PLR statement and there’s something lovely about seeing how many people have borrowed your books from their local library. My payments are modest but each year has shown a steady increase in the number of times my books have been loaned.

Libraries are a wonderful resource and often serve as a community hub. They do more than just lend books – they provide a quiet space for study, a venue for local groups to meet. Often they have a programme of talks and visits. So it always saddens me when I see reports in the news about libraries being closed.

So if you’re an author and you haven’t yet registered your books for PLR then I suggest you do so. You don’t want to miss out on the next round of payments!

And if you’re a reader then do support your local library. Borrowing a book will cost you nothing but each time you do you are helping to make an author a little bit happier.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Submission Planning 1: Agents

The time has come to start thinking about sending my latest project out into the world. It’s time to make my submission plan and think about the various routes to publication. There are so many options available to authors these days, but also so many pitfalls.

My preferred route is to find an agent to represent me. Agents are invaluable. They have the best contacts, know the right editors to submit to and will negotiate the best deal for you. So my first line of attack will be to submit to agents.

Of course this requires research, and I’ve found a few useful ways to track down agents to put on my submission list. Here are a few of them.

Agents who represent my favourite authors. Most authors will include this information on their websites, plus this has the advantage of giving you an easy way to personalise your submission letter.

Agents on twitter. Twitter is a really useful resource for this. Lots of agents tweet and it’s worth checking out their profile because they often state if they are building their lists or are looking for a particular genre.

Agents in the Bookseller. Keep an eye on the Bookseller for announcements about new agents or agencies. Agents move around a lot and a young hungry agent with a reputable agency who is actively building their list goes straight to the top of mine.

Recommendations – if you are acquainted with an author ask them who their agent is. They’ll be happy to tell you, especially if their agent is a good one.

Writers and Artists Handbook – really rather an obvious one but included for completeness.

Online listings – there are a number of these resources, such as agent hunter or query tracker but some do require a membership fee and the focus tends to be rather more US based. Still, they can be a good starting point.

But wherever you find your potential agents please please please check them out thoroughly before submitting. Here are a few things to check for.

Sales record: Is the agent a deal maker? You should be able to find information on recent deals either on their websites or in the Book Trade literarture. If they don’t have any deals under their belt then maybe they don’t have the right contacts and if so how are they going to sell your book?

Clients: Who are their clinets? Have you heard of them? Check out their books. Even ask them about their agents.

Experience. Be wary of the agent who pops up out of nowhere and who doesn’t provide any information of where they previously worked in the industry.

Fees. Never pay any fees to an agent at all! No reputable agent these days charges a reading fee.

Affiliation of professional organisations. For example in the UK check to see if they are a member of the Association of Author’s Agents. No necessarily a red flag but a good indicator.

Remember, a bad agent is worse than no agent and sadly there are scammers out there who would happily part you from your money. But if you’ve written a saleable book and you’ve done your research then you should be fine. I hope we all find the agent of our dreams.