Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Middle bit by Philippa

Writing the book was fun and the book launch exciting, but the middle bit was hard and knowing what to do with the 67,000 or so words I’d written was tricky. I knew I wanted family and friends to read them at the very least and had a sense I wanted to see and feel a physical book. I scoured the Writer’s Handbook 2011 for ideas on publishers and agents not really knowing what I needed, when along came the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition. My novel seemed to fit their criteria so I bravely sent off the first 5,000 words, full synopsis, 100 word mini biography and entry form. Even doing that felt an achievement but needless to say I didn’t win. The exercise was useful and made me polish up format and presentation and gave me a deadline.
     After just a pang of disappointment when results were announced I sent off similar packs to half a dozen publishers and agents with little or no response. I decided I had to use the ‘who you know’ system and sent off a pack to a publisher who used a friend’s printing company for all their work. They were kind in their reply but it wasn’t their genre of inspirational, self help and health writing. I did try to say my story was inspirational and had a fair bit of medical stuff in it but they didn’t buy that. I’d already realised I had to make an individualised pitch to each publisher or agent to have any hope at all.
     One particular agent gave me a reply that was so negative I couldn’t even talk about it for weeks. He thought the story had been a good exercise but was full of beginner’s mistakes and needed to be consigned to a drawer. Eventually I took it out of that drawer and decided to fight back, replying to each criticism and defending my characters – by this stage I loved and knew them well. Sometime later I received a letter saying he’d had the manuscript read by an agent’s reader and a copy of their report was included. It pointed out mistakes and errors which I accepted – too much ‘telling’ and not enough ‘showing’ (that old chestnut), too easy resolution of conflict, not enough conflict in the second half etc. but the negative comments were nicely balanced by a few positive ones, just as a good teacher would do, and I found a little hope returned to my soul.
     That letter made me brave enough to approach Wivenbooks, the publishing arm of Wivenhoe Bookshop which publishes one or two choice authors, but also supports a print-on-demand facility for a few others willing to pay. Things really got moving and Catherine Dodds designed my lovely front cover and Ginny Waters got me an ISBN number and registered the details with Nielsens data for books. Wivenbooks suggested  names of possible editors and Jane Olorenshaw did a copy-edit for a further fee. Copy-editing was surprisingly good fun with e-mails bouncing back and forth – at my request the main aim was SPAG and continuity rather than content and that kept the fee down. Once we were happy Catherine sent the document off to Lightening Source and I was delighted with the proof print of the book. We pressed the button and ordered 100 copies. I have now done 4 print runs (the 5 day delivery time is excellent) and I’m exploring e-publishing.
     Novel number 2 is in it’s infancy and having learned a lot from novel number 1 I feel just a little better prepared.
Consider options – competitions, publisher, agent, self publishing, e-publishing.
Assess costs and keep an account.
Talk to everyone and anyone with contacts or experience.
Be patient.
Get an editor – copy-edit at the very least.
Be prepared for knock backs but stay positive.


  1. Philippa,
    I am a Wivenhoe writer - would be interested in meeting up.
    Didn't know there were so many other writers in teh village.

  2. I'd be interested to know how you found us, Fenella. We haven't been going long, so it's great to be spotted somewhere!


  3. Fenella
    It would be really interesting to meet up but summer holidays are rather busy, so I'll email you in September. Meanwhile I hope you keep and eye on our blog and do feel free to pass comments.