Getting Published – London Book Fair Masterclass

On gloriously sunny Sunday 17 April, my writing buddy, Denise, and I attended the pre-Fair Masmasterclass entitled ‘How to Get Published’. Whilst we knew some of it already, conned from amongst other places, the inestimable Carole Blake’s book From Pitch to Publication: Everything You Need to know to Get Your Novel Published, we found the discussion amongst the panellists illuminating in revealing some of the realities of publication.

Personally, I felt encouraged by Carole’s comment that getting published was NOT dire, merely difficult! Agents and publishers never stopped looking for fresh, exciting new work.  At Blake Friedmann, she had done three first-time deals for new authors this year.

Mark Booth, from Hodder & Stoughton, gave us tips about submissions package: an elevator pitch to grab attention, a strapline/one-line to convey the reading pleasure for the reader, a 400 word blurb for the dust jacket, two lines on ‘why you, why now’ and details of any special work/prizes/media contacts you have. Both Mark and Carole stressed the importance of not editing out the excitement of your submission.

Three words emerged from this discussion: Passion, perseverance and professionalism.

From the author POV, Lionel Shriver emphasised that the way to keep going is to develop new ideas. Getting your work published is an emotional business and you should remember the positive. Don’t lose the sheer pleasure of the process of writing!

Siobhan Curham, self-published author and editor talked about the rise of self-publishing and her decision to self publish her last two books, although four of her books had been published by mainstream publishers (including Hodder). Coming from a different (perhaps threatening) viewpoint to the traditional industry, she kept her cool in the civilised verbal sparring between the panellists.

Indeed, despite disagreeing fundamentally on some topics, at no time did any panellist lose their rag. They were, of course, expertly orchestrated by Danuta Kean, the publishing journalist and commentator. One member of the audience did have a tantrum and stomped out. She thought the solution would be handed her like a golden key to open a treasure box, but if the two hours showed nothing else, they highlighted that like everything in life, getting published consists of a whole palette of varying greys.

And e-books? Yes, they added literacy. People were trained to extract content from digital devices all day, every day, so any medium that sold creative written work was good. But readers still wanted the physical pleasure of tuning pages, so printed books weren’t going away any day soon…

I reckon that if I learn one new thing from any training/seminar/conference/masterclass, it’s been worth going to it. But the sure-fire way to achieve the publishing dream was made crystal clear by the sparky and straightforward Meg Rossoff:

“Just write a f*****g great book!”

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