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Friday, 25 January 2013

The London Publishing Scene - from Scott Newland

Scott Newland visited our group prior to leaving for a couple of years in London where he plans to explore the options and possibilities in the book trade over there. Here is his latest bulletin…

Just thought I would pass on some news and views from a couple of recent meetings.

I am now a member of London Writers Group and the London Authors Club. They sound similar but aren't, the writers club introduces writers to agents, the authors club is more hands on about writing, structure etc.

The structure of writing, novels etc, is, as with everything, subjective. Who reads what and what they expect to see is a personal thing to the reader. Agents and editors (from publishing houses) are no different. Rejection from an agent or editor may simply be their personal preference or whim on the day, we knew that already, nothing has changed.

But many agents from big companies, or editors from big publishing houses, have an expectation, almost a format they like to see. The question for us as writers is do send our work of wonder as it is and hope to satisfy their need? Or do we reshape things to fit the mould that is often used by a particular company?

Example. (Forgive me, but I am new and you all may know this already)
Prologue Vs Front story Vs Back story.

Prologues. I love them. Readers often skip them. An agent I met with last night said "Are your first chapters weak? Is that why you have a prologue?" Bugger, I thought the prologue was very cool. An editor I work with said the same thing almost. "Why have it? she said, "I want the front story in the front, and back story (the grounding, history and flashbacks) to be short and not get in the way of my reading."

Front Story. Open with your front story, 1st line, sentence and paragraph must be your front story. (What the book is really about)

Back story. Often the who, why and where etc. Mostly the setting, reason and backfill for something. Best to be introduced by dialogue not so much to be narrative.

So have a look at your book if you want it published and to sell lots, and see if the first three chapters have back story overshadowing front story. That is a major block to agents, editors and others in the profession of books. (My mum still said she liked my book)

Pitch and promotion.
At a recent meeting we sat and did the round the table thing of telling what our books are about. Most people, me included, could not actually say. I was stunned. Mine is a crime thriller, but to try and verbalise it into a short few sentences, harder than you think. Have a go.
Better yet write your book blurb in four or less sentences! It’s called the elevator pitch. Imagine you are on an elevator with a publisher and you have just the journey to the floor below to get your idea across.
At a group meeting last Saturday, we practised just that. Elevator pitches, paired off, to try. Then to write it and read it back. Yes I did have a go, but to be fair, reluctantly.
At the end of the meeting, 40 plus writers, she asked for verbal submissions, short versions (elevator pitches) and she would say, ‘yes send me a submission’ or ‘not for me’. Only six people could answer her. And of them only two got a positive response, not so much because she liked the book, but because she could understand quickly what it was.

Useful tips from the publishing pros from our Man on the Ground in London. Thanks, Scott!

1 comment:

  1. Great information coming out of London. Thanks, Scott. One of Elmore Leonard's 'mortal sins', from his book "10 Rules of Writing", is about the use of a prologue in fiction. He says, "A prologue in a novel is backstory and you can drop it in anywhere you want." My belief is this, get on with the story and place the info you would have put in your prologue into the story itself. That way you get your story going from the outset without the reader trawling through stuff that may or may not make sense.