I often receive emails and messages from aspiring authors asking me for some advice on how to write, or what to write or how to approach publishers. I try to give useful advice to these people, working on the basis that today’s aspiring author is tomorrow’s best seller, but it’s sometimes difficult for me to find the time to give full answers to often quite complex questions.
Which is why I thought I’d tell you about a book I’m working on at the moment - a book that is all about how to write and how to get your writing published.
It all began back in 1995, when the UK publisher Hodder approached a colleague of mine, Lesley Pollinger, an Author’s Agent based in London, and asked if she would be interested in collaborating with me on a book to form part of their “Teach Yourself” series. Their idea was for us to produce a book on how to write for children and get published.
We thought this would be a great idea and over the next few months we got busy – sending out questionnaires to other authors and publishers and agents in order to hear their views on some basic issues. We organized our thoughts, putting chapters together that followed all the way through from really simple stuff like buying a pen and some paper and finding a flat surface to write on, to what you do in the aftermath of your first book being published and a nice cheque arriving in the mail.
The idea all along was to help writers to get published – meaning that we wanted to give them pointers and tips and plenty of insider knowledge of how to navigate their way through the process not only of presenting publishers with something “good” – but of something “sellable”. This included tips on story construction, dialogue, presentation and how to cope with adverse criticism, plus how to deal with a publisher who wants your work, but only after it has been heavily edited.
The book sold well enough for us to be asked to revise and update it a few years later. And then in 2005 we were asked to take a third swing at it. Between 1995 and 2006 something quite amazing had happened. The home computer had arrived and the Internet had revolutionized the way writers and publishers worked.
Then, when we were asked for yet another revision earlier this year, it was also to include entries on a Website. This new edition is due to be published in January 2010, and we are starting to get to work on it – sending out new questionnaires, adding new sections and entirely rewriting whole chapters because things have changed so much.
There are 12 chapters in the book, and so far we have only managed to work on Chapter One – but we’re confident that by the time we’ve finished, this book is going to be as up-to-date as possible and that it will help a whole new generation of hopeful writers get their ideas into print.
These days getting your writing “out there” is a lot easier than it used to be ten or fifteen years ago – the Internet has made sure of that. But – it’s as hard as it ever was to get people to pay to read your stuff – and that’s what our book is all about.
I’ll do my best to keep you updated on our progress. Meanwhile, if you’d rather not wait for January 2010, you can buy previous editions online - Amazon.com have them for sure, and they can be picked up reasonably cheaply. The most recent edition has the gingerbread man on the cover. Or you might find a copy in your local library or store.