On A Writing Journey #amwriting

I was going to share a few updates today, about writing and the different things I’ve been working on. But, when I posted the below image to Instagram, with a note about how I’ve been writing a story since June and have just finished the first draft, the comments I received gave me pause.

They were all lovely, positive comments, and they also shared a single theme: ‘Can’t wait to read it!’ And it made me realise something. While I’ve been doing a great deal of writing over the past two years, I haven’t shared any of it with you.

In fact, it’s been *gasp* almost three years since I published the fourth instalment of the Ambeth Chronicles, Under Stone. To those of you who’ve messaged me, asking when the next instalment is coming out, I can only apologise. It is almost written, and my plan is to finish it by the end of this year, get it to my editor, and publish as soon as possible.

So, what have I been doing? I’ve been off exploring other worlds, I suppose. A vampire-filled castle on the south coast of England. A mythical town on the California Coast. And a version of London, set far in the future. It’s been two years of working on my craft, pushing things further, and sending submissions to agents and publications. I’ve written almost 400,000 words, exploring the edges of my creativity, digging deeper and further to see where the ideas will take me. I’ve also dabbled in middle-grade and short stories, sketched out an idea for a non-fiction book, and played around with poetry.

And it’s been worth it, definitely, from a creative point of view. I have some stories with which I’m extremely happy, and know I’m a better writer now than when I started this journey. However, from a writing-more-books-for-people point of view, it’s probably seemed as though I’ve given up writing!

I can assure you I have not. And my hard work is starting to bear fruit. My vampire novel is currently with an agent who requested the full MS (one of several requests I’ve had). Another agent is very keen to read whatever I write next. One of my short stories, A Point of Light, will be in the upcoming issue of Lucent Dreaming (Nov 2020). And the co-author project I’ve been talking about? Well, I can reveal it was with the singer/songwriter (and all around lovely person), Tom Grennan, and that the completed book is now with his label pending the next steps.

So, fingers and toes crossed, I hope that next year will let me share a bumper crop of stories with you all. And I will definitely be publishing the next Ambeth instalment!

Oooh, and while you’re here, I also have a fancy new website, courtesy of Rivia Digital. You can pop by and visit it at helenglynnjones.co.uk. I’ll be blogging both here and there, so hope to see you 🙂

Thanks for bearing with me… more is yet to come!


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page or my website to see more.

 

 

 

Writing An Agent Submission Letter

img_3729After seven days of writing about an otherworldly weekend away with The Silent Eye, it’s back to reality with a rather prosaic thud – this post is all about crafting the agent submission letter.

I’ve written before about submitting your manuscript to agents – while I don’t consider myself by any means an expert, I have had a bit of experience in sending the things out. I also attended a workshop some time back at Bloomsbury, where a couple of London agents shared their idea of a perfect submission letter, and several other agents have commented that my submission package stood out from the others (although no-one has taken me on board as yet – boo-hoo).

So, how do you structure the all-important letter? (I say all-important because it’s the first opportunity you have to make an impression, and we all know how important first impressions are). Well, here are some key points to consider:

  1. The tone of this letter should be professional. It is a business document, being sent to a professional person, and should be written as such. So no nicknames or rambling about personal information or bad language. I know we, as writers, love to get a bit creative, but the submission letter is really not the place for it. Also, address the agent by name – sending a letter which begins ‘Dear Agent,’ really isn’t going to inspire confidence that you’ve done your research into the agency.
  2. Start with your novel title, the genre and word count – ie I am seeking representation for Beneath The Stars, a romance novel of 75,000 words. If it’s your first novel, say so at this point.
  3. Follow this with a brief (back cover blurb size) description of the novel- ie Sally never thought she could love again, until a chance encounter with a stranger at a planetarium changed everything. But he holds a secret that could break them apart. Will she ever find a happy ending? Beneath The Stars explores the themes of learning to love again, and the secret world that hides within us all. (yes, I know this is awful, but it’s just an example – I’m sure you can do much better).
  4. Then follow with a brief paragraph about yourself, citing any relevant experience, books published, writing competitions won etc. Add in any current projects you are working on too.
  5. Finish with a paragraph stating why you think your novel would be a good fit for their list, reiterating the genre and the type of reader it might appeal to – ie After researching several agencies, and your agency in particular, I think Beneath The Stars might be something you’d like to consider. As a romance novel, it would appeal to readers of (bonus points for a title already on their list, but not too similar).
  6. Then sign off.

That’s it. That’s all an agent wants to see. They get loads and loads of these letters every week, so don’t want to wade through details about why your mum thinks you’re the next J.K Rowling, or the fact that you used to play baseball (unless the book you’ve written happens to be about baseball). Of course, whether you choose to do something completely different is up to you and, hey, it might get you noticed. But in an industry as over-saturated with writers as ours is, why give them any extra chances to say no?

A Cautionary Tale – My Encounter With A Vanity Publisher

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This was a post I ran a little over a year ago, and it’s been on my mind of late. I’ve seen several other bloggers writing about scams targeting authors, plus The Society Of Authors recently published an article about how the publishing industry is so heavily weighted towards publishers making a profit, rather than writers. I know Amazon isn’t perfect, but as a platform that’s allowed me to share my work with people all around the world, and, most importantly, keep writing, I think it can’t be beat.

So a cautionary tale for a Friday – have any of you out there had similar experiences?

I’ve been thinking about this post for a little while, unsure whether or not to share it, but then decided I had to. The spirit of this blog is that it’s my journey to publication, lessons learned, paths taken, decisions made. And so here it is…

A little while ago I was offered a publishing contract for Oak and Mist.

Woo hoo, right? Champagne for everyone!

Well, not so much. I had seen this publisher mentioned on a few blogs and websites as one who took unsolicited submissions (and, more importantly, took fantasy submissions, for which there is a much smaller market in publishers and agents). So I sent my book to them and, about a month later, received a request for a full manuscript. So far, so good. About a month after that something, I don’t know what, spurred me to do a little more online research into the publisher. And what I found was a shock. They were a vanity publisher (you know I hate that term but for the purposes of this post it will have to do) who approached first time authors with what they called a ‘contribution scheme’ contract. So, they would publish my book, but I would have to contribute up front to the costs of doing so. Red flag number one. I was pretty gutted, but worked through it and in some ways they did me a favour, for it cemented my decision to self publish instead of waiting any longer.

About a week later a big fat envelope from the publisher plopped through onto my doormat. I picked it up, then went to the kitchen and made myself a big greasy sandwich and a cup of tea (comfort food), before taking the lot up to my office (spare room) and sitting down to read. Luckily I was prepared, for on the surface this was a very exciting envelope to receive. ‘Publishing Contract’ said the black letters on the glossy covers of two official looking documents. A nice cover letter cited their ‘excitement to be working with me’ and their ‘faith in my ability as an author.’ A second insert listed a whole bunch of different ways in which a book could be marketed, but then ended by stating this wasn’t necessarily what they were going to do with my book. Red flag number two.

So I took my glossy gleaming contract and flipped it open, taking a bite of my sandwich to fortify me as I read on. Interesting. According to the contract:

  • The Publisher could amend or edit my book whenever they wanted and how they saw fit
  • They had the final decision on the look of the book
  • Other than ten author copies for me and five sent to university libraries, there was no mention of how many other copies they planned to print in the first run
  • They could decide at any time that my book ‘no longer warranted publication’ and could then cease to print or market it (so after the first fifteen copies, if they wanted to)
  • They would market the book by any means at their disposal (very vague) but could not be held responsible if no bookstores wanted to order it
  • If they failed to pay me my royalties on time I ‘had the right’ to notify them of this in writing – no other penalty was mentioned
  • They wanted first refusal on my next two books

Ding ding ding! Red flags everywhere! It was like a Communist Party parade at this point, but the kicker, the real icing on the cake of this contract, was that I could receive all this jammy goodness for the princely sum of £2500, my so called ‘contribution’ to the scheme.

Um, no thanks.

If I’m going to spend £2500 to publish my book, then I’ll spend it myself, designing a cover I like, editing the book to my satisfaction and marketing it the way I want to, while retaining the rights and a much healthier slice of the royalties. And I’m sure I could do all that for a lot less than £2500, to be honest. But I can see how for some people this offer would be very enticing, the language of the contract and accompanying letter written in such a way that on first glance it hides the fact that the deal is so heavily weighted in favour of the publisher.

A few months ago I attended an agent workshop at Bloomsbury. It was a great day, I learnt a great deal and met some wonderful people. One thing I do remember is sitting next to a well known agent as she told the room that, often, publishers don’t make back their advances. They make their money on the bestsellers, the books that do well, then offset these other losses against that. But they do what they do because they believe in the book, they believe in the writer and they are willing to put their money where their mouth is in a speculative business. And that’s the sort of publisher I’d like to work with. One who’s willing to back me and my work all the way. And at the moment that’s me, though I live in hope.

So the lesson for me was to dig deeper, do more research. My problem is not with their offer, it is in the way it was presented, their website making no mention of the fact that this was how they operated, so I wasted time and energy submitting and waiting for a response. I’m not bitter about it, nor am I angry. It is what it is and the choice was with me as to whether I chose to sign with these people who, after all, are in the business of making money. I chose not to, because I want better for myself and better for my book. So I sent them an email, politely declining their offer and they sent me one back, very nice, wishing me every success with my publishing. So I will take their good wishes and move forward, a little bit wiser (I hope) about it all.

Xx