My Path to Publication

Geri meets Aggy

The publishing world has undergone a rapid shift in recent years, even in the time since I dipped my toes into the ocean of books, agents, ebooks etc. However, I’m often asked how I got my work published so I thought I’d share my story in case it helps someone else on their journey to publication and a few tips based on my experiences.

I’ve always written. One of my first memories was of sitting with my cousin, writing a very long and protracted story. I can’t remember all the details but I do remember it ran to about eight pages, quite a feat as I was only about 7years old! At college I’d written for our local paper and had written some short stories for myself. When hubby and I decided to take a gap year, I decided that would be the perfect time for me to get that novel out.

I remember writing the opening chapters to what would become ‘Akane: Last of the Orions‘ while on a beach in Brazil. Reading it to hubby, he was excited and I was keen to learn what happened to Akane and her friends but it would be another few years before I had finished the novel. In the meantime I undertook the London School of Journalism’s Creative Writing Course which gave me some useful guidelines and helpful feedback from the tutors. I also worked on a few pieces featuring animals and people we’d met on our travels. In theory I’d love to publish them one day, but I know they’ll stay safely in my computer.

I completed ‘Akane: Last of the Orions‘ as part of a National Novel Writing Month challenge but it needed a LOT of work. As an aside, if you’ve not completed NaNoWriMo before and are an aspiring writer, give it a go. It’s a fun challenge which can set you up with some good writing practices.

When we returned to the UK I decided to try and sell some of my work. I attended a writers conference ‘FantasyCon’ and was bombarded with information – ways to get an agent, ways to self-publish your books, reasons not to have an agent, self-branding, writing for YA, ensuring your book will be the ‘next big thing’. It was frankly too much and everyone I met had an opinion on how to do it ‘correctly’. I left slightly more confused than when I arrived, but filled with ideas. I had also met some funny, interesting and people who would ultimately help me on my writing journey.

I’d got chatting to Adele Wearing the first night of the conference and she contacted me a few weeks later to discuss a project she was putting together. That was the start of ‘The Girls Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse‘. It was a really fun project, one I hold very dear, and which allowed me to try different writing styles, from tongue-in-cheek articles, to opinion pieces, to short stories. It also gave me the confidence to submit my stories to websites and I’m still very happy that I won the poll on Fantasy Faction for my short story ‘The Last Dragon Keeper’.

My interest in writing grew and I helped to set up ‘Resident Writers’ which prompted me to write an assortment of pieces, including poetry which is definitely not my forte! I continued submitting to different websites In the meantime, Adele had decided to collate and publish a book called ‘Tales of the Nun and Dragon‘ and asked if I would like to submit. My short story ‘Into the Woods’ was accepted and I really enjoyed writing all the blood and guts. ‘Tales of the Nun and Dragon’ was well-received and launched at the next FantasyCon, with Adele deciding to set up Fox Spirit Books soon after. Further titles from Fox Spirit Books followed and Adele kindly agreed to publish my collection of short stories, Weird Wild, which included an adapted version of ‘Into the Woods’. The following year ‘Akane: Last of the Orions‘ was also published by Fox Spirit Books. All the while, I continued submitting my work, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so and writing on my blog.

I had a bit of a break when the toddler was born. The voices were still there, demanding attention, but not surprisingly there was a louder, more demanding voice who needed me, so my notebooks and ideas were put away. Although I still wrote a little, I had become rusty and my old website became slightly redundant. I briefly returned to work, but for a variety of reasons, decided to leave my job and devote myself to raising our daughter, trying my hand at crafting and focussing on my writing. In 2016 I took on the role of ‘Commissioning Editor’ for ‘Fennec Books’ an imprint of Fox Spirit Books and soon after my first pre-teen novel ‘Ghoulsome Graveyard‘ was published. I’m planning next year to try self-publishing so pop back regularly to see how that’s going and I’m also submitting to different magazines and publications, with a short story appearing in the June edition of Sirens Call.

So I’m by no means an ‘expert’ on getting published. My path is very different to other authors – I’ve met people who have agents but who have no books currently in print and others who’ve lots of work either self-published or published through small presses, I’ve met people who use Patreon and others who only show their work to family. However, I have a few suggestions (in no particular order) if you want to your your work out there.

 

  1. Firstly, make sure your MS is ready for publication. Get others to read it and offer suggestions (it’s up to you if you accept them). Check, then check again for grammar and spelling mistakes (you never get them all but sending something filled with mistakes with get your MS rejected as agents don’t have the time to sort your laziness).
  2. Sounds daft but be passionate about your book when discussing it. If you’re not excited, how will anyone else be?
  3. Ive been told that you need a minimum of 10k followers on Twitter, as well as an author page on Facebook. I’d agree and disagree about needing 10k followers on Twitter. I’ve met established writers who struggle to make 1000! However, most publishers or agents are looking for some sort of online presence and Twitter is great for that. Few pointers – it’s SOCIAL media. Don’t spam people with ‘buy my book’ ads-nothing will get you blocked faster. Engage with people and make it fun. I tweet about books (and promote my own) but also chat with people about movies, crafts, dogs, anything really.
  4. A blog is also helpful as it gets you writing regularly and improves your writing but you need to keep it up to date, which is why I took mine down after having my daughter as I didn’t have time to maintain it and it looked a bit shabby and unloved. Websites are easy to set up and you can make it engaging by inviting blog-hops (where others contribute content. I do interviews with inspirational women who had interesting jobs or were challenging the establishment) or a regular item – I do ‘Make It Monday’ and movie reviews. On my old website, in the run up to an anthology I was in being published, I did a month of promo, inviting contributions, which was really fun & got word out there about the antho but it was hard work coordinating so many submissions and getting them all scheduled so it’s not for the faint-hearted. Facebook is a good media but a) think about your audience – for example it’s not the preferred social media for under 25’s or over 60’s so may not reach your target audience and b) I struggle with private/public so some authors keep separate accounts (I personally don’t bother). There’s also Instagram which I’m learning to use and Snapchat as well as Reddit and more popping up regularly. All have their pros and cons. Whichever you choose, post regularly, engage with people and don’t spam!
  5. I’d recommend going to writing conferences. There are many which are genre specific (Romance, World Con, and FantasyCon are a few which spring to mind but there’s loads). I was lucky and met some great people at these conferences, who I’m happy to say are now friends. My first conference I met a lot of wannabe authors and it sounds awful but they smelled of desperation – they were buying agents drinks and generally sucking up to everyone. One man actually turned his back on my husband as soon as he learned he wasn’t in ‘the biz’. So just get chatting to people and you never know who you’ll meet. (We did the awards dinner and I accidentally sat next to an agent who after chatting about tv shows etc offered to read my novel.) These conferences are also great for learning more about getting published or just about your favourite authors or subjects so go and enjoy.
  6. Agents. There are a lot of pros and cons about agents. In theory they get your book into the hands of publishers faster, sort contracts and generally look after you. However, I know authors signed to an agent who haven’t sold any of their manuscripts so it’s up to you. If you’re going to approach an agent, check their submission guidelines CAREFULLY. Nothing will get your MS thrown into the slush pile faster than sending it in Word and they wanted it in Pages or set out incorrectly. This sounds simple but don’t send it to a wrong agent. Like readers, agents have their own interest areas so I wouldn’t send my horror story to a romance agent – it’s wasting both our time. As I said, follow guidelines and be polite – Twitter is filled with authors sending snotty replies to agents who they feel have taken too long or rejected their work. Publishing is a small world and you don’t need that sort of negativity against your name. You’re trying to sell your books, but also yourself so acting like a child throwing a tantrum is not professional. If they reject, say thanks for their time and that’s it. Take on board any suggestions they may make. If you want an agent, keep going – they receive hundreds of manuscripts a month so yours needs to really stand out.
  7. If you get an agent, or work with a small press, read the small print of any contract – check about foreign rights, who gets what if it’s sold to TV or movies, rights for audiobooks, how long you’re entering into the contract and who gets the rights to our work when it ends, who pays for editing and formatting, and what type of publishing will they do (print or eformat).
  8. Which brings me to small presses and self publishing. Some people dismiss these as vanity presses but in recent years they’ve been putting out some good work. As with agents, follow their submission guidelines and also check their contracts as above. For example my contract means my publisher gets the rights to print and e-format for a year, then all rights return to me & I can sell it elsewhere if I want. They’re fantastic for new authors, but their budgets are small so be prepared to do a lot of self-promotion.
  9. I’d also recommend getting your name out there by submitting short stories & articles to magazines. A lot aren’t accepting submissions from unknowns anymore (eg Women’s Own used to do periodical mags just of fiction but I think they’ve stopped them now) but there’s loads of online places to submit. As above, check guidelines, proof your submission and write a good story.

These are only a few suggestions, if you’ve got more (and I’m sure you do!), let me know in the comments below.

The Big Interview: Adele Wearing

When I first set up my blog one of my aims was to highlight inspirational women to show young girls they could aspire to achieve something that society, their school, friends or even their parents perhaps said they couldn’t. With that in mind, I interviewed authors, a charity CEO, and a friend who could best be described as a nomad, amongst others. I’m going to be re-running those interviews, with updates as to where they are now. To start us off, I’m catching up with Adele Wearing, founder of Fox Spirit Books.

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I first interviewed Adele in 2012. She’d recently set up the ‘Girls Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse‘, was reviewing books for un:bound and was planning to edit an anthology called ‘Tales of the Nun & Dragon‘ which would help launch Fox Spirit Books. Over the last four years Fox Spirit Books have published over 50 titles, been shortlisted for a number of awards and won the BFS best indie press in 2015, had a launch event at Forbidden Planet London (African Monsters) and generally been insanely busy. Coming up they have the Pocket Party to celebrate finally finishing the Fox Pocket series (details here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fox-pocket-party-tickets-25343708715) and an event as part of the Everybody’s Reading Festival in Leicester in October. Beyond that of course they are going live this year with their first titles for both the Fennec kids and the FoxGloves martial arts lines. Busy times but Adele continues in her aim for world domination, with a very fluffy tail. You can find out more at Fox Spirit Books and on twitter.

And here’s the original interview!

You’ve been described as a feral leader, a muse who kicks people in the face as well as blogger, reviewer and publisher. That’s a lot of alter egos. Are you a secret agent in disguise?

No. I’m actually a changeling. Hagelrat is the closest translation I
could find of my species name in your languages, even then I had to go
half dutch. Knowing that you are a changeling can lead to multiple
personality issues. It’s ok though, you’ll never have to deal with all
the voices in my head, some of them aren’t safe in public.

When are you happiest?
When I’m right in the middle of something I love. That could be
kickboxing, working on the books, having coffee with friends and
sometimes there is nothing better than curling up with a book, a
coffee and my cats. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Which living person do you admire most and why?
Oh it sounds horribly trite but it’s true, so it’s my mum. I know what
she’s handled over the years and just how tough she can be when she
has to be.

So you’ve established and organised the Apocalypse Girls, Fox Spirit, Un:Bound, Alt.Fiction and more. Can you tell us a little about each project and your plans for the future (although world domination seems to be a given).
The Girls Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse was just a bit of fun
really, somewhere for a whole bunch of us to blow off steam thinking
about the end of the world. It took off far beyond what any of us
expected and we have been working on a pitch for it.
Fox Spirit is a new venture, things seem to have aligned and now I’m
an indie publisher which is a little unexpected. I love the books I’ve
got on board and the authors, it’s slightly terrifying and very
exciting. The first books will come out in July.
Un:Bound was where I started with it all really, it started as me
talking to myself, then I discovered the blogging community, events,
got a team on board and ten video editions happened. It’s a little
slower these days but still running and I still try to review
everything I read, which shows how much less i’ve been reading I
suppose, or at least how few finished books.
Alt.Fiction was an established event, run by Alex Davis for Writing
East Midlands and last year when Alex stepped down I took the reigns.
It’s a wonderful event with fantastic people involved and it was
wonderful to see it come together this year. Can’t wait for next year.
What’s next? oh umm, well let’s get the books out and the next
alt.fiction event (Leicester Central Library, 6th October) done and
umm a couple more tournaments under my belt, do the unbound fantasy
movie and take it from there? In spite of my claims to the contrary
i’m not really seeking world domination, I just want to see what I can
do. I guess the plan is to keep pushing until something stops me. Then
push harder.

Given all of the above, what do you consider your greatest achievement?
All in all I’d have to say getting to here from there. A couple of years ago I was unfit, unhappy, and facing the collapse of my supposed to be shiny new marriage. Now i’m training regularly, and well we’ve been through the rest but I’ve never been happier. So much has changed in a relatively short time.

And what would be your biggest disappointment?
Stopping. That’s it really. You try a lot of things, some work some
don’t, that’s fine, but to stop trying stuff, to settle for how things
are and not push to do more, or do things better would bother me. I’m
also very conscious of the fact that people are trusting me with their
work. Vince doesn’t let go of things any easier than I do but is
trusting me to do what I need to for the movie and the authors and
editors involved in Fox Spirit are putting their babies in my hands
and I have to make sure they grow and you know, not shake them.

When do you find time to sleep?
Ah, well biologically we only need a four hour cycle of REM sleep, so
it’s fine. Actually I am usually up around 5:20am and crash around
10pm so I get plenty of sleep usually.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
I embarrass easily and forget it just as fast. The last one I remember
was having to get a pair of swimming trunks at the gym because I’d
packed a shortish dress for work and forgotten to pack knickers.
Ooops.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Hmmm, people who only treat people well when they can do something for
them. I fully recognise I am rubbish and unreliable when it comes to
doing social things or calling regularly, but I hope how I treat
people has nothing to do with what they can do for me.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
Nothing. Oh I have regrets, but I’m happy with where I am now and
changing anything might bring the law of unintended consequences into
play so i’d leave well alone.

Do you have any superstitions/quirks/unique qualities others would call odd?
Ha, I’ve been called on the fact that I talk to myself and other
things (I got spotted explaining to a snail why I was moving it the
other day). I also compulsively check the doors before bed.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Awesome, but everything is at the moment. I expect there are lots that
I am happily oblivious too. I probably over use ‘when I take over the
world’, but you know.

What is your most unappealing habit?
I snore, like a log cutter. Only when I’m unsettled but if I leave a
window open you can hear it down the street.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Angel delight or jello pudding. Butterscotch. I’ll mix it up with a
fork in a measuring jug and instantly eat it straight from the jug.
It’s not classy and I don’t care.

What’s your favourite movie?
Ooh, tough one. I must have seen The Lost Boys a bazillion times and
when I recently saw it at the pictures for an 80’s event was lip
syncing line for line. Serenity is a regular re-watch, and The
Princess Bride will always be special. There are probably a dozen
films that I would always have to have whatever format we move into.
Ones I had on VHS and quickly replaced on DVD.

If you could be a character in any movie, TV show, or book who would it be and why?
She Hulk. I covered her for Know You Idols and face it, if I could
spend a chunk of my time being 6ft 7 of muscular awesome and the rest
of it being a badass lawyer and self defence expert I totally would.
She Hulk loves being a Hulk, fully embraces it and makes it her own.
Although Hawkgirl is also very cool, can fly has big hammer. You may
be seeing a pattern emerge.

What is your earliest memory?
I’m actually not sure. I have blurry recollections of holidays and
things from when I was very small but i’m no longer entirely certain
what’s memory and what i’ve been told about. I remember going to buy
fish with Grandpa when I was very small. He kept tropical fish and an
outdoor pond.

Tell us a secret.
Ah, should this be where I revealed I am a changeling? Rats. Something
else then. I can’t buy cheese anymore, because I love it and if I have
it in I will eat the whole lot in a day. I don’t even pretend to be
using it as real food I just cut slices and scoff it down. So now I
only buy it when I have guests.

Thank you, that was fun. 🙂

Thanks Adele, I’m sure we’ll be bugging you again for more updates in your quest for World Domination!