5. Ask the experts

SO FAR I haven’t talked about the money side of things. As far as I am concerned I’ve written a best-seller and the royalty payments will come flooding in as soon as that switched-on agent notices my potential. The money certainly isn’t supposed to be flowing the other way, but that is how it’s working out. In this modern age it is amazing how many agents still ask for “hard copy”, meaning you have to spend a fortune on printer ribbons, bag everything up in a big envelope, preferably padded, go to the Post Office to get it weighed, include a stamped-addressed envelope (and stamps aren’t cheap these days), then add the required number of stamps to send off your literary masterpiece.

Having done all that your heart sinks when an envelope written in your own fair hand arrives back on the doormat and you open it to find some standardised rejection letter. Some don’t even have your name on but begin “Dear Author”. That is followed by some pointless attempt at gratitude “yes, thanks for the chance to review your work”, followed by a meaningless compliment “highly original” (I say meaningless because I imagine Jack Nicholson would have received that for his effort in The Shining when he filled page after page with “All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy”). Original can mean the same as shit and, remember, rule No 1 is Don’t Write Shit.

One agent asked me to send a query first, before providing any sample chapters/synopsies etc. I did so and didn’t hear anything for about five months. Then I got this…

 big bell - use

For the “Peeing up my back and telling me it’s raining” award, this is a surefire winner. I had only offered to send samples of my work, so they hadn’t even seen it but sent this letter back. I won’t name and shame because I might need them in the future, but this is the sort of thing we authors are up against.

So, despite a couple of name changes, a first chapter change, a few tweaks to the manuscript and an attempt at a hard sell, no one is interested. Sex & Rucks and Sausage Rolls obviously isn’t sexy enough for agents and publishers.

Then my eyes light up when I see something. I haven’t so far been brave enough to let many see my work, only my wife Liz, who has decided it is better for the ambience of Chez Rippington if she gives positive feedback, and a couple of mates who were given samples of the opening chapters only to inform me: “I’ve been so busy, haven’t had time to read it”.

Still, I’ve come across the writers workshop and had an email conversation with one of the organisers who has told me this: “If you have had no success so far then it suggests your work is not quite there yet. Initially I would recommend that you have an editorial critique of the book. An in-depth critique from one of our experienced and successfully published editors will be tough, but constructive. It will identify what is working, what isn’t and give practical advice on how to improve it. For more details and to see example reports do take a look at…”

So that’s what I decide to do. Pretty soon I am put in touch with a published author Richard Blandford. Click on the name and you can read more about him on his blog, but he has had two novels published, Hound Dog and Flying Saucer Rock & Roll, a collection of short stories called The Shuffle and the novella Pretty Boy Tigh. Six hundred quid to get a critique from a proper author sounds cheap at the price. I buy Hound Dog on Kindle. It’s amusing in a sick, twisted way… just like some of my book to be honest. Richard is bound to appreciate my work…

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