Finding an Agent – Discovery Day 2016

Author photo - Helen J RolfeOn Saturday 27th February I took the train to London to attend Discovery Day 2016, an event held at Foyles bookshop where attendees had the opportunity to pitch their work to Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh Literary Agents.

For any writer, the chance to meet agents face to face is an invaluable opportunity and as I walked to Charing Cross Road I was excited, if a little nervous.

We had been given allocated time slots for pitching but it was still an hour queueing on the stairs to get to the top of Foyles and the gallery where agents were waiting for us. This was a nice time, however, to meet other writers and talk about our work. It helped to calm the nerves!

Foyles

 

Once I reached the gallery and an agent was free I was lucky enough to pitch to the lovely Jess Whitlum-Cooper who works at Curtis Brown with Felicity Blunt. Jess read my first page and then I was given thirty seconds to pitch my novel before we discussed my work.

Following the pitch appointment we were also able to ask general questions about agents, writing and publishing, with another literary agent in a Surgery Session, and here were the top tips for writing a cover letter to go with your submission:

  • Provide a very concise description of what your book is about
  • Identify who potential readers are
  • Name similar authors
  • Talk about your own writing experience
  • Let the agent know what inspired you to write this particular book

I found the experience of Discovery Day extremely positive and a lot of fun. Jess showed a lot of enthusiasm for my novel which was a real boost and whether or not I end up securing an agent this time round, Discovery Day did a lot for my confidence and belief in my writing. It also really showed me that not only do I want to find an agent to represent me, but I want to find the right agent. I think the right fit is so important because an agent/author relationship is a long-term commitment from both sides.

So for now, it’s on with the submissions and the next book!

Helen J Rolfe

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What Rosie Found Next - bookcover - KDP versiontft front cover with quoteHandle Me with Care final front cover - for KDP

 

 

 

 

 

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Five Writing Lessons I’ve Learned by Jessica Redland on the launch of her debut novel

_MG_2776-EditMy debut novel, Searching for Steven, was launched on Wednesday (3rd June 2015) by So Vain Books. My debut novella, Raving About Rhys (set before Steven but written as a stand-alone story), is also out now and I still find it hard to believe that I’m a published author!

What have I learned during the writing process? Goodness me, I could go on for ages, but let me stick to five main lessons and, because I love alliteration in the titles of my books, I’ve set myself the added challenge of making sure they all start with the same letter.

  1. PURPOSEFULNESS: Writing can be a slow process … especially when, like me, you have a full-time job too. It took me a decade from writing my first words to submitting Steven to a publisher for the first time. I did learn my craft during that time, close a business, change jobs several times, get married, have a baby and move house twice so I had huge writing-free periods. I promise I’m not that slow a writer! My advice would be to always keep that end goal – that purpose – in mind and keep going. Even if you only have time to write small amounts like five hundred words a few times a week, it will soon add up. A 100,000-word novel is just 274 words a day for a year. Obviously, there’ll be re-writing and editing needed, but doesn’t 274 words a day sound achievable?
  1. Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESPATIENCE: I’ve said that writing can be a slow process but the journey to a publication is not exactly speedy either. A couple of publishers to whom I submitted Steven took nine months to return a decision, and they were publishers I’d met, had pitched to, and who had asked for my full MS. I’m actually not a very patient person. I’m exceptionally patient with other people, but not with anything that affects me, so waiting for news from publishers or agents was a bit of a challenge. At first, I was a little obsessed with checking the mail and my emails, but I finally managed to relax and accept that everything would happen in its own sweet time.
  1. PERSEVERANCE: Unless you’re one of the very fortunate few, you will get rejections. I was surprised to find that they weren’t quite as traumatic as I expected. Okay, so they’re not the most wonderful things to receive. I certainly wasn’t doing a happy dance each time one landed through my letterbox or in my inbox, but they certainly didn’t reduce me to tears like I’d expected. You see, I had a plan. I knew whom I’d submit to next so I could look at the rejections as the closing of one door and the opening of another. There must be very few authors out there who haven’t got a stack of rejections behind them, including incredibly successful authors like Stephen King and JK Rowling. It’s part of the process. It took me a year, 14 publisher submissions and 12 agency submissions before I got my break and, if the offer from So Vain Books hadn’t come along when it did, I’d have gone indie. There are so many opportunities out there to get your work published so don’t give up at the first hurdle. I will just point out that my publisher, So Vain Books, were incredibly quick with their response to my submission so not all publishers take so much time.
  1. CoversPROCRASTINATION: As anyone who regularly uses social media will know, social media is a massive distraction. Some evenings, I can have gone into my office with the intention of writing after a quick catch-up on Facebook. I glance at the clock and realise it’s nearly 10.00pm and I still haven’t written a single word of my WIP. Oops! I have to limit myself because working full time, being a Brown Owl, being a mum and being an author is a lot to fit in. If I’m meant to be spending the evening writing, I’ve learned that it’s best to close my emails, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter or I’ll procrastinate big time. I’d like to think that, if I was ever fortunate enough to be able to write full-time, I’d be really structured in my approach to social media e.g. an hour first thing and an hour mid-afternoon. But I bet I wouldn’t. I bet I’d find that it’s a case of the more time you have to write, the less writing you actually get done!
  1. PASSION: I’d hope it goes without saying that anyone thinking of writing must be passionate about it because it can be all consuming. I couldn’t imagine not writing. But it’s not your own passion I want to address here; it’s the passion of others. I’ve really touched by the time some of my friends and family have given to beta reading and supporting me. They’ve demonstrated as much passion and excitement about me being a writer as I feel myself. Saying thank you feels inadequate. I’m also very fortunate to be part of a writing collective called The Write Romantics. We all met through the Romantic Novelists’ Association and have been blogging together for two years. It’s amazing being able to share the highs and lows with nine other like-minded passionate women.
Scarborough - the inspiration for Whitsborough Bay

Scarborough – the inspiration for Whitsborough Bay

However, there are those who don’t share the same passion. The day job is a classic example to illustrate this. I’d like to think that I don’t witter on about writing because I know that many work colleagues won’t be readers and, as I work in a male-dominated environment where the age profile is mainly 50 plus, they’re not exactly my target market. I’ve occasionally made a passing comment at the water cooler when asked how I’ve spent my weekend and I’ve watched eyes glaze over with absolute disinterest. I’d like to think that, if anyone told me they did something a little unusual, I’d express surprise and interest, and then ask a few follow-up questions. What I’ve experienced instead is that they either change the subject, nod and continue making their coffee in silence, or they tell me they’d like to write a book because hasn’t everyone got a book in them? They probably do but capability of getting it out is another matter entirely! Of course, I don’t say that. I grin, ask a few questions, and return to my office with my drink, knowing that it wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last time that happens.

That concludes my five lessons for now. I’m sure I’ll continue to learn as time progresses because I suspect I’ve only just scratched the surface of the writing experience so far.

Happy reading everyone 🙂

Jessica xxx

The Blurb for Searching for Steven which can be found on Amazon in eBook and paperback formats here

601685_10151958992299073_754441455_nWhen Sarah Peterson accepts her Auntie Kay’s unexpected offer to take over her florist’s shop, she’s prepared for a change of job, home and lifestyle. What she isn’t prepared for is the discovery of a scarily accurate clairvoyant reading that’s been missing for twelve years. All her predictions have come true, except one: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams. Oh, and his name is Steven.

Suddenly Stevens are everywhere. Could it be the window cleaner, the rep, the manager of the coffee shop, or any of the men she’s met online?

On top of that, she finds herself quite attracted to a handsome web designer, but his name isn’t even Steven…

During this unusual search, will Sarah find her destiny?

‘A warm and witty tale of one woman’s search for love, with a brave and feisty heroine you can’t help rooting for. SEARCHING FOR STEVEN is a compelling debut by a talented author, and I highly recommend it.’ Talli Roland, bestselling author of The No-Kids Club

‘Searching for Steven is a wonderful, uplifting story about the magic of true love that will put a smile on your face and happiness in your heart.’ Suzanne Lavender

‘Amusing and engaging, Searching for Steven is the story to make you believe in your one true love, with or without fate leading you there’ reviewedthebook.co.uk

The blurb for Raving About Rhys (novella) which can be downloaded from Amazon here

_MG_9950Bubbly Callie Derbyshire loves her job as a carer, and can’t believe she’s finally landed herself a decent boyfriend – older man Tony – who’s lasted way longer than the usual disastrous three months. Tony’s exactly what she’s always dreamed of… or at least he would be if he ever took her out instead of just taking her to bed. And work would be perfect too if she wasn’t constantly in trouble with her boss, The She-Devil Denise. 

When the new gardener, Mikey, discovers her in a rather compromising position at work, Callie knows that her days at Bay View Care Home could be numbered. Can she trust him not to tell Denise? If she was issued with her marching orders, who’ll look out for her favourite client, Ruby, whose grandson, Rhys, seems to constantly let her down? What does Ruby know about Tony? And what is Denise hiding? 

Surrounded by secrets and lies, is there anyone left who Callie can trust?

Twitter: @JessicaRedland

Facebook: Jessica Redland Writer

Website: www.jessicaredland.com

Another Mega Monday announcement: Lynne Pardoe ‘pockets’ a deal!

Who could have believed the speed with which the Write Romantics have been landing book deals recently. First there was Jessica Redland’s 467141_105087346295108_93731370_oexcellent (I know cos I’ve read it) ‘Searching for Steven’ and her three book contract with So Vain books. Then Harriet James ‘Remarkable Things’ to be published by Crooked Cat, then Helen J Rolfe’s ‘The Friendship Tree’ also to be published by Crooked Cat.

I thought the good luck was bound to run out there. I’d sent a partial of a pocket novel I’d been working on to D. C. Thomson in Dundee around that time. I’d been working on it for months and lacked confidence to send it to them. Then I had an email conversation with one of their staff on their editor’s fiction blog which was really helpful. The next day I saw a blog post by another of their fiction staff, Tracey Steele talking about how to write pocket novels and I thought ‘fate is trying to tell me something, send it off fast!’ So I popped three chapters and a synopsis off one morning and got a request for a full later that day. I was delighted and sent the rest straight away.

I thought it would be months until I heard and prepared myself for a long wait. I knew how many submissions they must have and tried my best to be patient. You see, to me it wasn’t just an ordinary book because my mum helped me write it. Mum has been very poorly lately. She contracted flu many years ago and the virus got into her heart muscle and infected it. That caused the muscular layer of the heart to stretch, get thinner and to work more slowly. Bolstered by tablets you’d hardly have noticed any difference in her for over thirty years, but she’s now 85 and time is catching up with her. She was very, very, poorly for a while recently. Going out was a thing of the past and it was a major effort for her to even walk across the room.

I?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? can only imagine how painful that was, and boredom soon set in too. But then I thought I’d talk to her about the plot for the novel I was then about to write, and her world lit up. She totally followed me into my imaginary world and we chatted for ages about the characters I’d described and why they were behaving as they were. Mum suggested a couple of scenes and the motive for one person’s actions that were crucial to the story. Spending time with mum in our world of make-believe was a tonic to us both.

Now I haven’t told you what happened to this story once I’d consigned it to paper. I’ve left you in the lurch a bit about the outcome of this tome. I thought with the rush of publishing contracts coming to the Write Romantic’s there would be no way I would get one, so I got ready to slog in with my trilogy of social work books. Then about a week later, I saw an email from Tracey from D. C. Thomson. I opened it fully expecting to see a ‘..thanks but no thanks,’ sort of comment.

The first sentence yielded nothing of the sort. Nor the second. Then the third seemed to say she liked it and would like to buy it! I could hardly believe my eyes but when I saw the word ‘Congratulations!’ later on I knew what I read was true! It was all confirmed the following day when a paper contract arrived in the post. I quickly signed it and sent it back before they could change their minds!

D.C. Thomson is a bit special to me. My dad was Scottish and always spoke very highly of them. He was a printer at The Daily Telegraph and cameauthor 2 home with ‘The People’s Friend’ and ‘Beano’ every week. I loved them and read every word. As I grew older I read ‘The Friend’ in the nursing homes I worked in, often with the patients. I kept reading it when I left nursing, so getting published by them is very special.

Now I won’t keep you much longer, you must have plenty to do. But do check back soon because I’m hoping this lucky spell will continue. I’ve read some of my fellow WR’s work and know how good it is and how close to publication they must be!

Lynne x