Tag Archives: writers and artists

A positive rejection

Reading[Day12]*Phil: I’ve been back on the query letter treadmill recently.

There has been much trawling through the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook looking for agents who aren’t based in London. We’ve nothing against an agent residing in the capital it’s just that we think they may prefer authors from within the M25 and that isn’t us. If anyone wants to prove me wrong, feel free, but when faced with many pages of potential contacts, you’ve got to reduce the list somehow.

Anyway, last Saturday I e-mailed off another query complete with letter and fully proof-read first 3 chapters. Later on, while checking my phone in the pub (I was waiting for my mate to come back with his round and looking at your phone says, “I’m not a weirdo loitering for no reason” to anyone who looks your way. Or at least most blokes think it does.) I spotted a reply.

Sadly, the reply was a rejection, but a good one.

This looks a good read. Sadly, it wouldn’t be quite right for our contacts.

A good read.

She thinks it looks like A Good Read.

That’s brilliant!

All we have even wanted to do is write a good read. We’ve never claimed to be knocking out the sort of complicated literary stuff that gets the hard-core critic excited. We just want to entertain a few people. People who might be sitting beside a pool somewhere or curled up on a sofa with a steaming mug of tea and a slice of cake.

It’s important to remain positive as you struggle towards being published, so we’ll take this little morsel and thank the kind person who made both of our days.

Now, if we can just find someone who thinks the same thing AND has suitable contacts…


Filed under Phil, Publishing, Writing

An airport novel or a supermarket book?

TescoPhil: On Tuesday, Candice concluded “We just want to appear on the holiday read stand at the airport” because we don’t aspire to being “literary” authors, we’re in this to get a story out there and entertain people. As the one sitting beside a copy of the Writers’ & Artists’ yearbook which is currently costing me over 60p in library fines, targeting the publishers who supply to the airport bookstand is apparently my job.

Never mind that next week it won’t be me passing through an airport on my way to  Yankee Doodle Bloomingdales land. Apparently research on the way to check-in is impossible for security reasons. Something to do with jotting down lists of publishers in the departure lounge is a well know terrorist activity that could result in a free flight to the state (Good) but wearing an orange jumpsuit (bad, orange is so 2006).

So, I’ve been thinking about a quick trip to the local airport. I’d get a ride on the cable-tram thingy (good) that replaced the maglev (better) and then I can look over the branch of Waterstones to see what they stock.

But. I was wandering around my local Sainsbury’s supermarket a couple of days ago and happened across the book section. I’ve not really taken much notice but this time I was struck by the price. A quick check revealed that rival Tesco is the same. £3.85 for a paperback? Seems like a bargain to me. I’m not paying much less than this for second-hand books in a charity shop. If you are rubbish at returning loans, it’s not much more that library fines!

Anyway, this makes me wonder if our target market is people flying off on holiday, or casual shoppers?

Maybe the airport is more glamorous but unless you are my friend, trips there are for most an annual event. If we want sales, we need our book chucked in to the trolley with baked beans. It’s easier to do my research too as the publishers details are on the web site and I can Google the authors to find out who their agents are. Ignore the celebrity titles and I reckon I can narrow the search down to half a dozen. Even I can manage to write that list.


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Libraries used to be simpler

Library CardPhil: According to my calendar, it’s time to renew my Library books. Specifically, it’s time to renew the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook that I’m supposed to be looking for publishing agents addresses in.

I am looking at the date because it was 2 days ago so I am now clocking up fines for not getting the books back on time. I am a bad man.

Now, in theory I can renew my books online. I know this because in a past life I was lightly involved in making this happen.  Now I’ve moved on, I can’t remember my PIN number so that’s another days worth of fines to clock up.

When I was a kid, libraries were a lot simpler. They had little card wallets with your name on them. When a book was borrowed, a ticket from inside would be slipped into the wallet to be retrieved when it was returned. Then new tickets with bar codes on were issued and books were scanned in and out. Both of these systems involved writing inside the book the return date.

Now we don’t get this. By the library entrance there are machines you put the books and your card in to. Some clever jiggery-pokery later and the details are recorded on your records and if you want to know the return dates other than on screen, it can print you a receipt.

All this is good for librarians. They used to hate the impression that most people had of them stamping books in and out. The profession is much more about helping the visitor find the right book or the right bit of information. They leapt on the Internet when it appeared, my first serious on-line experience was on the sole library PC, and most have a selection of publicly available computers along with staff to help you use them.

Elseshwere, there are events to get you reading. The entrance is home to regularly changing displays encouraging reader to try different books to the ones they normally look at. I’ve picked up a couple from here before so this works. Events for kids with story reading are regular features, especially during holiday times. I suspect I’d have loved these when I was a nipper. My Mum would have appreciated the chance to have someone else read to me too.

Anyway, another days of fines to come but that’s my fault. I think I’d rather pay them than explain to Ms Nolan quite why I still need the Yearbook. I’ll be done by next month. Honest!

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Writers – what is your “peg” ?

Story in Solihull NewsPhil: A few nights ago I found myself with time to read some of the articles in the Writers and Artists Yearbook. You know what? They are really interesting? Not just fillers between the lists of addresses we want but good solid information for aspiring authors.

Since I’m in charge of submitting The Book to agents, I was particularly taken by the piece written by marketing consultant Alison Baverstock called “Helping to Market your book”. It’s an area that is an anathema to most writers it appears, but one that Mrs Marketing and I have discussed over cakes many times.

One of the most important points is to provide a “peg” to hang your story on. Not the book, that’s a given, but that detail a journalist can use to base their article around. “I have written a book” isn’t it – we’ve all done that, go away and find something interesting to talk about. You need a story as well as your book.

Team NolanParker have a couple of angles we plan to work.

First, there is the (apparently) very unusual team writing aspect. Odder still, we are a man and woman writing together. People ask how this works (quite well), do we really agree on stuff (not always but we can stand criticism from each other and sometimes it produces new ideas), do we split the chapters up (yes but then we work on each others) and how did we come up with the story?

The last question takes us to peg number 2 – the “How we met up” story. Ours is a tale of unexpectedly finding ourselves sharing desk space and having no work to do while being part of a quango in a death spiral. We were in the middle of an age of austerity story and so we wrote an age of austerity book. With added love and buckets of laughs.

All this should give anyone interviewing us some material to work with. After all, the recession is till happening. People still like a laugh.

That’s our “peg”. What’s yours?


Filed under Books, Phil, Publishing, Writing

Here we go again

Candice: After some time, some editing, some literary festival discussions and some cake; the first three chapters of ‘Kate and the Dirtboffins’ are almost ready to go out to unsuspecting Agents again.

Phil’s and my novel has been rewritten within an inch of its life; characters removed, plot lines reassessed, wardrobes updated and now its been through the helpful hands of Liz at Libroediting who’ve given our bad spelling, crap use of speech and general dyslexia a once over to help make this a quality document. Liz looked at the last version, and her comment about it lacking a hook really made us think.  Well this time apparently, it’s more compelling than it was before! We may not agree will all the changes she’s suggested but at least we have an outside opinion on what we have done.

We’ve also given her our newly revamped, marketised and generally much better query letter so she can give it the once over.  I’m actually very happy with that one particularly as Phil and I ripped the other one apart, whilst sweating buckets under a tree at the Hatton Arms a few weeks ago, and I now think this is something that people will go “humm, this sounds very interesting” rather than getting lost in the slush pile.

So the last step lies with Mr Parker as I am busy packing boxes on the proviso I will be moving house in just over a week.  The girl can only concentrate on so many things at one time, you know.  He’s been in the library with Writer’s and Artist’s again, working out who might like our new book.

However, in the middle of all this Liz came back and said, ” I don’t know how the publishing industry is the moment, have you considered self publishing?” Well that is interesting, the word is obviously getting further and further out there that things have changed (it also shows she doesn’t read our blog 😦  ). I went back and said yes we have, but want to give the old-fashioned,traditional route one more try.

So Phil is making notes, printing packs and stuffing envelopes for one last time before we go and see Authoright for self publishing ideas.


Filed under Candice, Writing

Self Publishing – not as bad as we thought?

Cakes!Candice: Phil and I toddled along to a “self publishing clinic” as part of Stratford Literary Festival yesterday afternoon.  Having delved into the idea of self publishing before Phil and I had been reluctant as it seemed like the route for those who couldn’t get an Agent or a proper publishing contract, but having listened to tonight’s event, it seems things have changed in the publishing world.

In fact, in the two years since we started this project, and went to London to the Writers and Artists year book event, the perception of self publishing seems to have come along in leaps and bounds.  No longer is the pariah of the book world, it seems that more people are going down this route than the traditional as the publishing world gets squeezed by ebooks and the recession.

The event was compared by Ian Davies, owner of a self publishing company Swift Publishing, Gareth Howard, a book marketing expert and Polly Courtney, self published author.  Obviously, these guys are going to have a bias as they work in this industry (or have been successful by this route) but what they said made a lot of sense.

I really like Gareth’s description of this being like selling your house:

1. Get an Estate Agent – yes it’s slightly easier than getting a literary agent but their job is to sell your house/book.  They don’t have to like it, it just has to be well presented and saleable.

2. Market it properly – be that rightmove or social media, it’s about getting your commodity out there on the market.  In the book world, that’s about creating a good sales package that you can do alongside what your agent is doing.

3. It’s all about the money – remember this is a commercial enterprise so whether selling a house or a book, it needs to make money.  Make your offering as good as possible, perhaps sell the first book online and then show you are a saleable entity – Agents aren’t about making the world a better place, they are all about ROI.

And then finally, you have to be an entrepreneur in all this.  You can’t be precious about what you are selling, you need to put together a professional package, be that social media or a good spokesperson for the media. Tim backed this up by saying publishers may often turn away a perfectly good book if the author isn’t PR friendly.

Polly added some useful thoughts on how she made it in this book world. I admired her gumption as she had the offer of a publisher but stuck to her guns to publish the book she wanted, not what they wanted.  And she’s carried on from there.

Another useful event for Phil and I, and has left us fired up to investigate the world of self publishing as it sounds like it’s no longer “vanity” publishing.  Put us on your Christmas book shopping list now!

And of course, there were tea and cakes with this event, something I think we should have at all of our signing events in the future.


Filed under Candice, Writing

Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival

How to get published stagePhil: Yesterday evening, Candice and I wended our way to the Shakespeare Centre, next door to the Bard of Avon’s birthplace, for an event called “How to get published….or How we did it”. Along with around 30 other eager wannabee authors, we hoped to find the secret code or incantation that would take The Book from a file on our computers to the front window of Waterstones bookshops.

Hosted by Gareth Howard (CEO of authoright.com), there were a panel of real authors: SJ Watson, Rachel Joyce and Julia Crouch. All had been through the process of writing, submitting, editing and then watching their book get published and the idea was that they could describe this to us and we would learn the tricks of the trade.

Each writer started with a little of their background and then a very short reading from their book. After this the chairman asked a few questions to get the discussion going and then threw it open for the attendees to ask thier own.

Sadly, none of the panel seemed to have a big pile of rejection slips from agents or publishers, pretty disappointing as the owner of such a pile myself, but we did get an insight into the process once you are accepted.

There was a lot of talk about the mountain to be climbed before getting there. SJ had reduced his full time job in the NHS to part-time to free up writing space. A couple had been through a very demanding Faber course where they’d been told to cancel all extraneous appointments for 6 months. Basically, writing is hard work was the message. Julia wrote the main part of her novel during NaNoWriMo, which is a serious commitment in itself and the first time I’ve heard of anyone getting anything out of this.

Once you get there published of course, it’s fabulous. I loved Julia’s description of the joy of seeing the book in print. I have a feeling it’s like the first time I placed an article in a magazine (I haunted WH Smiths for days around the date it was due) but times 100.

Funnest moment though, had to be either the loud “Oooof” issued by one of the audience when Rachel mentioned she was a mother of 4, or SJ’s advice on the famous Artist’s and Writer’s Yearbook.

The story goes, he was on a writing course and the tutor asked how many people had bought a copy. All the hands went up.

Then he asked, how many people still owned it. Half the hands went down.

To the rest, his advice was simple.

“Burn it. It’s full of dead people”

Not something the W&A marketing department would be entirely happy with but you can see his point. After all, you can just as easily look at the books on sale that you like, or your novel could happily sit alongside. Check out the agent details in the back and look them up on t’interweb. That’s 14 quid saved. Which allowing for the cost of entry, would go a long way to an after show drink.

Which is exactly what it did do. We sat and talked, the results of which we’ll be blogging in the near future. Watch this space – writing mojo has returned.


Filed under Phil, Publishing, Writing

What writers do apart from writing.

Phil: A terrible realisation hit us this week. It’s been nearly a year since Kate vs The Dirtboffins was “finished” and we’ve not really done much since then. Well, not much of what you might consider proper writing. There was of course the short story (still available for free download on the left hand side of this blog) and a couple of other bits we’ve noodled with, but no actual real writing.

At first this was a shock but in fact it highlights a simple problem – defining what being a writer is all about. The popular perception is that authors sit in their garrets churning out great slabs of text. The only breaks in this routine are lunches with publishers, trips to literary festivals and the occasional lie down on the chaise longe with the back of ones hand against the forehead awaiting the creative spark to strike again.

Which is pretty much what we want. The garret will probably be an office but apart from that it’s all good. Lunch at the Ivy every few weeks for the publisher to massage our egos – Check. Stage appearances to talk at enthusiastic crowds of fans – Check. Awaiting the creative spark – well it’s probably going involve bouncing ideas around in a cake shop rather than a piece of furniture last made for Queen Victoria, but – Check.

Trouble is, that isn’t what it’s all about. OK, so the writing bit is fundamental to the process but for the aspiring author it isn’t all. Editing matters a lot too. We aren’t at the stage where everything that hits the page stays there. Much of this year has involved punting the text out to our test readers and then trying to decide which of the comments they have made need to be incorporated. Each one is a step towards the perfect book, but it takes time and matters nearly as much as writing the flaming thing in the first place.

Next there is the submissions to agents and publishers. That all takes time too. At least that bit should go away once someone gets the message that this is the publishing phenomenon we believe it to be. I’ll happily swap this for lunches in good restaurants !

When we had our trip down to London a few months ago (was it really June ?) several of the other attendees hadn’t twigged all this. One lady got quite angry and announced that she wanted to be “A Writer” and was considering hiring someone else to do all the administration of submissions and editing. Presumably the phrase “independently wealthy” could be applied ‘cos I know I’m not getting paid for any of this ! Which if course is the other issue – we both have to eat and that means work. Proper paid work, which uses up even more writing time.

Having said all this, at least part of the reason we did this was for the fun of writing a story and in the pursuit of a publishing deal it’s easy to forget that. Kate & Co’s tale is no worse for existing in a very limited form and there should be a joy in simply making stories up. So we really will crack on with Book 2 next year. A writing day is already on this years calendar.


Filed under Phil, Publishing, Writing

The book is back

Phil: Not The Book obviously, that never went away, I mean the book that all writers are supposed to treat as some sort of bible – The Writers and Artists Yearbook.

When we went down to the even in London a few months ago, copies of this were on sale at a bargain price to all the budding Browns and Rowlings. They did a reasonable trade as a copy of this is de rigour the bookshelf if you aspire to getting published. Like the fancy notepad, it’s a staple writer accessory. Who doesn’t need instant access to the addresses of every company in the publishing world or the details of every potential outlet for your work ?

Erm, well, the publishing world is in the Internet nowadays and sometimes with more up to date details than those found in the book. This point was raised and the editors admitted that if there was a discrepancy you should go with the web. As for outlets, well for magazine work you ought to be reading an issue or two before submitting and if you pay attention, the editors contact details are usually inside. So, is there a point or is this just another bit or literary decoration ? Yes there is, in my opinion.

What the web doesn’t do is bring together stuff you didn’t know about. Simply browsing through gives you ideas that you wouldn’t have had any other way. There might be websites that claim to offer the same service but they want you to pay for it and so you don’t really save any money.

Better still, there are articles by famous and successful people to read. It’s a bit like Playboy in this respect – writers might say they read it for the articles but really they are lusting over the agents and publishing house details in between.

So, as a writer, I have a copy on my desk ? Nope. But then I have an advantage over many authors. Living in posh and sunny Leamington Spa so my local library will let me borrow their copy. For free. Apart from the fines when I hang on to it too long anyway. Many libraries only have the Yearbook as a reference item and even then it’s hidden under the counter like a mucky video that you have to ask specially for. Writers are obviously untrustworthy and will make off with it if access is not controlled. Except in my town, where we are too nice for that apparently.

(Biscuit note – The digestives in the photo are from the Co-op own brand range and a lot nicer, more shortbready, than the McVities version)


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The Help

Candice: I’ve been abit slack recently and haven’t posted for about two weeks. It’s a good job my partner in crime is a regular writer. I shall blame my flu-like feelings over the last week, and general franticness at work for this week. Actually, it’s just because I spend all day on a computer I often don’t want to log onto another when I get home.

Because of this I’ve asked for an iPad 2 for Christmas, thinking I can just whip it out in the lounge, do what I need to do and then ignore it. Rather than going up to the spare room and turning the big beast on, and then getting sucked in for an hour. Anyway, this is not what this post was going to be about.

There is a film out at the moment called The Help (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Help). The story is about African-American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s, based on the personal experiences of the author Kathryn Stockett. This in itself is not that relevant to our story. Yes it’s probably a good book and film but I’m more interested in going to see “My Week with Marilyn” next time I go to the cinema. However, the bit that caught my eye when I was reading the review in Grazia the other week was that, apparently, the book got rejected 60 times before being picked up.

That’s six zero times.

Well, obviously I’m not looking for Phil and I to be rejected that may times but 60 – I think I really would have given up by then (in fact if I was unemployed and been rejected for that may jobs I’d be thinking about leaving the country). So, as Phil mentions in his last post, we are going to give it another go. The last two agencies we submitted to have resulted in the sum total of no response. Slightly annoying, as we’d met one briefly at an event in London and the other was based in Brum (and we thought we had the regional spin to a tee). But, their loss….

So its back to the Writers and Artists year book for more ideas and discussions over cake (though we seem to be going more towards baked spuds at the mo but that might be because its winter). And yes, come 2012 Book 2 will be up and running, ‘cos it needs to be. One can only flog the first book so many times without feeling that we really need something fresh to talk about. Now, I just need to get better at having a lunch break and meeting Phil and we’ll be fine.

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