Don't want to get Written Off before you start? Paul Carroll, author of 'Written Off' gives ten pieces of advice for aspiring authors.
Start out on the basis that you're NOT going to get a publishing deal. Sorry, but the odds are against you - that's a fact. Now work out how you're going to beat the odds. It's not just about persistence - it's about knowing how to play the game.
Think about what genres sell. Publishers know readers continue to shell out for Romance, Crime, Historical and Fantasy and they're not looking for books that have limited commercial appeal. What's your genre? Does it sell? Exactly who would buy it?
Plan. Do you develop your characters, story arc and chapter plan before you start writing, or are you more a 'jump in, turn on the ignition and drive' kind of author? Which approach is going to best help you reach your destination? This stuff just doesn't 'happen' you know (unless, maybe, you're James Joyce).
Write. It sounds simple, but you need an enormous amount of discipline to get words down on the page. Establish a regular writing regime, remember the journey of a thousand miles starts with a small step, and keep going (even when it hurts to do so).
Finished writing? No you haven't. Now you've got to edit. And edit it again. Finally ready? Now give it to a group of friends and ask for constructive feedback. Absorb that feedback and edit again (while remembering Somerset Maugham's line that people who ask for criticism only want praise).
To land a publishing contract you need a literary agent in 99% of cases. But agents get hundreds of submissions from hopefuls every week so why will they be interested in yours? Research who's interested in your genre and who is actively looking for first-time authors.
Check submission rules for the different agents/agencies you're targeting and adhere to their guidelines - agents are busy people and don't make up individual rules for fun. A killer pitch letter and a sharp synopsis are your keys to opening that door - get those wrong and your brilliant book may fall at the first hurdle.
Read. Devour as many books as you can, and ask yourself what makes them successful/why did an agent and a publisher pick up on them in the first place? Can you capture some of that appeal in your writing/your pitch?
Grow a thick skin. In the main your submission is going to be met with rejection letters, or the studied indifference of no reply at all. Don't get angry, resentful or suicidal. It doesn't mean you can't write - it's more likely you're writing material agents/publishers can't sell.
Know when to stack your hand. If you've got nowhere with pitching to agents, your book is more than likely not going to fly (if you believe in it you can self-publish - it doesn't cost the earth). Then what? Write something new, something better, and keep going. You can get there.
Paul Carroll's second novel, Written Off, follows his debut book, A Matter of Life and Death, published by Matador in 2012.
Written Off follows four, aspiring authors who dream of getting their work into print. Self-publishing is seen as a cop out. But as they strive to attain their goal, they fail to recognise that all is not well in the world of traditional publishing.
Anybody who has ever tried to write a novel, attempted to get published, or knows someone who has, will find Written Off an entertaining and all too familiar account of thwarted ambition, frustration and rejection.
Paul Carroll's inspiration comes, unapologetically, from his own experiences.
"As I peered over my ever-growing pile of literary rejections, I was forced to ask myself: could anybody help me to land that elusive book deal? Well, there was no shortage of people offering to try. It was then I realised that the only ones making any money out of this particular gold rush were the people selling the spades."
Behind all the fun, Carroll also points out that Written Off contains more genuine 'how to get published' information than can be found in any number of highly expensive courses and workshops currently available to would-be writers.
He says if you don't agree with that claim after reading it, he'll give you your money back.
Written Off is available in paperback (£8.99) or as an E-version (£2.99) from Amazon and usual sources.