Novel Update: Which way in?


It was a long street, lined with brightly lit houses on either side. Dusk was falling and a cold wind was blowing from the north. Though the curtains were drawn and the windows shut, he heard the sound of music and laughter at every house he passed. He paused and listened: scraps of surplus revelry tossed to a tramp.

After a while, he plucked up the courage to knock on one of the doors. A butler cautiously opened it, peering through the gap. Not unfriendly, but not hospitable either. ‘Do you have an invitation? In that case, I’m sorry. I suggest you try elsewhere.’

But everywhere, the answers were the same. ‘I’m afraid not…’ ‘Don’t be disheartened…’ ‘Perhaps further down the road…’ Some didn’t bother to come to the door.

Cold and hungry, he stood on the pavement, brooding. He was about to leave when someone tapped him on the shoulder. ‘Why don’t you go round the back? Here, follow me.’

They walked together down a narrow path, pushed open a creaky door, and found themselves in a long, dingy corridor. It was packed with shadowy figures, some leaning against the wall, others sprawled on the floor. There was barely enough room to move.

‘It’s not great, I know,’ his new friend said. ‘But it’s better than outside. At least there’s a bit of warmth. And sometimes we get a few crumbs. Why don’t you find a space, make yourself comfy? I know it’s not what you wanted, but you’ll get used to it…’

My question now: stripped of the fancy metaphor, is that a fair description of the writer’s dilemma? Either you trudge from door to door, getting turned away by agents and publishers, or else you go through the self-publishing back door and huddle in the dark with thousands of others. To Amazon it’s all the same: a single author selling 5 million copies or a million authors each selling five.

I don’t know. I’m reading contradictory reports. It is possible, apparently, with enough hard work and marketing savvy, for self-published authors to emerge, if only a little, from the obscurity. But how many do? And those that don’t – do they regret taking that option?

So far I’ve knocked on 13 doors with One Green Bottle. 8 refusals, 5 no answers. It’s not a lot, I know. Some people try a hundred or more. So I guess I’ll keep on knocking, displaying the same hopeful smile to every butler I see. But at the same time, maybe it’s worth taking a peek round the back to get genned up on the alternative.

I’m still at the start of my journey. So I’d be very happy to hear from anyone who’s ventured further than me 🙂

The Incredibly Cruel Creepy-Crawly


Dear Literary Agent,

I’ve written this fantastic book. It’s about an incredibly cruel creepy-crawly that kidnaps the Duchess of Cambridge and takes her to the planet of Vglchbaaal, where she has lots of adventures. I won’t tell you the ending because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but you’ll be relieved to know she does get safely back. Wouldn’t do to kill off the Duchess of Cambridge, would it? The title, by the way, is The Incredibly Cruel Creepy-Crawly that Kidnapped Kate – I just love that alliteration, don’t you?

I’m sure you’ll adore this book because it’s full of suspense and my Mum says it’s brilliant. It includes a 200 page dictionary of the Vglchbaaalian language so readers can understand the dialogues. I kept them in Vglchbaaalian to make it more authentic.

I enclose my bank details so you can send me an advance on royalties. Or if you prefer, just pop a cheque in the post.

Have a great day!




Dear Arnold,

Thank you for sending me The Incredibly Cruel etc., which I have now considered. Regretfully, I am going to pass on this. I wish you all success in finding suitable representation with another agent.


Sydney Lushpile, Literary Agent.

OK, the proper way to write a query letter is a bit different. But of course, even if you’ve sweated over it for hours till it’s perfect, the chances of getting anything other than a reply like the one above are much, much smaller than Wales one day beating the All Blacks.

Alex+Cuthbert+Wales+v+New+Zealand+International+SdSJWGu6wCDlJulian+Savea+Wales+v+New+Zealand+International+cXyxXyvYPT2l 10802229_600x400

Enough said.

On the Book Country discussion board, Jay Greenstein puts it this way: Publishers aren’t looking for writers who are as good as those they have. A new writer has no following, so they need the great reviews that bring in readers. So first, your work should be at a level where if they took your submission and mixed it with that of ten writers currently with books in the stores, an acquiring editor couldn’t tell, just by reading, that yours is the one unpublished writer’s submission. And in fact, yours must be the best of the bunch.

Such is the harsh reality of the publishing world.