BritMums Live! Reporters: Blogger’s Studio- The path to getting published

The Path to Getting Published
Presenters: Toni Hargis, Emily Carlisle, Erin Niumata, Cari Rosen and Kate Morris
Reporter: Cat Dean
I was particularly looking forward to this session – clearly not the only one as by the time the speakers started, the room was full, notepads were out, pens were uncapped.
First up was novelist and journalist Kate Morris. Speaking about fiction, she stressed the need for having a product – a complete finished manuscript to send to a publisher or an agent. She warned against the temptation of sending a manuscript out too soon, clearly empathising with the overwhelming desire to get some feedback but stressing that anything less will do you no favours.
She recommended getting feedback – proper criticism, not just a kind friend telling you it’s great. Speaking of kind friends, she also reminded us that it’s important to be very grateful to your readers; you are asking a pretty large and time-consuming favour, however good you think your story is.
The advice which resonated with me the most was her acknowledgement that a writer may not know what her/his book is while he/she is writing it, that it may not be until the end that one really understands what it is one is writing.
I also appreciated Kate’s encouragement – she acknowledged the huge commitment it takes, and how hard and how lonely it sometimes is. Her advice was to get the support you need, whether it’s from blogging friends, Arvon, a writing group, or mentoring. She also recommended Anne Lamott, whose Bird by Bird happens to be one my favourite books for writers.
Favourite quote: “Make the book as tight and compelling as possible. Have a break and then go back to it.”
Next, Emily of More than just a Mother told us how she got published as a result of her blog – everyone’s ears pricked up at that! She was approached on three separate times and she very generously shared a little about each:
The first was interested in a memoir, and felt that her blog readership clearly demonstrated marketability; the second was interested in a funny non-fiction book on motherhood; the third came about because Emily mentioned on Facebook that wanted to find an agent. All three felt that a really solid platform is crucial as it shows that there is a group of readers who are already interested in what you say, which in turn shows that you are marketable.
Emily recommended keeping one’s blog fresh, original and professional. She also advised that although it’s easy to be chatty, always remain professional as your blog is also your writing CV, which I thought was a great point.
Emily finished with a few practical tips:
  • try adding a few quirky facts on your ‘about me’ page
  • make your contact details very clear
  • try adding a post on your writing aspirations, with a prominent link, as publishers and agents want to know you are in it for longhaul
  • if you have any radio & tv podcasts, include clips, ideally showing you being fresh, engaging, smiley & holding your own
Favourite quote: “Carry on being interesting – these days authors have to do a lot to market their own books”.
Cari Rosen spoke next, about the joys of working with an agent. She writes non-fiction and  explained that unlike fiction, it’s not necessary to submit a complete manuscript, it’s more a question of presenting an idea in the best way.
Cari mentioned that having column in the Jewish Chronicle definitely helped her get an agent, and that her publisher preferred to work with an agent than dealing with an author directly. Cari went on to explain that this can be a great benefit to authors: if there are problems with publisher, the agent can play bad cop, protecting your relationship with the editor. It’s also a way of bypassing the dreaded slush pile.
Some other benefits agents can bring:
  • Industry knowledge – they know what people are looking for and what will sell
  • Negotiating skills and getting a deal
  • Acting as a sounding board; it’s much better to run an idea past your agent before investing too much time in it
  • Understanding of all the legal niceties
  • Career progression – agents earn from what you earn so are motivated to help
Cari also noted that any agent charging reading fees should be avoided and that it’s very important to actually like one’s agent to have a good working relationship. She finished by saying that although an agent’s fee (generally10-20% percent) may seem a lot, to her, it’s worth every penny.
Favourite quote: “I feel blessed to have an agent.
Erin Niumata, an agent, then told us about how to pitch to an agent or publisher:
For fiction, she said you should have a complete manuscript written but send:
  • A query letter (to show who you are)
  • A synopsis which includes the ending (to show it is a good story)
  • The first three chapters (to show you can actually write)
Don’t submit unsolicited manuscripts; Erin’s agency gets 100-120 every week! And don’t send gifts, flowers or call to follow up; be professional at all times and that includes following the rules and submitting as the agency or publisher requests. She also mentioned that the query letter will be read quickly and may determine whether or not they go on to look at your other material, so make sure that it is beautifully written, with no typos or punctuation errors.
For non-fiction proposals, Erin stressed that it was a combination of your overview, bio, marketability and platform which will help sell you to an agent or a publisher. She said that people want an expert in their field so make sure that’s how you position yourself. Social media is important, and will start to attract interest at the 500+ followers or more level.
In terms to choosing who to send to, Erin recommended that you get to know an agent or publisher’s list first and don’t just pick someone at random (or bcc a whole lot of people at once!). She suggested that you pick one, and target that person specifically. She also mentioned that if she received a submission which was not of interest to her personally but she thought was might fit someone else, she would definitely pass it along.
Favourite quote: “Catch my eye – be clever or smart or well-written and get to the point.”
In all, it was a very interesting, lively session with plenty of good advice and insider knowledge – thanks, ladies!
All About Cat Dean:

I blog on writing and creating amidst the chaos of family life at and I’m working on my first novel, sadly only between the hours of 5am and 7am before the children wake up! As well as struggling with effortlessly balancing family life with creative pursuits, I have something of an obsessive-compulsive disorder regarding stationery. I also make a mean batch of scones and am equally at home fiddling with words, wool and pixels.

I did an MSc in multimedia way back when people still said ‘the world wide web’ and I’ve freelanced and/or lectured in new media since then. I love writing and this year I was delighted win the National Galleries of Scotland ‘Inspired? Get Writing! Creative Writing Competition’; to have a short story published in Gutter & The Scotsman. I’ve also run workshops at Aye Write! and Write Now 2012 been shortlisted for the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award and read at Edinburgh International Book Festival.

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About Karin Joyce

Karin Joyce is the creator of Embrace Happy, an inspirational and motivational website where the focus is on celebrating the good in our lives every day. The Embrace Happy tagline is: Not every day is good but there is good in every day. Before starting Embrace Happy, Karin was one of the “old school” bloggers from the early days of what was then British Mummy Bloggers with her parenting blog Cafe Bebe. In between school runs, blogging and being a wife to Mark and Mum to Ella (6 1/2) and Sam (3), Karin also works as a freelance social media manager and consultant.

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