I’m just back from doing a panel at the London Book Fair (with Lionel Shriver and agent Carole Blake, among others) entitled “How To Get Published.” When asked to participate, I admitted up-front that my theory is moronically simple: write a very very good book (i’m afraid I worded it somewhat more emphatically this afternoon). Because, contrary to popular belief, publishers and agents are simply gagging for terrific books and will welcome you with open arms if you’ve managed to produce one.  Of course it’s not always easy to write deathless prose, as I’m discovering at the moment.  And if you haven’t written the next Wolf Hall or Twilight (speaking of deathless prose, geddit?), getting published might be considerably more difficult.

I remember being sick to death of writing nice enthusiastic begging letters to potential employers at some point in my desultory advertising career.  In a fit of pique (towards the end of my career, I admit), I resorted to sending a query letter that read “My portfolio is obviously crap, but probably no worse than anyone else’s.”  I got more interviews from that letter than from all the others put together. I learned a lot from advertising about writing and selling.

The sad (or happy?) truth about the publishing world is that there is no secret cabal.  You do not need to have a brother-in-law in the business. Or be 21 and gorgeous. On the other hand, a bit of luck never hurts, a bit of persistence is absolutely necessary, and a whole lot of talent will make you a raft of new best friends in the biz. If you can’t sell your book, and have tried every agent and editor you can think of, write another book. You’re a writer after all, and that’s what you should be doing anyway.

Lionel, by the way, is nicer than she looks.


13 thoughts on “How To Get Published

  1. bookwitch 9 years ago

    You’ll find it’s the software’s that to blame and not the hardware. Besides, belonging to someone young and exciting is probably looking quite attractive to poor Mac. Just think of the things he’ll get up to now!

  2. C 9 years ago

    Ah, so you’re a Mac woman. Are you also a fan of Scrivener? (And please, please, Meg’s Mac, cough up the riveting ‘How to Get Published’ post. Some people love it when Meg talks shop, you know.)

  3. Meg 9 years ago

    No, don’t use Scrivener. My books don’t seem to be complicated enough to require all that tracking….

  4. Tracy Buchanan 9 years ago

    Ha ha, yes, I remember you using a very different word to ‘very very’! I did a blog post about the masterclass at http://www.tracybuchanan.co.uk, thanks again for your advice!

    Tracy (the YA urban fantasy writer who’s getting published in Germany)

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      Great blog, Tracy, made me laugh!! And I didn’t notice the woman storming out, but there was some talk about it afterwards. I thought i was being quite positive, albeit in a slightly scary way….

    2. Kerry 9 years ago

      I was delighted to hear your strong words about writing a ‘jolly’ good book. It’s a skill to deliver sound advice and be entertaining at the same time…I heard an author speak at the York Writing Festival who told us that we were shamefully, unbearably lazy if we weren’t up at six writing 3000 words a day, so I was cheered to hear that you have days when you don’t get much down at all but persevere until something comes out! How much more positivity did that psychologist need?!

    3. Meg 9 years ago

      Oh for heaven’s sake. Six AM? Three thousand words a day? Absurd. You work the best way you can work. Some people take ten years to write a book — not sure what they do for food money in the meantime, but more power to them. The thing I always find interesting is the question “how do you have the discipline?” But it’s not really a question of discipline — as Lionel said, most of us are motivated by terror!

  5. Kathryn Evans 9 years ago

    Am working on this crucial element of success, be good at what you do…..

  6. bookwitch 9 years ago

    But, but, now the comment is a comment about the wrong post! Sort it out, will you!
    Lionel nice?? Really?

  7. Alice 9 years ago

    God I love your blog, Meg, and your philosophy,too. The persistance bit is mega-important. You know you’re a writer if you’re writing!

    (or bitching?)

    Anyway, glad your site is up again.

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      HI Alice. Thanks for that — but why on earth does my computer think you’re spam? You of all people? You are so not spam! How’s the book going? xxx

  8. Anne Rooney 9 years ago

    Excellent advice, and the only solid advice anyone needs. Sadly, there’s no money to be made from it so there will continue to be lots of other, spurious advice floating around….

  9. Debbie Edwards 9 years ago

    Yeay! I found the article!
    Good common sense, Meg.

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