We gathered indoors to the cool, still interior of the Smock Alley Theatre on Friday afternoon to get the inside track on what it takes to get published. Talking us through for the afternoon were Seán O’Keeffe, Publisher and MD of Liberties Press; Alice Dawson, Publicity and Marketing Manager at Liberties Press and the charming Declan Burke, Irish author of crime fiction novels such as Absolute Zero Cool.
As an aspiring novelist, the prospect of getting published can often seem like light years away from the daily slog of getting your story down on paper. Getting a chapter finished is a big deal and when you finally complete a draft manuscript, you then have to grapple with the realisation that you will have to go through the entire process again for your next draft. Ernest Hemingway said that ‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed’ – yet what about after the bleeding is done, what about getting your story out there and into the world of publishing?
Rejection, unfortunately, is part of the process and so to minimise the chances of repeat rejection, it is important to research and be aware of the publishing houses and agents that have an interest in the type of writing that you do. The ‘Writers and Artists Handbook’ should be by your side through this process and the key here is to know your market inside out, target it with a polished product, stay patient and keep trying. This approach will go a long way to opening the doors into the publishing world, which is like any other professional business – not something wistful and mystical because the currency is books – so having a professional approach is expected.
For fiction writers, a book that is introduced by an agent is likely to get much more attention from a publisher, as a good agent with a tailored approach will know the market and what the publishers are interested in. When the time comes to look for an agent, the rule seems to be to pitch your work to agents one at a time until you find someone who understands your work. If you are by-passing the agent route, make sure you read and follow the submission guidelines on the publishers website and it is okay to submit to a few publishing houses simultaneously.
Once your work has gained the interest of a publishing house, it’s all about packaging your book and finding readers through the publicity and marketing channels. In addition to the traditional promotional strategies of interviews and reviews, Alice Dawson also wanted us to be aware of the importance of social media. As an unpublished author, if you already have an online presence (actively blogging or using Twitter for example), it shows that you are willing to put yourself out there and create awareness about your writing. This willingness to self-promote is a great advantage to publishers and it can act as a springboard from which to generate your book’s commercial potential. And it shouldn’t all be about ‘the book’ either – as an author, you should be able to create and engage in conversation about topics that interest you and subject matters that are perhaps reflected in your writing.
Best-selling author Dan Brown commented in the National Concert Hall on Monday night that writers by nature like to be alone, but once you have a hit book, you need to go out into the spotlight and be charming. And it seems that getting published is not about handing your book over to a publisher and letting the magic happen, in fact writing your book is only the start of the getting published process.
Written by Nicola Connolly.
Photo by David Mannion.