How to get published: Stand at the bar and smile

I’ve said this before, but a lot can change in a year. This time last summer I had a full-time job, was commuting three hours a day, and felt I was getting nowhere with my writing or my career in general. I’d finished a book and was submitting to agents, and getting rejected. I was close to completing another book, written on the off-chance, which I was vaguely thinking of calling The Fall. I had no contact with the writing world, except for the one or two writing conferences and events I had tentatively begun to attend. I then spent most of the summer either in Africa, still thinking I might try to work in international development, or unable to read/write/type for weeks when I came home with a busted right eye. It’s fair to say I couldn’t have expected that a year on, I’d be sitting here looking at proofs of what’s going to be my first published book.

Is there a point to this, I hear you cry? Stop going on about it, you smug git! No no no, there is a point. On Thursday I’m heading up to the Theakston’s Old Peculier Harrogate Crime Festival (in Harrogate, unsurprisingly). It’s similar to the one I went to in Bristol in May, only apparently more boozy (GOD HELP US is all I can say if this is true). I’m really looking forward to it, not least because of all the very lovely and fun crime writers I’ve now met. Published writers are unbelievably friendly and helpful. They ask all about your book and are genuinely pleased for you. They don’t go to these kinds of events and hang out behind a velvet rope drinking Cristal, while minions bring them Kettle Chips. There aren’t any minions. There’s no Kettle Chips. There definitely isn’t champagne. Just nice, friendly people with a bewildering tolerance for alcohol.

So this post’s ‘How to Get Published’ tip is: Go to events. There are lots of writing events on where you can meet writers, agents, and editors. You can get priceless advice on your work, and more importantly than this, by a sort of social osmosis you will gain a much clearer idea of how to sell your book in the current market. You’ll get an idea of what editors are looking for. Also, it will be fun, and that’s always a good reason to do something. It may be possible, or even desirous, to write in a vacuum, but unless you’re an unsung genius who’s been living up a pillar for ten years, it’s not possible any more to get published in one. You have to understand the market, at least a bit.

If you’re interested in writing crime, I would highly recommend going to Harrogate and also the Bristol Crimefest. For writing in general, the York Festival is brilliant as it’s specifically for aspiring writers. Apart from that you’ll find day and evening events run by the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, the London Writers’ Club, and London Writers Club. You can also go to book-related events like the Shoreditch House Literary Salon, Literary Death Match, True Stories Told Live, and the one-off festivals and talks that go on at places like Foyles, Daunts, and City University. A lot of these are in London, yes, but that’s the nature of publishing. Get out there and talk to people about your book – agents and editors often go to things like this with the direct aim of finding new authors. So go! Practice talking about your book in a few short sentences, figure out what genre it is (see previous post), then smile and be friendly. If you see a thirsty-looking dishevelled figure, buy them a drink. It’s probably a famous writer.

Can’t wait for Harrogate now. If you’re going, I’ll be the Irish girl at the bar with the drink in my hand.

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