Marie Claire’s Event – How To Get Published Tour

So I’m going to type up my notes first and then write what I thought as it’s gotten quite long and I’d like to share my findings with you guys before you get bored about my wittering ons – although if you do read the whole lot.  Bravo! treat yourself to cookies and milk.

Freya North

  • Average word count 140,000 to a book.
  • There is no right or wrong to how to write  – dont be put off if someone plans and you dont – dont be scared to do it your own way
  • She uses the character to bring the plot to her
  • Be deciplined with how and where you write – Freya writes in a converted stable with her back to the view, facing a wall with her research and pictures of inspiration.
  • Do your research – very important
  • Use the smallest of leads for topics
  • Write because you want to tell stories not because you want to be a writer
  • Be your character’s PA
  • Learn to touch type – it is important to look after yourself, your posture as you write – if you dont you’ll damage yourself
  • Develop a thick skin – for years of rejection!
  • Freya doesn’t write for a particular audience.  She likes to write modern fairytails
  • Freya joked that she makes characters (especially male leads) for personal use seeing she’s single – almost like Kevin Costner’s field of Dreams – “If you’ll invent him he will come”
  • She spends 12 months (15 most) to write a book, this includes research, final reading to 3rd draft then submission.
  • She reconmends not to be tempted to over edit
  • Try not to faff nor obsess on word count
  • Focus on Quality
  • Thalia said it’ll help to get a quote from a published author on your work to give in with your submission – Freya said “Oh make it up!” like she did to get her first book published
  • Freya doesn’t read when writing, she spends her reading time on research but if she does read then its done on holiday

Jonathan Lloyd – The Agent (CEO, Curtis Brown)

  • There is a slim chance of you getting an agent
  • They get 200 manuscripts a week which are read by assistants and interns
  • Do make an effort with your pitch – do your homework on the agency you’re sending your manuscript to
  • Make your submission personal addressing the agent not the agency
  • Be clear of your genre – if you dont fit in somewhere compare yourself to an author
  • Look to your inspiration or books similar to your writing – look in their acknowledgments to see who their agent is then submit to them
  • Personalize and flattery gets you everywhere
  • Give a clear synopsis
  • Explain your genre
  • Make your covering letter look good – double space, single sided and typed
  • Work hard, get an agent and keep dreaming
  • On asked on the importance of a CV he said – Publishers but the author not the book, make it clear you have more than one idea, show the ideas, market yourself as a media savy promotable author, show enthusiasm
  • If you do get a deal it’s going to be a good deal – current climate means not a lot happening but when it does it’ll be serious
  • It is possible to be outside a genre
  • Finish book before submitting

Thalia Suzuma – The Publisher (Editor, Harper Collins)

  • Dont give up – develop thick skin
  • They receive high volumes of requests and have to pitch ones they like in a weekly meeting
  • They have to sell the idea to their collegues before a author gets published so if they could compare you as the next JK Rowling it would help – so make it clear what style/genre the writing is
  • Get 2600 submissions a year sign 15-20
  • Find a way to make your book stand out
  • Do as much research as possible
  • Use reading/writing groups as focus groups
  • Be self assured
  • Check out what people are reading
  • Research the market
  • Dont be tempted to write fan fiction – no copycat you wont enjoy it
  • Get feedback before approaching agent
  • Ask friends different specific questions when asking them to review work e.g. look for typos or plot flaws
  • Agents are crucial no unsolicited manuscripts are accepted
  • What editors want – Book other people enjoy – Quality of writing – plot – plausability – Accesability – can you relate? – avoid a disapointing ending – the voice is important – create an engaging voice from the author.

Miranda McMinn – The Journalist (Marie Claire)

  • Two ways non fiction wise – freelance or work from the bottom up
  • Freelance is hard as many places only use experience writers who they’ve used before!
  • FOMO as an example – Focus idea by giving it a headline, and acronym is good, include firm facts without writing the feature, research, step by step how you’d do it.
  • Submission by email – chase by email one week “Just checking you received my…” then a week “any thoughts” then a week “I assume you’re not keen hope you dont mind I’ll move the idea on”

When asked is it worth taking a creative writing course – Thalia replied yes it’s good taking the time.  Jonathan replied promoting the Curtis Brown course! which they have produced a few of their authors.

What I thought…

So the day had come.  I’d been waiting patiently for what seemed like forever – you see I dont get out much! My excitement grew as the day came closer.  My excitement continued after the event as I tried to jot my feelings down in my liberty art fabrics journal on a bumpy, swervy train.

Being a planner I had my day planned to perfection.  My outfit planned weeks in advance as I anticipated a reception the cross between Ugly Betty and The Devil Wears Prada.  With my Prada sunnies does that make me the Devil?

I had work in the morning using some of my flex so I could leave early.  The day dragged as I waiting for 3 o’clock.  Left work and cursed a lorry turning in the road in fear of messing up my schedule.  I’d prepared everything the night before, making sure the shower hose was dangling down from it’s holder saving precious seconds to wash my hair over the side of the bath.  My clothes were picked and laid out at the end of the bed – more seconds saved.  I’d have my eyebrows waxed and hair cut at the weekend – no mono brow or frizzy hair a-la- Betty for me!  I made up time lost with the lorry and then some.  Pleased with my appearance my fiance drove me to the train station early and I made an earlier than planned train.  I do love planning even much so when it goes to plan or preferably ahead!

So I embarked on my first lone trip to London.  I live in the Sussex countryside and hardly (read never) use public transport.  London is a shock I click clacked in my Blue Suade KGs (with a bow) whilst fighting against the hustle and bustle of London – this wasn’t even rush hour!  My new phone proved useful as I navigated my way to the Marie Claire HQ, stopping to tweet a picture of the needle thingy to Neha.  I was surprised at how easily I stumbled upon it and how I recognised it.  Neha does has a talent for description.

It was easy to find my way I stopped at Pret for a Latte and to rest my feet.  Again thanking my obsession with planning, public transport being on time and me being early – I do hate to be late.

So I sat in the reception to the Blue Fin Building.  Tweeting Lindsey Kelk who confirmed the building was her inspiration for a scene in her recent book I Heart London which involves a magazine pitch and giant penis.  We were then called in.  Upto floor 10 where we were given champagne and nibbles.  We stood on an amazing terrace with an even more amazing view – Stunning.  Imagine being lucky enough to work there!?  I got talking to a nice lady; I admit and apologize I’m rubbish.  I cannot remember her name but we chatted and it dawned on me that I’ve come out of my writing closet and now not only am I an equestrian, distribution specialist; I’m also a writer! Gosh is this what it feels like when someone admits to friends and family that they’re gay?  It’s scary and I sympathize entirely.  It was good to chat although I kind of felt inferior like I was trespassing in a world I shouldn’t as with all my planning I hadn’t thought of answers to questions like “How often do you write?” or “What genre do you write?”

After about 15 minutes of chatting and a waiter hell bent on getting me pissed on champagne – which was the good stuff.  We were then taken into what I imagine to be the same room which inspired Lindsey.  I had the brainwave of recording the talk on my amazing new phone (Samsung Galaxy S2 if you’re interested) as although I wrote notes in my pretty Liberty journal (which the ribbon that ties it shut nicely matches the top I wore – un planned) I fear that none of my scribbles (alcohol induced) would make and sense.  So I sat in the red leather chair at the front.  Took up most of the space infront of me with my suitcase of a handbag, lovely joules coat and goodybag.  Heaven forbid should there be a fire during the talk the majority of people would break their necks falling over my hazardous obstruction.

Freya spoke first.  She looked stunning in a dark blue/navy skater style dress and gorgeous leopard print pump heals.  I love her hair.  She was so funny and well presented.  The was she came accross was perfect – so easy to listen to.  She spoke at the right speed – not to fast and is obiously either well practiced at public speaking or a natural.

Then Jonathan who too was funny and shared a dislike to the 50 shades trilogy – called it 3 books too much and “50 shades of shite”!  He gave lots of pointers on how to get representation from an agent.  He explained the difficulties one might find getting representation but in a way that wouldn’t discourage someone who’s driven towards their goal.

Thalia she had upper arms I’d give my left (I’m left handed) arm for!  Not only is she gorgeous she spoke such snese.  She explains things very well.  Explaining how a pitch works and her answers to how often she reads was funny.  It was a good insight if you should wish to work for a publisher what your day to day life would be like!  She appologised for not standing up due to her shoes hurting her feet – my kind of girl; she obviously prefers pretty things to practicality.  Which reminds me as I was walking from the car to the house I gingerly picked my way across the pot holled road in the dark.  My fiance commented that I shouldn’t wear impractical shoes.  To which I replied – they are practicle! They make me look pretty!

The last to talk was Miranda who I assume replaced Anna Saunders.  Now I’ll admit that she wasn’t or what she represented (Journalism) didn’t appeal to me.  But I still took something from away from it.  Even much so I now have the feeling that I could freelance an article about a very low calorie diet I was doing – especiall from a personal POV.  But I am earing towards keeping that as a fiction novel based on my experiences!  It was at that point in the talk that I felt the black bit from the end of the cap to my parker pen attached to my face.  I stuck it back on the pen when I noticed didn’t realise how long it was there on my face – hope noone else did!  Must have been subconciously wiping the end of my pen on my face whilst concentrating – good job it wasn’t the ink end!

The Q&A session at the end was good and it was all over too soon 😦 I said my thank yous, but chickened out of asking Freya to sign my journal – didn’t want to be rude.  Picked up my suitcase, coat and goody bag – felt a bit bag lady and left.  Managed to find my way back to the station – also didn’t manage to twist my ankle on the nobbly bits of pavement at road crossings – they’re hell for stillettos.  The train home was quite busy so had difficulty seeing a seat as I got on.  As I boarded the train a lady was blocking me to the left “You’re more than welcome to sit here” she said.  I smiled thinking that perhaps she was a special kind of train spotter that not only travels the country to admire the outside of England’s finest trains.  Such a special breed of enthusiasts traveling the country inside their obsession creating elitest sections on the train superior to first class where fellow spotters and fashionable aspiring writers like myself (hahaha) can sit “But a little boy has been sick” she finished.  The smile disolved from my face and I started to feel a little sick myself – heaven forbit should I smell it or I’d be sick too!  All I could manage was “No Thanks” and I hurdled a moron’s bike before he ran me over with the front wheel and found a seat next to a nice lady, who didn’t smell of puke or look like she was about too!

So all in all a great event which I’d recommend to any aspiring writer – Bravo Marie Claire for organising it all!

P.S well done if you read it all, sorry about the typos it’s late!!!


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