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  1. #1

    Question Getting Published - Your Questions Answered

    My name is Tim Stretton and my first novel, a Jack Vance-influenced fantasy called The Dog of the North, was published in TOR paperback this month.

    As a new writer I naturally have a low profile, but I hope my experiences might be of interest to readers, and particularly to aspiring writers. (If some of you want to check out the book too I won't complain...). My novel was published originally by Macmillan New Writing last year, and if nothing else is proof that you don't need an agent to be published.

    I'd be delighted to answer any questions people might have about the mysterious process of being published. There are a lot of misconceptions out there, but if my story shows anything it's that you can get published without any contacts or track record.

  2. #2
    Hey Tim,

    Just a question or two.
    1. Once you have a significant portion of your first draft done, should you begin looking for an agent? Or how much should you have done before you do?

    2. Is an agent needed? Or is it better to shop your work and see if anyone bites?

  3. #3
    Peckish hippokrene's Avatar
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    Just my opinion.

    For your first novel, you should have a finished work to present to an agent. Usually you send an agent a query (sometimes with 5-10 pages or a first chapter), and if they're interested, they'll ask for a partial or full document. If you don't have that, well... that agent won't pick you up.

  4. #4
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Crongrats, Tim on getting taken up by Macmillian New Writing, and Tor.

    To echo hippokrene; Smiler 127, have your novel, complete and edited till it shines. I know with the Macmillian New Writing submission, you have(or used to) to submit the whole manuscript. A first draft will not do, you need to submit the best you can. The class of manuscript you will be up against is high, same as with submitting to any publisher or agent. To send out a half finished or unedited manuscript is to throw away a chance with either publisher or agent.

    Kerry; more likely Macmillian has a deal with Tor to publish their US edition. Depends on what contract or deal Tim did, UK or World rights. Or Tim could now have an agent, who did the deal. Though I could be completely wrong on this.
    Last edited by Holbrook; June 24th, 2009 at 12:14 PM.

  5. #5
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holbrook View Post

    Kerry; more likely Macmillian has a deal with Tor to publish their US edition. Depends on what contract or deal Tim did, UK or World rights. Or Tim could now have an agent, who did the deal. Though I could be completely wrong on this.
    I would have to guess something like this too - it's awfully rare that any traditional publisher would want to pick up a previously published work, but it was worth the ask. Grats to Tim in any case, cause the last time I had a chance meeting with Tor's owner, he wasn't too optimistic about accepting new material.

    Kerry

  6. #6
    @smiler127

    1. Once you have a significant portion of your first draft done, should you begin looking for an agent? Or how much should you have done before you do?

    2. Is an agent needed? Or is it better to shop your work and see if anyone bites?
    It's no secret that getting published is very competitive. I'd say the best course (the one I followed, anyway) is to finish the book, make it as good as you possibly can, and then worry about agents afterwards. I don't have an agent, in fact: the terms of Macmillan New Writing are non-negotiable (and not exploitative) so an agent wouldn't have helped me. A lot of publishers won't look at unagented submissions, on the other hand, so it depends on the avenue you want to go down.

    As a debut author, the chances that an agent will want to look at a partial are pretty slim. Why would they, when there are good writers with completed works pitching to them? Hippokrene and Holbrook are bang on the money.

    That's an interesting note, Tim. So, does this mean I can take a previous e-book published work and TOR would consider it?
    Kerry, not only e-books, but self-publication. I had self-published The Dog of the North and two other novels, but as far as Macmillan was concerned that was fine. My minuscule self-published sales weren't going to dent what they could do by distributing the book through Amazon, Borders etc.

    @Holbrook
    The way it worked for me was the I signed a world rights deal with Macmillan New Writing, who brought out the hardback. TOR UK is another imprint of Pan Macmillan and they are publishing the paperback as part of the same deal. Pan Mac's rights departments then tries to sell on overseas and electronic rights, sadly without success so far - so no TOR US edition yet.

    I still don't have an agent: my contract gives Macmillan first refusal on next book on the same terms as the first, so an agent can't get me a better deal. If Macmillan want the second book (they're hedging at the moment) then an agent comes into play, because a third book would be a brand new deal. I'd be very happy to stay with Macmillan/TOR because their editorial team were prepared to back me when no-else was.
    Last edited by Tim Stretton; June 24th, 2009 at 01:26 PM. Reason: clarity

  7. #7
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Stretton View Post
    My novel was published originally by Macmillan New Writing last year
    That's an interesting note, Tim. So, does this mean I can take a previous e-book published work and TOR would consider it?

    Kerry

  8. #8
    Hi,
    I've only recently began writing and i have just completed my first novella. I was wondering if it was your first novel that you'd ever written thta was published or if you have to have a couple of go's at it first.
    Any answers would be appreciated.
    xXx

  9. #9
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbbeyRose View Post
    Hi,
    I've only recently began writing and i have just completed my first novella. I was wondering if it was your first novel that you'd ever written thta was published or if you have to have a couple of go's at it first.
    Any answers would be appreciated.
    xXx
    It is very common to have written several works that never see the light of day before finally hitting your stride. I have two such novels under my belt - but they remain fertile ground for future projects, so don't toss em.

    Kerry

  10. #10
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    It's highly variable, but most people write a lot of unpublished (and unpublishable) words of fiction before finally making a sale. Years ago I read something somewhere (such a perfect citation, right? Not) that said most people needed to write upwards of a half-million words to really get their voice and have control of the craft. It could be a half-million words of shorter works, or five hundred-thousand-word novels. The more talented learn faster, but nobody's born knowing how to write a good novel. (I was not on the fast-track...)

  11. #11
    I'm told that the average is the third to fifth novel written is the one that gets published, but like all statistics, that's kind of dumb.

    It is *extremely* rare for the first novel somebody writes to be published. Both my first and second are in the trunk. The second MIGHT be publishable, but I decided I don't actually *like* it that much and don't want to be bothered selling it. My first is referred to amongst me and my writing buddies as 'The Book That Shall Not Be Named'.

    It's that bad. It reads like I wrote up an RPG campaign. I'll freely admit it. But never, ever let it see the light of day.

    I would also, honestly, recommend setting a novella aside. It's very, very hard for a new writer to get a novella or novelette published. Put it aside, then when you're more established, rewrite it. Or try to make it part of something larger. MOST first novels are between 80,000 and 100,000 words, with the exception of secondary world fantasy, that always tends to trend longer. Unless you're writing in romance and erotica, there's not much market for novellas unless they have a 'name' attached to them.

    Either way, I'd set that novella aside right now for at least a month, then reread it. Get some distance, so you can assess whether it's any good or whether it's a bunch of crap that should be treated as 'good practice'. And get some people you trust to look over it.

  12. #12
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer P View Post
    I'm told that the average is the third to fifth novel written is the one that gets published, but like all statistics, that's kind of dumb.
    Actually I wouldn't call it that dumb, it was my fourth book that hooked an agent and I had written by then upwards of over about 750,000 made up of four novels, a good dozen failed efforts of anything from 5,000 50 50,000 words and dozens of short stories. Oh, and ten years of my life.
    Last edited by Holbrook; June 3rd, 2010 at 03:39 AM.

  13. #13

    Curious

    I write short stories pretty regularly, although nothing published mainstream. I do enjoy it, and feel I'm progressing.

    My desire is to write a novel. Tapping 120k words isn't intimidating to me, what is, is a topic. Since I have many areas of interest, I would like to know what areas are easier to publish, which are most popular, or even what gaps are awaiting new works.


    Thanks

  14. #14
    Carl Alves
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    I think trying to decide what kind of novel to write based on what is currently more popular at the moment or what is easier to publish is a mistake. Trends change so quickly that by the time you are finished the novel and are shopping to agents and publishers, the trends will likely have changed. Go with what you feel most strongly about and what your heart is into, and that will be your most likely path to success.
    Carl Alves

  15. #15
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    Wishermoon ... I agree. Don't worry about the current "hot topics." What kind of books do you read? What gives you the most pleasure?

    As a writer of fiction, you're really a story-teller. So write a story that you, yourself, would like to read.

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