Amanda Saint: The Reality of the Dream

AmandaSaint

Amanda’s debut novel, As If I Were A River, is available on Amazon, Waterstones, and the Urbane website.

When I went to my very first Get Published event with the Writer’s Workshop, way back in 2012, my publishing dream seemed to be just that – a dream that I’d had for a long time that had very little chance of coming true. The publishing sector was running scared from the new e-book ‘threat’, the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomena had just started sweeping the world, and it seemed that nobody would want to publish, or read, the kind of book I was writing.

But jump forward four years and I’ve worked really hard to get that book as good as I could. I’ve been to every Festival of Writing in York since that first day event at the Wellcome Trust, I’ve done the Self-Editing Your Novel Course with Debi Alper and Emma Darwin, and I am now very lucky in that my publishing dream has become a reality. I have a two book deal with a really exciting new indie press, Urbane Publications, and my debut novel, As If I Were A River, came out on 11th April 2016. The novel I’m writing now is scheduled for publication in Autumn/Winter 2017.

Apart from the trepidation that comes hand in hand with putting yourself out there and wondering how the book will be received, it’s been a really exciting and joyful experience. There’s been a lot of happy kitchen dancing going on!

One of the best moments so far was when the author Alison Moore read an advance review copy to provide me with a ‘puff’ (I had no idea they were called that until it was time to gather some!) and I realised that my first book would have a recommendation from someone whose work I really admire. Her Man Booker Prize-shortlisted debut novel, The Lighthouse, inspired me to stick to my guns about telling a quiet story and not having a neat, happy ending.

But definitely at the top of the list, apart from that initial acceptance email, is when the finished paperback arrived and I finally held the book that had been living on my laptop for six years in my hands. It was a surreal, emotional and completely thrilling moment. There were so many times along the way that I nearly gave up with this book but, luckily, I have got some good writing friends, and a very supportive and patient husband, who wouldn’t let me. I’m so glad they made me stick at it.

AsIfIWereARiver

‘A compelling, intricate, psychological exploration of the lies we tell ourselves and the truths we run from. Beautiful.’ – Angela Clarke, author of Follow Me

Especially as I was completely blown away when As If I Were A River was picked as one of the Top 10 Books of May 2016 on NetGalley, which is a website where professional book reviewers can get their hands on advance review copies from all of the publishing houses. It’s also had some great reviews from book bloggers, as well as a few not so great ones on Goodreads! I’d been really worried in the run-up to the launch about how I would feel about bad reviews, and I’m happy to say that the anticipation was a lot worse than the reality. As a reader there are books that I don’t enjoy and I know that there will be lots of readers out there who do enjoy mine, but also lots that don’t.

The whole process of working with Urbane has been inclusive and collaborative so that I’ve had a huge say in how the book looks and how it’s promoted. I’d imagined that being with a new indie press would mean that the whole thing would feel quite low-key, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The week the book came out it went straight into a WHSmith travel offer and is now on the promotional stands at shops in Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Paddington, Kings Cross, and many more.

The London launch party on 14th April was made even more exciting when one of my friends turned up with a picture of As If I Were A River sitting at number 57 in the WHSmith paperback charts next to The Danish Girl. Next up in the launch events is a book signing at Waterstones Lancaster, with my very own window display, and there just generally feels like there has been a real buzz around the book as the publication date approached, and still now the week after the launch. So, yes, the reality for me is definitely living up to the publishing dream and I’m hoping I don’t wake up for a good while yet.

Amanda’s debut novel, As If I Were A River, is available on Amazon, Waterstones, and the Urbane website.
‘A compelling, intricate, psychological exploration of the lies we tell ourselves and the truths we run from. Beautiful.’ – Angela Clarke, author of Follow Me

‘Amanda Saint’s intricately plotted debut novel is a juicy Pandora’s box of mysteries and revelations.’ – Alison Moore, author of The Lighthouse

You can find out more about Amanda on her website, go on a writing retreat with her through Retreat West, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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A Guest Post from Novelist Allie Spencer. Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

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Where Do You Get Your Ideas From? Alongside ‘are your characters based on real people?’, ‘don’t all writers earn shed-loads of money?’ and if, like me, you are in the rom com market: ‘would you like to write a proper … Continue reading

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Tracy Rees: Festival of Writing, Delegate to Speaker by way of a Richard & Judy Bestseller

TracyReesMy Experience of the Festival of Writing.

In 2013 I attended the Festival of Writing in York. That was the year I realised that nothing could protect me from the siren call of scribbling stories for a living so I’d decided to work part-time as a waitress and really focus on my writing. Sometimes a cliché can prove surprisingly useful.

I had written a novel, a fairytale for adults, and when I saw the festival advertised, I jumped at the chance to discuss it with industry professionals. I entered my fairytale for Friday Night Live and the first chapter competition and submitted it for critique in one of the workshops. It wasn’t selected for anything.

But the really big deal for me was the agent session. I approached it with a thundering heart. I loved my book and I wanted the agent to love it too – and, preferably, offer me representation right there and then!

He had two key messages for me. One was that the fairytale, as it was, was unmarketable; I hadn’t aimed it at a particular genre. The other was this: keep writing. He took some pains to ensure I took this to heart. Your writing is wonderful, you must carry on, don’t stop here.

Inevitably, as I left the hall, it was his first message which haunted me. I felt I’d let my beloved characters down. As for continuing to write, I knew I would. I’d come too far and given up too much by then to do anything else. But over the following days, his other words sank in, and I realised how important they were. Writers are tender creatures, even the most hardened/desperate of us, and encouragement along the way is invaluable. I think he knew this.

AmySnowAt that time I was sending work out to everyone – poetry, short stories, novels… This included what I then considered to be a completely pie-in-the-sky endeavour – I entered Richard and Judy’s wonderful Search for a Bestseller competition. In October 2014 I heard that I had won. Amy Snow was published by Quercus in April 2015 and my second novel, Florence Grace, will be published in June this year.

My route to publication, in the end, did not come via the Festival of Writing. The book I took there wasn’t the book that got me published. So looking back now, what part did it play in my journey?

First of all, it was a gesture of faith that my writing dream would prove worth the investment of time and money. These bold gestures, I believe, are always well rewarded.

Secondly it was an opportunity for me to steep myself for two whole days in the writing industry. I talked to other aspiring writers, published authors and professionals, and reminded myself in a completely concrete way of what it was I was trying to do. I had a session with a book doctor who provided me with useful observations on the work I’d submitted. I met another book doctor at dinner who was supportive and helpful. I left with leads and contacts I could never have found otherwise and with strong encouragement from the agent ringing in my ears.

We need these things. We all know it’s a tough industry to crack. But experiences like these help counteract that, so that we carry on.

To my delight, I’ll be returning to the Festival of Writing this year as one of the industry speakers.
Twitter: @AuthorTracyRees

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YORK for all reasons. Whatever stage your writing is at The Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing can inspire and help you.

by Anne Corlett

2012 wasn’t my first visit to the The Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing. I’d attended in 2011, clutching the unedited manuscript of my first novel, Telemachus. It had been about ten years since I’d made any serious attempt at writing, and I was in the process of packing to relocate from London to Somerset with my partner and 18 month-old son. As you can probably imagine, when I decided to sit down in the middle of all the carnage and start writing a novel, I was not popular.

But I finished the first draft, then looked around and thought now what?

I should point out at this juncture that I had fairly hazy ideas about the whole novel-writing process. I I had the faint sense that editing was something that was done to you by someone else, rather than something you did yourself.

Anyway, the Festival of Writing seemed like a reasonable answer to now what? So off I went to York.

It was a complete revelation. I learned about self-editing. I discovered the importance of covering letters. I heard the words ‘psychic distance’ uttered for the first time. And I had two incredibly encouraging one-to-ones, with an agent and a book doctor. Not only did they both make it clear what I needed to do to improve my manuscript, but they also made me believe that it was worth persevering.

I spent the next year working on my manuscript, and when booking re-opened for York, I decided to head back there for a second time. I entered the Friday Night Live competition, not really expecting to get anywhere, and I was delighted to make the final.

I didn’t win. I did receive two out of the three judges’ votes, but when I lost the all-important audience vote, I assumed that was pretty much that, and I got on with drinking wine enjoying the rest of the festival.

Then I had my one-to-one with Lisa Eveleigh of the Richford Becklow agency. She liked my submission. She requested the full manuscript, and then offered representation. At this point I began the process of getting Thoroughly Carried Away. I knew how this worked.

Go to York.
Sign up with Agent.
Await fame and glory and tearful acceptance of manuscript by major publishing house.

It didn’t work out quite that way. We had some interest, and some positive responses. We even had one ‘I thought of making an offer on this but…’ but no takers.

I finished my second novel in late 2014, and I was just starting the second term of an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa when I heard from Lisa that there had been some provisional interest. After several agonizing weeks, Fallen made it as far as an acquisitions meeting. Unfortunately there was no consensus at the meeting and the book was rejected.

And then something surprising happened. I had a huge burst of writing energy. I motivated, and unexpectedly hopeful. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that in the glacial world of writing/publishing, something had happened. There’d been a milestone of sorts. At the time I was struggling with my MA novel, but, still bursting with my new-found enthusiasm, I had the idea that became my third novel. It went out on submission in November 2015, and after only a few weeks there were some expressions of provisional interest.

I didn’t get my hopes up – we’d been here before, after all. As it turned out, this was the time I should have got my hopes up. I could have got Thoroughly Carried Away again. In January I got a call from Lisa to say that Bella Pagan of Pan Macmillan had made an offer. The deal was officially announced in February, and a month later the US rights sold to Berkeley Publishing, part of the Random House group. The Space Between the Stars will be published on 5th May 2017.

It can seem as though York is a springboard, catapulting a lucky few to instant success, but my experience shows that are all sorts of ways in which the festival can push writers forward in their publication journey. If you’re in the early stages of the process, the most important thing you can do at the festival is go along and listen and learn. If you’re further along the writing path, you can make useful connections, and gain valuable confidence in your work. Even if you don’t walk away with an offer of representation, you may well find that a chance conversation over dinner bears fruit further down the line when an agent reads your submission and thinks oh yes, I remember her. For some the Festival of Writing is a springboard; for others, like me, it’s a foundation on which to build something solid. York didn’t lead to overnight success for me, but it did set the wheels in motion for everything that followed.

@consummatechaos
www.annecorlett.co.uk
http://www.torbooks.co.uk/blog/2016/2/10/poignant-tale-of-survival-among-the-stars-new-book-deal

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Bless their pretty brown heads

Diversity in publishing – another low. We invited a guest blog recently on the woeful absence of diversity in publishing. Our sister site, Agent Hunter, published data on ethnic diversity among literary agents that suggests perhaps only 2-3% of the industry … Continue reading

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Amazon, spam and the biggest slushpile in history.

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(Subtitle: What would Google do?) (Series title: A spam-filled, junk-rich, keyword-dense post of suspense, intrigue, mystery and spam, spam, spam, spam, spam.) You know the issue. You enter a perfectly ordinary search term into Amazon – a term that seeks a quality … Continue reading

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Diversity in Publishing (clue: it would be quite nice)

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Diversity in publishing has been a hot topic in industry for some time, not least because we had a good old yell about it over on Agent Hunter. But, despite some much overdue attention, very little has changed. Publishing was and … Continue reading

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Is Kindle Direct best for self-publishing?

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A week ago we posted a blog from Guest Poster, David Lieder of Author Wing. In that post, he made the claim that Kindle Direct – the Amazon self-pub platform – was no longer the best platform for indie authors. … Continue reading

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How To Self-Publish Successfully: 10 Things People Are Told – truth or myth?

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Most Writers’ Workshop clients want, as a primary goal, to get an agent and then a traditional publisher – and as you probably know, we’re quite good at helping people do just that. But these days, more than ever, writers … Continue reading

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Jo Ely: How The Writers’ Workshop helped ‘Stone Seeds’

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I’d had a couple of short stories published in magazines and one book anthology (Woven Tale Press, Chief Ed Sandra Tyler), I’d been Shortlisted for the Fish short story prize, I’d written reviews, mostly for the Empathy Library. But my … Continue reading

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Reading for others: one writer’s experience

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There are loads of techniques for improving your writing (and, crucially, self-editing) ability. One such technique is critiquing other writers’ work – normally, though not always, on a reciprocal basis. As anyone who’s used the Writers’ Workshop editorial services knows, … Continue reading

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4 Lessons to Learn from Self-published Bestsellers

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What follows is a guest post from Sarah Juckes at self-pub outfit Completely Novel. More on her and her company at the bottom of this post. For now, just plunge right in. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt whilst working … Continue reading

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Writers in conversation: Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste

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We’re running a new, occasional series of writers in conversation. We ask those writers to talk about things of mutual interest to them, but otherwise don’t set parameters for those conversations at all. Steve Cavanagh is a human rights lawyer … Continue reading

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Become A Published Author With Ease: 5 Top Tips For Self-Publishing

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Thought being a profitable Self-Published Author was only for professional marketeers? Think again! It is rapidly becoming a really viable option for anyone who is prepared to learn the secrets to Self-Publishing success. In 2016 The Writers’ Workshop is launching … Continue reading

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Taking on Melville: a guest post by Naomi Williams

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Worried about entering a genre that’s already dense with Great Writers of the past and present? Naomi Williams encountered just that challenge with her debut novel, Landfalls, a work of historical fiction. Here’s her account of how she overcame it … Continue reading

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