Big decisions. Follow your ‘gut instinct’

In my last blog post I hinted that I had some news about my DCI Winters series. I don’t like to announce anything until ‘the ink is dry’, and I’ve been quiet on here for a while, but since I’ve made a decision about the series, I thought I’d update my blog.

Back in September I had an offer for a three book deal with a digital publisher who has a lot of brand recognition with its various imprints. I submitted my second novel, ‘The Principle of Evil’, to them last year and didn’t hear anything back, so assumed I’d been unsuccessful.

I got an email out of the blue from one of the editors saying she loved the book and wanted to offer a three book deal, to include my first two books and a third (which I was working on).

It was an exciting offer and the editor was very enthusiastic about the series, which gave me a much-needed confidence boost, but I didn’t get too smug because nothing is certain until you see and sign a contract and after several ‘so close, yet so far’ moments, I didn’t want to build myself up too much.

Since September I’ve also joined The Society of Authors. I highly recommend anyone who is eligible to join to do so. One service that has been beneficial to me is their contract vetting.

Once I received my contract from the publisher in question, I sent it to be vetted.

In the last few months I’ve been faced with a ‘fork in the road’ moment. Whilst I love my DCI Winters series, I’ve also felt pulled towards writing a standalone novel. The novel would still be of the crime thriller genre but wouldn’t be a police procedural.

I pitched the idea for this book at the ‘How to Hook an Agent’ event at Bloomsbury Publishing in September, to an agent who had previously read the full manuscript for my second novel, ‘The Principle of Evil’. She gave me positive feedback about the pitch and the idea, which was reassuring.

Getting back to this contract…

The Society of Authors got back to me quickly with their thoughts on the contract and gave me much to think about. There were certainly pros and cons, and I had to have a long think about what I wanted out of all this and if, in the long run, the book deal would benefit me.

In the end I decided not to go ahead with it.

Some may think this was a silly decision, after all I had the opportunity to get my novels on more platforms other than Kindle, but I’ve had to take into account many other clauses that are buried in a contract.

I’ve been burnt before, rushing into something I didn’t completely understand, and maybe I’m being over-cautious, but I can’t sign up for something that I am not 100% sure of.

It also meant that I would’ve had to finish that third DCI Winters novel, and now, that’s not at the top of my list of priorities.

My heart is telling me to go with the new standalone novel, and experience has taught me to go with that ‘instinct’.

So, for now, the DCI Winters series is on hold. I’m proud of how the third book was shaping up and I loved the story itself, and at some point I WILL return to it. Until then, the two books in the series will stay on sale on Amazon, and I hope more readers will continue to enjoy them.

We all have moments when it’s tempting to jump at the chance when you are offered something that could get your work out there to more readers, but I believe it’s important to think with a clear head and not view everything through rose-tinted glasses.

Take a step back and seek some advice from an expert to give any contract you are offered a thorough comb through.

What will be acceptable for some, might not work for you.

Never just ‘settle’ if your heart is not in it.

Always trust your instincts.



Writers’ & Artists’ – How to Hook an Agent event Sept 2014

Bloomsbury Publishing, Bedford Square, London

Bloomsbury Publishing, Bedford Square, London

Regular followers of my blog might remember my post back in July about the ‘How to Hook an Agent’ event run by Writers’ and Artists’ that I had signed up for.

In July I gave my reasons for wanting to attend the event and promised to blog about my experience, and try to give anyone considering attending an event like this an idea about what to expect and if it would be beneficial.

The event started with teas and coffees at 9:30am where everyone who was attending the event had a chance to mingle. The event was sold out, and I think there was around thirty of us altogether.

We were then split into two groups and shown to our rooms where the talks with the agents would begin.

I was in Group 1 and we were shown into a separate room, where Literary agents Jo Unwin (Jo Unwin Literary Agency, in association with Rogers Coleridge and White) and Juliet Pickering (Blake Friedmann Literary Agency) were already seated.

Jo Unwin presented a how-to session on knowing when your novel is ready, finding the right agent, what to include in a submission package, and how to write a good synopsis.

As expected, there were a few questions about the synopsis and its difference to a pitch or ‘blurb’!

Juliet Pickering then offered advice on writing the perfect submission letter and how best to pitch your book, and challenged us with an exercise in writing our own pitch to be read out to the group.

The pitch is important because the agent may use this along with the synopsis to pitch your work to literary scouts, publishers and at book fairs, so you need to make it count and put a lot of thought into it.

We had about five minutes to write a few lines (around three sentences) about our book and then it was time to read them out.

No pressure then . . .

I hate reading aloud, and I was very nervous, but after I read mine I was told that my pitch was ‘spot on’.

I’m very proud of that pitch and I had prepared most of it before attending the event, and tweaked the pitch based on the advice given by the agents before we had to read them out.

After the pitches were done, the agents swapped rooms.

We were then joined by Lucy Luck (Lucy Luck Associates) and Juliet Mushens (The Agency Group – UK Literary Division).

Both agents discussed what appeals to them in a submission, and showed us real examples and case studies from both successful and unsuccessful submissions. This was followed by a discussion on what happens next when a book is taken on by a publishing house, the role of agents and a Q & A session.

For me personally the best part if this session was seeing real examples of successful and unsuccessful cover letters.

The contrast between the two was astonishing, and we were told that the unsuccessful letter mirrored about 90% of the submissions the agents received.

I was quietly relieved that my cover letter bears no resemblance to the unsuccessful one. My cover letter isn’t perfect and I can see now where I need to tweak it, but I now know I should have more faith in myself.


Copyright - Writers' & Artists' website

Copyright – Writers’ & Artists’ website

Soon it was time for lunch, where we got to mingle again while we waited for our allocated one-to-one pitch with the agent of our choice. This was a great opportunity to chat to fellow authors, share our experiences and prepare for our one-to-ones.

In my blog post from July, I mentioned that I wanted a chance to chat with Juliet Mushens, because she read the full MS for ‘The Principle of Evil’ last November.

I was aware that Juliet might not be interested in my third novel, because it was part of my DCI Winters series. Book one and two have now been self-published, so I made sure I had another pitch lined up for a standalone novel I intend to start writing soon.

I also assumed she wouldn’t remember me or my novel but I was pleasantly surprised to find that she did, which was very reassuring.

Juliet said she can receive 600 submissions a month, and she only calls in a very small number of full manuscripts, and very rarely crime.

Needless to say, this did give me a confidence boost. Sometimes when you get rejections it can be hard to keep believing in your abilities as an author. Hearing an agent, who took the time to consider your work, telling you that you are a good writer, is a pretty good feeling.

I pitched Juliet both books and she was very positive about the standalone novel, so I feel much more confident about starting it.

I do have some news, that I can’t reveal on here yet, about the DCI Winters series, but I did ask Juliet for advice on this and I have taken on board what was discussed.

I left the one-to-one session feeling much more motivated and with a renewed confidence in my writing.

All the agents were lovely and took the time to answer questions and gave fantastic advice.

So, I guess the big question is . . .

Was the event worth it?

For me, yes it most certainly was.

Yes, there was a lot covered that I was already familiar with, but there were several tips I picked up, especially on how to improve a submission letter, and of course the one-to-one session was a fantastic opportunity to get instant feedback.

If you’re a complete novice when it comes to agents and the submissions process, then this event is definitely worth it.

If you’ve had more experience, then maybe you might need to think more carefully if this is an event for you, but just think about the potential benefits.

It gets you a seat face-to-face with an agent. You get instant personal feedback on the pitch for your novel, and tips for the cover letter. All of this helps to make sure you stand out. Ultimately the decision made by an agent to call in a full MS comes down to the writing, but giving your submission the best chance to stand out beforehand can only be a good thing.

I have a few tips for anyone who hasn’t attended an event like this before and has signed up for the next ‘Hook an Agent’ in November, or is thinking of doing so in the future –

Do your research

Sounds obvious, but I think it’s essential. Research all the agents who will be offering their expertise at the event. You never know who you might end up sitting next to.

Prepare a pitch

You might get put on the spot earlier than you think!

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone involved at Writers’ & Artists’ for organising a great event and to the agents for their valuable time.

Good luck to those attending the next event!


‘How to Hook an Agent’

(copyright - Writers’ & Artists website)

(copyright – Writers’ & Artists website)

Just so we’re clear, I haven’t ‘hooked’ one yet 😉

No, I’m referring to an event (title as above) that I have just booked that is due to take place in September at Bloomsbury in London.

These literary events pop up every so often and do usually require a fee to attend and meet agents who are giving talks. Some events allow you the opportunity to chat to an agent and pitch your work. Due to lack of funds to spare I’ve always had to pass on these events.

Within five minutes of getting the email from the Writers’ & Artists’ website this morning promoting the ‘How to Hook an Agent’ event I’d made up my mind that this time I wasn’t going to miss out.

Self-publishing via Kindle has definitely opened a few avenues for me. Although I’m not earning anything life-changing from my Amazon sales, it has allowed me to ‘reinvest’, as I like to call it, in my writing career. I plan on taking a Crime Scene Investigation course soon and I have also been able to book this latest event without maxing out my credit card.

To some £149 isn’t much and I had to think about whether I thought the event would benefit me. I also know I can’t rely on how much money I’ll make each month through Kindle, but I look at it this way – if an opportunity comes along to do something that would’ve previously been almost impossible to do in the past, you need to just take a chance and go with it.

Some may ask why I’m bothering with this ‘Hook an Agent’ event if I’ve self-published.

The answer is simple. Having an agent and traditional book deal has always been my goal for many reasons. That’s not to say I have reluctantly self-published – I’m glad I have, as I’ve been building a readership – but being the stubborn moo that I am, I won’t let rejection stop me aiming high. At least I’ll have developed skin like a rhino on my journey, and in this profession you really need it!

Some may say you don’t need to spend anything on these events to ‘hook’ an agent.

Well, yes, that’s true. Obviously many have ‘hooked’ an agent without doing any writing courses, winning any competitions or paying for these ‘insider-type’ events. Thing is, I know of some who have. I also know that you can pick up some tips that will help set you apart from the slush pile.

Sometimes it’s all about taking a chance.

Anyway, back to the event…

This is the introduction from the website:


“Join us for an intimate lunch in the beautiful Georgian surroundings of Bloomsbury, London.

Are you writing a book for publication but unsure of how to find an agent? This intimate half-day event with four literary agents will give you insider knowledge on how to submit your manuscript to an agent, what they’re looking for and how to grab their attention. With a networking lunch and a chance for a one-to-one with the agent of your choice, you’ll receive direct  feedback on how best to hook your agent. 

Held in the historic literary surroundings of Bloomsbury at Bloomsbury Publishing, home to authors including Margaret Atwood and J.K. Rowling, this is your chance to get noticed.”


The event lasts from 9:30am until 2:30pm and those interested can find all the details here. Spaces are limited, but there is another event in November if you can’t make the one in September.

I have sent out so many submissions that I’ve now lost count. I have had some success with getting full MS requests so my initial submission ‘package’ can’t be too bad, but I’m sure there will tips that I haven’t thought about that I can take on board.

A bonus for me is that one of the agents, Juliet Mushens from The Agency Group, is attending. Juliet has already read the full MS for ‘The Principle of Evil’. She requested the novel in November, and gave me some great feedback despite the fact she didn’t offer representation.

Now, I’m not expecting her to remember all the content of that novel – if any of it at all. She would have read hundreds more manuscripts since my submission, but I’m hoping to get the chance to chat to her about my current WIP.

Some of you may remember I attended the free Discovery Day II’  event in London that was run by literary agencies Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh in November last year. Those who attended had the chance to pitch their WIP to an agent, but in a very short allocated time slot.

No doubt come September I’ll be just as nervous with this event, as I was at ‘DDII’ last year, but at least I’ve had experience of pitching my WIP face-to-face with an agent.

By attending these events you can gain a wealth of experience and insight. One important thing I did learn from ‘DDII’ was that if an agent turns you down, it doesn’t mean your work wasn’t good enough. There are many other aspects that are taken into consideration other than the writing itself. Anyone in the same boat as me should take heart from that.

The more insight you can get in understanding the publishing industry and gain knowledge of what agents are looking for the better chance you have of standing out. I think that’s why some of these events are worth attending if you are in a position to do so.

After all, you never know where these things might lead.

I’ll be blogging about my experience in September, so stay tuned. 🙂



Deciphering the feedback

My first post of the month and the month is nearly over! I admit, I’ve let the blog slip a bit, but I’ve had my reasons. Life commitments get in the way sometimes. At other times I’ve been trying to get book three moving, and finding a window to write blog posts seems to get smaller.

Anyway, a quick update.

Since my last post I have now had feedback from a publisher who had requested my manuscript ‘The Principle of Evil’, but I am still waiting to hear back from an agent who has had the full MS since December.

I had another rejection from a different agent a couple of weeks ago, who did offer a little more than the ‘form rejection’ based on my three chapters. I submitted back in November, and she said her reasons for taking so long to get back to me was because she had been inundated with submissions recently but my submission had ‘piqued her interest’ and she wanted to make sure she gave the submission ‘careful consideration’.

Yes I was disappointed, but at least she took the time to state my submission had caught her eye from among the hundreds she’s been receiving. This softened the blow of having another rejection email.

To date, I’ve had five agencies request the full MS of ‘The Principle of Evil’. Four of these agencies turned down the chance of representation and offered some feedback on the reasons why.

When I look at the points they’ve made about the MS, what they felt worked and what they felt didn’t, genuinely the positive points have all been the same.

Then they throw you a curve ball.

For example –

Agent one felt the police side of things provided great detail and it all felt authentic, but suggested the ‘killer’ side of things could have been done a little differently.

OK, I thought, maybe I could look at that. BUT . . . agent three felt the exact opposite. She really loved the killer’s scenes, but didn’t feel the police side of things ‘tied it up’ enough.

Both have a background in representing and editing books in the crime genre. Both had conflicting opinions on two of the main aspects of the novel.

This leads me back to the rejection from the publisher.

They stated that overall it was clear I write well, and had all the skills to write crime (or anything else) but then they were a little contradictory I felt, because they pulled apart the novel, particularly the structure, which has never been a point of concern for the previous four agents. In fact, the structure and pace of the novel has been commended by the previous agents.

Also, the publisher wasn’t so keen on the third chapter character interactions. I looked at whether they might have a point but had to remind myself that those three opening chapters are what have got me some full MS requests in the first place. Indeed, didn’t the publisher request the full MS based on these chapters?

It is so hard to be objective about your own work.

Yes, I know the novel could be improved. Even the best-sellers of traditional publishing methods have had their first submission picked and pulled apart in every direction by their agent and editor before it even makes it into print.

If I had an agent they no doubt could help me shape the novel to be better, and that’d be great. I’m open to fresh ideas and I do appreciate all the feedback, positive and negative, that I’ve had so far.

Leading back to the title of this post – Deciphering the feedback.

What do you do when different people in the business give you conflicting advice or feedback? How do you decipher what advice to take on board and what is just someone’s personal opinion, which may or may not be wrong?

You’re looking at this blog expecting an answer? Sorry, I can’t give you one at the moment. I’m still trying to work it out myself.

I guess maybe I need to take a look at everything and use my gut instinct.

For the moment, at least, ‘The Principle of Evil’ is staying as it is. Book three is my priority now, and I will be building on the feedback I’ve had about the first two books, take on board all I’ve learnt so far, so I can (hopefully) make book three the strongest in the series yet.

Losing direction?

Writing Magazine 2014

There’s a small piece on me in the March edition of Writing Magazine.

This was written in October last year. There’s been another two novel requests for The Principle of Evil from agents since then, and a full request from a publisher, but what else has been going on?

I’ve been quiet on here of late and taken a bit of a break from social media. I’ve written the odd tweet but I’ve hardly been on WordPress, and there are many reasons for that.

Since the New Year I’ve been struggling to get back into writing book three. It’s not that I don’t know what to write and, so far, there’s no problem with the plot.

I guess I’ve been feeling pretty despondent and questioning my skills as a writer, and where everything is going.

When I read the piece from Writing Magazine today, I gave myself a slap round the face (metaphorically speaking, anyway) and I reminded myself why I write, and that if I ever want to achieve my goals, I need to keep going and never give up, despite  rejections.

Anyone who, like me, has felt despondent about their work at some point, don’t worry. It happens. It’s OK, you’re only human. Just make sure you give yourself a reality check from time to time, get back in the saddle and keep going.

You don’t get anywhere by giving up!

#DiscoveryDay – Pitch an agent with literary agencies Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh


Yes, it’s a little later than planned, but I had an excuse – it was my birthday last week, I went away to York and returned completely shattered after all that shopping and general merriment 😉

So, here is the blog (finally) about my experience at Discovery Day II on Saturday 16th November. The purpose of this post is to offer an insight into the day, so I’m sorry if this is long, please bear with me, and I’ll try not to waffle!

For those who haven’t heard of Discovery Day, here’s a quick recap: For the second year running, literary agency Curtis Brown (joined this year by their sister company Conville & Walsh) held a Discovery Day – a free event at Foyles bookshop in London, where authors get the chance to pitch their work in progress face to face with a literary agent and get on the spot feedback on their opening page. Authors then get a chance to ask general questions to another literary agent in the ‘Surgery Session’, and finally, if you were lucky enough to secure a place, you got to sit in on the panel event with those in the industry.

So, how did it all go?

The beginning of the week started well. On the Tuesday I had the fourth request for the complete MS for ‘The Principle of Evil’, so it boosted my confidence – briefly.

I ended up bundle of nerves a few days before the event. I’d decided to learn my pitch by heart after advice from other authors. It should be straight forward, right? I spent a week memorising it, only to change it all again two days before the event.

The new pitch was so much better than the original but that meant I had to learn something new all over again. By the time Saturday came, I had remembered most of it. In the line outside The Gallery, where about eleven agents sat at a desk each, I was trying to recite the pitch in my head and remember the key points I wanted to get across.

In the line, I chatted to other authors. Most were excited and nervous all at once, just like me, so that was comforting.

As I got closer to the front, my mind started to go blank. I kept forgetting parts of my pitch (nerves will do that to you!) but I reminded myself I’d brought notes with me in case the worst happened.

Then it was my turn. I had 6 – 8 minutes. Make it count I told myself.

Authors couldn’t pick which agent they wanted to pitch to – you went to the first available table. I pitched to Carrie Kania from Conville & Walsh. She was welcoming and I felt my confidence come back and after I’d told her a bit about myself and my crime series, I pitched my third novel. Luckily I didn’t forget any of it, and I didn’t need to refer to my notes.

Carrie seemed to like my pitch. She asked me a few questions about my previous novels, and about the agent feedback I’ve had before. Then she read my opening page. Again, this part was nerve-wracking for obvious reasons.

After reading the first page, Carrie said it was a really strong opening, there were no negatives, and her advice to me was to keep submitting to agents because, ‘It seems you’re just waiting for the right agent for you.’

Carrie also advised me not to offer anything on exclusive. I’ve heard conflicting advice on this. If an agent asks for the full MS, some would like it exclusively (because they don’t want another agent to be considering the full text at the same time as them). I’ve only been asked for exclusivity once, which I agreed to. In hindsight, I’d probably think twice about it again or at least put a ‘time frame’ on it.

Carrie summed it up nicely – It’s like dating. You keep searching until you find ‘the one’.

I’d like to add that until you find the agent for you, you don’t owe anyone any loyalty. It’s your work. Find the best person to represent it.


After my pitching session was over, it was off to the Foyles Café to sit with other authors and ask another agent general questions about the industry. We had about 10 minutes max.

I was on Sophie Lambert’s table. Sophie is another agent at Conville & Walsh, and she answered our questions with enthusiasm, and offered a good insight.


After the ‘Surgery Session’, I attended the panel event at 4pm.

The Panel:

Anna Davis – The director of Curtis Brown Creative, the first and only creative writing school to be run by a literary agency. She is also an agent at Curtis Brown.

Jonny Geller – An agent at Curtis Brown, joint CEO, and Managing Director of the Books department.

David Shelley – Little, Brown Book Group publisher.

S. J. Watson – Author of best-selling début novel, ‘Before I Go to Sleep’

Clare Conville – Agent and the co-founder of Conville & Walsh.

Much was covered at the panel event. All of it was interesting, and I will try to cover the highlights.

Each member introduced themselves, but most notable, I think, was Clare Conville, who represents S. J. Watson. She said that she looks for a unique selling point and she found that with S. J. Watson’s debut, ‘Before I Go to Sleep.’

S. J. Watson is one of the most successful début novelists in recent times; having sold over 4 million books throughout 46 countries. Filming has also just finished on the feature film starring Nicole Kidman, Mark Strong and Colin Firth. Now that’s impressive, and just proves what can be achieved by a début author.

David Shelley said that authors shouldn’t follow any trend. Write what you like to read, and make sure you do read. A lot!

Jonny Geller is looking for an author who is in 100% control of their work. He believes there are two types of author. The ones who do it as a hobby – which is great – but he’s interested in the other type of author, who for them, there’s nothing else. That’s all there is. He wants an author who is interested in a career.

Interestingly, he also says he’s not looking for anything particularly unique. He’s looking for something that is familiar but told in the author’s own words. As far as the submission process goes, Jonny stressed the point in making sure you’ve asked yourself every question possible about your book before submitting.

Inevitably, the question why does an author need an agent, was raised. With self-publishing being so popular and more practical for some authors, this is an important question.

Clare Conville stated that you need an agent to fight your corner. I agree with her, and this is one of the main reasons I want an agent. I can certainly fight my own corner when I want to, but, for example, I just don’t have the extensive knowledge or experience to negotiate a contract. Clare managed to get a bigger print run for S. J. Watson’s debut, when the publisher initially wanted to run a smaller batch. Simply put, she kicks butt when she needs to in the interest of her client. The agent is able to look after the business side of things, while the author gets on with writing.

Jonny Geller echoed Clare’s thoughts about the agent fighting your corner, and said it’s his job to get the authors work out to as wide an audience as possible.

David Shelley said around 40 debuts are published a year. Only 7 or 8 were previously self-published. For S. J. Watson, he always wanted an agent.

I guess it all comes down to what you want as an author. There are definitely pros and cons for both traditional and self-publishing.

Soon it was time for the panel to take questions from the audience. One very brave woman stood up and admitted her pitch was terrible! She asked what an author should do if they think the agent just didn’t ‘get’ the idea they were trying to get across in their cover letter, or, in her case, the verbal pitch.

Jonny Geller said that the will to succeed will drive the author on. That will to never give up is like a disease that can’t be cured! He advised practicing your pitch until the story can be summed up in just a few lines. Know your story.

David Shelley said that there have been many self-published authors who have proved, with fantastic sales/reviews, that this industry is subjective, and agents have been proved wrong before.

What doesn’t work for one agent, might be loved by another.

Another point was raised about authors who self-publish. Can it damage their chances in getting an agent or mainstream publisher? David Shelley’s answer was simple – Publishers need to know what people want to read. If you’ve had a lot of positive responses, then tell the agent/publisher.

Curtis Brown runs the CB Creative writing course, and there are many others. For example, S. J. Watson attended Faber Academy, where he met Clare Conville. Curtis Brown have had a lot of alumni students secure an agent and sign big publishing deals after being on the course, so there was a question raised by a few in the audience. Does an author who undertakes one of these courses stand a better chance of getting an agent than those who don’t?

The answer was sometimes, because there is still a selection process before you can join these courses, but the overall consensus was clear – it all comes down to the strength of the writing. The panel said they don’t judge someone on whether they’ve been on a course or not. It can’t hurt to mention you’ve done one, but don’t think that because you sign up to, say, CB Creative, that it’s a guarantee you’ll secure an agent. These courses are more about getting your novel into the best possible shape before sending out submissions.

Public profile was the next topic raised. So, just how important is it to have 5,000 Twitter followers, or 10,000 Facebook ‘likes’ for example?

Whilst David Shelley said it can help to have a publishable ‘hook’, I think S. J. Watson had the best response. He had NO online profile at the time. ‘It’s about your book’, he said, and he’s right. It doesn’t matter how many ‘follows’ you have or what ‘angle’ you can use. It comes down to how good your book is.

In my opinion, there will always be the odd – no, make that phenomenal – exception to this rule. A certain erotic series of books springs to mind 😉

Next topic – Is a series easier to sell?

Jonny Geller said it depends on the genre, but he does like to have a book or two to sell at once, and this was a view shared by David Shelley. On the flip side, Clare Conville said she never thinks in terms of a series. It’s down to the author to write a great book, no matter how long it takes – to a point, of course. Some authors are suited to a book a year, some not. Pressure shouldn’t be put on an author purely for ‘commercial reasons’.

See, I told you there was a lot to take in, and I haven’t included everything. I hope you managed to read this far down the page without skipping (thanks to those who did!).

I would highly recommend those who are serious about carving out a long career as an author, try to attend next years event if it’s run again. Even if you intend to self-publish, the experience of pitching your novel to a complete stranger will help build your confidence.

I got a lot out of Discovery Day. I tested my confidence levels. I got the chance to chat with other authors, and ask agents direct questions. Most importantly, I was able to get on the spot feedback on my WIP. My overall experience was extremely positive.

There are certainly worse ways to spend a Saturday.

Agent pitch – it’s drawing near – tips needed

I’m sure we’ve all done this at some point. I watch the UK Apprentice, and every time someone has to get up and pitch to a room full of strangers, I hear the voice in my head saying, ‘I’m so glad I don’t have to do that.’

Famous last words?

Some of you may remember I blogged about the Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh Discovery Day held at Foyles bookstore in London next month. (It’s here, if you missed it last time.)

It was August when I found out I had a chance to pitch an agent and somehow it felt like I had all the time in the world to write and perfect what I was going to say, and suddenly, that time has flown by and I now have two weeks and three days until I have to stand up and stand out.

I’m starting to panic a little as I realise that –

A)  I’ve never delivered a ‘verbal’ pitch before in my life, and . . .

B) I’m staring at a blank page!

Yep, that’s right, I’ve not even started it! That’s not to say I’ve not thought about it – I have – but that’s as far as I’ve got.

It may seem like I still have a long time (and for some people, it is plenty of time). Unfortunately not for me. I like to be organised, and considering I spent two weeks trying to perfect cover letters for my submissions, I’m feeling a tad under pressure.

This is where the Word Press community comes in, I hope.

I’m after some tips. I could look up everything on the internet (and I will do some research) but sometimes the best tips come from people who have had first-hand experience of pitching.

How do you start it? Do I use up all my 30 seconds? Do I use notes (they are allowed) or do I free-style? First impressions count – an agent has to like you as well as your book – pressure!

I could go on, but I might drive myself nuts over thinking everything.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who downloaded ‘Broken Palace’ yesterday and to those who helped me promote it.

I’ve looked at the reports on Amazon and I’m both excited and nervous. There were a LOT of downloads, and that confirms two things for me.

  1. Everyone loves a freebie 😉
  2. Everyone is going to have an opinion on the work.

It was my first attempt at a short story, and it also includes excerpts from my two crime novels.

Reviews are welcome, good or bad. If there are any criticisms, please make them constructive.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that for a lot of authors, we all feel very anxious when we share our work with the world. We can spend weeks, months and even years working on a project, and, understandably, we can feel very protective over our ‘baby’.

Part of being a writer is about learning and improving our work, being open to new ideas or seeing things from another person’s perspective.

Sometimes we need to take the plunge, and get the work out there. Otherwise how else can you find out what works and what doesn’t?

What’s new? Pitching an agent and a short story

It’s been a while since I last blogged. In my defence, I have been busy. Book three in the DCI Winters series, ‘Skin Deep’, is slowly coming along. My second novel, ‘The Principle of Evil’, is still out there getting one of the following:

1. No answer at all.

2. Rejected.

3. Some requests for complete MS. Huzzah!

*Note to self* Still no guarantee of securing an agent, but soldier on, safe in  the knowledge that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Become an ice-cube, not a snowflake. Thick skin and all that.

It’s not all doom and gloom.

After one rejection a few weeks ago I happened to see an advert for a FREE event held in Foyles bookstore in London. Talk about timing!

I was lucky enough to secure a time slot for the ‘Pitch and agent’ Discovery Day, run by literary agents Curtis Brown and their sister company Conville & Walsh.

I’ve just had my time slot confirmed today, so I’m now as excited as I am nervous. The Discovery Day isn’t until 16th November, so I’ve got plenty of time to try to nail it, but there’s enormous pressure.

This is the second Discovery Day that’s been held, and I read somewhere that there were 300 or so attendees last year and some came as far as America for a time slot. This year the time slots went just as fast, so competition will be high.

I’ve been rejected by Curtis Brown before, but was told I had a submission that, ‘stood out from what we receive’. The agent then said that although he was turning me down, he ‘hoped another agent felt differently.’

Interesting rejection that one.

I’m hoping my pitch will help sway some minds, but as usual, there are no guarantees. It’ll be an experience anyway. I’ll be blogging about it in November and hopefully I can offer a little insight.

We hear a lot about literary agents being the ‘gatekeepers’ to the world of traditional publishing. To some extent that’s true, but there have been a lot of self-published authors out there who are making a big impression and making those in the industry take note.

For me, I’m still aiming for traditional publishing but until that happens I will be self-publishing my work.

This leads me to the next bit . . .

I’ve been struggling a little with book three, despite a great start (see pervious post  where I saying how easy I’d found it! That’ll teach me for tempting fate.)

Whilst I was procrastinating/deliberately avoiding (delete as appropriate) book three, I found an old short story I wrote a few years ago and decided to polish it and add a cameo appearance from DCI Winters, the protagonist in my novels.

It’s called ‘Broken Palace’, and I will release it on Kindle soon. There will also be a small excerpt from the first two novels included.

Once again, as with ‘For All Our Sins’, I produced the cover to keep costs down.


I think it’s good to have a break from a project if you need it. I know what I’m doing with the third book and even know what I could be getting on with but I just can’t seem to muster the enthusiasm at the moment.

Taking a break from it to work on another small project is helping me. After I’ve released the short story, I think I’ll be raring to go with book three again.

Any tips for when one project seems to be flagging, would be greatly appreciated.

P.S. Any tips for pitching is also more than welcome. Come November, I don’t think I’ll have an nails left!