Monday, 30 November 2009

FROM PITCH TO PUBLICATION by Carole Blake

I know I seem to be here but I am in fact away. I am in London researching a novel. This involves pacing around and absorbing the smells and the feel of the air on my skin. In my novel, I am unlikely to tell you the smells and the feel of the air on my skin but I need to know them. Ideas will come, characters will begin to speak, the story will grow legs. Well, that's the plan. Either that or I'll end up having coffee with friends and shopping in Liberty's. 

Meanwhile, I have a present for you if you have a UK address or would like to nominate a UK resident to receive it instead of you. I will send a copy of Carole Blake's book, From Pitch to Publication: Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Novel Published, to a randomly chosen person out of those who comment below. [Unless your comment is rude, in which case you will be disqualified.]

Carole Blake, of course, is a leading literary agent, director of the Blake Friedmann agency, a very good person to have as your agent (no, she's not mine, in case you're wondering, but then I'm lucky enough to have another very good person as my agent) and a very bad person to sent a dud submission to or to pester inappropriately by waving an MS in front of her face. She wears great shoes. The only thing I can find to condemn in her is that she doesn't like chocolate much. This is a bit weird, but her book is excellent despite her having written it without the aid of our friendly cocoa bean.

If you are not lucky enough to win one, I suggest you buy it. Not only does it cover all the practicalities of preparing and sending your submission, and dealing with rejection and acceptance, but it also gives you a great insight into how and why agents and publishers think the way they do. It's also a fantastic way of learning all the business aspects of publishing. The description of what happens during a book auction is fascinating - and will, in one fell chapter, stop you wondering exactly how agents help authors in ways in which most of us simply cannot help ourselves. Carole's agency, [at the time of her writing the book], deals with commercial fiction and she gives great insights into what makes a book sell. Too many authors assume a book will sell just because they think it's brilliant; too few actually go to the trouble of working out why anyone would want it to be one of the books they might choose to read that year, out of all the thousands and thousands to choose from. From Pitch to Publication will get you thinking about this. And no, I haven't been sent a free copy, in case you're wondering. I have my very own, bought with my very own pennies, and I will buy another for the lucky winner  -  you wouldn't want mine as it's all thumbed and has a few flakes of chocolate on page 84.

This book is, of course, not to be confused with Pen2Publication, which is a completely different kettle of trout. Luckily, Carole's book and my consultancy are not in competition, otherwise we could have seen stilettos at dawn. I would have won, naturally, because she's a softie and I'm crabbit.

Go comment. I'll be back to check that you've been suitably sycophantic, because there's really no such thing as randomness, according to mathematicians. They'd better be right, because I've just written a book about it...

______________________________________

37 comments:

Queenie said...

I have a copy myself, and can confirm that everything you say is true. Also, Carole Blake's book is very readable if you want to read the whole thing from cover to cover like I did when I got my copy. It's well structured and easy to navigate around if you want to use it for reference like I do now. There are several UK residents of my acquaintance who could do with copies of their own, so if I win, I'll nominate one of them.

Nic Ford said...

I also have a copy and agree it is a very useful book - full of a writer's need-to-know realities about publishing. Can I have chocolates instead please?! Lol!

Fin Keegan said...

I don't have a copy--but I do have some chocolate: thanks for a great blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nicola, I went into Thorntons yesterday and bought 6 of their delicious looking, heart shaped orange creams for £1 which seemed like a bargain until I ate them all and got stomach ache - they weren't even that nice! I think you're right to source your choc from Hotel Chocolat, I will be in future.

I'm at the beginning of my writing journey. I have 2 ideas and have written some draft chapters of each. I'm now trying to decide which to progress further. Insights into the publishing world are perhaps a bit premature at the moment, but I really enjoy your blog and hopefully one day everything I've learnt will result in a nice shiny published book!

Hope your research day is going well,
Kim

Jemi Fraser said...

I don't have a copy, or a UK address, so I'll have to content myself with some chocolate :) Good luck to all the UK folks - sounds like a great book!

Jane Smith said...

I have a copy of this book, too, and it is absolutely fabulous: it's packed full of information and good advice for writers, and it's funny, too. I love it.

Everyone who doesn't win the free copy should go out and buy themselves a copy: really. It's great.

Susan at Stony River said...

I was lucky enough to spend the past weekend with publishing folks, and we talked quite a bit about the difference between writing and being published. Sometimes the more I hear, the more confusing it all gets! Still, with a novel finished-but-homeless, I look forward to all the help I can get. Thank you for the book recommendation and all the other advice too.

HelenMHunt said...

Ooh yes - I really really need this book. Please pick me. But can I have your copy with the melted chocolate on it? I can't eat it but just the thought of it will sustain me.

Leigh said...

Hope you're enjoying your research. I have done the same myself, and loved every minute of it. However, I plan to set the next novel in France in June, instead of Scotland in February...

Yes Please to Carole's book! Borrowed a friend's copy, and had to be reminded several times to return it. Would love my own!

Marshall Buckley said...

Wow... seems like everyone already has this... I don't so I guess that improves my chances of winning?

I'd like to say that:
1. Carole seems like a very nice person, her Tweets are always entertaining
2. I'm not, not ever have been, nor am related to, that idiot who keeps phoning her at odd times of the night
3. I'm a big fan of both chocolate and wine in the creative process but am not, alas, a fan of shoes. I have nothing against them, as such, but would not look good in a purple pair. I hope that doesn't count against me.

Dan Holloway said...

Hi. It's fantastic at last to have the chance of asking Carole something directly, because her (excellent) book has been a cause of vexation to me for several years now, or at least it was whilst I was looking for representation. This is soemthing I have mentioned all over the blogoshpere but never really got an answer, so:

Carole, one of the things you talk about is prefacing one's submission pack with character bios so that, in the synopsis, you can get on with telling the story. This is contrary to what we hear form many many agents, and when I have laid out my pitch as you suggest on pitch websites I've been batted out of play for it. So my question is, do you mean that we should pitch like this regardless of what an agent suggests they want (as you seem to imply), do you mean we should only do this if pitching you, or is this for situations where there is no strict guidance from the agent? And a more general point - it seems rather disingenuous for an agent to give advice which runs so contrary to what others say without putting it in context and explaining that you are encouraging people to go against the industry norm.

On an aside, I followed your advice to the letter despite agent recommendations whilst I was seeking representation, and had a very high request for full rate.

Nicola Morgan said...

Kim - when you have learnt to eat chocolate and not be ill your writing life will leap forward!! I look forward to hearing more from you on this blog as you work out which idea to progress.

Nic - no!

Queenie - thank you! And Fin, too - thanks for the comment.

Glad so many of you have already read and used Carole's book. Jemi and Jane, thanks fo the comments.

Susan - "Sometimes the more I hear, the more confusing it all gets!" - thast has given me an excellent idea for a post!

Helen - you are incorrigible!

Leigh - mmmm, France, good idea!

Marshall - I think you are saying all the right things!

Dan - some useful questions there. I don't know if Carole is around at the moment but I'm sure she'll answer if she can. My opinion is that any agent wants a synopsis (and everything else) done in the way that best and most easily conveys the wonder of your book and your profssionalism and talent. Different methods might suit different books - there's no single way. I think the biogs idea would add to that clarity and power, if done briefly. I have just done it that way for my agent to sell an idea to my existing publisher (which I know is different but not that different) and she likes it and hasn't suggested I alter it.

Kate said...

Oh if I am not too late can I please be included. I have a UK address.

Thanks for another great post - you never disappoint :)

Kate xx

Delia Lloyd said...

I don't have a copy but would love one! Finding this blog very useful...and amusing...I need both in my life!

Delia Lloyd
www.realdelia.com

Catherine Hughes said...

I'm sure you will recall, Nicola, that I am capable of a prize-winning level of sychophancy!

I have to ask, though - why does the book need to cover coping with acceptance? Surely that just involves running around the house, up and down the stairs etc, screaming hysterically?

Please pick me - I obviously need the information more desperately than most!

Rosalind Adam said...

Stilettoes at dawn! How entertaining that would be! But then anyone who can wander the streets of London under the pretence of research can't fail to entertain. I love London. I'd also love a copy of the book. I recently tried to borrow a friend's but it was snatched back as an item too valuable to part with.

Jo Franklin said...

If you are still in London tomorrow, do you want to meet for lunch?
I'm always in town on Tuesdays as I go to a writing for children workshop at the City Lit. (By the way there is a gap in their prospectus that is you would fill very nicely concerning how to submit blah, blah.)
I'd love to find out about doing research as I am hopeless at it. I totally chickened out on visiting my old school before writing my current book but suspect that I will need to take up residence in the Imperial War Museum before starting the next one.

Ray said...

My son gave me a copy of this book a couple of years ago and it has lain at the bottom of a pile since then. I have just found it again and will read it. Thanks for the tip.

Thomas Taylor said...

What do you call an ingratiating pachyderm?

Okay, I'll pack my trunk...

But before I go, thanks for telling us about this book. Please choose me!

Terry Tibke said...

Alright, alright; great article. You've gained a new reader, and I'd love to get my hands on a copy of that book!

You also earn yourself a RETweet from Persia Jackson's initial tweet! :D

behlerblog said...

Good luck on your research, Nicola. How I wish mine had taken me to the UK where I could sip margaritas with you. Instead, I slogged through the Peruvian Amazon with a medical team for seventeen bug-filled days. I should be shot.

Sally Zigmond said...

My copy is also well-read but neither is it well-thumbed (surely everyone wears white gloves to read a book?)or chocolate-stained. You are a slut, madam and should be ashamed of yourself. What is the country coming to?

However, I would be obliged if you could send me an even cleaner copy and then I could give my old one--probably with out-of-date information in it--to a poor unfortunate who can't afford to buy one for themselves.

Will that do? Have I won?

Nicola Morgan said...

Jo - I'm not free in middle of day but could be later, eg 4pm. Where is your workshop? But I am nit an expert in research - it's very haphazard! Email me if you think you could be free. I will be in north London - angel or kings cross-ish. Email n@nicolamorgan.co.uk

Linda Strachan said...

It is a great book, so full of common sense and good advice, clearly written - definitely a must. I got mine a few years ago and and like Queenie I read it cover to cover and still dip in now and then. I would also happily recommend it to anyone.

'coping with acceptance' yes, you want to run about and jump up and down with joy, but then, as with most things, after the delight has cooled a little the reality appears and it is never quite what you expect!

catdownunder said...

/////// ~~~~ {{{{{}}}} ---- ¬¬¬¬¬ ````` :::: ]]]][[[[ Miaou. Purrfectly arranged cat hair for you. No? Never mind. I can probably find it somewhere but I will have to borrow it because I spent all my purrcet money buying books for other people.

Titus said...

I don't have a copy and I like your blog. Does that qualify me?

Flixton Mum said...

I would love a copy of this book. If it's just as half as interesting as Carole's tweets then it will be wondrous.

However, although I do have a UK address, I would like to nominate Catherine Hughes to get a copy of the book. Catherine was my nano buddy and she was really helpful, inspirational and bloody astounding in her own abilities. So for an amazing nano achievement, can I nominate her?

Sorry, there is no sycophancy coming your way today Nicola.

Seymour said...

One for the Christmas present list. It's been recommended to me before and for some reason I didn't buy it... What does everyone think about Borders closing down? I'm not sure what it means for authors/would-be authors.

Catherine Hughes said...

Oh my! I am speechless! Thank you Flixton Mum, but I really didn't do much except tell it like it is a couple of times!

But wow - I REALLY appreciate the sentiment. Spilled my tea in fact!

Thank you!

David J Griffin said...

I already own a copy of From Pitch To Publication by Carole Blake and can recommend it.

:-)

Brendan O'Neill said...

I felt very let down by Blake Friedman. Julian sent a screenplay of mine to Aardman but then didn't follow it up and just assumed because he hadn't heard anything Aardman weren't interested.

I later found out from an employee of Aardman whilst at the Screenwriters Festival that the person who was dealing with it had to go off sick with what turned out to be a terminal illness!

A simple follow up after a few months could have established this. It turned out that my Scampenstein idea wasn't quite right for them but it took me 18 months of limbo and then my own efforts to find out.

This was my second unpleasant experience with agents after Darley Anderson rang me at home in Dublin enthusing about my young alien lands in Ireland magic realist pitch only to tell me he was too busy too read what i'd produced after I spent 2 YEARS writing it!

I presume this comment disqualifies me from the competition but I feel a lot better having made it!

BookBod said...

I read in the paper that in India their Cadbury's products are made with proper cocoa butter (so that it doesn't melt like it does with the butter milk). I think you ought to be considering having an Indian excursion to source info...tastes, smells etc.
I have Carole's book, saw her book collection when she did one of those cash for crap shows - blimey, what a reader! (Or is it I'm so poor I'm slowly going through the County's library book store? - and therefore, little evidence that I read!)

Katherine Langrish said...

It's a good book, very useful, but readers should be aware that Carole Blake's take on a synopsis is quite idiosyncratic. Many agents want something much briefer.

Nicola Morgan said...

To all - sorry for lack of responses from me but I've been away again. I'll pick the winner tomorrow and let you know.

Brendan - not sure that my blog was the place to make this point but at least you feel better! I think you need to understand the vast quantities of writers contacting agents and how correspondence can always slip through the net in a busy office. It's a numbers vs hours in the day thing, and agents have a duty to clients before anything else. When I was unpublished I also carried quite a lot of negativity about the people I perceived as not caring about me or not bothering to read my work - now I understand so much better how difficult it can be to make everyone feel properly cared for. Thing is that yes, we do spend years and years writing something and it's very hard then for us to understand why someone wouldn't recognise that - but there are a lot of people taking two years to write things. I am sorry you feel bitter - I can understand it from both sides now.

Nicola Morgan said...

Sorry, forgot to announce the winner: catherine Hughes. Catherine knows, and anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, but I also should have said it here.

Catherine won because I did pretty much do it randomly - when i say "pretty much", I mean that i possibly did slightly accidentally see her name on the piece of paper at some point while my hand was rummaging in the bag of names, and I thought "Yes, pick catherine's because she deserves it." She works very hard, has had some difficult times and worked through them, and has had some success too - completed a Nano, for a start. Now, I know the same could be said for lots of you and I'm NOT saying any of you don't deserve the book, but I think it's fair to say Cetherine does. Also, flixtonmum very kindly offered to give the book to Catherine if she (flixtonmum) won, as a reward for her hard work, so that seemed to be telling me that someone else thought C deserved it. Anyway, it's winging its way now.

Well done! And thank you to everyone for being in the game.

Catherine Hughes said...

I've already said 'thank you' elsewhere, but it deserves repeating - so thank you, Nicola.

I really can't wait to read the book!

Carole Blake said...

Life's been a bit busy lately so I've only just caught up with all these comments. Thanks to all of you who have said such generous things about my book. To those who complain that my wishes for a synopsis differ to others: remember, there are no hard and fast rules in our industry. Agents, like authors, are individuals and have opinions, so it's not surprising that we sometimes disagree with each other. Lucky that we do, I guess, otherwise a 'no' from one agent, would mean rejection from us all.