Christina Hollis has enjoyed a highly successful career as a published author since 2007, and I am delighted she is here today to share her secrets for navigating an editor or agent's slush pile.
By the way, at the end of today’s post is a chance to win a copy of Christina’s latest book as well as the winners of Tracy Sumner’s novels TIDES OF PASSION and TIDES OF LOVE.
And now here's Christina!
Many people get the urge to write, and all that inspiration has to go somewhere. Thirty years ago, the phenomenon of the slush pile was confined to publishers' offices. Hopeful authors would send off their precious typed manuscripts to be read, in the hope they would become the next Big Thing.
Awash in such a sea of talent, publishers tried to reduce the size of their slush piles by accepting submissions only via agents. This introduced a primary sifting of wheat from chaff, and agents developed their own slush piles as the work came in faster than it could be read.
These days, with Internet publishing accessible to everyone, you might think the slush pile is a thing of the past. That isn't necessarily so. It simply means that anyone can get their work online, and your precious manuscript now has to fight for recognition alongside What I Dun On Me Olidays and The Diary of Chairman (insert the name of your worst enemy here): Part MCMX.
Here are a few pointers to help you make your work stand out, in the best possible way:
Easier said than done, of course. What you need is something novel without being so unrecognizable that people are scared to sample your work, yet familiar without being clichéd. It's been a common sticking point since the second literate caveman picked up his chisel, the first literate caveman having had all the original ideas. Good luck!
GET IT DOWN ON PAPER
You would be amazed how many people never get this far. Unless you are already a celebrity, if you pitch nothing more than an idea at a publisher or agent, they'll pitch it straight into their wastepaper basket. Get a first draft down on paper, and you're already more of an author than people who have done nothing more than dream. Hone that first draft through many rewrites and rethinks, and you multiply your chances of success.
NEVER SAY 'I CAN'T BE BOTHERED'
I was given this piece of advice by the poet Paul Groves, when he was my creative writing tutor. Make sure your work is perfect, with no spelling mistakes and a suitable use of vocabulary. A good big dictionary and thesaurus are investments for a writer, not luxuries. If you can't afford to buy them new, try finding them second hand or in charity shops. Yes, you can look things up on the Internet, but that robs you of the pleasure of stumbling on a word you've never come across before, while you're searching for a definition. Increase Your Word Power, as good old Readers' Digest used to say.
WHEN YOUR WORK IS AS GOOD AS IT CAN BE, FORGET IT
Put it aside for a week, then read it again. At the very least you'll be coming at it with fresh eyes, which should catch stray typos and other problems. When working on something continuously and lovingly for a long time, it's very easy to see what you think should be there, rather than what is actually there. If you can get someone to beta read for you, so much the better. Your work has to tempt readers to turn the page or click to continue, so this initial tryout will give you an idea of how successful you've been.
TARGET YOUR WORK
Whether you want to be published online or via a traditional publisher, time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted. Study the market, and approach only those who deal with the kind of work you write. There's no point in sending short stories to anywhere that says they only take full-length fiction. Don't try pushing a handwritten work of fantasy through an educational publisher's letterbox either. I tried that when I was 10 years old, simply because I passed their office every morning on my way to school. Not even the element of surprise got my work a second look that time.
To sum up, do your best work, target it carefully and keep going. Nobody said getting published was easy, but following these few simple guidelines will help to give your work a head start.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given as a writer? There's a signed copy of a book from Christina's backlist for an answer picked at random.
WHERE CAN READERS FIND CHRISTINA
Readers can find Christina Hollis all these places online:
- Web site, http://www.christinahollis.com/;
- Twitter, https://twitter.com/#!/christinabooks/;
- Facebook, http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Christina-Hollis/100000265788610;
- Blog, http://www.christinahollis.blogspot.com/; and
- Tumbler, http://christinahollis.tumblr.com/.
And for more places to win Christina's books, visit her author page created by Romance Book Paradise Promotions.
Christina writes Modern Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, which appears as Harlequin Presents/Extra in the United Staes. Her current release, WEIGHT OF THE CROWN, is available from Amazon, Amazon UK and Mills & Boon.
Now duty is his only mistress.
For notorious playboy Prince Lysander Kahani, playtime is over. Left with a country to run, he draws the line at playing nanny to his orphaned nephew.
Instead he sends for a professional. But one glance at buttoned-up Alyssa Dene and Lysander's wicked side re-emerges. Wary of Lysander's scandalous reputation, Alyssa tries to keep her distance, but Lysander draws her like a moth to a flame.
Lysander is fighting a battle between public duty and private desire but Lysander is determined to make Alyssa a royal offer she won't refuse ...
TIDES OF PASSION, TIDES OF LOVE WINNERS
The winners of Tracy Sumner’s e-book package featuring TIDES OF PASSION and TIDES OF LOVE are romance author Shelley Munro and picture-book author Susanna Leonard Hill. The winners were chosen by www.random.org. Congratulations, and thank you to everyone who entered! And don’t forget that all commenters went into the grand draw for a Kindle at the end of Tracy’s tour. For a list of upcoming stops, please visit Tracy’s author page.