Guest Post: Kate Dempsey of Emerging Writer

I asked Kate Dempsey of Emerging Writer to pen me a guest post, and here it is!

Why I blog
So why do you blog as an emerging writer? There’s a question I’ve been asked from time to time. After two years of blogging, the answers have probably changed a bit.

I have kept a diary of my writing projects, upcoming competitions and results and places open for submissions for a good few years. The competitions and submissions information came from a large number of sources: newsletters, emails, various writing websites, other blogs, radio, TV, word of mouth, and I collated it in one place for my own use. I thought this information would be useful to other writers and a blog seemed the easiest way to share it online.

Why did I choose the name Emerging Writer? I’ve been lucky enough to be accepted on some workshops and win awards in this nebulous category, it was easy to remember and I didn’t want my name directly associated. I was job hunting at the time and I didn’t want prospective employers reading about how many times I’ve had work rejected this month. Also I wanted to have a bit of freedom to be critical of establishments, books, poems and even people without them turning up at my front door wielding a hurley.

Then I did a few posts about my own writing successes and failures and, result, I got some comments. Ah heaven. People cared. I posted about writing and reading events in Ireland and started meeting people who read my blog. People who didn’t know me already. Is this fame? I posted writing tips and common errors.

I post pretty well every day now. I’ve posted on council grants and Haiku courses, Canadian magazines and photos for inspiration, literary agents and writing retreats. I always include a picture illustrating part of all of the post. Sometimes the link is tenuous and more for my own amusement than for my readers. I’m easily amused. And I’ve discovered the joys (and unexplained sudden failures) of submitting for a future dates. I use my blog myself for checking on upcoming deadlines and links to submission details.

But always in the back of my head was the idea that when my book gets finished and my agent gets it published, a blog is a great publicity vehicle for my faithful and mildly interested readers. I’m ever optimistic.

What have I learned?
People read blogs. Blogging is a form of networking, as useful in writing as in any other professions. Comments are good, positive or negative, discussions are healthy. Blogging and reading other blogs can easily eat into my precious writing time. All it takes though is discipline to stop that happening. Turn off the internet and get stuck in.

But first, I’ll just check the blogs I’m following for updates on Google Reader…

New Title Meetings can be hell! (Trust me, I know …)

Eoin Purcell

Eoin's significantly reduced slush pile
Eoin's significantly reduced slush pile

A heavy days meetings
A very long new title meeting on the Friday of the bank holiday meeting is not what I had in mind, but there was much to cover! Some of it good, some bad, some promising! I’m always stressed to hell before these meetings and pretty tired after them, but this time some thoughts bubbled to the surface, that I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, but a little reiteration can’t hurt!

A word (or two) of advice if I may to authors

    1) Always, always, always include you place of birth, your place of current residence and your profession in your submission letter (or your cv). You would be amazed how many times I get asked those three questions at New Title Meetings.

    2) Please think of at least a tag line or snappy descriptions for your book (fiction or non-fiction) when submitting. Yes these are cheesy and might well be over selling the book, but do it, it’ll help your commissioning editor when they pitch the title.

    3) Always include an image in the submission. Commissioning editors don’t care but sales people do!

    4) Know what genre you fit in! Don’t tell me its indefinable, that just means I’ll have a harder time selling it. If you don’t like pigeon holing, draw some obscure comparison, Milton crossed with Thompson, whatever, just don’t claim after centuries of people writing that you are unique, it’s unlikely to be true*!

    5) If your editor accepts digital submissions, send them digitally! I don’t know how often a slice of the text pasted into my proposal has served to showcase the talent of an author (both in fiction and non-fiction) or highlight a key selling point, this is so much easier to do when the text is in a word/rtf or text file!

That’s it! Keep submitting!

* You may have lots to offer and be a new, fresh voice, but your work will trod old ground and plough old furrows. That is not to say people will not love it and thank you a million times for writing! Just know your parameters!

HarperCollins launches Authonomy

Eoin Purcell

What is it?
The bookseller news item has the full breakdown (see below) but you can read some more here on MSN and a bit of analysis here:

Authonomy, at, will initially be rolled out by HCUK in early 2008, with the intention of it becoming a global programme in the future. The site will connect unpublished authors with readers, and will allow anyone to participate. Readers will be able to support their favourite manuscripts, with HC guaranteeing to consider the most popular for publication. HC anticipates that many of the readers will be industry professionals looking for new talent.

What is going on?
Seems to me that HC are quite cleverly using the web at its best to do the same job that usually gets dumped on the junior editor (not at Mercier I should add. I review nearly very script that comes in). But will it work in their favour? It is a hard call, it may be that the site will become a destination for good writers with talent (it s difficult to tell without seeing how exactly they intend to execute the task they have set themselves) but if, as HC suggest themselves, the site is also a magnet for publishing professionals from beyond HC there is no guarantee that they will take the cream. In fact they could well forced the price of the cream up and simply improve the scrum for talent while costing themselves quite a bit in hosting and marketing.

But what do I know

Change: What’s been taking up my time

Eoin Purcell

Reading Fiction
Is a surprisingly large part of my job. Although Mercier only publishes a very few fiction titles and those are of a very good standard (For Example), many of the submissions we get are fiction so for the first time I am reading fiction with a critical eye (i.e. Is it good? Can we sell it? Will it make money? Is there a good hook for the retailer?). I read one over the weekend that I loved but the questions still pile up.

Anyway this is a post more to talk about change more than anything. Change in strategy at Snowbooks. Where Emma Barnes has posted a very detailed analysis of how tricks are going for them:

Our top ten (out of 50 live) titles account for 65% of our total margin.
Our second best selling line in terms of volume, value and margin is Boxing Fitness.
We made exactly the same cash gross margin on Living the Good Life as The Crafter’s Companion, yet Living has sold only 38% of the volume of Crafters.
10 books have made more than £10,000 gross profit.
Our average gross profit per unit is £1.31.
Our average cost per unit is £1.20.
Our average sales value per unit is £2.50.

Change at if:book where Sophie has finally launched:

Sophie’s raison d’être is to enable people to create robust, elegant rich-media, networked documents without recourse to programming. We have word processors, video, audio and photo editors but no viable options for assembling the parts into a complex whole except tools like Flash which are expensive, hard to use, and often create documents with closed proprietary file formats. Sophie promises to open up the world of multimedia authoring to a wide range of creative people.

James has a good initial review.

Change too at LibraryThing which has launched LibraryThing for libraries:

What is LibraryThing for Libraries?

* Give your patrons exciting new content, including recommendations and tag clouds.
* Let your patrons take part, with reviews, ratings and tags. Keep the control you want.
* Enhance your catalog with just a few lines of HTML. Works with any OPAC and requires no back-end integration. Really.
* Draw on the collective intelligence of your patrons and LibraryThing members.

And if the words of those from mercier are true a sense of change in publishing too. There seems to have been a great amount of positivity and energy at LBF this year. Sounds good to me.

Enjoying a nice weekend

Think before you sign & do it!

Eoin Purcell


I talked in my last post about how to deliver a final text in Word. I thought today that I might also post some thoughts on manuscripts and contracts and how they relate.

All too often authors are so concerned with getting their book contract agreed that they pay a little less attention to the detail of the contract. They also tend not to think in terms of the editor and the publishers pressures. Now that is all fair enough in one sense. But in another this thoughtlessness can be exceptionally damaging to the working relationship because it creates big problems for the publisher.

Three main problems can arise that cause problems in my experience to date:

    1) Late Delivery
    2) Extent issues (manuscript longer or shorter than agreed)
    3) Content issues (again substantially different from the agreed content)

And these are problems for you because?

Most publishers operate a rigid timetable. Six – nine months before a book is published the sales force will be briefed and they will attempt to pre-sell titles to large chains, independents and other outlets. That means things like price, page extent, cover design, image numbers and colour have to be locked down and ready for the sales department at an early stage.The contract forms the basis for these details.

From terrible experience I can assure you that missing these deadlines is exceptionally counter productive to the process, engendering only derision, discomfort and distrust on all sides. It may not seem very flexible (and it is not) but those are (at least for now) the rules of the trade game and if you want to play that game you play the rules.

As you can see then for the publisher to have all those details locked in delivery of the manuscript on time and to contract is literally vital. Some publishers will take manuscripts a year before publication others longer and for those who operate a little closer to the edge they may take manuscript delivery much closer to the date of release. That makes it especially disastrous if you deliver late. The schedule goes awry, work that should be done one month drifts into another and obstructs work that should have been done then. All in all late delivery endangers the timetable and thus the proper release of your book, never a good idea.

No one will have a problem with an early delivery. Though the author may wonder why matters have not happened earlier as he/she got the text in on time or early, the reason is of course the same reason why a late delivery is such a dramatic problem, publishing timetables.

Almost like the early delivery issues, a manuscript considerably shorter than envisaged is not the worst of issues. Unless the cover has been printed before delivery in which case large issues might arise and the cover may have to be scrapped and reprinted. A great way to cost your publisher money and lose their favour!

Text that exceeds the contracted length is a problem for so many reasons:

    a) It may require printed covers to be scrapped and reprinted.
    b) It increases costs of paper and thus forces the publisher to accept a lower/non-existent profit or raise the price.
    c) If these issues arise after the book has been pre-sold the publisher is faced with pissing off retailers or cutting the book to length or taking a hit.

All in all you will have a very angry publisher on your hands simply because you failed to deliver the text at the right length. Bravo!

I am sure you have spotted the trend here, late delivery, not to contract delivery or substantially different to contract delivery makes for a very annoyed publisher, a messed up schedule and a book that needs very little to tip it into the also ran category. But all of this is avoidable.

Avoiding Disaster

Don’t sign up without fully considering the deadlines, delivery details and the conditions. It’s kinda simple but so often overlooked it hurts! Only agree to deadlines you can keep. Write the length agreed. Write the style and form agreed unless you agree before delivery to change tack. I could write more on reading the contract but that too is for another post.

See, nothing too challenging there.

What is more if, despite doing everything right, you see an issue arise, contact the publisher ASAP and say so. They will welcome the early warning that might prevent expenditure and timetable difficulties and they will certainly prefer to know before they have started submitting the book to retail buyers.

Getting ready for the weekend!