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12 Aug 2011

Swanwick This Weekend

Taking a break from writing about London place names and being careful not to say ‘Shit’ on American radio, I’m off to rural Derbyshire on Sunday to talk to people about getting their work ready for publication. These events are always inspiring on the one hand and daunting on the other. So many would-be writers think that those of us who work in publishing have magic answers to all their questions, and sadly it just isn’t true.

Lots of the advice comes under the heading of ‘what not to do’: in a covering letter, for example, don’t tell the agent or editor that they will be missing the chance of a lifetime if they turn you down, or that what you have written is an exciting thriller (it wouldn’t be much of a thriller if it wasn’t). Don’t provide a full CV that boasts that you were once captain of your school netball team unless you are writing a book about netball.

It all seems terribly banal. And at best it can only be a guideline. There are, by general consent, three things you need if you are to be a successful published author (assuming that you aren’t a celeb already, of course) and those are talent, persistence and luck. Not necessarily in that order.

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