I have moved the whole blog to a new address. Please join me over there as no new posts are being added here and I have removed key info from this old version ...


When you get there, PLEASE rejoin as a "follower" - changing addresses means I lose my 230 lovely friends!

NB also - all comments are intact on the new version.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


Newcomers (and there are many - hello!) to this blog won't know about the occasional Submission Spotlights, so I thought I'd flag up these opportunities to have your Work in Progress mauled in public by readers from all over the world. "Hold me back," I hear you say. Yes, it's a scary thing to do - but here's a thought: getting published is scary too, because then your Work is no longer in Progress but horribly fixed, and real readers will throw eggs and wet sponges at it. So, better get your humiliation in while you've still got a chance to improve the response.

Also, a nice man came up to me after a recent talk I did and was asking about his non-fiction proposal, and I realised that my Sub Spotlights don't give an opportunity for non-fic writers to be abused. This is not right - non-fic writers need to be able face the music too. So, I am going to amend the submission guidelines.

(If you have already sent one in, don't change it. I'm not that much of a bat.)

  • for fiction (whether children's or adult writing): submit your covering letter and the first 500-600 words of your novel / children's story. In other words, submit almost exactly what you would really submit, except omitting a synopsis and ignoring the "3 chapters or 10,000 words rule". Covering letter should aim (as with real covering letters) to hook the agent or editor by encapsulating your book in a succinct but expressive way, following the guidelines in my recent posts on covering letters. See here, here and here. You would normally be enclosing a synopsis (although you are not for the purposes of this exercise) so don't give details of the outcomes of your plot/sub-plots - just give enough so that we can tell just what sort of book this is and why it is so compelling. As with a normal fiction submission, your novel should be finished before you submit.
  • for non-fiction (again, could be for children or adults): I want to see almost the whole proposal that you intend to send to an agent or editor. HOWEVER, please do not enclose your CV - instead, your proposal should include a para showing why you are the person to write this book. Also, for the sample, please only send me the first 250 words, without any intro. We want to get a sense of the writing style, voice and pitch.
  • please email your submission as an email attachment in a Word doc (not pdf) to Make sure it's not read-only. Previously I asked for the submission in the body of the email - I discovered this is more of a nuisance. Again, if you've already sent a submission, don't worry - if I'm going to use it, I will.
Notes to all:
  1. if I don't use your submission, don't take this as a rejection! I'm simply trying to offer a range of different genres
  2. there is no deadline (thanks to Dan H for pointing out that I didn't make this clear) - it's an ongoing thing
  3. please specify if you're contacting agent or editor
  4. you are welcome to use a pseudonym - make it clear what you want me to use

QUESTION - Anyone got any more children's / YA submissions?

Another note for all - do go and read some of the previous Spotlights, for example this one by Jen. Jen was brilliant at working through the feedback and she says she got a huge amount out of it. You'll find the level of commenting very instructional. Remember, some of the commenters are agents or editors in disguise (sometimes not in disguise ...) and others are very astute readers. All have been honest and constructive, even when contradicting each other. They are among the best and most useful readers you'll get withough paying.

Tomorrow is my last day of talks at the Edinburgh Bk Fest - which reminds me, I had better go and prepare them. One is my schools' event - my absolute favourite thing to do on a stage - and one's on Fighting for your Rights as a Writer, which I'm regretting having agreed to. Mainly because I haven't a clue who the audience is. It's a bit like writing a book and not knowing who you're writing it for - a Very Bad Idea.

On the other hand, an even worse idea is going to do a talk without preparing. So, if you'll excuse me ...