Tag Archives: published


Why this picture? Whywhywhy?

A fellow graduate of my MA in Creative Writing recently asked why I continued to write short stories, if I see myself as a ‘novelist’. The truth is I don’t see myself as a ‘novelist’ or a ‘short story writer’, ‘playwright’ or a ‘poet’. I see myself as a writer and believe that a writer should be able to (at least) try all written forms.

Truth be known, I write and enter short story competitions for the following reasons and it is good for me to have this list at hand – in case I ever question myself.

a) Being shortlisted encourages and motivates – when such stuff is difficult to come by in the writer’s life.

b) I can get published in literary magazines.

c) Money, if I win.

d) It keeps me on my toes and hones and polishes my craft.

e) By writing stories I build up a portfolio – ready to go in case I’m ever offered a collection.

f) It gives me an edge when applying for bursaries, residencies, funding etc..

g) It might bring  the attention of publishers.

h) Short stories are something I can work on when time is limited.

i) An agent once told me that it is important to build up your writing ‘credits’.

j) Agents are human and sometimes don’t trust their own judgement, so wins and commendations give you that ‘seal of approval’/credibility.

k) Short story writing is a better displacement activity than making a cup of tea.

M) Having good writing credits help when applying for writing jobs.

p) Writing short stories reminds me that I’m a writer.


Sending off baby

Taking the leap; letting baby fly

Now, you have your completed, proofread manuscript in hand (or on file). It’s time to send baby off to the agents, or at least ask the agents if baby can come visit.

You will find agency contact details in the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook. There are many listed, read through carefully as there is no point in sending a historical romance off to an agency that specializes in SciFi. It might be a good idea to do further agency research online. Take note of who accepts email submissions, or hard copy only, and make sure you meticulously follow any guidelines.

In terms of choosing an agent to approach, I suggest thinking of an author whose work yours most resembles and then finding the agency or agent who represents them. Read through the acknowledgements in a book by that author and you’ll probably find the agent’s name listed, as writers usually thank their agents in the credits.

Initially, you ought to send a single-page inquiry letter to the agency. Outline your writing credentials. Include, in a few lines, the plot, genre and theme of your work. Ask if the agent would be interested in reading the first few chapters. You could attach a brief synopsis with this inquiry but I wouldn’t advise sending on your chapters until invited to do so.

Be aware that agents can take months to get back to you. Aware of this fact, many writers, understandably, send their work off to multiple agents at the same time. However, these multiple send-offs don’t sit well with the agents themselves. It’s a tough call, and the few agents I’ve spoken too say that although they’d prefer if you didn’t simultaneously approach other agents, they understand it happens and in such cases they appreciate it if writers let them know the work is under consideration by others too (and don’t send to more than three agents in one go).

If the agent likes your proposal, they may ask to see the first three chapters. If these fly, you may get a request for the full manuscript. The wait can be nerve-wracking. The best advice I’ve received is to start working on your second (or third or fourth) novel the day the first one goes off to the agents. If nothing else it gives you a new focus and if you do get picked up, you’ll be ready with a second book by the time the first goes to print.

 And as a final check :

1)       Make sure all your pages are numbered.

2)       Make sure your name and the title of your work appears on the header of every page.

3)       Use a standard serif typeface (Times New Roman or Georgia) in 12 point. Avoid weird or wacky fonts.

4)       Print double-spaced and single-sided on (non-scented) white A4 paper.

5)       Don’t send pictures of your cat’s kittens or glitter or a poem. You won’t look cute, you’ll look weird and desperate and you’ll never make it past the slush pile.

Here is a sample letter (email) of inquiry:

Dear Mr Agent,

I am a published poet and I have also written some articles for local papers in my home city of Ipswich.

I have recently completed my first novel, ‘The Big One’. I believe the genre and story-line accord with many represented by your agency and I would like to send my manuscript to you for consideration. The novel is approximately 78,000 words long, is set in contemporary Ipswich. It is a crime novel.

The plot centres around three old prison friends, recently reunited on the outside. The trio plan a jewel heist in order to help a fourth friend fund a medical operation. The heist is bungled and the former inmates discover they have been duped by the very person they had risked all to help. The novel explores friendship and betrayal and the battle between revenge and forgiveness.

I am attaching a more detailed synopsis and will forward my manuscript at your request.

Please let me know if you are interested in reading the same.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph T. Doe