How to get published

Katie Fforde's tips for aspiring authors

Bestselling author Katie Fforde shares her three essential tips for all kinds of aspiring authors

I first became a writer because my mother gave me a writing kit. I’d been talking about wanting to write for years, but thought because I had three children, a dog, two cats and a husband who was away at sea a lot of the time, I wouldn’t have time to write. Nevertheless, my mother bought a kit full of paper, dictionaries, a thesaurus and Tipp-Ex, wrapped it up in a big bow and gave it to me for Christmas. It was the big kick that I needed. My New Year’s resolution for that year was to start writing my novel, and I’m ashamed to confess it’s the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept.

Everyone is different, but for my three top tips for aspiring writers are...
 

1. Read a lot

You learn more about writing from reading than you would believe. I think it’s very hard for people who don’t read to become writers. Read anything and everything.
 

2. Persevere

It took me eight years to become a published novelist. I just refused to give up. I think if you’re really determined and you really want it enough, you will do it, but you have to want it more than anything. I’ve wanted other things in my life, like to be a size 10, but I haven’t achieved them because I didn’t want them enough. I did want to be a writer enough and I persevered and eventually I made it.
 

3. Listen to criticism

Learn to see when criticism is helpful and when it’s not. If somebody says “I can’t get into this book because it’s boring in the beginning”, don’t disagree with them and say, “But that’s how I wrote it, I want them to know all that!” but listen. The fact is, people aren’t going to want to read it if it’s not compelling enough. There are, however, people who will say “No one wants to read a book about a girl who goes climbing without equipment; who would?” But if you know differently, if you know that there are people who would be interested, then take no notice of that criticism. When it comes to editorial criticism, usually people are telling the truth and it is best to listen to it.
 

The main thing is to really persevere and you will do it. Anyone can if they want it enough.

“Is your book still not out?” If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked that question over the last year, I’d be one of those rare authors who gets their name on the Sunday Times Rich List. To be fair, before I began this process, I didn’t know that the route from selling a book (to a publisher) to your book being sold (in the shops) would be such a long and involved journey either. So in the interests of demystifying an otherwise cryptic process, here’s how my book journey panned out.

It was September 2012 when Penguin bought my debut novel, The Dead Wife’s Handbook, from my agent, Luigi Bonomi (yes, really, that long ago!) It was one of those moments that lived up to every imaginable cliché when Luigi phoned to tell me the news: heart racing, double-checking that I’d definitely heard right, not being sure whether to laugh or cry, being desperate to phone all my nearest and dearest straight away to tell them the news. The only cliché I didn’t fulfil was jumping for joy, but that was because I was two weeks away from giving birth and so ‘sliding like a beached whale from the top of the bed’ was about as close as I got.

A week later I met Hana – the woman who was going to be my editor – and we chatted about everything from books to babies to timelines. It was then that Hana told me they’d be publishing my book in early 2014. It did seem like aeons away but when she described everything that would need to happen in the interim – her editorial notes, me writing revisions, proof copies going out to press, cover design, copy edits, marketing and publicity, final copies going to more press and book buyers – suddenly seventeen months didn’t seem quite so long after all. And there was, of course, the fact that I was going to have my hands full for a few months with the imminent arrival of a little person.

Six months later – little person now safely ensconced at home and, of course, entirely dominating my life as is their wont – I spent three frenzied weeks working through Hana’s notes: there were a couple of new scenes to add, some secondary characters to develop and various places I needed to lose some text. It was also an invaluable opportunity to re-read and polish the manuscript with relatively fresh eyes: although I’d wrung the book through over a dozen rewrites before it being submitted to Penguin, it was incredibly useful to have another chance to read it through again after a substantial break.

Over the next couple of months, the book travelled back and forth electronically between the copy editor and me: her job was to look for inconsistencies – both in the text, in character’s behaviour and speech, and in the overall timeline. Then it went off to be proof-read and, much to my mum’s annoyance – who’d read it twice by then and is one of the most eagle-eyed people I know – there was still the odd typo to be corrected!

Over the summer, I met the people who were going to be in charge of the all-important marketing and publicity – Joe and Katie – a meeting which set things in motion for eight months of planning on social media and in the press. And it was also when I got to see the cover for the first time: opening up the email attachment that contains an image of the artwork that’s going to clothe your literary baby was probably one of the most exciting and simultaneously nerve-wracking moments of this whole process. Luckily I loved it immediately which was fortunate because so did everyoneat Penguin!

DWH

These final few months leading up to publication have been a hive of activity: designing and setting up my own website, writing features for magazines, penning posts for book bloggers, organising a blog tour with Katie, while all the time crossing every body part it’s possible to cross that we might secure some good reviews.

Now, nearly a year and a half after I squealed down the phone at various family members to tell them that my novel was being published by Penguin, when people ask me whether my book’s out yet, I can finally – happily – tell them that it is. And now all that’s left for me to do is hope that people think the book at the end of this journey is one they’d like to read.

“Is your book still not out?” If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked that question over the last year, I’d be one of those rare authors who gets their name on the Sunday Times Rich List. To be fair, before I began this process, I didn’t know that the route from selling a book (to a publisher) to your book being sold (in the shops) would be such a long and involved journey either. So in the interests of demystifying an otherwise cryptic process, here’s how my book journey panned out.

It was September 2012 when Penguin bought my debut novel, The Dead Wife’s Handbook, from my agent, Luigi Bonomi (yes, really, that long ago!) It was one of those moments that lived up to every imaginable cliché when Luigi phoned to tell me the news: heart racing, double-checking that I’d definitely heard right, not being sure whether to laugh or cry, being desperate to phone all my nearest and dearest straight away to tell them the news. The only cliché I didn’t fulfil was jumping for joy, but that was because I was two weeks away from giving birth and so ‘sliding like a beached whale from the top of the bed’ was about as close as I got.

A week later I met Hana – the woman who was going to be my editor – and we chatted about everything from books to babies to timelines. It was then that Hana told me they’d be publishing my book in early 2014. It did seem like aeons away but when she described everything that would need to happen in the interim – her editorial notes, me writing revisions, proof copies going out to press, cover design, copy edits, marketing and publicity, final copies going to more press and book buyers – suddenly seventeen months didn’t seem quite so long after all. And there was, of course, the fact that I was going to have my hands full for a few months with the imminent arrival of a little person.

Six months later – little person now safely ensconced at home and, of course, entirely dominating my life as is their wont – I spent three frenzied weeks working through Hana’s notes: there were a couple of new scenes to add, some secondary characters to develop and various places I needed to lose some text. It was also an invaluable opportunity to re-read and polish the manuscript with relatively fresh eyes: although I’d wrung the book through over a dozen rewrites before it being submitted to Penguin, it was incredibly useful to have another chance to read it through again after a substantial break.

Over the next couple of months, the book travelled back and forth electronically between the copy editor and me: her job was to look for inconsistencies – both in the text, in character’s behaviour and speech, and in the overall timeline. Then it went off to be proof-read and, much to my mum’s annoyance – who’d read it twice by then and is one of the most eagle-eyed people I know – there was still the odd typo to be corrected!

Over the summer, I met the people who were going to be in charge of the all-important marketing and publicity – Joe and Katie – a meeting which set things in motion for eight months of planning on social media and in the press. And it was also when I got to see the cover for the first time: opening up the email attachment that contains an image of the artwork that’s going to clothe your literary baby was probably one of the most exciting and simultaneously nerve-wracking moments of this whole process. Luckily I loved it immediately which was fortunate because so did everyoneat Penguin!

DWH

These final few months leading up to publication have been a hive of activity: designing and setting up my own website, writing features for magazines, penning posts for book bloggers, organising a blog tour with Katie, while all the time crossing every body part it’s possible to cross that we might secure some good reviews.

Now, nearly a year and a half after I squealed down the phone at various family members to tell them that my novel was being published by Penguin, when people ask me whether my book’s out yet, I can finally – happily – tell them that it is. And now all that’s left for me to do is hope that people think the book at the end of this journey is one they’d like to read.

“Is your book still not out?” If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked that question over the last year, I’d be one of those rare authors who gets their name on the Sunday Times Rich List. To be fair, before I began this process, I didn’t know that the route from selling a book (to a publisher) to your book being sold (in the shops) would be such a long and involved journey either. So in the interests of demystifying an otherwise cryptic process, here’s how my book journey panned out.

It was September 2012 when Penguin bought my debut novel, The Dead Wife’s Handbook, from my agent, Luigi Bonomi (yes, really, that long ago!) It was one of those moments that lived up to every imaginable cliché when Luigi phoned to tell me the news: heart racing, double-checking that I’d definitely heard right, not being sure whether to laugh or cry, being desperate to phone all my nearest and dearest straight away to tell them the news. The only cliché I didn’t fulfil was jumping for joy, but that was because I was two weeks away from giving birth and so ‘sliding like a beached whale from the top of the bed’ was about as close as I got.

A week later I met Hana – the woman who was going to be my editor – and we chatted about everything from books to babies to timelines. It was then that Hana told me they’d be publishing my book in early 2014. It did seem like aeons away but when she described everything that would need to happen in the interim – her editorial notes, me writing revisions, proof copies going out to press, cover design, copy edits, marketing and publicity, final copies going to more press and book buyers – suddenly seventeen months didn’t seem quite so long after all. And there was, of course, the fact that I was going to have my hands full for a few months with the imminent arrival of a little person.

Six months later – little person now safely ensconced at home and, of course, entirely dominating my life as is their wont – I spent three frenzied weeks working through Hana’s notes: there were a couple of new scenes to add, some secondary characters to develop and various places I needed to lose some text. It was also an invaluable opportunity to re-read and polish the manuscript with relatively fresh eyes: although I’d wrung the book through over a dozen rewrites before it being submitted to Penguin, it was incredibly useful to have another chance to read it through again after a substantial break.

Over the next couple of months, the book travelled back and forth electronically between the copy editor and me: her job was to look for inconsistencies – both in the text, in character’s behaviour and speech, and in the overall timeline. Then it went off to be proof-read and, much to my mum’s annoyance – who’d read it twice by then and is one of the most eagle-eyed people I know – there was still the odd typo to be corrected!

Over the summer, I met the people who were going to be in charge of the all-important marketing and publicity – Joe and Katie – a meeting which set things in motion for eight months of planning on social media and in the press. And it was also when I got to see the cover for the first time: opening up the email attachment that contains an image of the artwork that’s going to clothe your literary baby was probably one of the most exciting and simultaneously nerve-wracking moments of this whole process. Luckily I loved it immediately which was fortunate because so did everyoneat Penguin!

DWH

These final few months leading up to publication have been a hive of activity: designing and setting up my own website, writing features for magazines, penning posts for book bloggers, organising a blog tour with Katie, while all the time crossing every body part it’s possible to cross that we might secure some good reviews.

Now, nearly a year and a half after I squealed down the phone at various family members to tell them that my novel was being published by Penguin, when people ask me whether my book’s out yet, I can finally – happily – tell them that it is. And now all that’s left for me to do is hope that people think the book at the end of this journey is one they’d like to read.