Amanda Ross, founder of the Richard and Judy Book Club and ‘the most powerful person in publishing’*, gives us her exclusive tips for writers.
1. Have an original idea
There’s so much competition and everybody thinks that they have a book in them so to get published in the first place you need an original idea or an original voice that stands out from everything else that’s being written. Spend time in libraries to see what books are being published and look online, if there’s a big news story that’s inspiring you, it will be inspiring other people so it’s unlikely that you’ll be coming up with something original.
2. Be your own editor
Try to hone your work - read your writing back and read it out loud. Get other people to read it - people that you trust and who are honest. I’m often sent work and think “they haven’t even read this back”’ because it’s illogical.
3. Keep it succinct
Lots of books, especially by first time authors, are too long because they try to write absolutely everything. Readers like to read between the lines so be more sparse with the information you give. And avoid overuse of brackets - the general rule is that if you put something in brackets, it doesn’t really need to be there. If it’s not a proper part of the body of the text, it’s probably just excess words.
4. Get an agent
Very few publishers will take on a book from manuscript so you do need an agent. Try to make your book the best book it can be before you send it in and don’t be scared of rejection. Keep writing and sending stuff in - remember JK Rowling was turned down by nearly everybody in town. But at the same time if <so> many people have told you it’s rubbish, you have to eventually start believing it’s true!
5. Join a writing group
I’ve never been to one but I’ve heard brilliant, positive things about them. They are circles of like-minded people who are all trying the same thing. You have to read your stuff out loud to other people that want to be authors and if it’s not good enough to be read out in that forum, then it’s never going to get published. If it can’t survive that test, you’re not going to get people to spend money on it.
The TV Book Club is on Sundays at 7.20pm on More4
- The Observer Review list of the 50 most powerful people in publishing