I’ve just spent the weekend amongst aspiring writers at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. It was brilliant to see so many enthusiastic people who want to improve their writing and get it out there where people can read it.
The most common questions I got asked there were “how do I go about getting an agent?” and “how do I get published?” I guess I’m not really sure how to answer either question – for me it was a case of buying a copy of the Children’s Writers and Artists Yearbook and sending off my manuscript to as many agents as possible. After at least 30 rejections, I was lucky enough that, through a fairly improbable set of circumstances, my work landed on the desk of Gillie – the incredible lady who would become my agent. From there, she did the rest!
It’s definitely worth investing in a copy of the Yearbook, or borrowing it from the library, as it’s full of hints, tips and addresses. From talking to agents and publishers, I think the key is to make sure your work is as good as it can be when you send it off. Agents look at lots of submissions each day so yours needs to stand out. Ask yourself: is the voice original? Are the characters real? Does each word/sentence/paragraph/page push the story forward? What is forcing the reader to keep on reading?
Be prepared for a few (often impersonal) knockbacks though – agents are very busy people and they can receive huge numbers of submissions every week. If you’re fortunate enough to get any feedback, do listen to it. You might not agree with it (and it is only one person’s opinion) but it’s important to try to distance yourself emotionally from your work (VERY difficult, I know) so that you can see why they’re making those suggestions. Personalised responses are like gold dust so it’s definitely worth paying attention to them.
As far as professional editors are concerned (i.e. people who will charge a fee to consider your work before submission), I don’t really have much experience of them. However I guess that, before parting with your hard-earned cash, it would be worth researching their credentials and what you actually are going to receive for the fee.
It’s pretty scary to show your work to other people for the first time but I wish you the absolute best of luck!