I have four main pieces of advice, although if you go back and have a look at my early blog posts, just after I got published, you’ll see some posts in greater depth on this subject. But just quickly:
a). Get an agent. They have many benefits. They often have more time to look at your work than the big publishing houses, and therefore will reject you faster and maybe give some critical tips about your work. When you get published, you will find life hard without one, and cushy if you have a good one.
b). Be nice, enthusiastic and grateful whenever you meet anyone in any way associated with publishing (that includes booksellers and authors). This will not get you published, but it won’t hurt. You can actually damage your chances of being published or staying published by being pushy, precious or generally hard to deal with. True story. I’ve seen it happen.
c). Do not get frustrated, jealous and angry in your journey toward publication. I was very angry for many years about all the rejections and failed manuscripts and crappy books being published in place of mine. And all that hurt achieved exactly nothing for my career. If you think any writing you’ve ever done is ‘wasted’ then you’re not a writer. Sorry. You should bleed words if you want this gig.
d). If you write something and submit it and it fails, put it in a drawer, or throw it out, and write something else. Don’t keep editing the same book over and over because you think it might be the writing that’s the problem. Maybe it is. Maybe someone even told you that it was. But most likely what you’ll get is an automated rejection that tells you nothing (or something far too general) about why you didn’t get through. It could be that the concept has been done, or they’ve just published a manuscript too similar to yours, or the whole damned idea is too complex, or complete garbage. The truth is, your best chances of being published are by writing and submitting multiple books, sometimes for many years. If you want to be a writer, having one idea and writing one book isn’t going to cut it. If a publisher shows any interest in you, the first thing they’ll ask you is if you have other ideas and what they are.
No, I will not, and I’m very sorry that I can’t. My publishers and agent advise me not to read any unsolicited works, so that we can avoid any future legal dramas. But also, I have such precious time to read anyway, that I generally use it reading true crime as research for what I write. This is generally the case for most mid-to-top level writers, and I don’t know a single one of them who wouldn’t be uncomfortable being approached with a manuscript or book in person after a talk, so don’t do that. For me, writing two novels a year and all the publicity involved in doing that for a living means that I just do not have the time to critique other people’s work. Finally, I’m not a publisher, or an editor. I’m an expert in my own writing, and that’s about it.
There are some great classes at the Australian Writers Centre that allow you to have your work individually critiqued, and in some courses you can do it online. The New South Writers Centre is also awesome, and writer’s festivals generally run masterclasses with your favourite authors. In my experience, it’s not advantageous to pay manuscript appreciation services to look at your work – they’ve got a stake in telling you it’s genius so you’ll keep coming back for those feel-good assessments. If you’ve got a kid who wants to be a writer, send them to night classes at TAFE. That’s where I started.
No, I would not! I don’t write memoirs. I’ve never written a memoir. Why the fuck do you people keep asking me to write your memoirs? People who write crime write crime, and people who write books about dragons write books about dragons, and people who write memoirs write fucking memoirs. Go ask one of them, or write your own damned memoirs. Jesus Christ.
I didn’t ask James Patterson to collaborate with me. I met the guy for the first time at a cocktail party, so sidling up to him and asking if he’d collaborate with me would have been pretty damned inappropriate, and totally awkward for him. When I met James, I did indeed sidle up to him, but it was only to respectfully tell him how much I loved his work and how long I’d been reading it. We chatted about writing and characters for a while, and then I departed. The collaboration came later, after he’d read some of my work by his own choice.
My books contain inconsistencies. Most novels do. Sometimes it’s fun to find them. It makes you feel clever and switched on – you might even notice something that demonstrates your exclusive understanding of a niche topic or a bit of fascinating trivia. That’s nice. Good on you! You spotted something that got past me, both my editors and – if you’re quick – everyone who had read the book and didn’t comment on that inconsistency. You’re a star.
Except, when you take the extra effort to write in and reveal an inconsistency to me, that’s weird. Because you and I both know there’s nothing that can or should be done about tiny inconsistencies in fiction when they make their way into print. I’m not going to ask my publisher to pulp the thousands of copies they have already printed, or have the typesetter drop the project they’re currently working on to re-access the digital files for my novel, fix the mistake and re-set the entire work. That kind of re-hashing of novels over and over every time an inconsistency or typo is not very business-minded.
So what you’re really doing is just asking me to acknowledge that you know more about the particular subject than I do. Which is great. Except that you don’t know me. And I don’t know you. You might want to gather the respect and admiration of your friends or family for spotting an inconsistency in a book – I get that. But you know them. You have relationships with them. Most of your interactions with them are surely about maintaining a level of respect and even admiration.
But asking someone you don’t even know to acknowledge that you know something they don’t know is kind of… weird. Maybe a little… desperate?
If you have a look at the contact page, at the top you’ll see some contact details for my publicist and agent.
Fifty Fifty, my next collaborative work with James Patterson, will be out in Australia around August, 2017. After that, I’ll be releasing the second Crimson Lake book.