Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Long Road to Publication #2

By Andy Smith

Since last time I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my novel into readers’ hands. For the moment I’ve been sticking with the ‘submitting to agents’ route. (Other routes into publication are available, but you’ve got to try sending a submission letter which includes “and I won the First Page competition”, haven’t you?) I said I’d tell you how I was getting on. I also promised to tell you a bit more about how I’ve got a comic fantasy novel which mixes a few other things together. So let’s do them both at once, shall we?

Breaking the Lore is a fantasy comedy which follows the events of a very strange police investigation. In modern-day Britain, a policeman discovers the body of a crucified fairy. There’s an army of demons on the way, but before he can stop them the policeman must overcome one major problem: he doesn’t actually believe in magic. Unfortunately for him, this is a detective story with elves, dwarves, mystical beings, cigarettes, alcohol and lots of jokes. Think Inspector Morse, as written by Tolkien – after several plates of magic mushrooms.


Because it’s a comedy, you can get away with things that you couldn’t otherwise; and you can mix things up. So there are sci-fi references, which are thrown in as comedy pastiches. There’s love interest, which is there to give Inspector Paris a bit more character, and to make him uncomfortable for comedy purposes. There’s explanations of the world I’ve created so the reader knows that everything does hang together. (Because fantasy fans – me included – are big on coherent world building, even silly worlds. And the explanations are usually deflated with some more comedy anyway.) The detective story is what enables events to move along and provides a plot around which everything else takes place. But, basically, it’s a comedy, which just happens to involve lots of fantasy elements.

Also because it’s a comedy, you can sneak in things under the radar. Things like how people who are different from yourself are not necessarily bad, and can actually make a valuable contribution. I don’t beat anyone over the head with it, but that’s the underlying theme of the story really; something which I think is a very important message for the times we’re living in.


Now that’s how I see it. That’s how everyone who has read the whole story sees it too, and they’ve all enjoyed it. (Including Alison Morton, judge of the First Page competition, and a proper author with actual published books!) A few months ago I was a finalist in the Writing on the Wall ‘Pulp Idol’ competition, where I had to read out the first chapter to the judges and audience. Afterwards, I received feedback from numerous members of the audience who said “I’d buy that book.” They were people of both sexes, all ages, and readers of various genres. Recently I took part in the Sheffield Novel Slam, similarly involving reading out to the audience and getting their feedback, and I received a similar reaction: people telling me they liked it and wanted to hear more.

But, when I send it off to agents – slightly different response.

Like most people who try to get something published, I’ve got a growing pile of rejection emails. I’ve found that most of the time you either get no reply at all, or you get a variant on the “thanks but no thanks” message. I’m building a fair sized collection of a different type of rejection; one which basically says “your writing’s good, the story’s great, but I can’t sell it.” AARRGGHH!


Deep breath.

Conceivably I’ve got too many things going on in the book. Maybe I’m being too ambitious. However, I’ve got people telling me they want to buy my novel. I know for a fact that I’ve got a potential audience out there. I just need an agent who can help me to reach them. So if there are any of you reading this blog and want to be that one – please get in touch! My potential readers are waiting for you!


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