Category Archives: Internet Resources

A-Hunting We Will Go! On the prowl with Agent Hunter.

At last you’ve finished writing your masterpiece.  It’s time to take a journey.  Either to find a publisher, or to venture into that no less terrifying and treacherous terrain that is… (cue tribal drums and the distant cries of wild beasts) … literary agent territory.

If you are lucky you might find a small herd around a watering hole, discussing their latest acquisitions, while more boisterous agents lock horns with passing publishers over foreign rights.  Sometimes a young, defenceless author  may venture into the clearing, separated from its pack (or Writing Circle).  Scared, confused, it pads up to the water to take a much-needed drink in a last attempt to prolong its dangerously uncertain life.  It is then that the agents pounce.  The poor author submitted her manuscript to ten at once, addressing all her scruffily packaged, misspelled submissions with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.  She has no chance.  The agents tear her apart in seconds.

But what if the poor author had researched her agents properly?  What if she had targeted an individual, found out what they liked, and sent off a professional submission?  It might just have saved her life!

Recently literary consultancy The Writers’ Workshop kindly offered me a free subscription to their searchable agent database, Agent Hunter.  It costs £12 to join for a year and instead of trawling through the web for information you are able to search their databases.

To start a search, you simply click Start Your Search (obvious when you think about it, isn’t it!).  On the left hand side are filters.  I called up the list of literary agents, then filtered them by children’s agents, then agents who are actively looking to build their list, then agents who use Twitter, have blogs and accept email submissions.  This quite specialised search brought up five agents.  When you select an agent’s name you can view much more detailed information such as their client list, how to submit and sometimes a personal manifesto or advice.  Of course this can all be found on the internet as well if you look hard enough.  It’s the filters that really help.  Being able to draw up a list of agents that are actively interested in your subject is really useful.  You can even be more specific and search on Picture Books or Young Adult.

They also have a database of publishers on there which I was keen to see.  I set the filters to children’s publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts.  Unfortunately it’s a bit out-of-date already as Egmont are listed accepting unsolicited manuscripts and, as we know, they’ve stopped.  Ragged Bears are also listed and they are no more!

Agent Hunter is a great idea and I certainly think it will be a good resource.  However, it needs to make sure it is absolutely up-to-date before people subscribe or they will not feel they are getting their money’s worth.  I also think it would be useful to have links to other sites open in a new window rather than replacing the Agent Hunter window.

You can try out Agent Hunter for free, although some information will be greyed out.  It’s a useful way to see how the database works and what information is supplied.  You can also try and cancel within 7 days.

Ready?  Let’s go bag us some agent!

It’s Twitter Time!

I have signed up to Twitter in order to stalk some of my favourite writers and find out what’s happening in their worlds.  There’s something about Twitter that’s more intimate than following a blog or visiting a website; the equivalent of being passed a note under the desk at school from the popular boy at the back of the classroom.

I don’t know if Twitter will be a permanent fixture in our fast-moving media world or if it will be regarded in the same way we do the Rubik’s Cube now: the symbol of an era, fun at the time but really – why?

I’m also not sure quite how to negotiate through the millions of twitterers out there.  It seems like a tornado of information whirling around without order.  Perhaps just letting a little bit through at a time will help; hence I will keep the list of people I follow small while I get my head around what it’s all about.

If you like the same children’s authors I do you might want to follow:

  • @jasperfforde
  • @davidwalliams
  • @Patrick_Ness
  • @ScottWesterfeld
  • @garthnix
  • @kdueykduey

I will be tracking down some more of my literary heroes over the next few weeks.  If you would like to keep me company (I will be tweeting about the writing process, the books I’m enjoying and any good leads I get on submitting children’s books), please click on the Follow@LouTreleaven button on the right as I currently have only 1 follower who is a piece of spam.

How to set up an Amazon Author Page

Amazon Author Central

Welcome screen for Amazon Author Central

If you are a published author, whether by mainstream means, via a small press or through self publishing (paper or electronic), you can set up an Amazon Author page.  This means that when people look at the details of your book they will see your name, photograph and a link to your own area where you can tell your readers more about  yourself and your writing.

As a fairly new venture, Amazon Author Central has had some teething problems with several authors I know of finding it impossible to set up.  I have also had trouble adding books which only appear on the US site.  The concept is still in beta (meaning it’s not fully polished yet and may be subject to further changes.)  It should all be running smoothly soon, though.  Meanwhile I thought I’d post this guide in case it’s of help to anybody.

  1. Go to www.authorcentral.amazon.co.uk (www.authorcentral.amazon.com in the US).
  2. Click on the Join Author Central button.
  3. Enter the email address you use for Amazon and your Amazon account number.  If you aren’t a member of Amazon you will need to join, but you can do that here too.
  4. You are now at the Welcome screen.  Click on Author Central Profile.
  5. You can now add information to 5 sections: Biography, Events, Photos, Video and Twitter.  To add new information, click the small blue Add prompt at the side of each section.
  6. At the top of this page you will see the second tab from the left is called Books.  Click on this.
  7. Now click on Add Books.  Amazon will search for books you are credited with, or you can search by title or ISBN.  If you aren’t already linked with that book (for example, if it’s an anthology* and only the editor is listed), Amazon will ask if you would like them to add the book.  They will then check to see if your claim is correct.  It usually takes a few days, and sometimes you need to produce proof (such as a contract or confirmation email).
  8. You’ll have to wait a few days now for your page to be updated.
  9. You can also use Author Central to check your sales and any customer reviews.  Just click on the blue tabs at the top of the screen.  The Help section is pretty handy too.
  10. Here’s my page: www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B003Y57R2M.  Hopefully one day it will be full of books with just my name on the cover!

Unfortunately as far as I understand it Amazon will only credit the first five authors who add the anthology to their author page.  This will hopefully change in the future.

Keeping your mojo!

Did you know that the word mojo originally meant a charm or spell?  These days it is used to define a sort of self confidence or self belief, as in, ‘I’ve lost my mojo!’ or alternatively,  ‘I’ve got my mojo back!’

I did indeed ‘get my mojo back’ recently after hearing from an editor who is going to read one of my books.  Only read, not publish, nothing promised at all, but it was enough to put me back on my writing track.  I have to admit I’ve been neglecting things recently.  I know I’m only letting myself down, but I’ve been making excuses not to write, and that’s not like me at all.  Things have been busy and stressful, and somehow I forgot that writing actually makes me feel better.  If I make time to write I feel less stressed, not more.  I’m doing something that really fulfills me.

But we can’t rely on others to keep our mojo up.  We have to motivate ourselves.  It’s especially hard when you receive a rejection from a company you thought your work was perfect for, or when you check the results of a competition you were sure you’d do well in and fail to find your name.  So what can you do to keep that optimism high and your writing full of energy and enthusiasm?  Here’s a few tips.  I will try to follow them myself too.  Let’s see how we get on.

  • Plan a writing routine.  Try to do a little each day if you can, even if it’s only one sentence.  It sounds silly, but if you can do one sentence you can go to bed thinking, ‘I did some writing today.’
  • Think of yourself as a writer.  Join a forum.  Do some research.  Buy yourself some fancy stationery.  Stroke it if you like!
  • If you haven’t already done so, make a mockup of the book you are working on.  Make a cover by wrapping an old book in paper.  Design the front and write a brilliant blurb on the back.  Make up some outrageous recommendations.  Then try to write the book that lives up to your claims.
  • Make a long term plan.  By Christmas you will have finished the first draft.  By Easter you will have done the first edit.  By next Christmas you will have submitted to agents or publishers.  Now divide up those deadlines into smaller ones.  Finish chapter.  Work out plot problem.  Write the tasks into your diary or calendar like any other task.
  • Take part in a motivational exercise such as National Novel Writing Month (find it at nanowrimo.org).  Or join a writer’s circle.  You can find these online if you can’t get out or are nervous about joining a physical group.  Look in yahoo groups.
  • Pick a competition or event to launch or showcase your work.  The Winchester Writers’ Conference in July allows you to meet up with editors and agents and show them your work.  The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition closing in October is a great opportunity for debut writers.
  • Remember that writing makes you happy.

Good luck and hold on tight to that mojo!

Weird and Wonderful Writing Adventures – Scriptopus

Welcome to the start of an occasional series where I set off on a new adventure in the web – slashing through sites, hacking through hypertext (you get the idea) – in search of interactive and collaborative writing sites that will thrill and challenge me, and leave me filled with inspiration as I trudge wearily but happily back to the safety of the  Blog Clubhouse to report on my intrepid experiences to you, my dear reader.

This week I have decided to investigate…

Scriptopus.com

Scriptopus can best be described as a writing game, similar to the old ‘parlour’ game of heads, bodies and legs, except this time you are writing a story.  You are presented with a piece of writing and the challenge is to continue the story in between 250 and 1000 characters and a timeframe of fifteen minutes.  It is then passed on until ten (not eight? why the octopus allusion, then?) people have contributed, at which point the finished story is emailed to you for you to laugh at/puzzle over/learn from.

As far as I can make out, it is purely a writing exercise; with nine unknown collaborators it is unlikely you will be able to take the story any further, and it probably won’t make much sense anyway.  Great!  No pressure, lots of fun, and the knowledge that someone, somewhere, is reading your work.  Let’s give it a try.

As soon as I entered the site I was presented with a piece of writing, an empty space and a timer already counting down from fifteen minutes.  No pressure?!  Suddenly it seemed like I was in a school exam hall again, listening to the clock tick while staring at an empty piece of paper.  Good.  I love exams.

Scriptopus screen shotThe first story didn’t really inspire me; I don’t like writing detective stories as a rule.  The second had a swear word, the third was too political, the fourth was barmy, the fifth too tough, the sixth too garbled – finally after passing on fourteen stories I found one in a genre I liked, written in a way I liked, that I thought I could do justice to.

Then I wrote frantically for fifteen minutes.  No!  That’s not the way to do Scriptopus at all!  You have to keep an eye on your character count.  My final count was -1,700 characters.  That meant I had to delete 1,700 characters in order to submit my part of the story.  By then my story was a wreck.  Shame – I loved the bit about the severed finger.

I started again, flicking through some odd, slightly deranged work if I’m honest, and finally found an interesting little sword and sorcery type piece.  This time I kept a close eye on my word count.  Fifteen minutes was plenty of time and I hammered out a fun piece of hokum and submitted.  I was asked to register in order to contribute and be able to keep track on my stories as well as receive a copy of the current tale when complete.  It was only then that I was told my contribution was part 8 out of 10.  If I’d known it was nearing the end I would have included a good deal more action!  But I can’t wait to read the whole piece and find out if it really ended in the way the original author who started the piece intended.

So, to sum up: great fun, good warm up exercise – but a mixed bag so choose carefully, keep an eye on your word count, and don’t get carried away and start writing about severed fingers falling out of dust sheets.  I’m saving that for next time.