In the last post, Chandler’s Ford writer Allison Symes shared her passion with writing. She has taken us into her Fairy Kingdom.
Today, Allison shares with us her publishing journey, and gives us some publishing tips.
Tell us about your life as a writer. Shall we give up our day job to pursue our writing dream?
Allison: I write in the evenings. I write short stories, novels and scripts and think of my work as “fairytales with bite”.
I use wry humour so my stories are for young adults and upwards.
Definitely don’t give up the day job to be a writer as, despite what Samuel Johnson said about “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money”, you must write for the love of it as only that will help you develop a thick enough skin to cope with rejections.
Which publishers have you worked with?
I have been shortlisted in Writers’ News/Writing Magazine story competitions and “commended” in a Winchester Writers’ Festival competition.
I have work in anthologies – a limerick about Hampshire in Iron Press’s Limerick Nation, a story in Marit Meredith’s The Shambelurklers Return, which is raising money for the National Autistic Society and is available via Lulu.com, and and A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions.
There are hurdles in publishing. How do you overcome them?
Allison: I am still trying to get my novels accepted by a mainstream publisher but am considering self-publishing using Feed-a-Read, which is Arts Council supported.
Any words of wisdom in publishing?
Allison: I would advise anyone thinking of self-publishing to read up all you can and investigate different companies. Be wary of vanity publishers who will charge you a fortune for producing a book you can do yourself more cheaply without loss of quality.
Also vanity publishers want you to hand over all your rights.
The Society of Authors issues a handy guide which costs a small amount for non-members.
Jonathan Clifford has a wonderful website detailing vanity publishing. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it is to always ask and check things out before committing to anything (the web is useful as you always get more than one opinion on something and it doesn’t take long to gauge consensus).
As for writing, get it as near perfect as you can. Editors do spot typos, grammatical errors and so on. I’d recommend using a reputable book doctor once you have a manuscript ready.
I used the Hilary Johnson Authors’ Advisory Service twice and found their reports helpful. You can get too close to your own work so getting in an expert to go through it is worth doing.
Some services go through the whole manuscript, others are happy to scrutinize your first three chapters (which may be enough to tell you what you need to do with the rest of your script). The latter is obviously cheaper but I would look at the companies’ websites, check out recommendations and see if writing friends know of them, can recommend them (or not as the case may be).
There is no copyright in ideas so don’t be alarmed if someone comes up with an idea that looks similar to yours. Ask yourself what makes your story different? What makes it unique? Answer those and you’re well on your way to preparing a blurb and a synopsis.
If you can get to writers’ festivals do so as you learn a lot, are reminded you’re not on your own as a writer, and you can make friends.
Allison, where can we buy your stories/books?
Allison: People can view my stories for free on Shortbread Short Stories (some of these were up some time ago so you might need to press the Shortbread Time Machine button to find them).
Also my stories are on Cafélit. Alfie Dog Fiction has two of my stories and you can download them from the site for 39 pence each. Bargain!