How did CWILL BC members get their first big breaks in the publishing world? In this series of interviews with local writers and illustrators, we ask what advice they would offer and what mistakes they would never repeat — an inside look at the publishing process, from the creators’ point of view. Please feel free to tell your own publishing tales in the comments section below.
What was your first book?
My first book was Journey to Aprilioth, a picaresque historical fantasy that began in prehistoric Britain and followed the hero on an epic journey across Europe, the Near East and the Mediterranean world. It was published by Ace Books as a mass market paperback in 1981. Later in the 80’s I published a prequel and then a sequel: together they made up my Grey Isles trilogy.
How did you find your publisher/agent?
I found my first publisher the old-fashioned pre-internet way, by looking up a list in The Writer’s Market, and sending off a synopsis and sample chapters. The SF editor at Ace asked to see the whole manuscript, and some time after that accepted it, to my delirious joy. (One yearns for those long-ago days, when any publishable book had a decent chance of being published.)
Is there a publishing mistake you would never repeat?
My first mistake (and I’m sure I’ve made lots more since) was not realizing with the first book that it’s never enough to leave promotion and marketing to the publisher. That applies whether you’re working with a big New York publisher, or a little Canadian one. Writing the book is where the job begins, not ends.
Do you think about trends/marketing when you’re developing a project?
No. Agents and publishers love books that tie in with the latest trend. However, it takes me ages to write a book, and by the time I finish a project, a whole new trend will have emerged. Besides, I’m a self-indulgent writer, and I only write about what intrigues and excites me. On the other hand, once a book is out, I do think a lot about marketing.
What advice would you give an emerging writer/illustrator?
Edit. Edit. Edit. Don’t submit a book (and especially don’t self-publish it) until it’s as perfect as you can make it. And another piece of advice: read widely outside as well as inside your chosen genre.
What project are you most excited about now?
I’ve just finished a sort-of-sequel to my latest historical novel, Wild Talent. This one is set in British India during the first world war.