Essex Book Festival: Birth of the Book Live Blog! Q & A

Time for the ‘Birth of the Book’ Q & A!

Scroll down for the live blog.

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Just waiting for the Q&A to start…

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And we’re off!

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Q: Titles – are they discussed with the author?

FM: If you call it To Kill A Mockingbird it may be discussed!

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KH: Tony Hogan title wasn’t the first choice. It was the editor’s idea. Although bit decisive but memorable. Lots of books called Thirst though. But it was always called Thirst.

JU: Took on a book called Happy & Glorious but the more we worked the more the title felt wrong. Suggested it was called Jubilee. It took a while to find.

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Q: Have you ever approached a self-published author?

FM: Rely on agents for books.

JU: Never have. Would make a lot of sense but respond to the written word not results.

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Q: Would you take on a book you don’t like but it was a money maker?

JU: No. Have to love the book. Someone else who loves it will find it.

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Q: When you started Kerry, you looked at lists of short story competitions to entered?

KH: Looked at what other writer’s were entering. Also a database of short story competitions which you can search through – GeoTrope. Writer’s and Artist’s website have a list of resources.

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Q: Do you know how long a book will be when you are starting and can you cut pages from a book?

KH: Aims to 80k words mark. Average length of a literary book. Practical reason is that it costs money to print books!

FM: There are practical and artistic reasons around book length. If you have a door stop of a debut novel, people may be put off. Sometimes a book needs to be sprawling – does a book need to be this length? An author needs to remove pages and make big decisions about the book – not an editors job.

JU: Agent’s job is to maximise earnings. Normally translation will add to the word count so can be even bigger when sold abroad. Even short books can struggle to get attention.

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Q: Jessie Burton stated that she had two editors – one US and UK – and she also did 17 drafts. How far removed was the original draft from the published work?

FM: Didn’t see the early drafts. Jessie did some work with literary agent and then did six months working on the book. Copy editing and proof reading followed. I didn’t see every single draft. At the beginning there wasn’t even a Miniaturist and there was a flood in the book. Writing was always great! 

Having two editors varies from book to book. Canadian editor didn’t get involved too much but the US editor was very passionate and involved. With the other editors we talked on a conference call about it and weren’t giving conflicting feedback. Enjoyed collaborating with other editors. Each editors brought different things.

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Q: If an agent rejects one book, should you try again with a different book?

JU: Think that people improve their writing so will always look at different work. Should follow up and remembers every submission. Minimise your rejections – send out to six people and if you don’t get a single comment, keep going. Send out to another six. Agents do take a long time to get back to you.

If you get a positive response from someone, tell the other agents. Say to other agents you have had interest from others. It’s your book and you want to find the right person to represent you.

If people do respond, meet people. You are employing them for potentially ten-fifteen years. Will they be decent to talk to when things go bad.

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Q: For someone who has started writing, are you writing a good book or are you a good writer? How do you know?

KH: Not sure there is a difference between a good book and good writer? When I start writing I ask why is it important to write this? Do you want to stay with these characters for two years? Revisit your writing and find what it means to you? If not sure about your writing skills perhaps go on some courses but key thing is to finish your first draft.

Your prose will get better and you learn with every draft. Write drafts very quickly – like sculpting with clay.

JU: Every author is v different. Some may only move on until the chapter is perfect and then move on.

FM: Some have a plan and know what is happening in each chapter. Others just write and let it see where you end up.

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Q: Have you ever advised someone to write under a different name?

FM: Never have but can see why they might. May not want your gender to be obvious – e.g. JK Rowling. All personal reasons. May suggest it if a writer is writing in a different genre or going from children’s to adult books.

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Q: Any info on hybrid publishing?

JU: Be wary of paying someone to publish your work. Once you are self-published you are also a marketer and a designer. There are people who’s job this is. To know what the woman in Sainsbury’s will buy. Perhaps enlist the help of someone who knows what they are doing.
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Don’t forget the WoMentoring Project which all three of our speakers are a part of. Offering support to female writers for free! Francesca is looking for her next mentor so check out the website.

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That’s it for the day! Hope you enjoyed the sessions!

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