TLC FAQs is designed to share over 15 years experience of working with writers. In the answers to your most frequently asked questions we will also guide you to some of the best resources in the publishing industry that we find invaluable ourselves.
We hope you find what you are looking for here but if not please contact us.
We run an established and successful online mentoring scheme called Chapter and Verse.
We provide writing advice to writers working at all levels, from those very much working on their first draft to those writers who already have agent representation. We offer detailed information about what an agent or editor will think of your work, and can explain why your writing may or may not be successful, in commercial or literary terms. If you would like a professional opinion on whether you are heading in the right direction or reasons why you may have been rejected countless times then we can certainly help. We can also help you work out if self-publishing is a good option for you.
If you decide to send in a full-length manuscript then a reader will comment on such things as structure, style, plot, narrative, characterisation and so on, depending on where they think the problems lie in the manuscript.
We are happy to accept work by email but charge a 10p per page printing fee.
If you need help understanding the information listed above, please see our helpful video and download our example PDF on our Manuscript Formatting page.
Not all agents are the same, however. Some will be able to offer more focussed editorial support; others may be more specialist in marketing. Broadly speaking, agents will specialise in certain areas of writing e.g. fiction, non-fiction, children’s and so on. However, while some agents will only be interested in crime or fantasy, for example, most will not be so specific and will be open to a more diverse range of commercial and literary fiction.
An exception to the rule would be if you have written a very specialised work of non-fiction, in which case you could approach the publisher directly, clearly identifying the gap in the market you intend to fill. It is also the case that publishers of books for younger children can often be targeted directly. There isn’t usually a great deal of money to be made out of either of the two exceptions listed here so it wouldn’t necessarily be in an agent’s interest to take on an author writing in either area.
You should only send your work to agents when it is completely ready and of as high a standard as you can possible make it. Agents do not have the time to look closely for the hidden potential in every writer who approaches them; generally they want to see a manuscript that is in a good enough shape to submit to publishers, and so needs as little work as possible. So, don’t waste time sending an unpolished draft of your work. Organisations such as The Literary Consultancy have flourished, because they can help a writer be sure their manuscript is in the best possible shape to send out. You may not need to come to us but, either way, do make sure you have given it your best shot. With agents receiving so many manuscripts every week, they will be looking for any reason to discard a submission, so ensure yours is free of typing errors and extremely well presented. We cannot stress enough how important this is.
If you have written non-fiction and can persuade an agent you are the best person to write the book, they may be able to sell your work on the strength of a synopsis and strong extract only.
You may feel you do not need a manuscript assessment, in which case you can approach agents yourselves directly, and find a list of agents at the W & A Yearbook and Writers’ Handbook as well as online. However, you should be advised that agents are extremely busy and you may well have a wait of several months before receiving a response, and then in most cases you will not be given any in-depth explanation of why you have not been accepted.
This happens on a one-to-one basis in a manner that is appropriate for each individual client, and with a degree of commitment from TLC that is considered reasonable by us in relation to your own levels of talent and commitment. There is not extra fee for this service from TLC, even though it can take a considerable length of time to help clients find publication.
Firstly you should make sure you are targeting the right people. Read and re-read the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook or The Writer’s Handbook as a starting point. Then spend time in a good bookshop looking for books not only that are similar to your own but also that you particularly admire. Find out who the author’s agent is by reading the Acknowledgements page, or by searching on the internet. When you have a shortlist of suitable agents to contact, send them a cover letter, synopsis and the first three chapters of your manuscript. (See the How do I write a cover letter and How do I write a synopsis questions for more information.) Your manuscript should be typed in a 12 point font, double-spaced, single-sided, and with reasonable margins. Include a title page with your name and address and the word count. You should submit loose pages and there is no need for fancy plastic folders – an elastic band will do just fine. If an agent wants to read more they will ask you for the rest of the manuscript, which should be completely ready to send and of the same quality as the first three chapters.
It’s really important to remember, when approaching agents, that you are trying to build what will hopefully be a long lasting relationship with them. If you are lucky enough to be taken on you will have to have a rapport with your agent and trust them to make the right decisions.
Non-fiction submissions work slightly differently so there is no need to write a synopsis as described above. Instead you need to put forward a proposal. This will be made up of a cover letter, including a brief biography of yourself, which explains why you are qualified to write this particular book, and is clear about the potential market. You will then need to provide a list of contents, a chapter-by-chapter breakdown and a sample chapter. As agents are often prepared to sell a work of non-fiction on the proposal alone, and because editors can often be approached directly, a non-fiction proposal is very much a selling device and so should be made very persuasive.
If you would like more information on this topic, please see Rebecca Swift’s article, Writing a Synopsis, which originally appeared in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.
Publishing is a big business and hundreds of manuscripts are rejected every day. It is a harsh reality and one that a writer needs to prepare themselves for. This cannot be stressed enough. Think of TLC as a safe play-ground!
Self-publication is available to everyone, but at a cost. Although these days, thanks to the internet, the cost can be relatively low. Someone who self-publishes is responsible for every part of the process from designing the look to selling the books. There are a variety of options available including reputable self-publishing companies such as Amolibros or Discript to POD (print-on-demand) services such as www.lulu.com.
You might want to check out the website of a writer who had a successful publishing deal and decided to do things her own way.
What is the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing?
Self-publishing is when a writer takes the publication of their book into their own hands, usually because there is no commercial outlet for their work. Someone who self-publishes will be responsible for everything from what is written to the design and layout of the manuscript, the printing, marketing, publicity and sales.
A vanity publisher is one that poses as a serious publisher but often has no literary knowledge. Their main aim is to extract money – up-front – from a writer to produce the book (when, of course, it should be that a writer is paid for publication). They will make no attempt to actually sell copies of the published book.
For a comprehensive explanation of this topic, and for a list of Vanity publishers best avoided, see www.vanitypublishing.info/
A copyeditor will be more involved than this and as well as keeping an eye out for the same kinds of mistakes as a proofreader will also be looking to improve the quality of the text. A copyeditor will look at the overall consistency of the book, watching out for weak areas of writing, and make corrections where necessary. It can involve some major rewriting or highlighting areas of text that an author needs to look at again. They might also check facts and point out material that could be considered libellous.
You can also find out more information and search for a suitable ghostwriter on the Society of Authors website.
A basic list of genres includes literary fiction, commercial women’s fiction, crime, thriller, psychological thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, detective, historical, chick-lit, lad lit, romance, erotic, saga, comic. For excellent descriptions of various genres you can refer to The Oxford Companion to English Literature.
There is no need to take further action. However, if you are particularly anxious about copyright you can post yourself a copy of your manuscript and keep the package unopened. The postmark will then prove when you created the work. If you have a solicitor you can also send them a date copy for safekeeping.