Publishing advice and questions answered

Our ‘Questions Answered’ page has been designed to share over 20 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 have split this page into ‘TLC Services FAQ’ and ‘Writing and Publishing Advice’ for clarity.

We hope you find what you are looking for here but if not please contact us.

TLC Services FAQ

What does TLC do?
The Literary Consultancy is the UK’s leading manuscript assessment service. We provide expert, market-aware editorial advice to writers at all levels writing in English. For full information browse this site.

We run an established and successful online mentoring scheme called Chapter and Verse.

We also run successful writing holidays abroad and some writing classes and literary events.

Why should I choose TLC?
Founded in 1996, TLC was the UK’s, if not the world’s, first editorial service. We have been in business a long time, and are here because we passionately care about writing and helping writers understand where they stand, how to improve their work, and where possible to find markets. We will not mislead an author about their chances, and are here primarily to give honest, professional feedback on work submitted to us, by our team of over 80 professional readers. Each manuscript that comes in is hand-matched with a suitable editor by the Editorial Services Manager.

TLC is the only editorial service to be supported by the Arts Council England – we are a National Portfolio Organisation – and since 2001 TLC has been able to provide a quota of bursaried manuscript assessments to talented writers from low-income households alongside our regular commercial service (which is open to all). Our relationship with the Arts Council means there is a higher level of accountability than with any other editorial service, which is important at a time when there is a plethora of writing services to choose from.

We are well-regarded in the publishing industry, and work with a number of first-class literary agencies, publishers and self-publishing platforms, including Amazon, Kobo Writing Life and epubli, as we realise that there are various ways into publication for writers these days, and we keep on top of developments in order to give relevant, up-to-date advice. A few examples of writers we have helped to publication can be found on our Success Stories page. Do also see our Client Feedback page, a page that is important to us, as our main aim is to help writers who take their work seriously to improve their writing, whatever stage they are at, and whatever their aims.

We manage our readers carefully, keep an eye on the quality of their work for you, and whilst we cannot always promise we will tell you what you want to hear, we will be honest and objective, which we believe is what writers need to develop their work.

We are not a faceless platform, and have a small in-house team who are happy to talk to see if what we offer is likely to be the right thing for you, at this time in your writing career. We provide editorial services for all writers, from first-time novelists to poets working on collections, agented writers needing help ahead of publication, writers developing short stories for competition submission, non-fiction enthusiasts, and budding screenwriters and librettists.

Do I need a manuscript assessment?
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 then we can certainly help. We can also help you work out if self-publishing is a good option for you. We ask for a covering letter with each submission, so this is the place to write down any concerns or questions you may have, and to give us a little information about where you are in your writing career, so we can make sure we choose the right reader for you.

Only the writer will know if they want an editorial assessment, and if that might be useful at a particular stage of their writing. Often this is either before you have invested too much time, or after you have finished, though writers come to us for all sorts of reasons. We are here to help if you would like it, and are in a position to use our service.

What is a manuscript assessment?
A manuscript assessment provides the writer with a document giving feedback that can be likened to a ‘developmental’ or ‘structural’ edit of the work submitted. This kind of editing tends to be most useful near the earlier stages of your writing with a project, before copy-editing and proofreading, which should always come last, and might not always be needed (more on this below). Whether you are submitting an extract (we accept the first 15,000 or the first 30,000 words as extract lengths) or a full length project, you will get constructive feedback on your story and writing at the level of the narrative; what’s working, what’s not working, and how to fix it. The assessment is forwarded within 4-6 weeks of submission as a PDF per email (if you have included a SAE or paid for postage, we will also forward a hard copy of the report to you, but you will always receive it by email), and will highlight areas for improvement including genre, story, plot, pacing, characterisation, POV and a market appraisal. We do not issue an assessment template as we don’t find it helpful to restrict our readers to specific sub-headings; we ask them instead to respond to the text with a view to helping the writer troubleshoot those areas that are most in need of developing or amending in order to move the project forward. At TLC, we will hand-match your manuscript with a reader to ensure your manuscript gets the attention it deserves.

For more information on the manuscript assessment process, please see here.

What are the different types of editing?
Broadly speaking, manuscripts will go through three stages of editing.

1) Developmental editing
This type of editing usually requires the writer to do some re-writing, as it looks at structure, continuity, plot, character and story; all the main aspects of a manuscript. Editorial comments or reports will usually provide constructive directives on the general approach of the manuscript, with comment on its commercial potential (in the case of a manuscript assessment, for instance) and suggestions for improvement. Some editors may lightly mark up the manuscript, but generally this is not the place for detailed line edits, which come later.
2) Copy editing
Copy editing is sometimes known as line editing. A copy editor will ensure your manuscript is correct in terms of spelling and grammar, consistency, and continuity, going through the document in details with marks on the page (either online, in Tracked Changes, or on the hard copy). This stage of editing is for polishing, for instance ahead of submission to agents. It’s also essential for self-publishing authors, as this service will be provided in-house by traditional publishing houses, and it’s important not to skip this if you are going straight to market with your book.
3) Proofreading
Proofreading is the final stage of editing before a book is ready to go into production (for publishing in ebook or print format), or during production (when the proof layouts for either ebook or print are ready). Final typos and visual errors are ironed out, and the manuscript is given a last polish to ensure it’s clean and ready to go.

Can TLC help me with copy editing and proofreading? How much does it cost?
At TLC, we work with a small pool of trusted copy editors and proofreaders, many of whom are CIEP (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading) certified. As this service is carried out by freelancers, quotes will vary slightly, but roughly speaking projects will be costed at £30-£60/hour. 

To enquire or request a quotation, please email with details of your manuscript. We will need to see a few sample chapters and please let us know the total word count of work you wish to submit, as well as providing a brief synopsis/overview, and some details about what you are hoping to achieve (i.e., please tell us if you are looking for a copy edit ahead of submission to agents, or if you require a full copy edit and proofread because you are planning to self-publish).

Do I need to pay for manuscript assessment?
For a manuscript assessment to be useful to you, it will need to be read by an editor who is suitable for the project you are working on, and who has the right experience and skills. Not everyone who reads or writes is necessarily also a competent editor. Our pool of readers is carefully selected, and we work closely with them, and know their skill-sets, expertise, preferences and work methods. We value their experience, time, and work, and our fees reflect this, and are in line with suggested editing rates provided by the CIEP.

If you cannot afford a partial or complete manuscript assessment, you can ask us about our regional partners, who might be able to champion you for a Free Read courtesy of the Arts Council. Please note that this scheme is strictly designed for high-quality, low-income clients, and not available to all. An application process is involved to assess the merit of the work, and relevant official paperwork will be required to prove your financial circumstances.

There are individual editors who also work as assessors, but we believe that you will be better served by a company like TLC, where the in-house team make the writer-editor match, monitor quality control, and help with industry liaison. You also get a range of choice from within our editorial pool, which an individual cannot offer.

Does TLC have an on-line writing community?
TLC is building up an association of people writing at many levels through its assessment and mentoring services, but also via its events and holiday. We currently host a lively on-line community on Facebook and also a monthly e-newsletter to give you news and updates on events and promotions, as well as relevant industry announcements and advice.

How much does a manuscript assessment cost?
Our fee structure can be found online here. If you’d like us to provide a costing, please email us the work in our standard formatting (12-point font, double spaced, with page numbers) following our Submission Guidelines, and we can provide an accurate quote, and our bank details for payment. Alternatively, you can send a cheque in with your posted manuscript. We will confirm receipt once it arrives at our offices.

Should I submit an extract of my work or the whole thing?
This depends on what kind of advice you are looking for (and also on your finances). If you can manage it, a complete assessment is best as our reader can check over your whole work and comment on its structure. However, if that is difficult then you can submit an extract, and still gain a good deal of information about the viability and direction of your book. Some writers choose to submit the equivalent of the first 50 pages because this is roughly the amount submitted to an agent so they would like to make sure their submission is perfectly polished. (It is worth bearing in mind that if an agent calls in the remainder of the work it should be of as a high a standard as the first three chapters.) It might be the case that a writer has received many rejections and is at a loss to know why. Other writers send in an extract to us because they are at a much earlier stage in the writing process and would like to know that they are heading in the right direction. Obviously the advice a reader can give on an extract is limited as they have to rely heavily on the synopsis to find out what direction the book takes. Whilst they can comment on the plot or structure, for example, as laid out in the synopsis, they won’t know how well executed the plan actually is.

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 do not issue templates to our readers, as we think the best approach is to allow the reader the space to identify the key problems and suggest practical solutions, rather than being bound to a certain number of headings for feedback, which may not always be necessary, or relevant.

How should my manuscript be presented?
Work should be submitted to us in a 12 point font, double-spaced and single-sided. There is no need to bind your manuscript in any way or present it in a snazzy folder.

We are happy to accept work by email (please ensure you follow our Submission Guidelines) but charge a 10p per page printing fee.

If you need help understanding the information above, please download our example PDF on our Manuscript Formatting page.

What happens if I don’t like my manuscript assessment?
It can be extremely challenging receiving feedback on work that is important to you, particularly if you have been working on a book for a while, and sometimes a writer will react negatively to a report on receipt. This is because it may not tally with where you thought, or hoped, you were ‘at’ as a writer. We recommend that you take time to put the report aside for a little while and then come back to it more than once. Often, the initial reaction is emotional, but a second read will bear more fruit; you should be able to see where the report is suggesting you look again, with a more objective eye, in order to really improve the work and make it stronger in the long-term. It is important to remember that even published writers will receive several sets of editorial notes, often lengthy and detailed, and can feel set back before they get back on the ‘writing horse’ and apply themselves to a rewrite. It may also be that the report encourages you to consider letting a project go, and starting something new armed with some practical advice and reassurance of what your skills are. Even the best writers have been known to write all the way through a draft before realising something isn’t right, and starting again. This can feel daunting, but our job is to be honest with you about whether the writing is going anywhere useful, or might be re-directed, amended, revised, whether with tweaks or radical changes, to make it stronger, and better.

This said, if you genuinely don’t understand a section of your report, or are feeling unclear, you are welcome to write to us and let us know, and we will attempt to deal with your queries or, failing that, pass your questions to your reader. There is strictly no contact with your editor throughout the process, but our editors are happy to look at any essential follow-up questions submitted within a reasonable timeframe and pertaining directly to anything that is perhaps unclear or needing further instruction.

In rare cases where you feel a report is genuinely less than that which we would expect a TLC assessor to provide, we will take the matter seriously and you can lodge a formal complaint which will be escalated accordingly. Please let us know why you are unhappy. We will do our utmost to resolve matters swiftly.

Why can’t I talk to my reader or meet them in person?
At TLC, we put the matter of writing first, and are committed to managing and looking out for our readers so they can continue to provide you with the best editorial reports. We believe that when writers get involved with editors directly in the case of one-off manuscript assessments and reader reports, this can be problematic. The reader is there to provide an honest, professional, and objective view. It’s essential that this view should be independent. We are happy to pass on a covering letter to your reader in case you have any specific concerns or questions, but strongly advise you to be open to constructive criticism and try not, where possible, to pre-empt. This is the only way to get the most out of your report. The reader is not here to think about the writing led by your own thoughts on how it’s coming across. In fact, often the most useful thing is examining if there is any disparity between the way you view the book, and the way an independent reader ‘sees’ it on reading it fresh, with no prejudice or prior relationship which may compromise a report. A new pair of eyes on a manuscript can really help tease out what isn’t working, and sometimes this can be something fundamental that hasn’t been apparent to you, as the writer, simply because you yourself are too close to the text. This is entirely normal, and common. We’re here to help.

There are many support systems in place for writers, with workshops, reading groups, writing groups, memberships and collectives, and they can be immensely helpful to engage with. However, we are in the business of trying to enable writers to understand what professionalising their writing means. We are here to talk to you if you need, but we want our editors to keep all the time they can for editing. If there is a problem, we will deal with it.

If you do want a higher level of contact with your editor in an ongoing environment, then you might consider the Chapter and Verse mentoring scheme. This is conducted online rather than face to face, but allows you the space and time to develop your writing in a supportive environment, and includes a separate assessment at the end of the process, so that you can still benefit from an independent view to consolidate your time on the scheme.

How does TLC’s mentoring programme work? And how much does it cost?
TLC’s mentoring scheme operates over a 12-18 month period. You will be hand-matched to a suitable mentor and will be able to send in six submissions to your mentor by email or post (up to 10,000 words of prose/non-fiction, or the equivalent in short stories or poetry). You will additionally get a full manuscript assessment on the completed project at the end of the programme, by another editor, also hand-selected for you, and an invitation to our exclusive Industry Day, designed especially for mentees for discussion, tips on how to present yourself to agents, and the opportunity for feedback from our agent and editor guest in a small, supportive group. The scheme is by application and priced competitively. Full details including how to submit can be found on the Chapter and Verse page here.

Will I be considered for the TLC Talent Showcase?
If your work is picked out as being noteworthy by our readers, you will be considered for our  Talent Showcase in association with Staple at TLC’s discretion. Each month, we select a writer whose work we think merits a platform on our site; either a writer whose work has been flagged to us as high quality by their reader, or an author who has come through TLC services and has gone on to publication. The showcase area has to maintain a high level of literary value, so that it will be taken seriously by agents and publishers, as well as general readers.

Will I get recommended to an agent if I pay for an editorial report?
You will not automatically be recommended to an agent if you pay for a TLC read. Our reputation within the publishing industry rests upon our being discerning, and honest about people’s chances of being published within a commercial publishing environment. We are tough about this, and therefore recommend only those manuscripts which we think stand a chance of successful publication. If you are selected, your work will be forwarded to our Quality Liaison Officer, who works with high quality manuscripts for us. There is no extra cost to you at this stage, but please do be patient as we cannot guarantee that we can connect you immediately with an agent. We will discuss strategy with you and keep you up to date with developments. We may also advise about alternative talent pathways, as our first priority is to serve the work at hand and offer the most relevant advice across all platforms, from traditional agent-linking to self-publishing or digital alternatives.

You may feel ready to start making approaches to agents directly, even if we cannot offer support ourselves. You can find a list of agents in the the Writers’ & Artists’ 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. In most cases you will not be given any in-depth explanation of why you have not been accepted.

Will I have to pay more money if I am considered marketable enough to be recommended to an agent by TLC?
If our readers think your work might be marketable, they let the in-house team at TLC know. If the TLC team also think you stand a market chance, they will be in touch with you about approaching agents.

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.

Writing and Publishing Advice

With nearly 20 years’ experience of working with writers, TLC’s Writing and Publishing Advice is designed to guide you to some of the best resources that we ourselves find invaluable. We’ve also gathered some frequently asked questions around writing and publishing and provided answers to these.

What is a Literary Agent?
A Literary Agent represents writers and their work to publishing houses. A good agent will have a thorough understanding of the literary market, they will know the most suitable editors to approach for each manuscript, and will have good connections with the same. They will be well experienced in negotiating the best commercial deals. They will take a percentage cut from the sale of any work, of 10-15% usually. It is their job to try to get you as good a deal as possible. Reputable agents are usually members of the Association of Authors’ Agents, which is a vehicle for representing the interests of agents and authors.

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.

Do I need a Literary Agent?
The answer to this question depends, in part, on the type of book you have written. If you have written a fairly mainstream book, including all types of fiction, popular non-fiction, biography, auto-biography, memoir and so on, then you will invariably need a Literary Agent. This is because the vast majority of publishers of the kind of material listed above no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts. Whilst this is certainly true of the large publishing houses, you may find smaller presses still willing to read un-agented material.

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.

If you feel that you are able to manage yourself as a self-published writer, you may wish to consider independent publishing. You can find information about self-publishing through support organisations such as the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). It is important to note that you will still need to ensure your manuscript is in the best possible shape before your self-published book goes on sale. We at TLC will be able to help you through your editorial requirements, from assessment to copy editing.

What happens if I find a publisher but I don’t have an agent?
If you do decide to approach publishers directly and are fortunate enough to be taken on you should be aware that you will now be responsible for the work that an agent would normally do. So you should have a thorough understanding of how the publishing industry works, be able to negotiate a good commercial deal and be versed in the intricacies of a publishing contract, among other things. The Society of Authors, an organisation set up to protect the rights of writers, provide an individual contract vetting service.

When should I submit my work to agents?

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.

What should I send to agents?
If you have written fiction, then most agents will ask for a cover letter, synopsis and the first three chapters. Do always check each agency’s submission guidelines before you post or email the package as these will differ. You must make sure the rest of the manuscript is completely ready (as polished as the first three chapters) in case the agent asks to see the whole thing.

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 (called a ‘partial’) only. With fiction, it is important that the whole novel is ready as it is frustrating for agents to call in work only for the author to admit that it isn’t ready.

How do I find a Literary Agent?
Of course there is no sure-fire answer this question. It is extremely difficult to acquire the services of an agent. Each agent will receive thousands of submissions a year and will probably take on less than a handful of new clients. The Literary Consultancy established itself to try to give honest feedback to people writing so that they had a better idea of their chances before sending out to busy agents. In exceptional cases, we can also help forward work. Otherwise you can approach agents directly yourselves.

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. (SeeHow do I write a cover letter and How do I write a synopsis 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.

How long do I have to wait before I hear back from an agent?
Be patient as it can take any time from a couple of weeks to a few months before you receive a reply. Agents are extremely busy people taking care of their current list of clients, so the so-called ‘slush pile’ isn’t necessarily the priority. If you have heard nothing after two months, sending a polite enquiry letter or email is acceptable. If submitting postally (do check guidelines first as many agents now only accept electronic submission), always remember that it is unlikely you will hear back at all if you don’t include a stamped SAE with your submission.

How do I write a synopsis?
A synopsis is an essential part of your submission and it is intended to let an agent or publisher know what type of book you have written, in a concise and interesting way. Its purpose is to tell not to sell the story. A synopsis should cover one A4 page and is usually written in the present tense. You should begin with a short summary (really just a paragraph of 30-75 words) of the whole book. This should include the approximate length (also referred to as ‘extent’) and, most importantly, the genre. This paragraph should be followed by a more detailed description covering the overall story arc of the main characters and the main plot points. You should also explain why this is interesting. Do not be tempted to turn your synopsis into a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. A synopsis shouldn’t be written like the blurb on the back of a book either, the purpose of which is to tempt potential readers. So always reveal the ending.

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.

How do I write a cover letter?
This should be straight-forward and relatively business like. Keep it brief and try to exude confidence but not arrogance. You should address it to a particular person: no Dear Sir/Madam. Firstly you need to explain what kind of book you have written and also why you thought that particular agent would be interested in it. Include a brief section about yourself, but try and make this relevant. An agent doesn’t want to know your whole life story but will be interested in whether you have ever had an article or short story published, for example. Also, unless you have good reason to, it’s best to avoid making extravagant claims such as, “think of this book as a cross between Salman Rushdie and Philip Roth with a bit of Woody Allen thrown in for good measure.” Lastly, it’s best not to mention that your mother/wife/husband/grandchildren etc loved it.

Can I approach a publisher directly?
A lot of publishers will no longer look at unsolicited (un-agented) manuscripts so you will need to find an agent first. However, there are certainly exceptions, for instance in cases where the publisher is smaller, independent, or dealing in a niche of the market, and so less likely to work with agents. Special-interest non-fiction, for instance, is often submitted direct.

Please see, Do I need a Literary Agent? for more details.

Can TLC find me an agent or a publisher?
TLC has strong links with many agents and publishers and has helped many writers get into print (See Success Stories). However, we only take work forward if we think it is completely ready and sure to generate interest. This decision is made after a TLC assessment has been produced and we have had a discussion with the client. This is not part of our general service and is obviously not something we can guarantee. TLC is aware of the demands of the industry and will not make irresponsible suggestions for clients wishing to approach agents and publishers. It also has its reputation to protect so when TLC does submit work it is taken seriously.

Quality manuscripts are passed on to TLC’s Quality Manuscript Liaison Office,r who will be in touch with the writer to discuss the most suitable strategy and approach. TLC might then submit the manuscript to suitable agents, on behalf of the writer, or alternatively, we may advise on alternate routes into publication where suitable and appropriate, et.c., self-publishing or via an alternate digital platform.

It should be said that even if we champion your work, the unpredictability of the publishing industry means that you may not find representation, and even when an agents takes you on, it is not a certainty that he/she will be able to sell your work. The publishing industry is changing rapidly. Please see our list of Events, some of which try to help you think what this may mean to you.

My manuscript has been rejected, should I give up?
It depends on how many times you have been rejected and what you mean by ‘give up’. It can be very difficult knowing when to let go of work and move on. Often years of work has gone into producing something, and facing rejection can be traumatic. However, professional writers have usually been rejected many times before success and recovering from rejection is vital if you are to succeed. It may also be important to learn your limitations – at TLC, we believe this is crucial. If you have only been turned down by a few agents then really you can afford to continue submitting. However, if you have received say 20 rejections then you should begin to think that there might be something that is not working with your submission. It is true that some writers, including J.K. Rowling, have been rejected many times, but at the same time it could be a mistake thinking you are a neglected genius as opposed to someone who has to either do more work or face up to reality. If you are fed up with and confused by rejection then TLC can certainly help. Or, we may help you decide whether you should put a particular manuscript aside and start something else. Many writers find that it is their second or third or even fourth novels that are accepted, and when they return to that initial submission languishing under their bed, realise it really wasn’t good enough to be published anyway.

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!

What is self-publishing and should I self-publish?
There will always be books that are not suitable for mainstream publication. Traditionally, this has often had to do with the writer’s lack of experience or indeed talent, but nowadays his could also be the case for talented writers whose subject matter does not have the right market appeal for a bigger publishing house, or even writers whose work might do better at finding a readership in alternate environments. At TLC we are particularly interested in this stream of writers and the options available to them.

Self-publication is available to everyone, but at a cost. It is important to self-publish ethically and safely (the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors can provide guidance here) and to beware of vanity publishers looking to make money off unsuspecting writers, but it’s also important to identify areas of investment as a smart self-publisher, including calling in professional editing and design services to make sure your book is of as high a quality as possible. You may also find smart marketing strategies that might also require some investment, though of course do beware of scams.

If you choose to self-publish, it is important to understand that you will be acting as a publisher would and as such are in charge of ensuring quality and efficiency across all aspects of the publication process, from editorial to design via distribution, marketing, publicity, rights and royalties. With current technology and publishing services and platforms available, you can choose whether to handle all aspects yourself or to outsource. Depending on how you manage this, the costs will vary greatly. You will need to take into account an overall budget and be mindful on keeping on top of every aspect of your self-publishing process.

TLC has close connections with some self-publishing platforms and freelancers we trust; we are happy to refer you to these organisations and professionals, so please do ask.

What is vanity publishing?
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. It is important to be extremely cautious in cases where a publisher asks for money up-front. We would advise you to get professional advice where needed on contracts, too, as it’s important you are fully aware before signing up to anything that may later cause legal problems. You can contact the Society of Authors if you have a problem around contracts or legal issues.

For a comprehensive explanation of this topic, and for a list of Vanity publishers best avoided, see

I write poetry: how do I get published?
The commercial market for poetry is incredibly small and so it is highly unusual for a poet to have an agent, or for a first-time poet to be published by any of the mainstream poetry presses with a full collection. What is more important to a new poet is developing poetry-writing skills through courses, workshops and feedback, and amassing ‘credits’ in poetry magazines. Profile is incredibly important, and once you have a good portfolio of work you will then be in a better position to submit an initial pamphlet or chapbook, and then a collection. Publications that are well-respected such as The Rialto, Ambit, Modern Poetry, Poetry London, Poetry Review are worth submitting to, though highly competitive; these credits are valuable for any potential press looking at your work. If you are just starting out, then do look at small presses as well as online zines. A good list of UK-based poetry magazines can be found here. You need to build up a name for yourself and will stand a much better chance with the larger presses if you can prove you have a strong publishing track record. Getting to readings and open mic nights can also help raise your profile, and the spoken word scene in the UK is particularly vibrant.

I write short stories: how do I get published?
Unfortunately, a lot of publishers tend to be uninterested in short stories as they don’t sell particularly well so it is unlikely that a publisher will take on a collection from a first-time writer. Like poetry, it is important to prove a publishing track-record through publication in magazines or success in competitions. Look out for magazines such as Mslexia, The London Magazine and Stand. Some good independent presses such as Salt and Comma want to publish more short stories, so again, look out for the smaller presses.

ShortStops is an excellent resource for short story writers, or check out WordFactory who publish a monthly round-up of short story opportunities. A comprehensive list of short story magazines can be found here.

Should I join a creative writing class?
Writing is a solitary craft and many – if not most – writers seek privacy and peace and quiet to write in. However, when your work is in development, it can be hugely productive to talk about, read and share your work with other writers. Learning to take criticism and the adventure of seeing your work transformed by other people’s understanding (or misunderstanding) of it can be very valuable.

Where can I find a list of creative writing courses?
Writers’ Circles is a comprehensive database of writers groups and courses across the UK. The Directory is available online or in hard copy. The British Council is another good resource for this type of information. Also look out for any classes that TLC offers at Free Word.

What is a ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter is a professional writer who writes on an assigned topic under someone else’s name (with consent) and to the client’s specifications. They often write books completely from scratch but sometimes the work involves re-writing an existing work. They are usually employed for the work of famous people, whose work will sell if they have written it themselves or not. However, if you wish to self-publish you may also wish to employ a ghostwriter to help you. This can be expensive, and we would only recommend it in circumstances where writers know what they are letting themselves in for. TLC can recommend a ghostwriter in exceptional circumstances. See Other Editorial Services for more information.

What is genre?
Genre is the word used to classify the subject matter and style of your book. It is extremely important to correctly identify the genre you are writing in as it will influence the whole of the creative and publishing process from the style and structure you follow when writing, to who will take your book on, who they will sell it to, how it will be marketed, the way it will be designed and where it will be sold.

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.

How do I ensure copyright?
Your manuscript is automatically copyrighted the moment you create it. So, copyright is yours as soon as anything is recorded on paper or disc or on a computer.

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. All electronic files stored on your computer will be date-marked, though bear in mind that if you make alterations, the date will change to the last point of editing.

For more information and to keep informed about copyright, please refer to: