How to Get Your Novel Published – Lessons Learned from the Cardiff Book Festival

novelsLast month I attended a workshop organised by Cardiff Book Festival on how to get published. We heard from Hazel Cushion (founder and managing director of Accent Press) and Richard Davies (director of Parthian), who each provided a fascinating insight into the publishing world. We also heard from Gary Raymond (author of novel For Those Who Come After) about his personal experience of publication. Each of them brought a different perspective and gave us some practical advice.   

Independent Publishing

It was interesting to hear Hazel Cushion advocating self-publishing as a genuine option for aspiring authors. She compared self-publishing with traditional publishing, setting out the pros and cons, adding that self-publishing could be seen as a route into traditional publishing nowadays. Accent Press has actually set up its own ‘assisted publishing arm’ (Octavo) to encourage writers in self-publishing and develop in this growing market.

How to Make Your Novel Submission Stand Out

Here are a few of Hazel’s tips that I found most helpful…

  • Write a good synopsis (max 2 pages) clearly stating the genre, title and target audience for the book
  • Keep your novel to between 70,000 and 120,00 words
  • Send the first three chapters and cut out the waffle
  • Flattery helps
  • Enter every award or competition going
  • Get retired teachers to proof-read
  • Start your novel with something dramatic
  • Use social media (having a following can really help)
  • Write a series

novelsParthian is quite a different publisher, and Richard Davies had a very different take on submissions. He prefers people to submit in paper form, rather than by email, and generally doesn’t publish genre based books. He advised writers to always submit to a named person, and advocated the use of literary agents.

The fact that Hazel and Richard gave contradictory advice just goes to show that publishers differ in their methods. Both of them emphasised how important it is to do your research before submitting anything. Most traditional publishers only accept submissions from agents, but the independent publishers based in Wales (and probably others too) will accept submissions directly from the author.

Gary Raymond recommended the Creative Writing MA at Bath Spa University, which he found particularly helpful, both in terms of course content and in providing opportunities to meet agents and publishers. He also advocated the use of social media and encouraged us to write in other forms, such as blogs (at least that’s one thing I’m getting right!) or non-fiction articles.

This was the first time I’d ever attended a workshop specifically about publishing, and I’d certainly recommend it.

Cardiff Book Festival are running a similar workshop this year (September 2017), along with a novel writing workshop run by author Kate Hamer.

Declaration: I received free entry to this event.