Editorial & Talent
This month’s showcase author is Neamat Imam
“I can’t think of many contemporary novels that have an ambitious canvas, that make political, social commentary, but also touch your heart because they are written with compassion, experience, wisdom and psychological depth.” Kavita Bhanot, TLC Reader
‘TLC’s editorial advice was outstanding, as was their support through the traditional publishing environment,
out in to self-publishing which seemed the best place for my hybrid memoir/ inspirational business book ‘All you Need is Love.’ My story ended up being featured on Amazon’s Gateway. One thing is very clear, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to make my book work without the advice and support of TLC’
Pete Smith, All you Need is Love
I guess like everyone else writing a book I experienced those mood swings from ‘this is hopeless’ to ‘I think this could be really interesting’. Most of that you simply have to deal with on your own; maybe get some help from a writer’s group along the way. However, there comes a point when you need to know how good your work is. That point will vary from writer to writer, but there is a moment when you know you need a professional insight: a proper, independent professional assessment. That was how I first came across TLC. It was late on in the writing process. I knew I was walking a tightrope between different types of book, and that it fell between various genre stools. The initial support and advice I got from TLC was outstanding. Firstly, the TLC reader Karl French, immediately grasped the problem I had been struggling with and articulated it far better than I could. He explained that the publishing industry tends to think in terms of genres, and doesn’t really have a way of looking at books that don’t fall neatly in to one or another. He said that this attitude to genre applied in general to agents as much as to publishers. He then gave a huge amount of advice about the content and structure of the book, but was also incredibly supportive as to its underlying merit.
Karl and Rebecca Swift, Director of TLC, made it clear that although they couldn’t see a clear road to publication for what was an unusual book, they were nonetheless willing to help and advise me in the process as they liked the work. Rebecca offered excellent advice on how to target particular agents and the sort of cover letter that might work, but before long I think we both knew that Karl’s original assessment was spot-on: agents were looking for specific types of book and this didn’t fit. So self-publishing loomed as an option, and as soon as you look at that road the Amazon products Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing stand out. Rebecca pushed me hard to get the book professionally copy-edited; something I was initially reluctant to do – partly because of the cost, but more due to the emotional side. It felt as if I was drifting towards vanity publishing and I wanted to be published. It was difficult because self-publishing was not my original goal. In the end I took Rebecca’s advice on getting it copy-edited and proofread, and was stunned at the result. My basic English is fairly good, but there was hardly a paragraph that wasn’t marked up by the copy-editor. Ouch!
My relationship with Amazon developed and I found myself being featured in their homepage Gateway. I am delighted. One think is clear I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without the advice and support of TLC. You can work out what you think for yourself here.
TLC is delighted for Andrew James, who had his novel, Blood of Kings published by Michael Joseph (Penguin) in April, 2013. Andrew’s historical novel explores the grandeur of the Persian Empire and takes the reader on a journey from the imperial cities of Ancient Persia to the burning heart of Pharaoh’s Egypt.
Andrew came through TLC and received an assessment from Frankie Bailey. Andrew writes, “Getting published requires a lot of patience and hard work, but expert advice is essential too, where TLC comes in. In the early days particularly Frankie Bailey was a great help and encouragement. Thanks!”
To write Blood of Kings, Andrew James spent three years living in Siwa Oasis, in Egypt’s Western desert. Andrew feels that writing in the location where much of the history actually unfolded, helped contribute a great sense of time and place to the novel. Occasionally this went further than planned. “Just as I was creating a scene with soldiers manning barricades and masked youths throwing stones in Egypt’s 5th Century revolt against Cambyses, Egypt rose in revolt again, “ Andrew recalled. “It was an astonishing parallel.”
The novel is written from a Persian viewpoint and charts the rise of Darius the Great, against a backdrop of Persia’s 525 BC invasion of Egypt, and the cataclysmic destruction in a sandstorm of the army Cambyses sent to destroy the Oracle of Ammon. He hopes the novel will appeal not only to fans of blood-and-guts ancient warfare, but also to lovers of Greek historian Herodotus, whose characters he worked hard to bring to life.
Click here to find out more about the novel and the writer.
An early draft of The Candy Machine, Tom Feiling’s first book, was sent to TLC for assessment, and TLC Director Rebecca Swift recommended it to Broo Doherty, associate agent at literary agency Wade & Doherty. Doherty sold UK rights to Penguin and the book was published in 2009, with the US alternate title (Cocaine Nation: How the White Trade Took Over the World) appearing a year later, published by Pegasus Books.
Tom’s second book, Short Walks from Bogota: Journeys in the New Colombia, has now been published by Allen Lane. Short Walks from Bogota follows Tom on his journey through ‘one of the most maligned, yet least understood countries in the world’. It is a piece of narrative non-fiction the Guardian has called ‘stunning’. We’d like to congratulate Tom on his second publication and look forward to many more.
Read the Guardian trade review for Short Walks here.
To read more about Tom’s non-fiction works and his journalism, visit his website here.
After being inspired by young indie writer Penelope Fletcher at a writing group talk, Kate Tenbeth made the decision to self-publish The Burly & Grum Tales, a children’s book series she had previously submitted to reader Su Box via the TLC reads scheme. She set up a website, a Facebook page, a blog and a Twitter feed, and after learning about marketing and self-promotion, made her own book trailer. Since then, e-book downloads of her second book, The Secret City, have reached 130,000, and all three books in the series (Beyond the Forest; The Secret City; The Birthday Surprise) are now also available in print format via independent press Great Minds Think Aloud. Explaining why she chose the self-publishing route, Kate said:
‘Why does self-publishing work for me? Because it lets me learn, grow, develop and, rather than wait long weeks for agents and publishers to get back to me, I can submit my books world-wide within seconds. Amazing. To those of you who are thinking about self-publishing I’d say don’t hesitate, just take the plunge and enjoy the ride!’
Jenny Downham’s manuscript Before I Die originally came to The Literary Consultancy via the ACE Free Reads Scheme. Tomorrow the film adaptation of her book, Now is Good, will be released in cinemas in the UK.
Jenny’s young adult novel, Before I Die, published by David Fickling Books in 2007, was listed for the 2007 Guardian Awards and the 2008 Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year. It was also nominated for the 2008 Carnegie Medal and the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize. In 2008, Before I Die won the Branford Boase Award.
The novel follows Tessa, a seventeen year old who is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Following the knowledge that her life will be cut short, she determines to use every moment, compiling a catalogue of what a normal teenager would experience. The screenplay of the novel was written by Ol Parker who also directs the film, produced by Blueprint Pictures in association with BBC Films and the UK Film Council. The film stars Jeremy Irvine as Adam and Dakota Fanning as Tessa.
Jenny writes: “TLC introduced my work to agents and publishers on my behalf. I suspect no-one would have looked at it otherwise.” We are delighted for Jenny and hope that the film will live up to the high expectations set by this fine and touching novel.
Malaysian literature is making its mark on the world literary map this year with Malaysian writer Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists recently being short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Marshall Cavendish International (Singapore) published TLC client and Malaysian writer Sunil Nair‘s novel When all the Lights are Stripped Away in March. The book is now available in the UK and US in paperback as well as the E-editions.
Sunil had an assessment of his novel done by TLC reader Jacob Ross. Sunil writes about his experience with TLC, ‘the (editorial assessment) report and suggestions are very thoughtful and incisive, and are more, much more, than I expected to receive. Above all, it helped confirm what I suspected were the weaknesses of the novel. And it has given me the resolve to cut and restructure along the lines Jacob has suggested to improve the novel considerably and to make it much tighter.’
The novel explores the universal themes of legacy and the complexity of inheritance against a backdrop of political conflict in contemporary Malaysia. The book follows Anil, when he receives a letter from his dying father, and he leaves his friends, his work and pregnant to journey home to the town he ran away from three years earlier after his mother died. There, in the short time left, he attempts to uncover his father’s ambitious political plans for him and who the enigmatic man is. He stumbles upon his mother’s secret collection of paintings and is forced to re-evaluate her art and what she taught him as a boy. All these discoveries pull him back to the life he had wanted to leave behind.
You can read reviews for Sunil’s book and information about his events at the Ubud Literary Festival.
Click here to listen to a reading by Sunil.
If you think writing a synopsis for your manuscript submission to TLC is difficult, try minimizing it to just a book blurb. Before becoming an assessor for The Literary Consultancy, Tom Bromley worked as a copywriter for Little, Brown, producing countless blurbs for books of all genres. Free Word‘s interview with Tom about the delicate art of writing book blurbs, explores the positives and negatives of reducing a book to a few sentences.
“One thing I found is that the better the book is, the fewer superlatives that you use. You always knew when a book wasn’t up to much because you’d find yourself saying ‘fascinating’, ‘extraordinary’, ‘remarkable’ and all of these kind of words. The one I always tried to avoid using was ‘absorbing’ – it’s a terrible word and always reminds me of a sponge or something…”
Click here to read the full interview.
Quercus Books, famously known for starting the Scandinavian thriller trend by publishing the Stieg Larsson series, recently published TLC client Max Kinnings‘ Baptism. The book is a thriller that tells the story of a terrorist hijacking of the London Underground by Christian fundamentalists .
Max first heard about TLC in 1997, when a friend passed him a leaflet about TLC’s services. His first novel, Hitman, was assessed by TLC and Rebecca Swift was able to place the novel with Literary Agent Annette Green, who managed to interest a couple of publishers in the book, among them Hodder & Stoughton, who bought a two book deal.
Baptism is Max’s third novel and the sequel to it will be published in 2013. Max writes about TLC, “I have always been extremely grateful for the service that TLC provided which basically opened the door for me to become a professional writer.” Today, Max lectures in Creative Writing at Brunel University in London.
TLC is delighted about Max’s recent publication. The book is also available as an ebook. Click here to check out the opening pages.
TLC client Mary McMahon’s manuscript Once in a Bluebell Wood has been shortlisted for the Spotlight First Page Competition. Mary submitted her manuscript to TLC at the beginning of 2012, where it was passed on to reader Shelley Weiner. The manuscript was also recently selected by a judging panel as the winner of A Novel Event, a competition run in conjunction with the Hexham Book Festival. The book is inspired by Mary’s Irish background and her fascination with local ghost stories, as well as her continued interest in childhood trauma and loss, and their after-effects.
Shifting from England in the 1940s to rural Ireland in the 1950s, Once in a Bluebell Wood is a moving story of escape, love and loss, as Jenny Fitzgerald tries to come to terms with the lies that surround her beloved father’s failure to return home after the war.
For more information about the Spotlight First Page Competition, click here.