Today I am pleased to bring you an inspirational guest post by UK freelance writer Iain Maitland.
Iain is an old friend of mine, whom I first met many years ago when he was editing a newsletter called Personal & Finance Confidential, for which I was a contributor.
In his article, Iain reveals how, after many years as a struggling freelance, a book deal catapulted him into the big time.
Over to Iain, then…
This is an article for aspiring writers, especially those with a dream.
This is not a how-to article.
It is not going to make you money.
What it will do is to give you hope – it’s never too late to achieve what you want.
I’ve been a freelance writer for 30 years, turning my hand to all sorts of articles, from curing hay fever by putting Vaseline up your nose to making money from Forex trading. What I’ve always really wanted to do is to be a ‘proper’ writer with a literary agent and a big-time publisher.
I had a go at various books now and then over the years and time passed by and nothing ever worked. I turned 54 last year and thought I’d drift into retirement with, between you and me, plenty of regrets.
And then something rather magical took place.
I’d written this book, Dear Michael, Love Dad – it’s a funny, sad and emotional story of my relationship with my eldest son. Think Dear Lupin or maybe Love Nina.
I sent it to lots of agents. They all turned it down. I sent it to every publisher I could find. They turned it down too. I then pretty much gave up.
Cue a magical moment. An agent, Clare, suggested we meet for breakfast. She loved the book and would pitch it to publishers. The next morning, within an hour or two, a publisher, Hannah, said she loved it as well. They’d publish it.
This was the same book that so many agents and publishers had turned down. Rejection after rejection after rejection; to the point where I doubted that I had any writing ability at all.
Yet now, same book remember, I was a wonderful writer, capable of moving people to tears and to laughing out loud.
Roll forward nine months to today, early July 2016, and I’m not sure if the book is going to be a best-seller, but it’s certainly going to do rather well. Charlie, ‘Dear Lupin’, Mortimer has said it is, ‘wonderful, moving, humorous…extremely poignant’ and that has been a big boost.
We have lots of interviews and features coming out across the press later this month, with an appearance on ITV This Morning booked on 27 July. There will be plenty of media coverage going through the summer.
I am now, almost overnight, that ‘proper’ writer I always wanted to be with an agent and a big-time publisher who has optioned a follow-up to Dear Michael, Love Dad.
I am about to start writing a stage play with a well-known actor (who may well play me) and this will see the light of day later next year.
I have a thriller, Sweet William, coming out next year too and that, it’s been suggested, will be a best-seller.
So it happened – is happening right now – for me; and, who knows, it could happen for you too. You just need to believe and keep going. And one day…
Find Out More
Here is the book: http://geni.us/2TT5o (universal Amazon link)
Nick Daws again: I really enjoyed reading Iain’s original article, and asked if he could follow it up by setting out some tips for writers wanting to follow in his footsteps. Once again, he came up trumps. Here is what he wrote…
Here’s my ‘how-to’ advice based on my own experiences…
* Write the whole damn book. If you don’t have a track record, the agent and publisher will want to see the complete manuscript.
* Discover similar books, either online or in Waterstones etc. The closest books to mine were ‘Dear Lupin’ and ‘Love Nina’.
* Google – you may have to dip deep – to find the agents and publishers of these books; I found leads on Linkedin and Facebook.
* Approach agents and publishers by email, with an outline of the book and a sample chapter. Keep it short and to the point. Don’t try to be smart or clever.
* Learn to accept rejection. You need a thick skin! Most will not reply. Those that do will send a template response. Few will engage.
* Take advice – when an agent does engage, listen to what they say. Dear Michael, Love Dad was rejected as a funny book but accepted once I’d woven in the bittersweet story of my eldest son’s depression and recovery.
* Remember the good news – you only need to be accepted once. You will get ignored and rebuffed over and over again. You may well doubt yourself. Your heart may break. But you have a talent and a story to tell. You only need one agent and one publisher; it will all roll on from there.
* Don’t get cross with agents and publishers who seem dismissive. They get bombarded. Publishing is a small world and you will cross paths again; not easy if you’ve called them a flipping idiot (or similar).
* Assume you are right and they are wrong and keep going – whisper it quietly, but one Hodder publisher turned my book down, another later accepted it with enthusiasm.
I am happy to chat! You can email me at Imaitland@aol.com.
Join me at www.twitter.com/iainmaitland
And, as ever, if you have any questions or comments, for Iain or myself, please do post them below.