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How to Cry and still be Happy during a Crisis

Yue Minjun, The Execution, 1995, oil on Canvas

[…] laughter is a representation of a state of helplessness, lack of strength and participation, with the absence of our rights that society has placed on us.”

Yue Minjun

If your emotions are all over the place and they’re riding you like a roller coaster, take heart, you’re not alone. This is a trying time and even the best of us who are optimistic, a tad panglossian, and always see the glass as half-full, are at the moment feeling all sorts of emotions that we have no words for.

Overwhelmed. Anxious. Depressed. Impatient. Inundated. Horrified. Irritated. Annoyed. Irascible. All these Thesaurus-friendly words don’t even begin to describe how I really feel. 

The trouble is I don’t even know how I really feel. Does anyone? Apart from the above emotions, I feel nostalgic too. On top of all this, I also feel like I’m becoming someone else. I feel that when this crisis is over, I’ll be in a state of novel-normal. I feel hopeful that life will really change; my life will really change and that fills me with excitement. Yet, there are days that I feel like crying—like today. But, I can’t cry though, which causes that lump in my throat to grow bigger making swallowing hard. I find something to do.

screen grab of Nadiya’s summer salad

I start to cook. I feel that any minute now if I drop a bowl and it crashes to the floor, I’ll cry. I’m so weepy but the tears stay at the base of my throat, hurting my eyes while I wait for the floodgates to fling open. But they don’t. I rattle them but they won’t budge. So I leave cooking (I’m all over the place now—the kitchen is a mess) and flick through Netflix. I find a cooking programme: Nadiya’s Time to Eat. She’s British and everything takes place in her culinary Kingdom far away. I want to be there. Her accent makes my heart ache. I miss this accent so much. Her recipes using favourite British ingredients hit me hard: I miss Marmite, Golden Syrup, Scottish Salmon and Smarties. As I watch her cooking hacks, the tears start to flow. They stream down my face. I feel deliriously happy. I imagine that I’m in my garden in London again and it’s summer. We’re having a barbecue. I’m making a rice salad filled with edamame beans dressed with sesame oil and soya sauce; I add a spoonful of harissa to spice the dish up a little. I throw in some chopped coriander and drizzle some tahini over the top. A squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of lemon zest and this piece de la resistance is done. I set it aside and turn my attention to the meat. The ribs and butterflied lamb will hit the hot grill soon and I’ll be throwing tubers of sweet potatoes into the charcoal to bake. I’m in food heaven. I wait for friends to ring the bell. I’m so excited. Then, I sob like I’ve never cried before. The floodgates are wide open. 

My daughters panic. “Mummy, are you alright?” They rush to my side, the teenager hugs me and the adult one strokes my arm. I’m watching a cooking programme I say. “Mum!!!” They think I’ve definitely gone over the edge now. Then, I laugh. I’m so tickled pink that there are so many cooking hacks that can save busy folks who love cooking time so that cooking does not become a chore but remain a joy. I’m chuckling hard now. “Mummy, you ok?” The girls asked hesitantly. They’re now convinced I’ve flipped. 

I’m so happy now. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I return to the kitchen. I make a salad. I cook some rice and marinade the meat for a bulgogi. In between, I sip a glass of crisp Chablis. After I’ve wiped down the work surface, I open my laptop and I write. Et voilà—here’s a new blog post. And I wrote this with relish and a glass of wine by my side. I’m ecstatically happy now. 

You’re looking at Yue Minjun’s ‘The Execution’ painted in 1995. It’s an oil on canvas and depicts a scene where a laughing man, Yue himself, is being shot by a row of executioners wielding imaginary guns. This style of painting has become known as Cynical Realism, a term coined by art critic and curator Li Xianting in the 1970s. Yue says of his work, “[…] laughter is a representation of a state of helplessness, lack of strength and participation, with the absence of our rights that society has placed on us.” There’s no more apt a quote than this encapsulating how I feel right now. So, I laugh because I’m a cynical realist. [This image is courtesy of Jeffrey Say, Art historian and lecturer at LaSalle College of the Arts.]

How to Write During a Crisis

In my last post, I spoke about how for some people this COVID time has opened up opportunities for living and working differently. Today, I’m going to talk about how to do just that. 

Since some of us now have a bit more time on our hands, this is a great opportunity to write. (But if you’re a carer of young children and aging parents, please do not be hard on yourselves; do what’s best for you and find other opportunities to stay creative.) Recently, I spent one and half hours with Heidi Stalla free-writing using modern images as prompts. Free-writing is a great way to get your writing juices flowing. I do this all the time always using art works as prompts. Here’s one story inspired by an artwork at the National Gallery Singapore. Do note that this story is the cleaned-up version.

Right. When you’re free-writing, put your woes and insecurities aside. Let your words flow from your consciousness to your fingertips as you write away. I recommend writing because in the act/art of orthography, your brain releases joy hormones as you put thoughts to words. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, and those practical things that an editor takes care of. Just write. 

The other thing you can try is automatic writing. This type of writing takes one on a spiritual journey. You don’t have to be religious or believe in psychics or things of that nature. You just have to channel that psychic in you. Automatic writing is an ancient art form. Casting any inhibitions aside, just write automatically. 

The other thing you can do is blog. In one of my Instagram stories, I shared a note on how to use your blog to help readers connect to you. [see image] Much like what I’m doing here. Blogs are fun to write. You don’t need to use luscious poetic language when blogging. But nothing’s stopping you from doing that if you wish. And, you can blog about anything. So, if you follow my blog posts, it may seem a little bit all over the place. But there is order in the chaos. You’ll see that I blog mostly about art, books, and writing. So, blogging is essentially about whatever that interests you and something you want to have a conversation about with your readers. 

Then, there are newsletters. Newsletters require less creative writing and more informational writing. It’s business-like language if you will. But, again, nothing’s stopping you from using luscious poetic language to engage your readers newsletter-wise either, It’s your newsletter and you’re a writer. Here’s a great one that I love reading cos the way it’s written is just yummy. I signed up using the sign up box on the right hand column and each time David blogs about something—ping, it goes to my inbox. That way, I’m up to date on his latest recipes. I love the apéritif hour, so Swampwater was just the right mouthwatering juice for me. Here’s another that I love. This one keeps me up to date on the children’s books I love. As you’ll see, this link takes you directly to the sign up box. 

Speaking of newsletters: Over at Picture Book Matters, Debasmita Dasgupta and I have created our own newsletter to keep our readers and followers informed. If you’d like this newsletter to be sent directly to your inbox, you know what to do—just click here. If you think that this newsletter can benefit your friends, please send it on. 

Right. Write away, folks. Pen those thoughts and ideas now and inform your readers what you’re up to. This newsletter tells you what some people are doing during this COVID time. 

Hindsight 2020, Oh Captain! My Captain!

The COVID has reignited my love for poetry. There’s so much poetry in motion these days as people reflect on what this virus has brought us and then pen their thoughts in verse and metre. 

What is Poetry?

I’m aware that poetry isn’t for everyone. And many have asked, “What is poetry?” 

Technically, poetry is a rigid form. But when done right, following poetic rules, therein lies freedom and rhythm. Many think that rhythm is found in words that rhyme. Here’s some food for thought:

Not all poems rhyme, so readers beware. But all poems have a rhythm, which the ear catches even when listening to blank or un-rhyming verse

If rules don’t stick, then there’s free verse where poems are written with no specific rules or patterns. Here’s an example

Now that you know what poetry is, here’s what you must know.

Why Poetry? 

Oh Captain! My Captain!–maybe this might jog your memory. This poem by Walt Whitman spoke to the people of America in 1865. It was 7 months after Lincoln’s assassination. After Lincoln’s death, the people were caught up in a state of shock and grieve. For those of us who’ve lost loved ones, there are no words that can describe how we feel. There’s nothing anyone can say that’ll make sense. However, poetry can offer people respite, acknowledgement and affirmation. Poetry moves people. Poetry cuts to the heart. It’s a balm in times of crisis as Poetry changes lives.

I’m always a little envious of poets and writers who can write across genres with poetry being one. Alas, I can only sit back and enjoy the sounds of their words because no matter how hard I try, I just don’t have it in me—come virus or high fever—to write poetry. So I listen as people read. I cogitate on the phrases. I ruminate on the metaphors. I tap my feet to the rhythm of the musicality. And, sometimes, I cry just a little. 

Like to this beautiful piece, Hindsight 2020. Written to be read to a future child who wants to know why The Great Realisation took place, this poem is why poetry moves people. It’s so beautifully done, my heart tugged and the flood gates opened up.

Yet, the words were a balm to me as I stay home safe, even as the subject matter is poignant and the truth hard to reckon with…“sometimes, you got to get sick, my boy, before you start feeling better.” 

Meanwhile, “lie down and dream of tomorrow and all the things we can do. And who knows, if you dream hard enough, some of them will come true.”

Poetry brings Hope.

What’s a poem you’d like to share, my friends. You can comment below.

How to Find Opportunity in Crisis

As history repeats itself, so will art. Revisiting the books, stories, and paintings created after past plagues can help contextualize our lives under the specter of COVID-19—and predict the stories we may tell as a result.” 

JANE BORDEN, Vanity Fair

A friend and mentor asked me today (April 17), “What is your opportunity in this crisis?” That got me thinking lots.

Those who know me, know that I’m not one to brag. I keep my achievements and my successes  quiet, tucked at the back of my mind, contented that I have beaten myself at my own odds. Tenacity was something I learnt as an adult and making lemonade with the lemons you’re given something I didn’t do cos I’d always thought orange juice was better and I made lemon custard pie instead with the lemons life threw at me. And, I can tell you life has thrown me more lemons than I care to remember, and also lots of curve balls too. Sometimes, I miss out and other times, I make lemon custard pie. This post is not about being successful or being an opportunist. This post is about what this strange time, when we’re locked down, forced to work from home, made to stay socially distanced, is doing for us. 

For me, it has created opportunities for more learning. It has extended the time that I get to spend with my adult daughter, who flew the nest but is now safely home from London, and my teenager, who finds every opportunity to keep mum at arm’s length. Having an aperitivo on the balcony is something that the Italian and I look forward to most evenings. The lock down has opened up more space and time to connect with friends in far away lands: we’re connecting more than ever online but really connecting through Zoom, Skype, Hangouts—whatever the mode—rather than posts and tweets when we don’t see faces. Don’t get me wrong, the twitters and the posters are still doing their thang all the same. But the rest of us who shy from social media, we’re taking to connecting through social media cos this is the option we’re given right now. 

Human beings are made to connect. This is one of the many human conditions we live with. It’s vital that we stay connected to the people we care about and this goal is the impetus that drives us all online during this period.

Human beings are also made to communicate. Again, one of the many drivers that keeps us ticking. The channels of communication are varied. Some choose to write, others paint, while some others make films. Many are even doing this online, like I am.

Munch, Edvard, The Scream, 1893, The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design

Edvard Munch (born 1863 in Løten, Hedmark, died in 1944 in Oslo) needs no introduction to those dwelling in the art world. His most famous painting ‘The Scream’ has been shared virally in so many ways that nobody is counting anymore. But this painting, ‘Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu’ painted in 1919, is lesser known. Look at how the colour palette—an over-usage of greens—reflects the moment. There is a blanket draped on his leg, signifying the subject as an invalid. A gaping hole for a mouth, a gaunt blurry face are signs of a sick man. 

Edvard Munch understood pandemics. He understood diseases. He understood loss. His mother, Laura Cathrine Bjølstad, died from tuberculosis when Edvard was five. The year was 1868. After her death, Edvard and his siblings were cared for by his aunt from his mother’s side. Tuberculosis claimed Sophie, his sister, in 1877. Edvard himself was a bronchial child, suffering from chronic asthmatic bronchitis. These traumatic experiences would influence the way he made art. 

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait After Spanish Influenza, 1919, Oslo, at the National Gallery.

Munch was a prolific Norwegian artist. He was part of the Symbolist Movement in the late 1800s, a pioneer of Expressionism from the 1900s onwards, and he was tenacious in experimenting with different art genres—sculpting, graphic designing, drawing, even photography and film—throughout his long career (60 years). Munch took all the opportunities proffered to him at every uncertain moment to advance his craft. He made crises his premise for self-reflection and expression. 

Munch did train as an engineer but his focus was art and he chose to make art his career. He travelled widely and made many friends in the art world. He networked with intellectuals, literary luminaries, philosophers, and musicians. His long and prolific life as an artist is outlined here

In 1919, Munch was infected with the Spanish flu. [See the connection to the self-portrait?] This pandemic destroyed millions of lives world-wide and the current pandemic is being compared to it. Out of the Spanish flu came this self-portrait. This was Edvard Munch’s opportunity. Then, more opportunities would follow his way. In 1930, he took to photographs as an art form, taking a series of self-portraits while convalescing from eye disease. The thing is that Munch never let down turns or pandemics stop him from creating. He found opportunity in the worst of times and made the best out of his time. Munch wasn’t the only artist who did this. Before Modernism in art was developed, artists in the Renaissance were documenting the Plague through art. 

But art for art’s sake isn’t what making art is about. Art is a conduit for expressing other connected issues. This article explains the situation well for what opportunities COVID-19 will produce in the near future. Our world has turned upside down but we can turn it around again because the learnings that we will take from the virus will change us and lives.

My life has changed since December 2019. I returned from a wonderful family Christmas in Italy to not knowing when I’ll be seeing them again. First I was disappointed, then I was despondent, and finally after despairing, I calmed down and hunkered down. I thought I would follow in Munch’s footsteps: find opportunities in this crisis to create, to innovate, to make art. I’ve started to document these various confluences of art-making on social media: picture book reviews, teaching the craft of writing picture books, and talking, talking to people about art and writing. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram doing this. Remember, it’s not about being an opportunist. It’s about finding the opportunities to help you move forward and stay positive (sans virus) in these COVID times. 

On Authors, Agents, and Editors

courtesy of the lit hub

This post comes to you amidst a global pandemic. Many of us are working from home at the moment, staying safe indoors and away from crowded places. The book industry is working hard as always to bring respite and joy to the many safe at home in this trying time.

I’ve recently been asked my thoughts on getting repped by an agent. While explaining what an agent does, I had to go into the whole shebang of what the publishing business is about. As a fairly newbie children’s book author, I’ll admit that I’m still learning about the business. But what I’ve learnt, I’m very happy to share. You’ll see that at this moment, many in the writing community are sharing and helping gratis those who are emerging or aspiring writers. As I’m not super good at being on videos, especially when it’s unscripted, here are my thoughts written out. 

The Agent

An agent is someone who works for the author. Let’s assume the author is you. It’s not that you employ the agent, it’s more like you’re the agent’s client. An agent is the middleperson between you and the publishing house or publisher. To get repped, which is ‘represented’ in publishing parlance, an author needs to submit their manuscript (one at a time) with a query letter introducing yourself and the book. This is also called a query. But before you query, do check on specific agent websites what they’re looking for and how they want to be queried. Let’s just say that agents seem to hold a lot of power in the publishing industry, especially in America and the United Kingdom, and many will auto reject your manuscript if your query letter isn’t the way it’s suppose to be. There are a lot of resources on the net for those interested and you’ll likely find that one person may contradict another. You just need to know that there is sort of a formula when it comes to query letters cos even though they want you to be creative when pitching or when writing your pitch (gotta have hook and all), they don’t want you to be too creative, changing the order of the query letter format. Agents also want you to be be business-minded about your query, but not to bore them with overly business-like language. Finding a balance is key. Remember, agents read a lot of query letters a day cos being repped is one step closer to publishing if you work in America, so you’ll have to captivate the agent with your creative but formulaic query letter. Here’s one blog post that I like on how to write a query letter that shines

Once an agent likes your query (after you’ve jumped through many hoops to get their attention), they offer to rep you where you’ll then sign a contract, and that’s when you become the agent’s client. Hang on! Don’t get too excited for the mo’. Being repped is still a couple of steps from being published. But let’s go back to the agent. Once an agent takes you on as a client, and before they submit your work to the publishing houses on your behalf, they may ask you to make some editorial changes, polish up your manuscript, so that your final work looks great. Once your work goes to sub, which is submissions in publishing lingo, the agent negotiates the publishing contract with the publishing house on your behalf, always working out the best terms for you. Hang on another minute. It’s not cos the agent is so altruistic. The higher the price she gets for your manuscript on your behalf, the more money they’ll eventually get; it’s a win-win situation. The agent’s commission is 15% of any money that the author makes from the sale of their book, for as long as the book is in print. But there’s more. For foreign subsidiary rights, the agent may hire or generally work with sub-agents in the foreign countries they’re wanting to sell rights to. So there are agents in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, India, Italy, France, so on and so forth, who will be assisting your agent to sell your foreign rights to their countries’ publishing houses; if everything goes well, you may see your book/s in Korean, Arabic, Chinese, French, so on and so forth. So what happens when a foreign sale is done?  The agent takes an additional 5% from the author’s earnings of the foreign sale. So you’ll see why it’s not always an altruistic gesture on the agent’s part to negotiate the best deal for you; like I said, it’s a win-win. But an agent is also worth their weight in gold. Agents also help the author track advances and royalty payments. They help authors promote their books. So, if you see on Twitter Jenny Morgan, agent at Golden Ticket Literary tweet “so happy for @susanwong for her debut picture book EATING DUMPLINGS IN AFGHANISTAN”, it’s a promo on behalf of the client or author. As an author, you should have your own Twitter handle too but it’s not the most important handle to have, really. The best handle is to have a handle on writing the best book there is. 

The Publisher

These are, as the name suggests, people who publish books. They are sometimes known as houses because they are publishing houses and not just one person, although there have been publishing houses that start with one person and maybe their wife, like Bloomsbury Press, for example. There are about 5 known houses that most authors would like to be authors for. They are Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster—not in any order of importance. But these houses have many imprints. Here’s what wikipedia says about imprints.

An imprint of a publisher is a trade name under which it publishes a work. A single publishing company may have multiple imprints, often using the different names as brands to market works to various demographic consumer segments.

Wikipedia

Imprints basically allow publishers to create a brand image or identity around different types of books. So for example, Hachette Group may have an imprint that publishes cook books. Here’s someone I know with a cook book published by an imprint. My friend, Jean Hwang Carrant had her debut cook book, Cookie Love, with recipes on various cookies, published by Hardie Grant Publishing, which has an imprint–Hardie Grant Books–that publishes cook books and non-fiction books, with Hardie Grant Egmont, the imprint that publishes children’s books. Penguin Random House Group will have an imprint that publishes classics or books written by women. You get the idea. Take a look at this image, which I’d borrowed here, that lists all the imprints of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. [Please note that this could’ve changed since publishing houses are constantly merging and consolidating.]

So, my picture book, Sahara’s Special Senses, was published under Little Knight, the imprint of Armour Publishing that publishes only children’s books. As an author, all you need to know is that publishing is a business and a publishing house is like a big fashion house/ departmental store on several levels, and an imprint is like a department in the departmental store where you can find all sorts of socks in one department and all sorts of shoes in another. In other words, an imprint in a publishing house deals with one aspect of the whole business; children’s books is one aspect, with books in general being the whole business. For more on imprints, read here cos it’s just too complicated for me to explain it without complicating you either.

The Editor

Editors work for the publishing house. The Editor’s job is to read all the manuscripts that they receive either directly from the authors, or from agents on behalf of authors. So, an editor reads lots and lots of manuscripts. It’s alright if it’s a picture book, imagine a 60,000 + word novel x 10. Hence, editors need to like reading. Well, all this reading leads to perhaps one or two stories that the editor likes and wants to publish. They then make an offer of a contract. If you’re agented, then it’s the agent who negotiates your contract and gets the best deal for you, as explained above. If you’re unagented, you’re responsible for your own back and pocket.  As soon as the author signs the contract, the editor will work with the author to revise the work, even if the author has already revised the work with their agent. You get it, it’s just to make your writing better! If you’re a picture book author like me, the publisher will find an illustrator for you. Then, they will work with the house’s art director on managing and overseeing the artwork. As a picture book author, you’ll not be part of this process, unfortunately. You’ll just have to trust in the process and wait to see how the illustrator has magically transformed your words into pictures. More than this, the editor is responsible for introducing your book to the sales and marketing team at the house. They’re also responsible for the book jacket. Editors are often seen at book conferences or conventions, where they may talk to foreign publishers about the list of titles the house is publishing, including your book; they’ll also speak to librarians about your book and find as many networks of sales as possible, in order words, they will promote your book. Since the editor works for the house, you don’t have to pay the editor for doing all this.

However, if you decide to find a freelance editor before you query agents or the publishing editor, then you’ll have to fork out some money in order for an expert (who has worked in publishing before, or who has experience of editing for publishing) eye to go over your manuscript. You can look at this as an investment, since agents and editors do regularly reject poorly edited manuscripts. 

The Author

The author is the person who writes. In this equation, the author is the most important person because no author, no agent, no editor, no publisher, no book. Horror! The truth in the equation lies in the general treatment of authors. The word of mouth says that the author is the most important person in the publishing business, yet, the action often indicates the contrary. So mouthing something does not always result in action that is indicative of respect for the author. Now, as an author, I should be fearful of saying this cos all agents, editors, and publishers will protest vehemently and vociferously. I don’t blame them. It’s their business to defend themselves after all, and of course to publish books, so they can’t be seen disrespecting the people who keep them at their jobs anyway, can they? It’s good to know that the author:agent:editor equation is a relationship that is built over time and trust. Agents and publishers know how important authors are, of course. But, they work with many other authors other than you, so you’ll just have to be patient, keep your channels of communication open, and trust that something good will come out of your relationship with your agent and publisher. The business requires that you do.

Authoring is a tough business. It’s not a business you want to be in if you’re aiming to make a million bucks per annum. That’ll be banking or lawyering. Maybe, the best job is heiring. Alternatively, you can try impersonating J.K. Rowling. But this is still a dream and delusion for many. The reality is that humans have been scribing stories for the longest time and since the advent of the alphabet system, humans have been reading for a long time too. So, the business of the author is to write books that entertain, engage, educate, and enlighten the public. For this, you’ll need talent. That’s another story for another post. Failing that, you’ll need lessons. That’s when writing coaches become people you want to know. Nature or nurture aside, an author really should, hopefully, be able to do all this–write books that entertain, engage, educate, and enlighten the public–for a living. 

So, how does an author get paid? Authors are usually paid through an advance or through royalty. The former is a lump sum that you’re given when the contract is signed. This can either be the whole sum altogether or paid in tranches—50% on signing of contract and 50% on submission, for example. The advance is paid against future royalties. This just means that your book has to sell well over the amount you’d received as an advance before the subsequent royalties start to kick in. You can look at the advance as the projected earnings of your book—the publisher pays you in advance of what they think your book will make them within, say, 5 years. That leaves the royalty. The royalty, is a percentage of the author’s earning on each book. The standard is usually 10% based on either the net or cover price of the book. Whilst it’s great to get an advance, which is usually the norm, it’s also good to bear in mind that you may not see any royalties until your book has sold way above the advance. I’ve heard of authors telling me that they haven’t been paid royalties for their books for the past 2 or 3 years. So, for example, since The Boy Who Talks in Bits and Bobs has been published, which was in March 2018, I haven’t been paid yet. And, I won’t be paid until next year. That means, by the time I’m paid, I’ve had waited at least 3 years since the book’s publication to be paid. Now, it’s also good to know that this is Singapore. The market works differently here. [Here’s an old article on how the Southeast Asian book markets work.] It’s also not as mature a market like those in the U.S. and U.K. For this, to get published in Singapore, you’ll not need an agent. However, you’ll still have to produce books of good quality. It may sound as if it’s easy to be published in Singapore, since there are not as many hoops to jump through like there are in America or Britain, but take note, it’s not.

The Market

A market is where you sell and buy goods. The book market is where you sell and buy books. The American and British book markets are the biggest markets for English books. Other English book markets are India, Canada (North America), Australia, and New Zealand. These countries are predominantly the markets for books written in English, with India also publishing books in various Indian languages. Singapore and Malaysia are secondary English-language book markets, both also publishing non-English books in languages like Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. They are relatively smaller English-language book markets compared to their western cousins, and behave a tad differently to their wealthier western relatives too. This has caused me as an author much grieve and annoyance, I’ll admit, though I’m grateful for this market for giving me the space to be published sans being repped. The market in Singapore does not require an author to be agented. An author can submit directly to the publisher. In addition, although a query letter is required, there isn’t this fuss around the query letter as there is in the United States. America just has their way of doing something and it’s their way or the highway. This is the reason why you’ll see so many resources available, and many for free, on how to write that query letter.

America makes a big deal of being agented. It’s how their market behaves. Agents are the gatekeepers to the books that American children and children in the rest of the world read and will read. Agents, as explained above, provide a bigger service to the publishing indusity than simply repping an author. Agents make sure that by the time the editor at the house gets a hold of your manuscript, it’s so shiny that they can see their faces reflected from it. But don’t despair if you’re not able to find an agent. There are other ways to get published if this is your purpose as a writer.

Publishing is a huge business with many people sharing the pie, in my view, often with the author taking the smallest slice. And, to be published by the 5 houses mentioned earlier, an agent is someone who can make you or break you. Of course, there are independent houses, like Armour who’d publish you too. These are also known as indie publishers. These exist in America too if being published in America is something you dream of; indie publishers also exist in the U.K., and for that matter, in other parts of the world that do not publish predominantly in English. It’s good to dream big but remember that there may be someone out there willing to pop your bubble, and they could see it as their jobs to. I’m not saying that agents are meanies, no! They’re in it for the business too, and they do know what the business is about. Unfortunately, in this commercialised and very subjective world of book publishing, an author simply cannot write what they want. But if you should choose to write what you want, an agent isn’t your answer. Your answer is self-publishing. But, that also means that you’re in charge of distributing your own books. This should bring me neatly to the distributor. But I’ve run out steam. I shall leave you on a cliff-hanger. What does a distributor do?

If you’d like a face-to-face chat about publishing your book, I’m available on Skype.