The Oxford Literary Festival is a fabulous event. I still can’t get over the fact that I can shut my front door and be at Christ Church within twenty-five minutes (if I walk fast), listening to some of the best writers in the world discussing their work. I haven’t quite got over William Boyd’s talk last year, when he revealed that he spends two years researching and planning his novels before he starts to write. Two years!
Last March the sun was shining and the blossom was out. This March is chilly and grey – but nothing, not even the snow that enveloped Oxford yesterday, could dampen my enthusiasm for the festival. I hurried down St Aldate’s, turned left at Tom Tower and collected my batch of tickets from the box office. Then it was across the main quad and into a packed room to listen to Alysoun Owen’s talk on How to Get Published.
Owen is editor of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, which, she told us, has been going for more than 100 years and has never been out of print. A “barometer for the publishing industry,” it features articles by authors and publishing insiders, advice on copyright, finance, submitting manuscripts and marketing and thousands of media contacts. In other words, it’s a MUST for every writer.
In just over an hour Owen gave the audience the lowdown on today’s routes to publication, whether via “conventional” publishing houses or self publishing. With self publishing a growing phenomenon, she cited success stories like Kerry Wilkinson, who’s sold more than 250,000 copies of his crime thrillers on Amazon and has now been snapped up by Pan Macmillan in a six-book deal.
With members of the audience firing questions at Owen left, right and centre, the hour whizzed past in a flash. Even then, loads of aspiring writers queued up at the front to ask yet more questions. But the bit that stuck in my mind was Owen’s advice on how to improve your chances of getting published.
So here they are: Read, read, read; Research the market – at bookshops, in magazines, at literary festivals; Join a writers’ group; Know your competition; Practice makes perfect, so keep writing; Promote yourself – tweet, blog, review, set up a website; Be patient and ambitious.