Sell, sell, sell!

Okay, so here's where strategy starts to come into play.

When I wasn't sleeping, or moping around, or coughing yesterday, I started thinking about the next stage of this manuscript's life: the hard sell.

This is the new reality for writers without a publishing contract in these uncertain times. We must morph into sales executives for our story. I have learned from the painfully drawn out experience of writing and hawking around my last manuscript, so the focus this time is on short, sharp jabs at the industry.

Two things I suspect this manuscript will need if it is to find a publisher: an agent and an appraisal.

Fortunately one does not have to wait for an appraisal to begin finding an agent. I'm in the fortunate position to already have an agent for my last novel, however, like all things literary, nothing is set in stone and everyone goes by their gut. This is quite a different story to Here Today and there are no guarantees that the people who liked that story will in any way like this one. All bets are indeed off.

Fortunately, prospective agents and publishers aren't interested in seeing a complete manuscript straight away. They want to see the first fifty pages first to see if it's any good. So the author's job is to really hone that part of the novel first, since it's the one that will make or break the story. The rest will follow in due course.

The other side is the appraisal. To do that, I'll need to have a complete manuscript and have it as good as I can get it. Appraisals are a great way to get some outside perspective on whether your masterpiece is hanging together or whether it's falling apart. I'm not great at structural editing (at least not for my own stuff), so some outside influence is welcome.

I suspect some people get appraisals so they can produce wonderful quotes on how good the story is to prospective agents and publishers. I'm not one of those people. I pay good money for an appraisal and I want an appraiser to rake my story over coals, pick it to death, and tell me what is shit and what's alright to keep.

I had a major problem last time in that my selected appraiser fell in love with the story and produced a report consisting of two pages of praise. Wonderful for the ego (believe me), but in hindsight not a great investment. Kind words are great to keep you motivated, but they mean diddley squat to a publisher. The reason the praise was a problem is that it gave me no guidance on how to improve the manuscript so I was not prepared for the two years, three more redrafts, and a major award shortlist the manuscript required to still get rejected by everybody.

Anybody can tell you, that's way too much time. So with this story, everything is about compressing timeframes. The first fifty pages I can handle alone and the help I need for the big picture can happen simultaneously to the first round of hawking.

First draft week is a cinch, really. Next week begins the really hard bits.