"Right, so you just hand it over to the publishers and they edit it for you?"
This is a question asked by my friend a few weeks ago, with perfect innocence. He was probing me about my experience with editing my novel, The Bone Season, which is still just under a year away from hitting the shelves.
At the time I was still editing the manuscript, using notes from my editors at Bloomsbury for guidance.
Nowadays the author doesn't just write the book. Being published requires you to develop a set of skills, not all of which may be your forte - your forte is the writing, not necessarily what comes with it.
It's a whole different ball game to how it was a few decades ago. I can't stress enough how much work goes into creating one book. That's why everything takes so long in publishing - each book needs bespoke supervision on its way to readers. Since June I've had taster sessions of each section of the industry. I've learned how to edit a manuscript. I've learned what a copy-editor does. Outside Bloomsbury I've learned to wrap my head around twenty-page contracts, foreign rights and interviews. Having done an internship at David Godwin Associates in 2011, I already had some knowledge of what authors do other than writing - but I'm learning more about it at every stage.
One thing I've learned is that publishing is all about teamwork. It's not left up to the editors to make your book good: it's up to you. They're there to help you bring out the best in your writing, not force you into changing it.
Bringing The Bone Season to life has done more than just allow me to pursue my dream. It's also enabled me to share my experiences with readers, writers and bloggers all over the world. The blogosphere, one of the most controversial elements of modern publishing, has provided a means for me to reach out to other aspiring writers. I've been overwhelmed by the support I've had from people I've never met. It's shown me that publishing is not a dying industry - it's alive and kicking. Yes, it will take time for it to adapt itself to a new era, but it will do it. It's an industry that brings people together to share their passion: literature. It's that mutual appetite for a story among every single person involved in it - authors, agents, readers and publishers alike - that keeps its pulse strong.
I've been lucky to get where I am today. I never let myself forget it. It's hard to get an agent, let alone put a manuscript in front of an editor, as the need for quality control gets ever higher. I've been especially fortunate to be published young. A well-meaning relative once said I ought to wait until I was older and 'settled' before I tried pitching my second novel to agents. I'm glad I didn't listen, and that Bloomsbury took a chance on me, or I might have missed that crucial opening. Don't just let your manuscript rot in a drawer - your moment could be now.
Being shortlisted for the Women of the Future Awards in association with Shell this year has really boosted my confidence as a new writer entering the industry. It's shown me that publishing is still as valued as ever in Britain, and I hope it will inspire other young people to have confidence in their work. It's also shown me that there is a strong support network for young women who are fighting to achieve their potential in an increasingly tough graduate job market.
I won't say I'm not nervous about next year, when my book goes out into that world. I am. Competition is fierce, especially for first-time authors who are up against celebrities-turned-authors and other Big Names --but that just means I have to work harder to make my book's sequels the absolute best they can be. And having the impetus to work harder on my writing can never be a bad thing.
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