Monthly Archives: July 2015

My publishing journey: Signing with a literary agent

As I said in my last post in this series, once I had a complete novel manuscript I had rewritten once, line-edited and proofread, I started querying agents with it.

I’d once read a blog post by a published novelist who said that they’d queried around 40 agents before signing with one, and the process had taken 18 months. Totally arbitrarily, I decided I would only think about rehauling my manuscript and/or giving it all up and running away to the circus after I’d queried 40 agents and/or 18 months had passed without my receiving an offer of representation.

This might seem an odd way to do things, but I find with writing that you really just want to figure out a way to trick your brain into not worrying about the publishing side of things, so that it can get on with the work. (The work is the writing. The writing is the most important thing. I know I keep saying this, but it’s true!) The idea was to buy myself 18 months of peace of mind. As you’ll see, though, I never got a chance to find out if it would have worked!

I’ll talk about my query in detail in another post, but it was pretty standard US-style: I explained what the story was about, talked briefly about myself and ended by offering to send a partial or full manuscript if they were interested. Funnily enough, the chief thing that helped me draft my query letter (and actually just figure out what the book should be about) was Linda Colley’s Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 — but I’ll explain that in that other post!

I sent off my queries to 10 agents, eight of whom I’d basically just found on the Internet, and two of whom I’d been introduced to by author friends. Then I sat back, feeling contented with a good nine months’ work, and started thinking about the next project. It was going to be a space opera novella set in a world inspired by the maritime kingdoms of classical Southeast Asia (working title: Space Villette). I figured I’d have time to make a good start on a novella before I started hearing back from agents — heck, I’d probably be able to draft the entire thing by the time I had to think about Sorcerer to the Crown again, either because I had an offer of rep, or because I’d been rejected by 40 agents and had to rethink my approach.

So, er, I was wrong about that. Continue reading

SPIRITS ABROAD and CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA at Nine Worlds

I am going to have copies of the super rare and totally awesome SPIRITS ABROAD and CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA paperbacks at Nine Worlds! A few of them are already reserved:

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I KNEW I was going to find a retrospective excuse for having bought these incredibly cute post-it notes at Daiso.

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And here’s what CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA looks like in the flesh. Shiny and chrome!

I’m hoping the books will be available at the Nine Worlds dealers’ room, but I don’t know yet if I’ll be able to arrange that. However, you can place an order for the books now and/or buy them from me directly at the con!

I am selling the books for £5.00 each, and I am happy to sign and personalise them for you. You can even ask me to do a doodle! I can only draw friendly elephants, though. Also, there will be ultra secret, super exclusive SORCERER TO THE CROWN swag, which I will totally give you FOR FREE. (I mean, I don’t want to inflate expectations. It’s just stationery. But I think it’s going to be nice stationery!)

If you think you’d like to buy them from me in person, I will beg you now to bring a £5 note if at all possible. Of course, it’s easiest if you pre-order using the form below — that will enable me to put aside a copy for you, as stocks are limited. And also it means I don’t have scrounge up £5 bills!

RESERVE YOUR BOOKS

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My publishing journey: Querying agents

In the last episode, I wrote two books and chucked them because they sucked, and then I produced a very rough first draft of a Regency romance/fantasy crossover. This, unfortunately, sucked as well. But I could see within it the bones of something that could maybe not suck, so I thought I’d see what I could do to draw that out.

I put the draft novel aside for a month to rest in its juices, and in that month I researched. When writing the first draft I’d based my conception of the world on all the Regency and Regency-set books I’d read: Austen, Heyer, O’Brian. Now I read actual history books: books on Britain and its inhabitants in that interesting time, but also books about the transatlantic slave trade, Chinese emperors and Mughal India. I also read fiction and nonfiction from the actual period (thank you, Gutenberg!) — one of the best parts of writing historical fiction, IMO.

My head brimming with Regency-appropriate slang, I then re-outlined the book and wrote a second draft, cannibalising a fair amount of the first. By mid-2013 I had a complete redrafted manuscript that was as good as I could make it by myself. I wrote a query and synopsis, made a list of agents, and queried the first eight or so on the list.

(There is an additional step I could’ve taken between completing the second draft and querying agents. I should really, if I’d been properly conscientious, have asked a couple of my smart, generous writing friends to beta-read my manuscript, and done another revision pass based on their comments. I didn’t lor. I was too impatient! Anyway, you cannot escape the work that has to be done, as you’ll see later.)

On how I chose agents to query: I looked in the acknowledgments pages of books by authors I liked, who had careers I would like to have, and whose books were similar in some way to mine. I picked out their agents’ names and googled them to see if they were taking new clients, and if they were I added them to my list. Also, kind of randomly, I looked at QueryTracker’s Top 10 Most Queried Agents list and picked a couple to query, on the assumption that all those other queriers must have done their research and known what they were doing.

There are a couple of things I should mention for context, that happened around this time.

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SORCERER TO THE CROWN is up on NetGalley!

You can now request an electronic review copy of SORCERER TO THE CROWN on NetGalley!

SORCERER TO THE CROWN on NetGalley

This is the American version (though they left me my British spelling because it’s historical fiction \o/) so US and Canadian residents are preferred, but I am hearing from non-US/Canadian readers who are getting their requests approved. So you may as well try! I believe Macmillan will be getting the UK & Commonwealth version up on NetGalley soon as well.

Speaking of Macmillan, I went in yesterday to sign a few UK galleys and they let me take this away …

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It’s a printed proof of the UK cover! The gold stuff is embossed. It is SO beautiful. Every time I look at it I swell with maternal pride.

Where I’ll be in August: Fantasy in the Court and Nine Worlds

August is when genre throws a huge party in London. Here’s what I’ll be doing!

Fantasy in the Court
Thursday 6 August, 6:00pm – 9:00pm at Cecil Court

I’m going to be at SFF author/fan gathering Fantasy in the Court for the first time this year! It’s hosted by Goldsboro Books in association with Hodderscape. I’ve been to Goldsboro Books a couple of times now for book launches and have happy memories talking books with nice people over drinks. Hopefully this will be more of the same!

Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015
Friday 7 August to Sunday 9 August at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Heathrow

It’ll be my third Nine Worlds and I expect it’ll be as fun as ever. My elevator pitch for Nine Worlds is “it’s like Tumblr in real life”, which can elicit varied reactions. But the nice parts of Tumblr, really!

Friday, 7 August

“Waiter, you spilt some sci-fi in my fantasy”
Commonwealth West, 3:15pm – 4:30pm (All of the Books)

It feels like every other week there’s a new sub-genre to better define fantasy, sci-fi or horror but are those genres still specific and how much do they bleed into each other? This panel will explore the crossing of genre boundaries.

Adrian Tchaikovsky, James Smythe, Gaie Sebold, James Oswald, Zen Cho (Moderator)

New Voices
Royal C&D, 10:15pm – 11:30pm (All of the Books)

Stark Holborn hosts readings by debut authors Al Robertson, Francesca Haig, Tom Toner and Lucy Hounsom. And me! I’ll read something from Sorcerer to the Crown, of course.

Saturday, 8 August

“The dead will rise again” – Resurgence of Gothic Literature
Room 38, 5:00pm – 6:15pm (All of the Books)

Some of the greatest monsters just can’t stay dead. Here, we explore the pull of Gothic literature.

Charlie Fletcher, Zen Cho, Lavie Tidhar, Laurell K Hamilton, Sarah Lotz, John J Johnstone (Moderator)

The Fantasy Of White History – Race and racism in historically based fiction
Connaught B, 6:45pm – 8:00pm (Race and Culture)

Breaking down the myth of “historical accuracy” meaning no PoC, and un-whitewashing history.

Zen Cho, Georgiana Jackson-Callen, Meg Jayanth, Jade Tebble

Only a Moment
County, 10:00pm – 11:30pm (Entertainment)

Hosted by Paul Cornell, the popular quiz inspired by another popular quiz returns: Paul will guide his panellists through a myriad of subjects where they have to speak for a minute without deviation, repetition or pause.

Paul Cornell, Joe Abercrombie, Zen Cho, Marcus Gipps, Emma Vieceli

 

 

Here’s my schedule on their app if you are using that to organise yourself. And if you’re non-white and thinking of trying out the con, I believe Con or Bust still has a number of free Nine Worlds memberships going

I’m also arranging to have copies of Spirits Abroad and Cyberpunk: Malaysia to hawk at the con. These are a little tricky to get outside Malaysia, so if you’d like to get a signed copy for a v. reasonable price, watch this space!

San Diego Comic-Con 2015: a report

I’ve been kind of anxious to bash out a con report for SDCC because I knew it would never happen if I let life get ahead of me. Chuck Wendig did his the day after! Some people are so efficient.

I try to avoid having blog posts publish on weekends because apparently people look at the Internet less during the weekend (why? what are you all out doing??), but SDCC is OLD NEWS now so let’s get it out.

I’d known SDCC would be big and crowded and overwhelming, but I don’t think I’d realised what an institution it was. We took the train down from LA to San Diego on the Thursday and the train driver announced that there were extra carriages because of Comic-Con, and could everyone be sure to fill out all available seats because the train was going to be crowded. And these weren’t little UK train carriages, right — these were hulking two-storey behemoths.

And when we arrived in San Diego, everything was Comic-Con! There were banners everywhere and ads for geeky things on buses and people in costume and/or geeky T-shirts waiting at all the traffic lights.

San Diego itself is sun-drenched and relaxed. We looked around ourselves and decided to go to the zoo.

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‘Nuff said about that!

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My publishing journey: How I wrote three novels and binned two of them

After I figured out how to write regularly and how to sell short fiction, I decided I wanted to write novels. There was only one minor hitch to the plan. I didn’t actually know how to do it.

It seemed like it should be a straightforward exercise. After all, I’d read enough of the damn things. (It might give you some idea of my childhood when I say I don’t remember any of my classmates from Standard 4, but I remember the books I read. I also don’t remember anything I learnt in Kemahiran Hidup in secondary school, but I remember the book my Form 1 KH teacher confiscated because I was reading it under my desk while she was trying to tell us how often we were supposed to change our bedsheets. It was Dickens’s Hard Times and I was only halfway through. >:( Now I write novels set in 19th century Britain and I never change my bedsheets, so take that, cikgu!)

But I couldn’t work it out. It took me three years to complete a 25,000-word fanfic I’d started when I was 16: length was not my strong point when it came to writing. But your average novel is a little longer than 25,000 words and I knew that was what I wanted to do, so I resolved to write a drawer novel. (A drawer novel is a book you write and then put in the drawer, rather than selling it or letting anyone else read it.) It would be a bit depressing investing all that work and time in something that would never be seen by anyone else, but I knew I would never start if I had the pressure of thinking, am I going to sell it, how do I make it good enough to sell, who do I submit this to, etc. I just needed to know I could write something of the approximate length of a novel.

So that’s what I did.  Continue reading