Wednesday, 3 August 2011
Words on Wednesday: Review of Write to be Published by Nicola Morgan
Author: Nicola Morgan
Published June 2011
Genre: Reference (writing)
Find it at Amazon UK
The Blurb says ...
You want to make a publisher say yes? First, understand why they say no; then apply that knowledge to your book. Nicola Morgan - the Crabbit Old Bat of the renowned blog, Help! I Need a Publisher! - has made publishers say yes around ninety times. Now she offers her expert advice and experience, whipping your work into shape with humour, honesty, grumpiness and chocolate.
My verdict: easily the best overview on writing and the publishing business I've read, with tons of specific advice despite its extremely broad range. Recommended for those interested in publication: this and The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook could well be all you need.
Like many beginning writers, I've read a fair selection of 'how-to' books on writing and publishing: books on plotting, characterisation, setting, pitching to agents, specific markets (e.g. writing for children) etc. What I find most impressive about this book is that it gave me more specific advice on some aspects of writing than whole books devoted to that area have done in the past. This book really is gold dust. It considers both non-fiction and fiction writing, both of which Morgan has experience in. The fiction section has invaluable advice on plotting, characters and the elusive 'voice' which is more practical and usable than much I've seen elsewhere, and includes excellent nitty-gritty comments on genres and age categories which again really hit the mark although these are by necessity short sections in this comprehensive book.
I follow Nicola Morgan's blog and also follow her on Twitter and would strongly recommend you do the same, if you're a writer. This book grew from the blog, which has a large following and regularly dispenses no-nonsense advice and the occasional crabbitly rant about publishing and the world of books. Although her reputation is built on her 'crabbitness', this seems to me to take the form of a lack of patience with people who say stupid things, are unwilling to learn and quick to blame others (e.g. the type who bleat about agents' narrow-mindedness in rejecting their unsaleable book). I personally enjoy her writing persona. She's like a well-meaning (but not necessarily tactful) aunt with masses of knowledge and expertise who doesn't mind sharing that with you as long as you realise you'll have to do the work yourself.
But back to the book. It is very well-organised, breaking down Morgan's simple theory that publication is a matter of submitting the right book which is written in the right way to the right person at the right time. The book is then divided into 'before the writing', 'the right book', 'written in the right way' and 'submitting in the right way', along with a detailed 'further resources' section. Each of these sections have many clearly labelled subsections, making it a very easy book to navigate. I read it cover to cover a few weeks ago, and have since returned to several sections as I was working. I would say that the book's strongest point is its practicality. Could I say anything better of a reference book?
I am aware that some people baulk at the 'functional' or market-centred nature of her advice, but I don't think that's fair. Her focus is on helping people get published, not write as therapy (which is a valuable activity, but a quite different one from seeking publication). And, influential as she is, she is not (I believe) single-handedly responsible for the state of the publishing market. Publishers seek to sell books. We should probably not see that as an inherently evil endeavour.