On getting published and becoming a writer – Twenty7 Open Submissions

Looking for inspiration for our 27 Days of Open Submissions, which we’re running in association with Cornerstones? Author GJ Minett describes how he came up with the idea for his gripping debut novel, The Hidden Legacy.

 

‘I trust you will be sitting down when you read this’ – the simple opening line of a life-changing email from my agent, telling me ostensibly that I had a two-book deal with Twenty7 but in reality telling me so much more than that. And on Friday 13th too – you couldn’t make it up!

I’d had plenty of time to prepare myself for a moment such as this, more years than I’d care to recall of hurling myself against doors that creaked and groaned but somehow refused to open. And yet, once the initial mad scenes of celebration and frantic phone calls to friends and family were out of the way and I had time to sit down and reflect on things, I was surprised to realise that exhilaration was having to share top billing with other emotions. Prominent among these was a huge sense of relief at no longer needing to feel like some sort of fraud whenever I talked about my writing.

One of the hardest things about being an unpublished author, at least in my experience, is convincing yourself that you are a writer. I’d been trotting out the same old answer for years whenever anyone asked what I did for a living: teacher, timetabler, data analyst. If writing ever got a mention it was way down the list, usually once the conversation turned to hobbies, and I always found it hard to talk about any literary aspirations I might have without seeking out that knowing look in their eyes. It was probably a reflection of my own insecurities but the feeling was always there that others would be bound to see this as some sort of pose assumed by a wannabe who never would be, and the realisation that I’d no longer need to equivocate over such things brought with it a warm glow that I’ve carried around with me ever since. Yes, it’s exciting to have broken through. Yes, it’s nice to be talking with publishers about editing and publicity and book covers and blurbs and shout lines instead of emailing to check whether my manuscript has made it off the slush pile. It’s wonderful to have entered this new world where I have so much to learn. But more than anything else, it’s just so damned liberating to be able to say ‘I’m a writer’ and not squirm inside.

I remember so many panels I listened to, so many talks by authors, publishers, agents, and whenever they were asked by aspiring writers for advice on how to get published, there was always someone who suggested that the answer was to keep going, to accept rejections as a necessary evil and take the positives out of them. If you want it badly enough, the message seemed to be, you’ll get there eventually. And I found myself wanting to scream at them, because all I inferred from this was if you don’t get there, it’s because you don’t want it enough. And I wanted it so badly – I really did.

But they were right. I was a long way short of doing everything I could to make the breakthrough and it wasn’t until I acknowledged this and gave my writing the level of priority it required that things started to move. I didn’t get a book deal by opening an email from my agent. That was the final stage of a planned route which I followed faithfully. I studied for a part-time MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester where I discovered that I wasn’t even close to the finished article I’d always assumed I was. Then I entered competitions, making use of the short stories I’d written for the course, and set about putting together a CV that might persuade a busy agent to break off from her/his frantic schedule and take a look at my opening chapter. I may not have bought into the cliché of papering my walls with rejection slips but I did study every letter carefully in an attempt to identify criticisms (positive as well as negative) that were common to most. Once I started getting longlisted, then shortlisted and finally winning competitions, I knew I was ready to research agents who specialised in what I wanted to write. And once I found the right agent . . .

It worked for me but it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all scenario and I wouldn’t dream of suggesting everyone should do the same. All aspiring writers need to find their own way which suits them as individuals. I always swore that if I ever made the breakthrough I would never patronise others who may be only days away from following me. All I would say is that at 5.30 on Friday 13th I was a person who writes. At 5.35 I was an author. But it’s amazing how much needs to go into those five minutes to turn you into an overnight success.

And if I could urge any writer to take one thing from my own experience, it would be this. If you enjoy writing, whether it’s for your own amusement or to entertain or impress others, you are a writer. If you dabble in the occasional short story or are deep into planning a 100,000 word novel, in those moments when you shut yourself away with pen in hand or laptop at the ready . . . you are a writer. Say it – I’m a writer. You need to tell yourself that as often as you can because it’s what makes the difference. And if you don’t believe it, why should anyone else?

Good luck.

*       *       *

The Hidden Legacy GJ Minett1966. A horrifying crime at a secondary school, with devastating consequences for all involved.

2008. A life-changing gift, if only the recipient can work out why . . .

Recently divorced and with two young children, Ellen Sutherland is up to her elbows in professional and personal stress. When she’s invited to travel all the way to Cheltenham to hear the content of an old woman’s will, she’s far from convinced the journey will be worthwhile.

But when she arrives, the news is astounding. Eudora Nash has left Ellen a beautiful cottage worth an amount of money that could turn her life around. There’s just one problem – Ellen has never even heard of Eudora Nash.

Her curiosity piqued, Ellen and her friend Kate travel to the West Country in search of answers. But they are not the only ones interested in the cottage, and Ellen little imagines how much she has to learn about her past . . .

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How I wrote Stasi Child – Twenty7 Open Submissions

STASI CHILD Struggling to come up with your big idea for our 27 Days of Open Submissions? Author David Young describes how he came up with the idea for gripping crime thriller, Stasi Child.

A detective fighting for the truth in a communist country where every move is closely watched by a fearsome state security service. It’s been done before, of course, most notably perhaps by Tom Rob Smith in Child 44. But – as far as I could tell – no-one, at least in English-language novels, had used the setting of East Germany. And so, the idea for Stasi Child was born.

It was initially only a first chapter for the Crime Thriller MA I was doing at City University. My tutor – crime writer Claire McGowan – encouraged me to expand it into a novel. For any aspiring writer, turning 2,000 words into 80,000-plus is a daunting prospect. But Claire liked my unusual setting and the twist that my teenage girl victim appeared to have been murdered trying to break in to the east from the west. The key to transforming it into a novel was rigorous planning. I had an idea for every ‘scene’ or chapter – and a road map that was more complicated than Spaghetti Junction (or its German equivalent, Kreuz Kaiserberg, though that’s in the west!). But my advice would be to do something similar. Have a plan. You can deviate from it. You can tear up parts of it. But your plan – for me sixty or so scenes – is your insurance. When you hit a wall, just jump forward and write a different scene. You’ll probably find a solution to your writer’s block at the same time.

Once I began, the decision to go with the idea that became Stasi Child immediately posed other problems. I don’t speak German – well other than to order a beer and a hotel room – and the opportunity to actually visit and research first hand in the ironically titled German Democratic Republic ended in 1990. On top of this, as a male aspiring author I made life more difficult for myself by making my detective, Karin Müller, female – and having a second narrative through the eyes of a 15-year-old girl. So much for the advice of writing what you know!

But what you can do – and what I had huge fun doing – is take a research trip. I visited the eastern part of the now-unified Germany. You can find and talk to former members of the East German ‘CID’, the Kriminalpolizei or Kripo – part of the People’s Police. One of the most helpful to me was former Hauptmann Siegfried Schwarz, who headed up the murder squad which solved the GDR’s most famous homicide case, The Crossword Puzzle Murder. After he showed me round his old patch – the now decaying East German ‘model’ city of Halle-Neustadt – we had a lovely afternoon tea in his hunting lodge, swapping stories in pidgin German.

My task in writing Stasi Child was to construct a world which was authentic. Oberleutnant Karin Müller, at least at the start of the series, believes in socialism, and accepts the necessity of the Wall to prevent a brain-drain of the GDR’s brightest and best. But from the very start of the novel, those beliefs are challenged – at every turn.

Any novel will contain artifice. Anna Funder, author of the excellent non-fiction Stasiland, praised Oscar-winning The Lives of Others as a ‘superb film’. Yet she criticised the authenticity of the main Stasi character, the ultimately sympathetic Hauptmann Wiesler, on the grounds that ‘no Stasi man ever tried to save his victims’. I’m sure I will have made similar ‘errors’ in Stasi Child.

But I’ve tried to be honest. I’ve tried to reflect a world where you could enjoy one of the highest living standards in the eastern bloc, with excellent childcare facilities, where female workers were valued, and where absurdly low state-controlled prices meant many had more eastern marks than they knew what to do with. But if you opposed the regime, the Stasi’s methods – their use of techniques such as Zersetsung, the gradual undermining of a target’s life and reputation – were brutal and left lasting damage.

Lenin’s idea that crime would ‘wither away’ under socialism, however, was just plain wrong. Crime levels may have been lower that the west, but there were plenty of crimes in East Germany for my fictional Oberleutnant Karin Müller and her ilk to solve. I hope Stasi Child can be the start of a long series where she’ll get the chance to do just that.

*   *   *   *   *

STASI CHILD

“An exceptionally fluid mystery that holds the reader gripped. Reminiscent of Fatherland and AD Miller’s Snowdrops, Stasi Child heralds a bold new voice – and character – in historical crime.”
NetGalley Book of the Month, October

East Berlin, 1975

When Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the Wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: it seems the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the People’s Police, but in East Germany her power only stretches so far. The Stasi want her to discover the identity of the girl, but assure her the case is otherwise closed – and strongly discourage her asking questions.

The evidence doesn’t add up, and Müller soon realises the crime scene has been staged. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Müller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home . . .

 

Open Submissions – Entry Guidelines

We’re open for submissions!

For the first 27 days in September, Twenty7 Books will be open to unagented submissions, with the support of Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. As an imprint we only publish the best of debut novels, and we’re so excited by this new channel for discovering talented authors.

We’ll be posting a series of articles from our editors and authors over the next four weeks with inspiration and guidance, and we’re also going to host a number of Twitter Q&As to answer any questions – do follow us @twenty7books or using the hashtag #Twenty7Submissions.

What we’re looking for

As an imprint we publish a really broad range of fiction – in just our first couple of months we’re publishing a romantic comedy, a Cold War crime novel and a sweeping historical epic, amongst other things. We’ll be considering submissions in all genres, and all we’re really looking for is something we believe has the potential to be a bestseller.

However it’s worth noting that we are a fiction publisher, so we aren’t considering short stories, essays, poetry or non-fiction pieces; and just as importantly we don’t publish children’s or YA books, as we have two wonderful sister imprints who do that very well.

Also we only publish debut novelists, so if you’ve had a novel published before, we regret to say you aren’t eligble.

 

How to enter

All you need to do is send a one page pitch and the first 5,000 words of the novel to hello@twenty7books.com, with the subject line ‘OPEN SUBMISSIONS: BOOKTITLE by YOUR NAME’.

The pitch and the opening should be contained within the same word document – and it would be very helpful if the title of this file was the book title.

Submissions are open until 11.59pm on Sunday 27th September

 

FAQ

Are you still open for agented submissions

Absolutely – we’re always open to submissions from agencies.

What should I include in my pitch?

It’s entirely up to you, but it should definitely include some information about what the novel is about, some information about you, and perhaps something about what inspired the novel, or which other authors you think it resembles. This is the very first thing we’ll read, and it will be competing against hundreds and hundreds of other submissions for our attention – be confident, and tell us why we should read yours.

Can you acknowledge safe receipt of my entry?

Sadly because of the number of entries we won’t be able to respond to each individually to acknowledge receipt.

We intend to contact everyone, whether or not they are successful, in January.

I’ve been published/have self-published before – am I still eligible?

As an imprint we only publish debut novelists and are focused on new talent, so if you’ve had a novel published before then sadly you won’t be eligble.

If you’ve self-published or have written non-fiction, short stories, poetry or books for children then you are certainly still eligible, but it would be very helpful to let us know in the pitch.

I’m not from the UK – am I still eligible?

We’re open to English language writers from all over the world. However we are a UK-based company, so we’d anticipate that successful entries will appeal to British readers.

I have more than one book – can I enter both?

We’ll only be considering one book per author, so please think carefully and only submit your strongest. If you submit more than one book they may not all be read.

I foolishly got over-excited and entered too early – will my submission be considered?

Only entries that are received between 1st September and 27th September (and which adhere to the guidelines above) will be considered. If you entered too early we won’t have looked at your entry, so please do re-submit now that we’re open.

 

27 Days of Open Submissions

We’re so pleased to announce that we’ll be hosting 27 days of open submissions for new titles, in association with Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Starting September 1st 2015, we’ll be accepting submissions from authors without agents, in the hunt for the next bestselling debut author. The open submissions will close midnight on Sunday 27th September.

At least five winners will be announced in January, and will receive editorial feedback as well as the chance to have their finished manuscript considered for publication. Entrants will be required to send in a one page pitch for their manuscript, plus the first 5,000 words. The novel itself does not have to be finished at the point of submission and all fiction genres will be considered, although the winning manuscripts will all have the potential to be a mass-market bestseller for adults. It must be a debut novel, with the entrant having never been published in print before, or had a deal with a traditional publisher.

All of the entries will be read by either a Twenty7 editor or a member of the team at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy.

“The unique angle for Twenty7 Books is that we are seeking out the best new commercial authors and supporting the debuts who might otherwise find it hard to get into the trade. Publishing can be very risk adverse in the current climate, yet we have seen several debut success stories in the last year like Jessie Burton and Emma Healey racking up huge sales. We want to provide a window of opportunity for the as yet undiscovered gems out there, as well as offering advice and support for new authors during our 27 days of open submissions. I can’t wait to see what manuscripts will be landing in our inboxes!” – Joel Richardson, publisher at Twenty7

As well as accepting open submissions, we will be posting online content around the 27 days including editor Q&As on Twitter, blogs on writing tips and pieces from the authors already acquired on the list discussing their writing process.

In order to submit, please email your one page pitch and first 5,000 words as a Word document to hello@twenty7books.com with the subject line OPEN SUBMISSIONS – only entries received between 1st and 27th September will be considered – so hold on tight and brush up that pitch!

THE HIDDEN LEGACY Cover Reveal

Today we’ve got a brand new cover to share with you! And to introduce The Hidden Legacy, author Graham Minett has written a short introduction to explain the process behind the creation of the story and the cover.

9781785770081

I started writing The Hidden Legacy as part of my MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, from which it went on to win a national competition for the opening chapters of a novel by an unpublished author. It follows the attempts of Ellen Sutherland – recently divorced mother of two small children and successful businesswoman – to make sense of an apparently inexplicable bequest.

When she hears she is to inherit a cottage, her immediate reaction is one of disbelief. She has never heard of Eudora Nash and has, as far as she is aware, never even visited the Cotswolds, let alone the village of Oakham. But Eudora clearly had her own reasons for choosing Ellen, who is not the sort of person to accept her good fortune without digging for explanations. Driven on by her desperate need to fill in gaps in her own past, she chips away at the wall of silence that has been built around her by her over-protective mother, determined to get to the truth.

But she’s far from prepared for where the search will lead her, particularly when it becomes clear that there are links to an appalling crime in the 1960s which led to the demonisation by the media of an 11-year-old boy, who was labelled as “Every Parent’s Nightmare”. And the deeper she digs, the more she begins to wonder whether she is doing the right thing.

Because once you know something, you can’t unknow it, can you?

I am so pleased with the design for the cover of the novel, credit for which goes to the talented team at Twenty7 Books. I was hoping for something that would offer a contrast between light (Ellen’s good fortune in inheriting the cottage out of the blue) and dark (the hidden, shadowy elements of the story from which Ellen has to peel the layers one by one) and feel this cover does everything I could have asked for. Thank you, Twenty7. Wonderful job.   – Graham Minett

Are you intrigued yet? You can pre-order the The Hidden Legacy ebook, which will be out on November 5th, on Amazon now!

The Hidden Legacy is also up on Netgalley, so if you’re a Netgalley reviewer, don’t forget to request it.

You can follow Graham Minett on Twitter @GrahamMinett511.

Our first ever cover – pre-order STASI CHILD now!

As you might have seen, last week we revealed our first ever cover, in conjunction with the wonderful Crime Fiction Lover blog. Here’s the cover in all it’s glory – and we’d love to know what you think.

STASI CHILD CHOSEN x[2]

 

Stasi Child is one of our launch titles, publishing in ebook-first in October, then in paperback in Spring next year. It’s a gripping crime thriller, set in East Germany, and we very much hope you’ll love it.

You can pre-order your ebook copy now.

*       *       *

East Berlin, 1975

When Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the Wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: it seems the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the People’s Police, but in East Germany her power only stretches so far. The Stasi want her to discover the identity of the girl, but assure her the case is otherwise closed – and strongly discourage her asking questions.

The evidence doesn’t add up, and Müller soon realises the crime scene has been staged. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Müller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home . . .

Our Favourite Debut Books… (Part One)

We’ve been talking in the office about how we’re going to launch our fantastic new imprint for debut novels. One of the things we kept realising was how many of the books that we all knew and loved fitted into that category – it’s amazing how many authors clearly got it right first time!

So, as an inspiration to us to publish our brilliant new authors as well as possible, we had a brainstorm around the office for our favourite debut novels of all time. Below are some of ours (there were so many suggestions we’re going to have to do two blogposts . . .), but we’d also love to know your favourites – let us know on Facebook or on Twitter using the hashtag #FavouriteDebutBook. If we get enough suggestions we’d love to do a third blog featuring your choices!

 

Starter for Ten David NichollsJoel, Editorial: I’ve always been terrible at picking just one favourite! I’m sorely tempted by A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava (disallowed because I worked on it, if only a little, in my last job) and Wuthering Heights (disallowed because apparently that’s a bit of a dated choice for a new imprint…), but in the end I have to pick Starter for Ten by David Nicholls. It’s funnier than almost any book I’ve read, before or since, the story and characters are wonderful too. Plus it shows that funny books about love aren’t just for girls . . .

Sanne, Digital: Mine has to be The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. It’s a gorgeous and haunting book, with some of the most delicious writing I’ve ever encountered (I seriously had to pace myself so I wouldn’t finish it in a day). I didn’t realise it was his debut novel when I read it, but since it was my first Eugenides, it was very appropriate! While I’m really excited to dive into some of his other books, I have a feeling  The Virgin Suicides will probably always remain my favourite.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy NelsonJenny, Marketing: A recent discovery for me The Sky is Everywhere – Jandy Nelson’s debut novel. It came very highly recommended (by the wonderful Olivia Mead, thanks Livs) and it absolutely did not disappoint. In fact it shot straight up into my Very Favourite Books of All of Time list and I promptly bought a copy for my best friend. I think that’s the ultimate measure of a great book, if you’re compelled to pass it on and share its wonder. Magical and whimsical to exactly the right degree, romantic and heartbreaking but never straying into the saccharine or clichéd. Read it, read it now. Oh and shout out to Wuthering Heights and Emily Brontë because sometimes a debut is also the last and that is just the biggest shame.

Debbie, Hot Key Books: I love a good debut, it’s so exciting to read a new voice, so there’s loads I could recommend (for instance I’d still choose to re-read The Secret History over The Goldfinch) but I would always go back to Behind the Scenes at the Museum by the amazing Kate Atkinson. I think her writing has only got better, but it sets the tone for all the subsequent books and is still damn funny as well as emotional.

The Secret History by Donna TarttNaomi, Hot Key Books: It has to be The Secret History by Donna Tartt for me. It remains one of the best books I’ve ever read, let alone one from a debut author. I was able to hear her talk at an event surrounding The Goldfinch launch and it was so fascinating to hear how she wrote it – she was in a writing class at college with Brett Easton Ellis (imagine being in THAT class now and NOT being the author of a modern classic) and he got Less Than Zero published whilst they were still there, and she was like well great, I have this half-written draft of a thing which I may as well never show to anyone now . . . but I’m so glad she did.

Tristan, Production: My favourite debut novel is The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. As a teen I became engrossed in this weird tale about Frank, a strange character doing disturbing experiments on a remote island which just kept getting darker and darker. A fantastic read with an ending that still haunts me to this day.

Hello!

JoelWelcome to the first ever website for Twenty7 Books! We’re a new start-up within the internationally renowned Bonnier Publishing, and we’ll be bringing you debut fiction across a broad range of genres, from high-octane crime thrillers to the most heart-warming romances.

Our editorial team is currently on the small side – it’s just me, Joel Richardson (hello!). I began my career at Quercus, and have worked in all areas from audiobooks to social media to translated fiction. I’m lucky enough to be working with a brilliant group of talented people from across Bonnier Publishing, above all the fine folk of Hot Key Books and Piccadilly Press, with whom we share an office in Clerkenwell.

To give you some background, we were founded by Mark Smith, who also founded Quercus back in 2004. Along with our sister imprint Zaffre – more news on that coming soon – we’re planning to publish brilliant commercial fiction in the UK and internationally. What makes Twenty7 different is our focus on debut authors. Any reader will know the special joy of being the first to discover a truly brilliant book, and as publishers we’re no different – our ambition as an imprint is that in ten years’ time every bookshelf will be full of books by authors who began their careers at Twenty7. (And we should say too, that once those authors get on to their second and third books, they’ll be published by Zaffre – we don’t want to let go!).

There’s not too much more to say for now, but stay tuned (or, more helpfully, follow us on Twitter @twenty7books) for more news on the joys and disasters of building a new publishing company, and most importantly for updates on our brilliant first set of authors – I can’t say too much for now, but rest assured, you’re in for a treat . . .