Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Harry Bingham's Guide to Getting Published

I've seen Harry present a couple of times at the York Writer's Festival, and he has an impressive handle on the whole publishing industry. So I bought his book. I was surprised that its full title was The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook Guide to Getting Published, because the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook is the prestigious resource (UK) authors are meant to have at their disposal when they are searching for agents, publishers, or magazines to publish in. Even though it's the same publisher (A&C Black), it seemed a bit presumptuous.

It isn't. It's shot up to number two in my 'must-have' list of books as an author, and number one by a long way on how the industry works. Whereas the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook tells you where to find agents and publishers, that is rarely enough. It's the 'what and where', but little on the 'why and the how', and Harry's book also excels in the 'what to do and what not to do'

But above all it explains a lot about the industry, why it is the way it is - it unravels the plot and the characters that make up this strange and sometimes unpenetrable (and occasionally annoying) world to many would-be or existing authors.

In brief, it has seven main chapters:

1. Getting ready (the reader's motivations, expectations, readiness for publication)
2. Planet Agent (who and why they are, how to approach them, what pisses them off)
3. How the book trade works (the market forces, why it is like it is, and how it got to be that way, including some bad decisions along the way)
4. Getting your book deal (offers, auctions, royalties, retail prices unpacked, and the contract)
5. Towards production (how to work with publishers, time-frames, what you can insist on, what you can't, and some bad news about cover design)
6. Publication (marketing, publicity, launching your novel)
7. Life after publication (small publishers, self-publishing - sharks and reasonable half-way houses, getting on with the second book).

For me the best were 3, 4 and 7, but each author will find something useful and of interest here.

The book is peppered with vignettes from authors, agents, publishers, and bloggers which bring a lot of colour and three dimensions to the book. It tells it as it is, and gives as much (if not more) space to the less-ambitious authors as to the big names.

My only hope is that in a few years, when the ebook market has stabilized a little more, Harry will bring out a second edition.

Book: Harry Bingham, The Writers and Artists' Yearbook Guide to Getting Published, A&C Black, London, 2010, ISBN 978 1 408 12895 4

[For a more light-hearted look at pitfalls in the industry, see 'Writerholics Anonymous' under 'Stories' on this website]

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