Ken Follett - Master Storyteller and Best-Selling Author

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MASTERCLASS

Finding a publisher

What you have to remember about the publishing business is that a young editor or small publisher makes a fortune by finding an unknown writer and making the book into a best seller. That is how you get on in the publishing business. And so if you do write something good, they will be crazy about it and they’ll publish it with great enthusiasm. They will also spend money advertising it.

So although people say, “it’s terribly difficult for a first novelist to get published,” in fact, if you are good it is not that difficult.

My first novel was not very good but it still got published. It wasn’t good enough to be a bestseller, but it had something and a publisher read it and thought, “this guy could be going somewhere”. He published it because he thought I might write something better one day.

Your job is to show them what you can do. To start with, you will need an outline because the publisher will want to know what the story is about and how it develops. They will also want to know whether you can write and if you have got the power of words.

For that, you will have to write at least some of it.

Some first-time writers do an outline and a couple of chapters, send it to a publisher who thinks instantly, “this is terrific, I must have this book”. If this happens to you with your first novel, you are very lucky. It does happen to some writers, for instance, Nicholas Evans who wrote The Horse Whisperer, but it is very, very rare. More likely is that you will have to write the whole typescript before you can sell your first novel.

The best way to get your book published is via an agent. How do you find an agent? Look on the Web, where there are numerous resources. Look at:

And use the Yellow Pages. There are Literary Agents sections in both the New York and London phone books. Call or write to the agents asking if they are willing to read a typescript by a first-time author.

Finding a publisher

An extract from the London telephone directory

 

Some will say no and some will ask what sort of book you have written.

Agents are often specialists and there’s no point sending your sword-and-sorcery fantasy to an agent who specialises in academic textbooks. If your letter is well written and neatly typed, the chances are that some agent somewhere will agree to look at your book. After that, nothing matters but the quality of your work.

Good luck!