Submission Critique Service

stand-out-in-the-slush-pileStand out in the pile.

     Book Bound offers a Submission Critique Service for £325. This will be headed up by author and editor Jasmine Richards and includes:

  • A query letter edit. We’ll edit your query letter to make it as compelling and honed as possible. Having seen hundreds of query letters we know what agents and editors are looking for and which elements may put them off. We will help you write a letter that will hook the reader and you’ll also receive material to keep that will help you write future submission materials more effectively.
  • A synopsis edit. Does your synopsis feel flat? Does it ramble? We’ve written hundreds of blurbs for books and helped many writers improve their synopses over the years. We have also written synopses for our own books that have resulted in multiple book deals. We can help you structure, shape and polish your synopsis to give you the best chance of being asked for the full manuscript. With our help, you will produce a one-page synopsis that will entice agents and editors alike.
  • Feedback on your opening, up to three thousand wordsWe’ll read your opening and offer honest but constructive feedback so that you can refine those first pages and make them even more effective and engaging.

You’ve worked hard on your manuscript. Don’t let yourself down with a mediocre submission package. Book Bound will work with you over two rounds of edits to get your synopsis and query letter to be as strong as they can be.

If interested please e mail bookboundretreat@gmail.com with Submission Critique Service in the subject line.

Book Bound Retreat 2016

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We’ve just about recovered from our second Book Bound Writers’ Retreat. And what a weekend retreat it was! With an amazing group of talented children’s authors, back-to-back teaching sessions, five literary agents, one key note speaker in the shape of Sarah Odedina of Pushkin Press and countless yummy puddings, we had everything we needed to send our new friends away full of inspiration.

And that’s before we’ve even stopped to consider the Kent location, a mere 45 minutes from London…

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From first chapter breakdown through to honed pitch to agents, we aim to provide as comprehensive an overview as possible. What remains Book Bound’s strength is the friendship between the organisers, which informs the mood of the entire weekend, and our unique range of experience as both children’s authors and publishers. If you want a 360 degree view of the industry, you’ve come to the right place. Just ask this year’s attendees…

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There will be more Book Bound day events coming up and, of course, another writers’ retreat – so watch this space.

Did you attend the Book Bound Writers’ Retreat? Let us know how it was for you!

Book Bound Attendees

Photo courtesy of Melissa Valente

 

Tips And Links For Inspiration

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Where do you find your inspiration to write fiction? As this summer’s Book Bound Writers’ Retreat hoves into view, we thought we’d take a moment to shine a spotlight on some of the most unexpected sources of inspiration.

Walk It Out 

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Or knit, or cycle, colour in or do yoga…Have you ever sat in front of a laptop, beating your brow against the desk, wringing your hands as you wait for inspiration to strike? Don’t. Go for a walk instead. Your knotty plot problem will magically ease itself undone as you clock up the miles. Enjoy any activity that is meditative* and allows your mind to empty.

* We have just such an activity on our retreat, and it’s one of our most popular sessions. 

The Real World

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I often turn to non-fiction books when I’m looking for inspiration for a novel or short story. In fact, the best non-fiction references are usually children’s books – short, succinct, highly illustrated and accessible.

An alternative to this are the real-life stories that flood our brains on a daily basis. Whenever a news article piques my interest, I bookmark it. If it makes me smile, I email it to myself. And if it has a killer headline, I’m always tempted to share it on Facebook with a status update of, ‘Someone HAS to turn this into a novel!’

Maybe that someone should be you…

Other People’s Books

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The more you read, the better you write. It really is that simple. There’s no shame in hoovering up other people’s novels, pausing to analyse what works, highlighting phrases that make your heart sing. That next beautiful sentence could be yours, if you do your homework. Just read.

Networking

Book Bound Writers Retreat

Get out there and meet people. The more you can connect, the more connection you’ll have with your writing. We recommend SCBWI, London Book Fair, Byte The Book and – of course! – the Book Bound Writers Retreat. You can also subscribe to publishing news via The Bookseller and Book Brunch.

And here are some web links

Looking for more lateral creative inspiration? We really recommend these sites:

If you are looking for both exercise and inspiring history, join Ken on a guided walking tours of London. This is the most research (and fun!) you can cram into an afternoon, if you aspire to be the next Hilary Mantel.

This is our favourite yoga Youtuber and this is our favourite yoga Instagram person. You can’t ask for more inspiration to get moving and, ultimately, get writing.

Good Reads is a great tool for finding books that other people love and want to recommend. One day, someone might recommend yours.

Do you have any tips and links to recommend?

Quick! There are just a few places left on our next writers’ retreat. You can go here to snap up a place, 17-19 June. 

Love is the Answer

— Written by Sara Grant

chasing danger cover_finalHow do you know what to write? What ideas will work?

The first book in my new, middle-grade series Chasing Danger will be published by Scholastic on 7th April. This is a series I’ve wanted to write since I was eight years old    and stayed up late to sneakily watch Charlie’s Angels (the TV show). I’ve been tinkering with this idea for years. How could I put my own spin on an action-adventure series? My answer was to write what I love.

Why was I so obsessed with Charlie’s Angels when I was young? I had the Charlie’s Angel’s action figures, board game, and radio. I still have my complete collection of Charlie’s Angels trading cards. And – perhaps, I shouldn’t admit this – but, yes, I was even a member of the Cheryl Ladd fan club. (Cheryl played Kris Munroe, my favourite Angel.)

For me, the heart of the show was girl power, mysteries and friendship. Three women –Charlie's Angels Logo which was very unusual in the 1970s – caught the bad guys and looked fab doing it. (I’ll admit I practiced running in high heels – like the Angels did in almost every episode – with disastrous results.)

I also love to travel. The first book in the Chasing Danger series sprang from my trip to the Maldives a few years ago. While my husband sunned himself and read a series of books, I plotted and planned mayhem. I envisioned and then pitched Chasing Danger as Die Hard – one of my all-time favourite action movies – on a desert island.

I’m currently writing the second book in the series which is Mystery at the Ice Hotel. Yep, while at this amazing winter wonderland, I was imagining snowmobile chases and dead bodies in blocks of ice.

I’ve loved every single minute of writing this series. I hope that because I’ve had a blast writing it, readers will have a blast reading it.

As writers we can get swept away with book trends, what we should write, what someone convinces us might sell, stories that fill a gap in the market, and on and on…

My advice to you is: Write what you love!

If ever you are working on a draft – maybe you are writing chapter seven or reading the thirteenth draft – and you yawn, stop writing. If you dread sitting down at the computer and working on your story, that’s a bad sign. If you can’t wait to finish this draft because you want to work on something else, by all means switch projects. If you aren’t excited by writing your story, how can you expect readers to be excited about reading it?

Now I don’t mean if you are struggling to solve a plot problem or tame an unruly character. Writing can be difficult. Revision can be endless. But if you are bored then figure out how to interject a spark into your story or set it aside.

I’ve read Chasing Danger so many times I could probably quote the opening word-for-word by heart. But every single time I get to ‘the end’, I feel a thrill. I’m satisfied and overwhelmed – every single time. Are you in love with your current work-in-progress? Or if you are still searching for the right idea, why not make a list of books, TV shows, and films that you loved as a child or teen? Analyse the list. What made you love those stories? How can you give your reader that same experience?

Why Are Book Titles Important?

By Jasmine

There are many factors that will influence whether or not you get a book deal [including a good bit of luck that your book will land on the right desk at the right time].

Without a doubt, the most important factor is telling a compelling story as well as you possibly can but there is also a need to think about whether you are giving your book its best chance to be noticed with the title you have chosen.

Your book title is your calling card.  In a sea of submissions on an editor’s or agent’s desk it can help you stand out.

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It is surprising then how often I see titles that perhaps seem a little flat or generic—or maybe haven’t had as much thought put into them as might be expected.

Sometimes, you might luck out and the title will come to you easily—a sweet gift that completely encapsulates what it is you’re trying to do.

A good example of this is my second novel Oliver Twisted written under my pen name J.D Sharpe. This title gives the reader a really clear steer as to what the story might be about, it’s memorable and easy to say. All really important.

Oliver twisted cover

Other titles are harder won but it is worth spending the time thinking about what makes your title intriguing and standout. And don’t operate alone! It can be really useful to talk to others. As an editor, I’ve helped many authors come up with titles for their books and sometimes I think it is the fact that I’m a further away from the text than the author that aids this title generation.

I should say at this point that in the publishing process titles are not a fixed thing. Your publisher may well have strong feelings about what type of title might work in the market and as an author it makes sense to listen to that market knowledge.

However, if you are mindful of the importance of the title from the get go—it will undoubtedly help the process and make the whole experience a little bit less stressful.

I’ve asked some others in the industry for their opinions on the importance of book titles. sarah_davies1Sarah Davis of The Greenhouse Literary Agency says that, ‘As an agent, I encounter thousands of titles every year. Some sing powerfully from the query, making me desperate to read the manuscript and predisposed to like it. Others put me off so strongly that it’s a struggle to feel motivated. I’ve seen manuscripts practically sell themselves based on title alone, so I know the power of a great one at all stages of the process, from initial query right through to which book a reader selects off the shelf. Your title is your showcase to the world, so make sure it is enticing, original, and has strong appeal to your target market.’

download elv moodyElv Moody, Publisher at Oxford University Press Children’s Books agrees, ‘It’s not over-stating the case to say that a title can make or break a book. A great title is a huge asset, but it’s also part of the positioning process and a publisher will very often want a change to ensure it’s appealing to the book’s strongest market. I’m in the middle of acquiring a project at the moment, and, not for the first time, I’ll need to sound out the author on whether they’re prepared to change its title – and if they’re not, the book’s success looks much more uncertain. Coming up with the right title can almost be the hardest part of writing the book, but it’s also a useful check. If you can’t work out what it should be called, do you really know what kind of book it is, and who it’s for?’

What is clear then is that titles are incredibly important but perhaps even more important is really understanding what your story is about. That might be the key to finding a title that will stand out from the crowd.

Interested in attending a title workshop for £10? Click here to find out more.

 

 

 

Helsinki Bus Station Theory

(Posted by Sara O’Connor)

I love the idea of this theory, but wonder if it’s true.

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I know that there is such a lot of talent out there, and I feel strongly that very often the reason writers aren’t finding success is down to the ideas they spend their on.

When I read this article, part of me shouted, “Yes!” I can see how following this theory could lead people to that place of originality, to finding the idea that makes everyone sit up and say, “Wow, that’s different!” It just makes sense to me that spending the time – a lot of time – on one thing could change the way you see it so much that your ideas will capture the elusive attention of the masses.

But in the past, I’ve often told people to try new things, to not be stuck in the same genre, the same age range. And I still feel that is true, too. Variety could help you find the thing that really clicks with you.

But what if switching is an easy way out? After all, you loved that area of writing enough to write a whole book in it. I’m so torn.

So, go and read the article and tell me what you think below!

Top Five Reasons To Write In January

Grey days, dark nights, dry January – urgh. This is the month after Christmas festivities that can seem relentless and totally uninspiring as we wait for the days to grow longer and for Spring to send out its tendrils of hope and light.

This should be a really bad time to be writing. Right? Wrong. Here are our top five reasons why January is the writer’s friend.

You’re Skint

You’ve spent all your money on presents and Baileys and pay day is still a long way off. How to entertain yourself? Writing is free. Knuckle down to a first draft and be grateful that there’s no compound interest on a word count.

You Hate Other People

A festive period spent in the company of close family and friends can leave you with a strong desire never to have another conversation with another person ever again. Channel your inner grump and shut yourself away at your desk. If anyone dares to knock on the door and offer you a cup of tea, swear viciously at them for interrupting your creative flow. Dickens never had to put up with this.

Healthy Living Stinks

This is the month when we’re all encouraged to go on diets and visit the gym. Don’t be brainwashed. Sit at your desk, plump up the cushions, buy an extra tin of biscuits and set to on that last chapter. Celery may be calorie negative, but how many authors ever thanked a vegetable on the acknowledgments page?

The Weather’s Foul

Cold snaps are sent for a reason; to keep you at your desk. Mother Nature is encouraging you to write a scene that involves some dramatic pathetic fallacy. Or a short spell of rain.

Short Days

Short winter days can be much more productive than long summer evenings. Summer is notoriously disastrous for creativity and the scourge of productivity. There’s a sudden urge to lounge on a picnic blanket, drinking Pimms. So enjoy these short, barren evenings  when there’s nothing left to do but write by the light of a sputtering candle.

This can also be the month when you put plans into action. You could do worse than apply for a place on the 2016 Book Bound writers retreat. We might even supply a tin of biscuits…

What are your tips for January productivity?

What Are Your Writerly Goals for 2016?

By Sara Grant

I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Many folks are on holiday. Schedules are forgotten. The alarm clock is never set. I meet up with friends and family. I go to the cinema or sit quietly and read. I always find time to write too. That week feels like a no-man’s land between the past year and the year to come.

It’s also the week my husband and I write our goals. We review our success from the last twelve months and set a course for the next. I always imagine when Big Ben chimes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve that the slate wipes clean, and I start afresh leaving bad habits and bad memories behind.

I believe in setting yearly goals that feed into where I want to be in five- and ten-years. There’s something powerful about imagining and then writing down your goals. They feel achievable somehow.

to do lists

A collection of to-dos

If you don’t do so already, why not set a few goals for your writing in 2016? Can you finish your novel? Will you start something new?

Make your goals reasonable. From initial idea to published book can take years – and that’s even if everything goes perfectly (which it rarely does). Setting unreasonable goals will discourage – rather than motivate – you. I’ve heard writers set a deadline by which they must be published. If they don’t have a book deal by the end of the year, that’s it.

Others allow one road block to end their journey. ‘If my extract isn’t selected for Undiscovered Voices then I’ll give up.’ There are so many good reasons why great writers don’t get published – reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of their writing or the magic of their story. Writers must be tenacious. Keep writing and submitting.

Your goals must be something you can control. How many words will you write each week? How many pages can your revise? What workshops or events will you attend? How many agent queries will you send? When you aren’t under contract with a publishing deadline, writing can be the first thing that gets pushed aside for a myriad of other important work and family activities. Carve out time for your writing every week (every day if you can) – whether it’s crafting something new, revising, researching agents, submitting to contests or attending writerly events.

Once you’ve written down your goals, re-visit them each month. What will you accomplish that month that will take you one step closer to your goal? Has your situation changed? Do your goals need to be re-adjusted?

A few suggestions for 2016…

  • Try something new. If you write for teens, try something for a younger audience. If you generally write fantasy, why not experiment with rom com? It doesn’t have to be a novel, just a short story or a few pages. You might be surprised what stepping outside of your comfort zone might spark.
  • Read. Read the books that are winning awards. Read bestselling books. Re-read books that inspired you. Dissect the books you wished you’d written and figure out what makes them tick. How can you apply what you’ve learned to your writing? How many books will you read in 2016?
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    A trip to the Ice Hotel inspired my next book.

    Experience something new. Visit a museum or art gallery. Travel. Go for a weekly walk without your phone. Be in the moment. Use your senses. Don’t simply take selfies, really experience the space. Some of my best ideas come when I’m doing something out of my ordinary.

 

I hope one of your goals will be to join us for the Book Bound Retreat in June 2016. Check here for the details of how to apply.

What are your writerly goals for 2016? Whatever they are, I wish you all the best in the new year!

Beyond the Retreat: Finding the Time to Write…

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By Jasmine Richards

So here at Book Bound towers we are super excited to have opened applications for the next Book Bound Writers Retreat, which will be in June 2016.

Retreats are a great opportunity to acquire the tools that will strengthen your writing as well as providing time to really focus on your story and what makes it unique.

Therefore, Book Bound is delighted to announce that we will be awarding one grant worth £495 for the 2016 retreat. More details can be found on our retreat booking page.

From my own personal writing experience, I have found retreats to be a key part of getting me across the finish line when it has comes to completing a novel. But retreats are only part of the journey.

What can you do for the rest of the year to ensure you carve out the headspace and time for your writing—especially when real life keeps getting in the way?

As a writer who has a demanding toddler to look after and a demanding day job, it is essential that I have some time management strategies in place so that I can get some writing done. Don’t get me wrong, these strategies are not a magic wand and I still struggle to find time to put pen to paper but writing is often about the little steps and these time management techniques are definitely a step in the right direction.

1.Become a Thief

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Identifying what eats into your time is the first step in stealing time back for your writing. Try logging your activities for a week. Doing this, I discovered that I was often doing food shopping day to day —all that browsing and decision making was taking up time.

Now I try and do a weekly shop, which in turn forces me to plan a few of my meals in advance. This again cuts out dithering because I know we’re having cottage pie on Monday! Not only is this freeing up time but more importantly headspace!

2.Ditch the to-do-list

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I love a to-do-list and making one often makes me feel a lot calmer but it doesn’t necessarily help in getting the tasks done. The problem is you can’t just identify tasks you also need to be realistic in how long it might take to complete them and what your strategy might be for getting them done. Do you need to break the task into smaller bits? Do you need to delegate more at work or ask for help from friends or family when it comes to home life? Being honest and truthful with yourself will help get the task done faster and ensure that there is some time left at the end of the day to work on your novel.

3. Prioritise

Give yourself priorities every day. What needs to get done and what would you like to get done? You’ll feel a lot better if you get the must-get-done tasks out of the way and this will give you he headspace to write. Headspace is pretty much as important as time when it comes to being creative.

4. Learn to Say NO!

So this is one that I struggle with hugely. I hate the idea of letting people down and I am often flattered by the fact that I’ve been asked in the first place. The problem is—if you’re saying yes to everything odds are you’re not leaving enough time to focus on the things that you truly love like writing.

5. Knowing the Difference Between Stretch and Strain.

This is another one that I struggle with massively. Fact is, I like to be busy. I like to have lots of projects going on at the same time. I get self-worth and probably even more significantly a buzz out of all of those spinning plates.

spinning plates

I like to be stretched but it is important to recognise when stretch is turning into strain. When spinning all of those plates isn’t so fun anymore. This stressed, strained state is not a productive place to be. You may be busy but are you being effective? Is your writing suffering because of it?

Therefore, it is important to do a review every once in a while of what you actually have on and whether these things are the right projects to be focussing on. An honest audit will pay dividends when it comes to making space for your writing.

These are some of the things that have helped me. I hope you find them useful also. If you have any other ideas as to how you make time for your writing, please do share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spreading The Book Bound Word In Edinburgh

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In September, the Book Bound team caught a train from London to Edinburgh, meeting by Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4 in Kings Cross station. We were on our way to host a day event at the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, keen to reach out to children’s authors across the United Kingdom.

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Edinburgh didn’t disappoint. Sunlight streamed through the long sash windows and sparkled off the crystal chandeliers of our venue. Oil paintings looked down on us as we gathered our tables and chairs, re-read our notes, lined up the name tags and made sure our presentations delivered as much information as possible. All we needed now were our authors!

Soon, the room was buzzing with chat and debate. The theme for the day was From Idea To Acquisition and we had four different presentations lined up, along with one-on-one critiques. As with all our workshops, the schedule was intense and lively. The Book Bound team likes to bring laughter and informality to our approach, but we also want to be confident that people are sent home bursting with ideas, advice and stimulation. Judging from some of the tweets that followed, that’s exactly what happened:

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All too soon, we were packing up and bidding farewell – or au revoir? – to our new writer friends. We always leave an event stimulated and inspired, full of ideas. One of the great elements of hosting a workshop is the way that energy ripples back and forth. We return to our day jobs inspired and reminded what it is we love so much about children’s books. The stories, yes. The fun, of course. And the people. They are the best.

Now, we’re more than a little excited to plan for the future – and we have great plans to share. We hope you’ll be part of them!