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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Review of From Pitch to Publication by Carole Blake

From Pitch to Publication, subtitled Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Novel Published, is the insider's guide to getting published successfully. Carole Blake has worked in the book industry for 47 years. That’s a lot of time and it shows in her excellent volume on getting your fiction published. She’s been a literary agent for a large part of that time, starting her own agency in 1977, after spending 14 years in publishing. She is now co-director of the agency she set up with Julian Friedmann; the Blake Friedmann agency has been operating since 1983. To say that this lady knows the ropes, knows her onions, has the know-how, is to understate the facts. What she doesn’t know about the process of getting a work of fiction published is probably not worth knowing.
I wish I had read her book when I first started writing: it would have saved me countless hours of effort, mostly misdirected, and much heartache. I now feel I understand what the publishing industry is all about. I may not like it, as a creator, but at least I have a deeper understanding of what the pitfalls are and how I can avoid them. Carole’s book leads the writer through the stages with chapter headings as diverse as ‘Market Research’ (we all know about the need for that, don’t we?), ‘The Art of Negotiation’, ‘The Trade and How it Works’, ‘How the Publisher Puts the Offer Together’, ‘Understanding Your Income’ (you should be so lucky!), and many others.
It is an unfortunate (and, I think, an ultimately self-destructive) fact of modern publishing life that authors are required to be deeply involved in the sales of their books. My own view is that this will eventually lead to real success only for those books written by people whose selling ability is at least as great as their ability to create a story. That this will exclude huge numbers of talented authors who have neither the interest nor the skills to sell, is a sad fact, but fact it is.
Carole’s book is not an easy read for the idealist or the author who wants to believe their own version of the world. It is a hard look at the publishing industry, treating it as it is; an industry, a method of making money. The days when publishers spent time and care on unprofitable but worthy works have long gone. I believe this is to the detriment of society as a whole, but publishing is by no means alone in adopting this route to profit at the expense of all other considerations and if authors wish to succeed they had better understand this.
I earnestly advise any writer who is serious about being published in the current climate to read From Pitch to Publication. It may well be that some will decide that this is not the world for them; others, however, will save a great deal of time and heartache and may find this volume a substantial step on their route to selling their master works.

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