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Don’t get rejected before they’ve even read a word…

writing (2) 75 dpiPeople who work in book publishing always have a ridiculous amount of reading to get through. I once worked on what is pejoratively termed the ‘slush pile’ in the HarperCollins fiction department, where I would often be the first reader. As such, I would get to decide if the story was worth further consideration by those higher up the chain. There were so many submissions I don’t think I was ever on top of it.

So, when submitting your work, to give yourself a head start you need to make your book stand out. Why does the publisher HAVE to read it? (If you’re not sure, how can they be?) Why do you believe in what you are doing? What is it about this book that warrants the attention of the book-buying public? If you are able to provide an agent or publisher with this kind of information BEFORE they look at it, then – as long as they are enthusiastic, of course – you’re a step ahead.

How can you make a potential agent or publisher want to read a script? It’s a big question, and you should take your time and consider your approach. First and foremost you need to stop thinking like a writer and start thinking like a marketeer. Can you condense your story down into one or two awesome sentences? If you can, you’ve developed a pitch, and depending on the policy of the publisher/agent in question, you can use this to get people interested – either on the phone or via cover letters/emails. I realise this can be scary, as you might get an immediate no. But the pitch will remain important right through to the book-buying stage, because in this frenetically paced market you never have very long to grab anyone’s attention.  Don’t start pitching until you’re ready, as a publisher isn’t going to take very seriously the person who develops a new pitch every few weeks. They want to know you are focused and serious about what you are doing.

Do you know which market you’re aiming for? Have you thought about how your book will compete with others on the shelves? Why is it different? Why will readers pick up your travel book on Rome rather than the Lonely Planet’s? If you can give a publisher answers to these kinds of questions (without them having to ask), you will pique their interest. Otherwise, if such questions come up and you have no reply, you will look naïve.

Look at submissions policies very carefully and use them to your advantage. A script that comes in clean, tidy, correctly formatted according to guidelines, and with a concise covering letter will get more attention than the dog-eared, single-spaced tome with a rambling two-page explanation. Are there small embellishments you can use to draw people’s attention – artwork, for example? Be careful with using unusual fonts – only attempt it if they fit the kind of book you are working on, and remember they must still be easily readable. If you make the presentation too much of a challenge for a publisher, you are shooting yourself in the foot before you’ve begun.

Can you do anything else differently to get people’s attention? Your ploys need to be subtle, as at this stage a busy agent/publisher is doing you a favour by reading your work. When I worked in-house we would get writers ringing up demanding why we hadn’t yet got to their synopsis and outline, and that didn’t go down well. Never mind the writing, who wants to work on publishing a book with a stroppy, argumentative author. If you haven’t heard anything for a while, keep your inquiry courteous. You can remind them why they really should read your book, but be careful how far you push.

The submissions stage is one where books and dreams are made or broken. Success is a combination of skill, perseverance, patience and good fortune (and much more besides) – but the only way the final line is ever drawn is the moment you give up. Good luck!

Pages

Beneath the Shadows

BTS for webThe absorbing plot of “Beneath the Shadows” shows that a quiet, non-violent mystery can pack a lot of punch.

Oline Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Foster’s captivating story is steeped in secrets locked in attics and hidden in cellars, good sisters, bad sisters, a ghost, a couple of brooding handsome men and almost as many characters with mother issues as a Sophocles play.

Carole Barrowman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Foster’s second page-turning tale of suspense set on the snow-covered moors has something for everyone: mystery, romance, paranormal activity and mortal danger. 

Kirkus Reviews

This is an intricately woven tale inspired by classic stories such as Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. The suspense and unexpected twists will leave you guessing all the way through.

The West Australian

BTS US for webBeneath the Shadows draws together an intriguing mystery, an atmospheric and gloomy setting that steals over you as you read it and an interesting and varied cast of supporting characters to create a psychological thriller that will definitely leave you wanting more from this author!

1girl2manybooks – to read the full review, click here

This is the second Sara Foster book that I have read (it is also her second release – so I now have a bit of a wait to get my Sara Foster fix again), and once again I was mesmerised by Sara’s writing, and completely pulled in by the story.

The Hungry Bookshelf – to read the full review, click here

Sara Foster overtly appropriates the tone, atmosphere and themes of classics from Wuthering Heights to Rebecca, delivering a modern gothic that has the charm and suspense of Susan Hill’s ghost stories.

The Saturday Age, 5 February 2011

…a mystery-suspense novel so thrilling it forces you to burn the midnight oil,

Flourish magazine, 11 February 2011. See full review and interview here.

Beneath the Shadows is full of intrigue and wonderfully dark descriptions of ghosts that haunt the moors.

Good Reading magazine, February 2011. For an online summary, click here.

…merges classicism and contemporary to winning effect.

a book a day till i can stay, #190 – see full review here.

This is an inricately woven tale inspired by classic stories such as Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. The suspense and unexpected twists will leave you guessing all the way through.

Chicklit Club, February 2011. See full review here.

Beneath the Shadows is a tense, suspenseful story of loss, secrets and ghostly presences.

The West Australian, 22 February 2011. See full review here.

When Adam inherits a lonely cottage, he and Grace and their baby move in. Then Adam vanishes. No trace, no clues… A year later, Grace still seeks answers but knows she must move on. The locals are reluctant to offer help, but it comes from an unexpected quarter. As winter snows start to cut them off from the world, Grace finds the answers lie in unsuspected places. Heart stopping moments are ahead for her… and us.

Woman’s Day, 28 February 2011

A year after her husband’s disappearance, Grace returns to their home looking for closure. Set in England’s desolate moors, this page-turner has just the right amount of mystery.

In Style Magazine, March 2011

With spooky clocks, snowstorms, cursed chairs, family secrets, ominous portents, greasy letters written on glass, taciturn locals and a few ghosts, there’s something here for everyone who enjoys a good shiver up the spine. The moors, bleak, beautiful and unforgiving, provide the perfect backdrop.

M/C reviews, April 2011 – to read the full review, click here

If you love a novel with a twist, then Perth writer Sara Foster’s latest novel Beneath the Shadows is the perfect port in a winter storm.

ishoperth, July 2011

…a stunning thriller.

Western Advocate, July 2011

Beneath the Shadows is a great read by a talented Australian author. (5/5 stars)

The Australian Bookshelf – to read the full review, click here

For author interviews and general media, click here