How To Get Published by Bidisha
Over the past six months, as I’ve been the inaugural writer in residence at Wasafiri, I’ve run a series of ‘ask me anything’ sessions with emergent writers seeking to professionalise their work, to go from writing at home and submitting their work to small competitions or local writers’ groups to putting together a short story collection, poetry collection, novel, memoir or other completed work and submitting to a publisher. These are the tips I always give.
An agent is the best person to advocate for you and submit work to editors on your behalf. Buy The Artists’ and Writers’ Yearbook, go through their list of agents and choose the ones who inspire you. Don’t think small. Go for the agents who represent authors you admire and feel a creative affinity with.
Agents need a covering letter explaining briefly who you are, what you’ve done in your working life (even if that’s not literature related) and what project you’re submitting; a synopsis of a couple of pages, setting out your project’s theme, plot, setting and tone (imagine a GCSE book report), and the first 90-odd pages of your project. I always suggest writers approach agents when they have finished their manuscript, edited and polished it and know it’s the best it can possibly be.
Don’t see rejections in personal terms. It may be that the agents’ list is too full at that time or that your project simply didn’t speak to them.
If you do get a bite, go for a meeting and talk through your project and your plans. An agenting relationship is personal and well as professional – they need to get you as a person and a writer, and you need to feel understood and supported.
Then, let them do the work of finding a publisher. Good luck!
Bidisha is a British writer, film-maker and broadcaster/presenter for BBC TV and radio, Channel 4 news and Sky News and is a trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation, looking after the UK’s most prestigious prizes for literature in English and in translation. Her fifth book, Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voices of London, is based on her outreach work with asylum seekers and refugees. She is also the author of two novels, Seahorses(1997) and Too Fast to Live (2000), the reportage Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path Through Palestine (2012) and the travelogue Venetian Masters: Under the Skin of the City of Love (2008). She is currently Wasafiri’s Writer in Residence.