I had some short stories, poems and photographs to share ... and so here I am

Macmillan New Writing

I'm still waiting to hear back from Macmillan New Writing (UK) after submitting a novel, and I wonder if it's a good sign that it has now been five weeks with no news. Someone asked me the other day if this was a good road to go down, given the firm doesn't pay advances and everyone has a standard contract (limited contact between publisher and writer - and limited marketing - to keep costs down). The honest answer is : I don't know.

I've seen a fair amount of debate on this new initiative by Macmillan, which has been promoted as a chance for new writers' work to see the light of day. People have voiced doubts, saying for one thing that Macmillan is hedging its bets, reluctant to spend cash, and just hoping that one of the published will strike gold. Personally, I don't see what all the fuss is about. It is giving writers the chance to get a look in. The submission process is quick and efficient - it is by email and there are no complicated forms to fill in. Agents (who are becoming increasingly difficult to approach) are left out of the picture. Authors take 20 percent of the sale price of a book and it is listed in all of Macmillan's publicity and listings to book sellers.

I will keep this blog posted on what happens to my manuscript, which has been a few years in the polishing stage. I did spark the interest of an agent in London last year, and spent many months revising the book. He recommended changes and seemed to think it might just work. In the end though, after 10 months of exchanging emails, he decided not to take things any further. While he thought the writing was good (and even used the word magnificent at one point), the story didn't develop in the way he would've liked. Still, I've revised even further and think I'm in a stronger position now with all the improvements I made during those 10 months. The advice was valid - and free! If it is ever published (self-publishing would be my last option, but one that I would undertake) I would really have to give that agent credit for the patience and free time he gave me.

Does anyone else have any experience of Macmillan New Writing? Has anyone submitted to them? I would also love to hear from novel fans who would be willing to be one of my readers (early testers of the work) before it is all pasted up and ready to go into print. Notice that I said WHEN it is ready to go into print - there are no ifs or maybes here; one has to be positive and visualise the end result. In the meantime, I'm three chapters into a new novel!

9 comments:

gdtownshende said...

I wish you luck with the book! What I'm presently writing is the fourth, maybe the fifth, attempt I've made at a novel, and I'm very close to having this one finished.

Shameless said...

Good luck with your book as well ...

femme au foyer said...

Hello Shameless,
Came to you via Grumpy Old Bookman - have you read his comments on the MNW books? If you look on the site WriteWords.org.uk you will find one of the authors who might be able to tell you more about his experience.

Good luck

gdtownshende said...

Thank you, Shameless.

Michael Stephen Fuchs said...

Hiya. As one of the first batch of Macmillan New Writing authors, I'm probably in as good a position as anyone to comment. First of all, please let me commend you to MNW chief Michael Barnard's exhaustive (and highly entertaining) account of the whole initiative, Transparent Imprint. I just happened to read it last night, and it lays out the whole case, responds to the (largely fatuous, if not cynically self-interested) criticism, and provides a lot of insight into the process of making books.

Anyway, long story short-ish, my experience of MNW has been completely fantastic. First off, Mike Barnard - despite being absurdly busy, and under a lot of pressure - has never been anything but spectacularly nice to me, not to mention completely forthright and straight-shooting. He's earned a lot of affection and loyalty from me. (And not just because he's making me a published author, after [your standard tale of] long years in the wilderness.)

Secondly, the levels of support and attention I've gotten, across the board, have been fab. I've had significant, substantive, attentive, and extremely talented editing, copyediting, and typesetting. With each of those phases, my work has improved significantly - and everyone at Macmillan has been a real joy to work with.

Thirdly, while it's true that there's no huge marketing budget behind my book, in fact I find it extraordinarily lucky to be on this imprint. It has generated so much press and interest (including controversy, but of course all publicity is good publicity) that the profile of my individual book is assuredly much higher than if I were going out as, say, one of the anonymous army of individual, untested first-time novelists at some other major house. And, while the marketing effort has been cash-modest, it has been effort- and ingenuity- rich. There are a number of promotional events and activities on. And I'm happy and excited to be making front-line contributions to these efforts - every non-blockbuster author knows, or ought to know, that s/he is his/her own personal marketing department at this point anyway . . .

Just a couple of words about the motivation behind MNW. At first I was kind of stunned by the vocal criticism that erupted last year - and was inclined to engage in a little 3rd-rate amateur psycho-analysis (of established authors, not to mention agents, who seemed to want to keep the doors to the club closed and nearly locked). My feeling was that, if ever a business venture had its heart in the right place, surely this was it - what could be wrong with giving a voice and a shot to new writers? But, in fact, I've subsequently learned that Macmillan also has a significant self-interest in this project. (Which, in a way, makes it more trustworthy.)

Simply, the agent system has created problems not just for authors, but for publishers. Publishers used to read unsolicited manuscripts and find new authors themselves. In the last 15 years or so, they started outsourcing the job to literary agents. Fair enough - many agents were former editors, and they could do as good a job as any at spotting good work. However, as in any middleman system, it was prone to getting out of control - and has. It is agents' jobs to try and negotiate the biggest advances and best deals they can get for their authors. And as long as there's one house willing to pay an outsize advance for a hotly-hyped (but totally untested) new author, all of them are under a certain obligation to pay up. So the costs of launching new writers - and thus the risks of doing so - has spiralled upward. Inevitably, publishers have had to publish fewer new authors in this system, and instead focus on a select few, whom they hope will break out big - and thus earn back the big initial outlays.

The first problem with that is that, ironically, a big marketing budget (which often gets allocated to an expensive acquisition, to help it earn back) is absolutely no guarantee of sales. Word of mouth is key in this business, and books tend to sell on their merits, not on their marketing. Secondly - and this is critical - with fewer authors coming in the door, and fewer still being given the chance to develop and build audiences, publishers' backlists atrophy, and their long-term revenues suffer. So this model wasn't working for publishers long term. Macmillan just had to courage to be the first (though I doubt they'll be the last) to admit it.

So MNW, in the person of Mike Barnard, simply said: why don't we take back the task of assessing unsolicited manuscripts from the agents? (Assisted in part by technology, namely electronic submissions, which didn't exist 15 years ago.) And why don't we see what else we can do to bring the costs back down to a level where we can afford to publish a lot more worthy new writers? (And God knows there are a lot more worthy new writers than there are new book deals for them.) That's it.

Oh, as a final important note: I can guarantee (as well as can anyone not actually on the inside there) that your work will get a fair and thorough reading. While MNW received over 4000 manuscripts in the first year, every one of them was looked at by an actual editor (including Mike himself in most cases); and most that seemed at all promising were thoroughly read and commented on at least once - and up to four times - by professional readers. Those that pass this cut are read again thoroughly by Mike, before being decided upon. You will get a fairer reading here than at any other large publisher in the world (and I expect fairer than many small ones, and better than many or most literary agencies).

More info on my book (hey, I said I was my own marketing department) is at:

www.the-manuscript.com


For a long time it was said that a good book would always find a home. In the last several years people had to start sadly admitting that was no longer necessarily true. Thanks to Mike Barnard, it's truer now than it has been for some time. Good luck to you.

Best,
Michael Stephen Fuchs

Michael Stephen Fuchs said...

Hmm, Mama Blogger managed to jam an html character in there and break my link to Mike's book Transparent Imprint. Did that one work? If not, try:

http://tinyurl.com/pekfq

Or, heck, just go to www.macmillannewwriting.com and check out the lot . . . my fellow MNW authors are lovely people and strong writers and deserve the attention . . .

Shameless said...

Michael,
Thanks so much for your comments here. I'm sure they'll be appreciated by many people. I've put a link to your site here on my blog, and I've already preordered your book - as well as some of the others at MNW. Good luck with the sales.

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