The story had to have a heart.
It also had to have a publisher. To achieve that, I needed to demonstrate that the book had
1. a unique selling point, (USP)
2. an engaging style,
3. an audience,
4. and a writer with knowledge of the publishing industry.
I knew that the book had a USP. I was developing my writing style and the audience was comprised of those interested in World War Two. What I didn’t have was a knowledge of the publishing industry so it was back to school, again. Luckily, I could call upon New Writing South, (NWS) to help.
NWS was, (and still is), an organisation which provides support, encouragement and training to writers in the south-east. I scoured the programme for events on publishing and found Writers at Large, a one day course on breaking into the industry. I made copious notes throughout the day and pitched the story in a group session. It was led by Andrew Marshall, who generously offered to read and feedback on the first chapter. I listened carefully to his advice and followed some of it.
It was three years before I attended another event, the NWS Publishing Industry Day. As usual, I filled several notebooks and tried to take comfort from the encouraging speeches. By then, I’d had several rejections from agents and publishers. Lack of commercial appeal was usually cited. I suspected that that was kind because they all said yes to the pitch but no to the sample chapters. Hence, it was with great interest that I listened to The Literary Consultancy‘s (TLC), presentation on manuscript assessments. It was a service whereby one of their experienced readers could provide a detailed analysis of what was and wasn’t working in a book. That’s what I required. For the umpteenth time, I re-wrote the book, had it proofread and sent it off.It was read by Karl French, a writer, editor and journalist who had worked for publishing houses like Bloomsbury and national newspapers such as the Guardian and Financial Times.
Mr French produced a detailed 14-page report. Importantly, he confirmed that the story did have a USP and went on to say, “this book can and must get out there somehow.” Overall, it was a terrifically encouraging assessment but there was a big but. “This isn’t as yet a book whose promise is fully realised,” he said. To reach its potential I would need to undertake more interviews with Bill, re-structure the book, beef up some sections with more context and edit others so the story was more vivid and powerful. These were monumental changes. “Perhaps that is simply too daunting or not something that you are interested in committing to,” he opined.
Thus for a second time, I was being asked whether I would fully commit to the book. This time there was no room for fudging. I pulled my shoulders back, took a deep breath and chose the book.
William was happy to re-start the interviews and I recommenced my research. We were making good progress when, a few days before his 100th birthday, I downed tools. William and I had fallen out. The book was off, indefinitely.
I’ll tell you what happened next on 11th March in part four of the inside story of Blood and Bandages.
Thanks for dropping by.
The story had to have a heart.