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Getting my novel published


First-time author Garth Gunston took two accidental steps which made the difference between attracting a ‘proper publisher' and having to self- publish.

The Tissue Trail cover I had done all the textbook advice actions - buying and studying The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, writing a submission cover letter and synopsis plus my first three chapters, and getting my manuscript seriously proof-read. I had had my first rejection after a friend had recommended my first novel to top UK literary agency Curtis Brown. I had reached the point of selecting agents and publishers from the Yearbook who handled my sort of material - a conspiracy thriller based on Singapore's zero tolerance class A drug laws - when my wife mentioned a publisher who claimed to specialise in new authors, but who refused to acknowledge my submissions. When I telephoned to ask why, they told me they did not deal with unsolicited material and recommended that I approach somebody like WritersServices.

I had no idea what they were talking about but I followed their advice and found that WritersServices was a website providing assistance to writers from critiquing submissions to reviewing whole manuscripts and even working with authors to recommend books which were good enough to agents and publishers with whom they were associated.

I sent them my submission package and, although they were critical of my ‘too quirky' covering letter, they were complimentary about the synopsis and first chapters and encouraged me to submit the full manuscript. This I did and was rewarded with a response I could not have dreamed of "a complex but well thought-out thriller - flows with tension and intrigue. We think this is good enough to recommend to agents and enclose our instructions as to how to approach (an agent they worked with)."

Whatever happened, the advice to get professional advice had proved invaluable.  This had happened ‘by accident' and it was a second ‘accident' which proved equally significant. I had been looking for the magic bullet and had been approved for publication by a Texas-based operation, (Strategic Book Publishing Rights Agency) I didn't take this very seriously as it was pretty clear I was a pretty anonymous number in a pretty automated and very large pool. But this led my eldest daughter - a terrific graphic designer and epublishing expert - to tell me instead to put my synopsis on HarperCollins ‘showcase website' Authonomy. This I did and within a few days I had picked up the support of an American author who told me she thought The Tissue Trail was good and that she would recommend it to her publisher in Maryland USA.
Two months later Old Line Publishing, a fast growing operation, emailed to tell me they liked The Tissue Trail and would like to publish. I was delighted. To have an offer from a publisher recommended by an existing author who already worked with them took 90% of the risk out of the decision to go with them. I signed the contract and was immediately impressed by the professionalism of their responses.

From finishing writing The Tissue Trail on 13th March 2013 it had taken eight months to be offered a publishing contract with a target date for publication of 7th March 2014 - one week less than a year.

had played a major part in that and the story had not finished yet. My wife and three daughters between them had proof-read and formatted the text, produced cover designs, created a website and got me into social media. And for my Facebook banner I used Writers Services handsome ‘...complex but well thought out novel' compliment; in addition to which Chris HolifieldManaging director of WritersServices; spent working life in publishing,employed by everything from global corporations to start-ups; track record includes: editorial director of Sphere Books, publishing director of The Bodley Head, publishing director for start-up of upmarket book club, The Softback Preview, editorial director of Britain’s biggest book club group, BCA, and, most recently, deputy MD and publisher of Cassell & Co. She is also currently the Director of the Poetry Book Society; During all of this time aware of problems faced by writers, as publishing changed from idiosyncratic cottage industry, 'occupation for gentlemen', into corporate business of today. Writers encountered increasing difficulty in getting books edited or published. Authors create the books which are the raw material for the whole business. She believes it is time to bring them back to centre stage., head of WS, and I have agreed to exploit the seeming success of The Tissue Trail to mutual benefit using her weekly update.

And, as if this was not enough, in January 2014 OLP asked me if I would agree to a film script being written with a view to offering the story to Hollywood!!!

Bottom line - for a new writer to get a professional start and to get over the unsolicited approach barrier you cannot do better than get some professional advice through a service such as WritersServices and, secondly, to expose your work to the publishing world in general and not just individual agents or publishers - use a reputable showcase website such as HarperCollins Authonomy.

In the meantime Garth's book has become the subject of crowd-funding to get a script written.

Garth Gunston was born in Derbyshire, attending Nottingham High School before reading Pharmacy at Sunderland University. After ten years in pharmaceutical marketing he set up a medical communications agency for American advertising giant BBDO/ Omnicom.

Garth has always been involved with writing, from student newspapers to professional journal articles then healthcare communications, before writing his first novel The Tissue Trail.