Book Review: From Pitch to Publication

As I’ve mentioned before on Mots Justes, I spent three weeks at Cambridge University this summer studying creative writing. Prior to arrival, we were given reading lists, both required and recommended, and this guide to publication by British literary agent Carol Blake was among the former. I would not have picked it up otherwise: on the very first page she writes, “This book is entirely about commercial fiction … many of the processes of publishing and selling it (and therefore much of the advice) is so different from literary fiction.” a) I’m an American writer of b) literary fiction. I actually wrote in the margin, “So then why am I reading this?”

Ultimately, though, I’m glad I did.

In a friendly, candid voice, Blake offers an insider’s view of the publishing industry from the nuts and bolts of the industry—describing specifically what agents, editors, and publishers do and demystifying rights, contracts, and royalty statements—to the politics of getting (and getting rid of) agents and incorporating editorial suggestions.

I now have a better feel for standard operating procedure at all levels, and a reference to refer back to (hopefully) when these issues arise in the future. Although not all of the advice is perhaps applicable to an American literary writer, at least now I know what questions to ask.

From Pitch to Publication: Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Novel Published. By Carol Blake. 402 pages. MacMillan, 1999, £14.99.

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