Are you a writer? Are you a published author - or have you struggled to get published?

There are far more stories and novels written than are accepted by publishers and - what is worse - a huge percentage of those books that do get through the barriers to publication don’t sell much and are heavily discounted, remaindered or pulped.

Why are these things true; and why is it so hard to get anyone even to look at your work - never mind publish it? Well…it is, I believe, due to a number of reasons. It seems to me that being published is as a result of one or more factors: you are already famous; you have ‘connections’; or maybe you win the literary version of the X-factor. Alternatively it is a fantastic stroke of luck in that you happen to land on someone’s desk at the right time and hit their sweet spot. Even then many publishers cannot get it right and choose books that don’t sell.

Of course there is the issue of the quality of the writing - and you can’t argue with that; or you wouldn’t if you felt that the manuscript had at least been read, and if the quality of those books published was always excellent.

I am a published author - having had some 13 books published. These were, however, all non-fiction; mainly business books, text books or on subjects of interest such as growing food. Non-fiction is a (relatively) easier market to break into as the publishers usually focus on segments, know them well, and have experience of what sells. The fiction market is, however, totally different.

By way of example: I have written a John Buchan type adventure novel; a Sci-Fi trilogy (with my children); a collection of short stories; and I am working on other novels. Despite having spoken to a couple of agents and publishers in the non-fiction field, who really liked the work, I have found it impossible to get agents who deal with fiction to look at my work. Their replies show that they hadn’t even read it: and as for publishers…they won’t even accept manuscripts any more; having outsourced it to agents. In addition, due to the stranglehold that large book stores have on the market where they insist on payment to ‘promote’ books as ‘staff recommendations’, publishers play safe and stick with branded names.

A drawer full of formulaic rejection slips containing bland, nebulous statements can be very depressing!

Others have gone down the self-publishing route - but have found it very difficult to sell many books once published.

So what can be done?

I feel that, given the large pool of talent in the Dulwich area, there is something more that we could do for ourselves. I propose a literary self-help group. This would include published authors, budding authors of novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction; and also anybody with experience in publishing and book-selling - even agents!

We could meet say, once a month, and explore ideas, connections, offer helpful critiques and generally support each other; and share ideas and experiences of what has worked and what has not. I have, for example, set up websites for two of my books. This is not very expensive, nor very difficult - but, as yet, has to prove its worth.

I wondered if anybody would be interested in such a group? If so do please get in touch.

Neil Russell-Jones

43 Elmwood Road SE24

0207-738-5251 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.