Joe Abercrombie, author of Last Argument of Kings.Even though he’s one of the most successful new faces in Fantasy, Joe Abercrombie, was shocked and amazed when aspiring writers started to come to him for advice on breaking into the industry. Being the stand up guy he is (and never able to give up a chance to remind people that he exists), Joe wrote a great article about the subject on his blog.

The best piece of advice I had as far as writing goes came (like all the best advice) from my Mum. She has (and my father and my brother have) always read my stuff pretty much as I’ve completed a batch of chapters and given her honest and extremely well-read opinion. Invaluable criticism. On one occasion, early on, she read a chapter of mine in which I’d used some particularly trite expression (I forget what, now, there are plenty of contenders), and she drew my attention to it and said, you have to try to be honest. In every area of your writing. When you use a metaphor to describe something, you have to ask the question, ‘does that thing really look the way you’re describing it?’ or are you reaching for an easy cliche, for any old words to fill the space? When you write dialogue, you have to ask the question, ‘would this character really say these words in this situation?’ Everything that seems dishonest, that seems unconvincing, that seems untrue, weakens the effect. If you keep honest, you can’t go too far wrong.

As far as selling goes, there are some simple steps to follow that will give you the best chance (though your chances are always small with any individual submission, so prepare for rejections, possibly a lot of them). Finish a book, first of all, because no one’s going to buy anything without reading the whole thing. Find out who you’re sending material to, and ensure it’s a suitable book for them, then send them exactly what they ask for, in the format they ask for. Usually this will mean the first couple of chapters, or fifty pages of material. Err on the side of less, because they’ll probably know within a paragraph whether they are interested or not, and they’ll surely ask for more if they want to see more. Put a covering letter with your work that explains what is so special about it, why it’s something they need to have, and can sell. Spend plenty of time making sure the letter is good, because it may well be more important than the extract – if your letter is rubbish they might get no further. Remember that, even if to you this is your wonderful baby, to them it will always be, to some degree, a product. They may fall in love with it, but they still need to sell it.

You can find the whole article HERE.

  • Mark July 16, 2008 at 2:15 am

    I’d add to that: read, read, read! Know what market you’re selling in, because in publishing what matters just as much is when the editor goes to the sales team and is confronted with the questions on who can we sell this to, and is it commercial?

  • […] Joe Abercrombie’s advice on breaking into the market […]

  • aidan July 17, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Mark – I’ve always thought that Terry Brooks advice for writing was simple and effective:

    Read, Read, Read

    Outline, Outline, Outline

    Write, Write, Write


    The outline part might be subjective, but the rest of it is pretty good advice!