Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Literary Consultancy - an editing option


While we're on about the subject of editing (The Grumpy Old Bookman has taken up the baton and run with it today - and the image here is of Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass'), I had lunch with Rebecca Swift of The Literary Consultancy yesterday.
I first came across Rebecca in person a couple of London Book Fairs ago, when she stood to challenge the Fair's high-flying publishing panel with a question on behalf of writers. It was refreshing to hear a writer's perspective brought into the equation for once. That moment was clear evidence for me that the Literary Consultancy is on our side.
Rebecca maintains connections with agents in the industry, and one goal of the TLC is to steer writers on that route towards publication. It's also for those who have no particular expectation of publishing but want a one-off reflection of what they've done. The editorial comments aim to be frank rather than complimentary. You should come away not only with understanding what changes need making before approaching the publishing industry, but also whether it's worth bothering that industry at all.
I've recommended them to others in the past, and found their responses helpful. My own single use of them was more mixed. I went with the focused question - what route has this novel got into the commercial world? The response was clear. None. Put it on a shelf. Forget it and move on, it's too flawed in too many ways to mend. I had to work hard to turn that feedback into a positive, to burrow through the response and find ways to adapt the book accordingly - my book was damned when I was more open to learning how damnable the business was that would make no place for it.
I didn't take the 'shelve it' advice. I've spent years more on that book. Some works are simply inevitable and have to be written and that is one. It's now finished and glorious.
I know writers with book contracts in place still pay to use TLC. It gives good employment for fine writers and editors who work as readers as well, so your hard-earned money is going to a good cause. Worth a shot for anyone with a manuscript who's wondering about the next stage.

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