Today I get to help start the blog tour for Dead & Talking by Des Burkinshaw. Today he shares a little about his publishing journey and how hard it is to get an agent to publish a manuscript, despite having a more than interesting career.
**There is also an international giveaway going on that will have three winners!**
If a ghost appeared from nowhere, rescued you from suicide and then ordered you to start solving crimes to help dead people, what would you do? When it happens to Porter Norton, he just wants to put his head in his hands and have nothing to do with it. But now he has to atone for the family curse that has seen all the men die at their own hands for five generations.
The Gliss, the sarcastic spirit that rescues him, says he can now and see and hear the Dead – if he’s close to their remains. Porter has to use his unwelcome gift to clear up past injustices. Or else.
Forced to investigate the murder of a WW1 British Tommy executed for spying in 1917, he begins to suspect the case has links to his own family history. Along the way, Porter enlists the help of a bickering group of misfits, who struggle to stay involved – because only fools believe in the supernatural, don’t they?
Full of pop culture references, banter and twists, the story takes us from present-day London and Flanders to scenes from World War 1. As Porter, The Gliss, and friends, get deeper into the explosive case, they discover their own lives and sanity are at stake. An evil from WW1 pursues them all.
What is the value of a CV?
Every aspiring author hopes their covering letter will help sell them to an agent before they’ve even touched the manuscript. We spend a lot of time crafting the perfect blend of sales pitch and self-promotion and it is clearly an important document. So why did I end up feeling that it did more harm than good in my quest to find an agent?
I’ve been writing for a living since I became a journalist in my early 20s, though I had been writing unpaid for college, school and fanzines since I was 17. By my mid-20s I had picked up a few politics scoops in the UK, moved on to the national media and was, frankly, soon astonished to find myself on the news desk at The Times of London.
When journalism lost its allure, I sidestepped into TV and worked at ITV, Channel 4 and then started 13 years at the BBC.
By the time I was 30 I had retold thousands of stories and written millions of words. I had been shot at, had rats running over my feet in an Indian leper colony, interviewed royalty, politicians, musicians and film stars. I checked my diary recently. In one year alone, the most famous people I met, interviewed or worked with included Sean Connery, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, U2, Peter Gabriel, Demi Moore and Ralph Fiennes. There were other less famous people too. That was one year out of a 25-year career.
Can you see the problem yet?
What I wanted to do in my covering letter was to make the following points:
- I’ve got a novel for you, terrific story, intricately plotted, great characters
- I’m a professional writer, have been for 25 years, published in famous newspapers and magazines and script work done for the world’s oldest and most famous broadcaster
- I’ve had extraordinary experiences, which I guarantee you’ll find touched upon in the novel.
- By the way, did I mention I have a novel for you, terrific story, intricately plotted, great characters…
The first agent I sent it to called me up 10 minutes after he got my initial email. I just looked you up, he said. Pretty interesting career. So what was playing with Paul McCartney like? I trotted out my well-worn anecdote about playing piano with Macca. Maybe I should have heard the alarm bells ringing at this point.
It worked to a degree. He was intrigued enough to call the manuscript in after reading my initial three chapters. He eventually said no to representing this book (too cross genre) but asked if we could have lunch to discuss other projects.
That was the only time I got invited to lunch, but the next two agents who contacted me said very similar things and seemed more interested in which celebrities I’d directed for the BBC than the content of my book. For the record, all three came out with variations of that old chestnut – “best thing I’ve ever read, but what shelf would it go on?” that I’m sure many of you recognize. They also rejected the book.
I realised I might waste two years pursuing agents and publishers and decided to just go for it myself. At one point, the book was ranked about 35,000 on Amazon’s best sellers rank, which considering I haven’t promoted it yet and was just hoping for early reviews, was amazing. I think it’s because I had a week where 200 people per day were downloading the book (How did they find out about it? Where the heck are all their reviews? I can see the page count going up. Are they all just slow readers?)
Even my editor suggested going via Unbound because I have a lot of connections. But in reality, I’ve got very few close friends in showbiz.
I don’t know it went for everyone else, but for me, my CV (which I’m super-proud of) did hold me back because it became a distraction.
The good news is that the book is out ahead of its formal launch on July 9 and as of tonight has 21x 5 star and 1 x 4 star reviews across the US/UK Amazon sites. It has 4 five star, 1 four star and 1 three star review on Goodreads. It has zero 2 or 1 star reviews.
About the Author
Born in the middle of the Summer of Love on a pre-fab council estate in Luton, teenage bitterness and a chance viewing of the Watergate movie, All the President’s Men, made him vow to become a journalist and bring down the government.
First he had to pay for his journalism course, so he became a civil servant. Literally the day he had enough for his fees, he packed it in.
Twelve years on from watching the film, he was a journalist at The Times and had a big hand in bringing down John Major’s government. News ambitions sated, he packed that in too.
Several years of working for Channel 4, ITV and the BBC as a senior producer saw him working across the world, but he eventually got fed up with asking bands how the new album was coming along, and packed it in.
He set up his own production company magnificent! in 2002 and simultaneously worked on the BBC Live Events team for another 10 years. But then six years of work on the Olympics came along, so he packed the BBC in. Again.
Des has jammed with many of his heroes from Paul McCartney to Brian Wilson, Queen to Nancy Sinatra. He has interviewed many A-listers, including David Bowie, Michael Caine, John Cleese and even Noam Chomsky.
He has directed/produced a fairly long list of people – Muse, Coldplay, Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, produced BBC3’s Glastonbury coverage for a couple of years, made films about leprosy in India, comedy shorts with Miranda Hart and Lenny Henry and played guitar for Chas and Dave at the Hackney Empire.
He has made 300+ short films for the Queen, MI5, the BBC, Sky, Discovery, EMI, the British Academy and dozens of authorities, charities and private sector firms. His most recent publication was a series of interviews with leading academics like Mary Beard on the state of the humanities which was published as a standalone magazine by the British Academy.
Fed up with travelling and determined to be a half-decent dad, he now works in London as often as he can. He runs the Young Directors Film School making movies with young people and is about to head up the Digital Film and Video MA at Tileyard. An avid musician and producer, he releases his third album as Romano Chorizo (he plays drums, bass, piano, guitar and really bad sax).
He hates to be pigeon-holed, thinks creativity is a learned state of mind and wishes they would teach people memory and learning techniques at school.
Dead & Talking is his first novel, the first in a series of Porter & The Gliss investigations.
Win 3 x Signed Copies of Dead & Talking
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