Each month, I’m going to present a feature to help writers in our region get published. In addition, I will answer one writing-related reader’s question. Send your question to: firstname.lastname@example.org
This month’s topic deals with something many ex-pats intend to do one day – write an account of their life in Spain for others to enjoy. It’s a great idea, but before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) you might like to read on …
Okay, so you’ve been living in Spain for a while and have had lots of amusing encounters with the locals. You’ve fallen into all sorts of truly hilarious situations a
s a result of mangling the language and the time has come to share your anecdotes with the wider world. There’s clearly a market for such books; after all, look at how successful they are for so many authors. So all you need to do is dash off your memoirs and a publisher is going to snap it up. Yes? Sadly, no.
There are now so many writers living abroad, that to follow in the footsteps of Peter Mayle, Chris Stewart, Carole Drinkwater and countless others, you need to hone your unique selling point. Even these three well-known authors had something to offer in addition to their ability to write about their experiences. Peter Mayle was the first, always handy as a USP. Chris Stewart was a former rock star and Carole Drinkwater wrote about managing an olive farm.
So, before you spend time putting together a proposal, you need to work out your unique angle. Would you be the first to write about living in this region? Have you retired from, or taken up, an unusual occupation? Have you founded a sky-diving school? Converted a cortijo into a nudist colony? Escaped from a religious commune? What is it about you that would sell a book?
You can no longer rely on quaint local customs, and even humour isn’t enough. I received feedback from a publisher who’d read my proposal for a book based on a column I’d written for Spanish Magazine. He said he’d laughed out loud in places, but he wouldn’t take the book on because it lacked a USP – a single thread running through it that made it stand out from other books on living abroad.
Once you’ve decided on the angle, what should you submit to publishers? Always check the submission guidelines, but in most instances, a publisher will ask for a covering letter (don’t forget to mention the USP), a list of chapter headings with a mini-synopsis of each, some examples of competing books with a word about why yours is better/different/unique, the approximate word count and the first two or three chapters.
The following publishers accept email submissions, but it is advisable to phone first to check they are still open to new authors.
Sean from Casares has an identity problem. He asks: I want to enter a competition using a pen name, but how will I get paid if I win or get placed? Do I have to open a bank account in my pen name?
It isn’t necessary to open another bank account. When you enter a competition, or submit stories to a magazine, using a pen name you can request payment under your own name. If you are entering by email or post then state in the covering letter that you are using the pen name of A.N. Other, but that your real name is B.A. Writer. If entering through one of the online systems that don’t deal with pen names (some have a place to enter an alternative name) when you are notified about your win simply explain that you have entered under a pen name, but would like payment made out to your real name.
About the Author
Lorraine Mace is the author children’s novel Vlad the Inhaler, humour columnist for Writing Magazine and a competition judge for Writers’ Forum. She is a former tutor for the Writers Bureau, and now runs a private critique and mentoring service for writers. Writing as Frances di Plino, she is the author of the crime/thriller series featuring D.I. Paolo Storey: Bad Moon Rising, Someday Never Comes, Call It Pretending and Looking for a Reason