Behind the Scenes: Part 1 of 3

Easter is here and with it a new feature at The View From Here. I'm adding a Behind The Scenes series, the first of which is with the site is a free website to help new writers develop, and to help talented writers get noticed and published. So let's kick back the virtual doors and see what lies behind the pages ....

Open up!

And Hi to Edward Smith from the team, thanks for giving us a backstage tour.

This looks like the
the Simple Guide to getting started we're in front off, how long has being going for Edward and who originally started it? began in late 2005. It was started by me, along with authors Martyn Bedford and Phil Whitaker who devised the ratings system, and the site was designed by Zarr.

How did you go about approaching literary agents and publishers? And how were you received?

Initially it was similar to a writer submitting a manuscript to a busy literary agent. The feedback was limited, I'm sure because the immediate reaction was that they couldn't publish a website! Agents are very busy, and, quite rightly perhaps for an unknown, the initial replies ranged from a scribbled 'Sounds like a good idea' on our letter, to a downward scribble of 'I can't see how this would work.' But then JK Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers, so, as with writing, it was all about perseverance and believing in what you have to say.

Our big break, from literary agents, was when Joanna Devereux from Pollinger agreed early on to be involved and provide critiques for highly rated writers. This really appealed to YouWriteOn's budding writers. It's so difficult to get feedback from inundated publishing professionals these days.

After we became established, The Christopher Little Literary Agency, JK Rowling's Agent, and the head of Curtis Brown replied to us with interest in getting involved on the same day that we contacted them. I think it's the same with writing, you have to make things happen for yourself, and it can be a hard slog. Then once you achieve success, as with most things, people start to come to you instead of the other way round. For example, we've had top agencies like Bonomi Associates and the Annette Green Literary Agency contact us in the last two months and they consider highly rated stories on site.

Behind us now is the Top 10 chart. It's like Top of the Pops! Edward what has been one of your greatest success stories?

A story called Caligula by Doug Jackson, which received a 6 figure book deal from Transworld. Doug's success encapsulated how we envisaged's processes working at their best. His opening chapters of his story (then entitled The Emperor's Elephant) were voted to the top of the YouWriteOn Charts by fellow members, and,as a Top 5 member, he received a free YouWriteOn professional critique from Orion senior editor Sara O'Keeffe. Sara advised Doug on development of his story using her indepth knowledge of the story genre of action-adventure and historical fiction, which involved advising Doug to take the story in a completely different direction. This was a hard challenge, but Doug developed his story using Sara's advice and his other feedback. The result was his six figure book deal.

And here is the Best Sellers Chart by Book Genre. Do you find certain genres fair better than others Edward?

We've found on the whole that a great story and appeal will rise above genre preferences. All genres, including ones that may not be perceived as the most popular, have seen success on YouWriteOn. We often see reviews that rave about highly rated stories beginning 'I don't normally read this genre but .."

This looks like the Staff room, how do you foster a sense of team as a virtual company?

By keeping in touch, attempting unsuccessfully to be charming, but mainly forwarding payments on time!

Who are on the staff ?

Me, our literary professionals (see YouWriteOn About Us page) and the Zarr team who design and add features to the site. Not forgetting Assignment Robot, who runs the review exchange system, and his companion, Help Dog. We try not to mention the latter two too much, as Assignment Robot is actually a recycled toaster. We are very adaptable about who and what we will consider for staff in this high-tech world, ideally, though, we prefer staff whose vocabulary extends beyond barking.

Get off Help Dog! Listen come back next week after I find the first aid kit and follow me deeper into the site as I ask Edward about what happens when authors throw spanners into the works and asks him how he would respond to criticism that writers of true talent should not need to enter a voting contest. Get off me, down, I said down!

If you want to join click here.

Have a great Easter!

For part 2 click here.

For a printed edition of this interview go here.


Paul Burman said...

What a great addition to The View From Here, Mike, and a wonderfully insightful behind-the-scenes look at I found this particularly interesting because I'm certainly one of those people who would have shunned this type of site as an approach to getting published, but have reviewed my prejudice completely as a result of this piece and will certainly recommend it to others now. Mission accomplished ... and that's after Part One!

Swubird said...


Very interesting post. I checked out the site. It is also very interesting. I guess it's mostly for book writers who are looking for a way to break into publishing. That's tough. But thank goodness there are sites like the one your posting about.

Glad I stopped by.

Stella said...

Interesting post, Mike! I had no idea sites like YouWriteOn existed. A big thank you for reducing my ignorance!

Happy Easter :)

Mike French said...

Paul: Great that I changed your viewpoint. I Think sites like provide a lifeline to struggling authors trying to get meaningful feedback and struggling to get that big break.

Swubird: Thanks for dropping by. You're right,it certainly is tough to break into publishing!

Stella: Happy Easter! Glad to have informed, don't eat to much chocolate!

GO! Smell the flowers said...

This was a new one for us flowers Mike -didn't know it existed and it's a great way to carve out a niche - as we battle on through slush piles maybe we should let more of GO! Smell the flowers out there?

Ta for sharing...

Mike French said...

Go! Smell the Flowers:

Glad to inform! The trick is not to get in the slush pile in the first place.

Sandra said...

What an excellent resource. Thank You!

Mike French said...

No problem Sandra - glad you found it helpful.