Last time I promised I would explain more about Francis and so I will (although a little later than I’d planned because of a very pleasant summer holiday in France).

Having finished my book and received some truly excellent advice on how to approach publishers from the course I took with Kevin Hogan, I still found myself with something of a problem

The publishing world is large.  It’s more than large.  It’s massive.  And it’s not just a matter of there being companies that publish books, there are also literary agents to consider.

Do I need a literary agent?  Good question (and one I’ll answer further next time). 

I have discovered that many publishers won’t accept an unsolicited manuscript.  This, it seems, is their way of telling you not to bother.  They presumably work on the basis that if your book was any good then a literary agent would want to represent you and they prefer to deal with them. 

This is understandable, I suppose. With all the books that are published representing just a tiny fraction of those that are written, publishers need to find some way of stemming the tide of manuscripts dropping through their letter boxes.

On the subject of the number of books written I discovered something that surprised me.  Apparently – and I should point out this is from Wikipedia so, you know… – the United Kingdom tops the list for the most numbers of books publisher (over 200,000 in 2005).   The US is in second or third… China were ahead in 1996 but no statistics have been produced more recently.

Even though the population is only one fifth of America’s the UK publish more books!  So if you’re an aspiring writer in the US perhaps you should consider moving to the UK to improve your chances.

Of course, this also means that I’m living in the country that, when population is taken into consideration, gives me the best chance of getting published, which is good news.  But if I fail it will have been at the lowest hurdle (gulp)!

Be grateful you’re not trying to become a writer in Oman.  Admittedly they only have a population of three million people, but according to the Wikipedia article (which sites UNESCO as its source) they managed to publish just seven books in 1996.  Blimey!

All of which brings me, in a round about kind of a way, to Francis.

You see as I sat there with my manuscript, an envelope and a handful of stamps I didn’t have the foggiest idea where to start.  Who should I send my book to first?  A publisher or an agent?  Which publisher or agent?  Should I carpet bomb the publishing world with my book?

In a moment of what I’m immodestly prepared to acknowledge was complete genius I decided I would ask people I know if they knew anyone who could help point me in the right direction.

A couple of potentially promising leads eventually led nowhere but then my mother-in-law, who it has to be said seems to know someone in every walk of life, mentioned an acquaintance of hers called Francis.  He was, she told me, a writer and thoroughly nice man, and provided me with his phone number.

She was wrong about him.  Not the ‘thoroughly nice man part’ that was, if anything, an understatement, but about the writer part. 

Francis isn’t just a writer.

He is a publisher author, who used to own a publishing firm, and who was managing director of a company that developed the book reference system that is used throughout the publishing world to provide details on available books.  He is also a respected industry figure who chairs literary panels and advises university writing courses.  I’ve probably not covered everything that he is or has been involved in of a literary nature, but you get the idea.

And when I called Francis and explained about my book and what I wanted to do he said he would be delighted to help me.

Things are looking up.

Philip Graves


  1. Anthony Lemme

    Hi Phil,
    That is fantastic! I look forward to seeing how all of this unfolds. Self-publishing also sounds good if you know what you are doing and have the means to make it happen. I’m sure each has its advantages and disadvanteges.


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