Why trust me?
Before believing any advice, we should always consider the credentials of the giver. There’s no exam or formal qualification for being able to advise writers so you need to be careful. But my advice doesn’t come just from my own experience of having around ninety books published in various genres with mainstream publishers. It also comes from contact with countless authors, agents and publishers, from my work as Chair of the Society of Authors in Scotland, my membership of various groups or organisations, from my own work as a literary consultant and because agents often send me examples of submissions. I have spent years seeing the mistakes that writers make (and that I made) and I learn from agents and publishers themselves why they say no. They kept telling me I should write a book. So I did.
I spent 21 years struggling to become a novelist but, in the years since my first non-fiction book was published in 1996 and my first novel in 2002, I have had around ninety books published by mainstream publishers: a mixture of novels, non-fiction and educational books. Before that I was an English teacher, later specialising in literacy difficulties. My degree is in Classics and Philosophy, from Cambridge University. I have done hundreds of talks and written hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, with hundreds of thousands of words online. I was Chair of the Society of Authors in Scotland and am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. My regular communication with very many agents, publishers, and authors provides other opinions and experience to enrich my own.
One thing you can be sure of: I’m honest. I won’t tell you something just because you want to hear it. That, and many years of experience, count for something, I believe.