Much of the Twitter chat focused on the power of ‘voice’. In every submission he sees, he’s looking for voice, story and characters that make him think ‘Wow’. And, it’s getting harder for writers as the standard of his submission pile, which he reads entirely himself, is getting higher. “As ever,” he said, “it’s a THRILL to see a wonderful new writer.”
Developing a voice, John said, was part of the learning experience of becoming a writer. Judging whether those voices worked was subjective. There were plenty of voices that he didn’t personally like, but that other agents or publishers did. Great voices came across from the very first page.
But how does a writer hone their ‘voice’? “Read, Read, Read, Write, Write, Write.” He suggested that it is vital that writers look at the books they read as more than just a story - it’s important to be aware of the book’s voice as well.
Submissions that go immediate to the ‘no’ pile are those badly written, or come with an “arrogant or stupid” covering letter. But for clients who he does take on, he’ll often take them through 1 to 4 edits of the book before submitting the work to publishers. He won’t send work out unless it feels highly polished.
Once again we’d like to extend our thanks to John Jarrold - please follow him (and us!) on Twitter - and to all the tweeters who took part in the discussions. The chat was moderated by Benjamin Scott. We hope you can join us for our next #AskSwanwick session. We hope our Twitter chats offer a sweet morsel of the tasty goodies in store for us in August!
About John Jarrold
John Jarrold has worked in book publishing since January 1988 following fifteen years working in public libraries – so books have ruled his professional life for forty years. As an editor and editorial director specialising in SF and Fantasy with Orbit at Macdonald Futura (the forerunner to Little Brown UK), Random House and Simon & Schuster between 1988 and 2002, he published bestselling novelists including Iain Banks, Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, David Gemmell, Arthur C Clarke and Michael Moorcock.
Since 2004 he has run the John Jarrold Literary Agency which specialises entirely in SF, Fantasy and Horror. He has around forty clients – and has turned down over 9,000 submissions. The agency has had over 50 books released by major publishers in the UK and US in 2013 alone, with many others in translation across the world. It has also clinched multi-book deals for over 20 debut novelists. Four of his clients won major awards in 2013, including the Arthur C Clarke Award and the British SF Association Award for Short Fiction.