Thursday, May 19, 2016

Self-edit course Hall of Fame

NB: this post has been updated regularly. 

Writing a novel is hard. Getting said novel published is even harder. Authors need to do everything they can to polish and perfect their story until it leaps off the page. Of course, you can pay for a professional critique, but it's also possible to learn how to edit your own novel.

That's where the 6-week online Self-Edit Your Novel course comes in. Emma Darwin and I designed the course for Jericho Writers (previously The Writers' Workshop) and wrote the tutorials together, though I now do all the detailed feedback, with Emma coming in at the end of the week with an invaluable round-up of the topic.

But does the course make a real difference, in practical ways? Can it increase your chances? Is there any way of proving that it does?

This should convince you: the self-edit course in numbers.

The first course was in April 2011, and it runs 4 times a year.

As at April 2016, we have had 19 courses and a total of 215 participants. (See updated figures below at the bottom of the post.)

I recently asked around on social networks to see how many of our alumni now have books 'out there'. Most of these come from our early courses, the authors having had the time to edit their drafts and go through the next steps towards being published. I'm sure there are many more in the pipeline and probably several I've missed.

So how does that figure compare to the industry average?

A top agent will receive about 2,000 submissions a year, of whom they will sign maybe 2 authors - a hit rate of 0.1%.

The hit rate for our alumni is 58 out of 215 = 26.97% = (approx) 1 in 4. (This figure refers to the first five years of the course. I will be editing the figures as new deals are announced.) Some of these have self-published but I know from the signed books on my shelf that they are as professionally presented, and as well-written, as the trade published novels they sit next to. In one particular course, back in March 2013, 6 out of 11 participants are now published, or about to be.

In case you don't believe me, here's our Self-Editing alumni Hall of Fame, with links to their Amazon pages, announcements by agents or publishers, or in The Bookseller and other sites in cases where the novels are forthcoming.

In no particular order, hearty congrats to:

Cathy Bramley (over a million copies sold)
Clare Flynn
Jody Klaire
Katherine Hetzel
G D Harper
Louise Walters
Susan Murray
Jules Ironside
Claire Evans
Sonja Price
Amanda Saint
Jackie Buxton
Claire Waller
Matt Willis
Mari Griffith
Chrissie Bradshaw
Sandra Davies
Kat Mountfort
Bernie Steadman
Isabel Rogers
Shauna Bickley
Sally Miller (writing as Sara Bailey)
Voula Grand
Aneeta Sundararaj
Susie Campbell
Barb Ettridge
E S Rollett
Sophie Cayeux
Laxmi Hariharan
Marjorie Lazoro
Sophie Wellstood
Vicky Newham 
Mandy Berriman
Maddie Please
Sophie Jonas-Hill 
Fiona Erskine
Britta Jensen
Ruth Heald 
Moushmi Biswas 
Alice Spigelman
Clare Wade 
F J Campbell
May Woodward
Angela King 
Philippa East

Christina Pishiris

Susan Allott

Nell Pattison

Karen Ginnane  

Sylvia Petter   

Eleni Kyriacou

Kirsten Hesketh  

Julie Cordiner (writing as Juliette Lawson)  

Sally Zigmond    

Maybelle Wallis 

Lorraine Wilson

Jane Shufflebotham (writing as Jane Jesmond) 

Hilary Taylor




A few of the novels published by our alumni

If you know of anyone I've missed, please shout in the comments and I'll add them to the list.

People who have attended more recent courses:

Steffanie Edward (winner of the first bursary, Jan 2019) 
Wiz Wharton (winner of bursary, Oct 2020) 
Elliot Sweeney (winner of bursary, Jan 2021) 
Aisha Hassan  (winner of bursary, Jan 2020) 
Marve Michael Anson  (winner of bursary, Jan 2023)

To see details of forthcoming courses, click HERE.
As at March 2024, we have 621 alumni. The above percentages refer to people who had taken the course in the first five years, at the time of the original post.  

There is one free place on each course for an author from an under-represented group. Please see here for details of how to apply for the bursary.  NB: In 2024, there are two additional bursary places.


Sandra Davies said...

Just remembered Susie Campbell - she has a chapbook entitled 'The Bitters'

Debi said...

Ah! I'll edit the post. Thanks!

Dr Purva Pius said...
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Maddie Please said...

Thankyou for the mention Debi. I would recommend the SE course to any aspiring writer. It does the trick.xx

Julian said...

Could you say the number of these people who did your course who have actually secured representation by a literary agent? It really isn't helpful to include self published authors and it misrepresents your success rate when comparing it with the tiny proportion who secure representation without doing your course. Lots of people self publish without doing your course so would need to be included in the other figure for the comparison to be fair. I am thinking of doing your course so this is important info for me.

Debi said...

Hi Julian. Thanks for the comment. You've raised a fair point. It's true that years ago, self-publishing was synonymous with shoddy and amateur-ish but that's no longer the case. In fact, many authors decide from the outset that they intend to self-publish and they approach this with the same professionalism that applies to trade publishing, ensuring their novels are properly edited and polished to the same standard as any other novels 'out there'.

Nevertheless, it's true that there are no gatekeepers as such with self-publishing. But that's also true for some small, indie publishers who accept all submissions, as well as those who share costs with their authors, providing a sort of bridge between trade and self-publishing. It's all a lot more complicated than it used to be, when there were just a few massive publishing houses, accessible only through agents.

However, the only self-published people I included in my list are the ones where I know that their novels have been written, edited and presented to the same standard as trade published novels. That's the reason I provided links to each of them: most to Amazon, some to agents' or publishers' websites or to articles eg in The Bookseller.

I hope that's answered your question but do please feel free to comment further. The feedback from our alumni has been overwhelmingly positive. We'd love to have you join us on the course.

SGM Ashcroft said...

You reasonably point out that a number of your alumni had no intention of doing anything other than self-publishing, yet surely there are many whose sole aim is / was to find an agent.

I would be interested to know how many alumni who have sought agency representation have succeeded in this.

Debi said...

Thanks for the comment, Sean. That's why I provided the links to each of them so that people can check the publisher. At a quick glance, I can confirm that the majority are trade published. In fact, I've only just heard today of another of our alumni who has just been offered a 3-book deal. I'll be adding their name to the list once all has been confirmed.

SGM Ashcroft said...

Great. Thanks for the clarification, Debbi. Very impressive.

Debi said...

You're very welcome. We're hugely proud of our alumni.

Dr olivia Alexander said...
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goldie77 said...

I was thinking of doing the course but was put off by the fact that you didn't actually answer the questions asked on here about how many alumni got an agent. I have already self-published to a high standard and am only interested in moving towards a publishing deal for my new book.
I don't have time to check every link...I checked the first few and most are self-published. I think you'll find that most people appreciate a factual answer.
Debbie Richardson

Debi said...

I hear you, Goldie, but I hope you understand I simply don't have enough time to go through and divide the list into trade and self-published authors. At a quick glance, I can tell you that some big hitters are on there, including Mandy Berriman (agented by Jo Unwin - paperback of Home launched last week), Maddie Please (agented by Annette Green - I believe she's on her 4th published novel),Vicky Newham (agented by Adam Gauntlett at PFD, 2nd novel coming soon), Cathy Bramley (agented by Hannah Ferguson, 10 novels published, exceeding a million sales!), Fiona Erskine (agented by Juliet Mushens, novel coming shortly), Clare Wade (winner of Good Housekeeping novel comp which includes publishing deal with Orion), Philippa East (agented by Sarah Hornsley, novel out in 2020). There are many more but those are the ones from off the top of my head.

I also know about two more people with major deals and I'm just awaiting the official announcement before adding them to the list. Hope that's reassured you! I'm not trying to hide anything, which is why I provide the links.

NigelS said...

So, Hello Debi. Thank you for your great help at last years writers workshop in Regents Park. A quick question. There is only one identifiable man on your list of successful writers. Is this just because women are: in the vast majority of those attempting to write a novel; generally better at it (i.e. stick with the task longer, or have a better approach to writing); more the focus of this course? No pejorative judgements intended or made at all, in case anyone was tempted to think there were, but is there something we men folk should be aware of particularly on this course, that most are just not getting.? I should also ask whether the huge majority of your course attendees are women. That would account for it too.



Debi said...

Interesting question, Nigel. Believe it or not, I hadn't realised there are only two men (one uses initials, so is not obviously male)on the list until you pointed it out. I suspect the reasons are complex. It's true that there are always more women than men at lit events. Interestingly, we've noticed that events marketed as masterclasses attract more men than those pitched as workshops. Make of that what you will.

As far as the course is concerned, there have always been more women than men. There was one that I can remember which had only one man, but usually there are 3 or 4. I really don't know why that same proportion is not reflected in the number that have gone onto be published. Your guess is as good as mine.

Hope that's helped to clarify - though I wish I could be more sure about the reasons.

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