Allie Spencer’s Route to Publishing Via Winchester Writers’ Festival

allie-spencer[1]I always wanted to be a writer and, whether it was university essays, short stories or legal pleadings (I’m a lawyer by trade) I have always put pen to paper in one form or another. The idea of writing a novel, though, was rather daunting. As someone who read a lot of novels, it was probably inevitable that sooner or later I would have a go but…well…they’re quite big, aren’t they? And don’t they take a long time to write? Then, after a bit of research, I discovered that all people initially want to see of your novel are three chapters and a synopsis – and that instantly seemed a lot more manageable. So, with an idea in mind and a rough synopsis beside me, I booted up the laptop, opened a new Word document and typed ‘Chapter One’ at the top of the page.

Writing the novel was easier than I’d imagined. The flaw was that once I’d finished it, no-one seemed to like it. In fact, after the blood and – literal – tears sweated over it, the poor thing was roundly rejected by every single agent in the country. One publisher did ask to see the full manuscript but, after due and weighty consideration, they rejected it too. However, I’d been well and truly bitten by the bug and I duly began Book Two. Around this time, I heard about an event in Winchester called a ‘Writers’ Conference’ (now the Festival of Writing). Here, I was told, you could not only attend classes and workshops but you had the opportunity of pitching your work directly to agents and publishers. I signed up for a Saturday session and the most extraordinary things began to happen. I saw an agent and an editor who were both very enthusiastic about Book Two. Crucially, this gave me the confidence I needed to press on, get it finished and begin the submission process all over again. This time, the outcome was completely different: twelve months later, I had secured an agent and, the year after that, I had a two book deal. tug-of-love-150x243 ‘Tug of Love’ – formerly known as Book Two – went on to win the Romantic Novelists’ Association award for the best debut and was shortlisted for the prestigious Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance.

The Winchester Writers’ Festival, though, is about more than publishing deals. Being an author is a lonely life and it is all too easy to let doubts creep in about your work or for you to feel isolated and unsupported in what is a highly competitive industry. Coming to Winchester allows you to be part of a writing family; a family where people want the best for you and will do what they can to help you succeed. Each Festival I have attended – whether as a delegate or, later, as a tutor – allowed me to come away recharged and enthusiastic. It is about meeting kindred spirits, finding your tribe and, most importantly, it is one of the best ways I can imagine to get your writing journey off to a flying start.




8 thoughts on “Allie Spencer’s Route to Publishing Via Winchester Writers’ Festival

  1. Hi Allie I’m afraid I missed the Writers Festival this year but am in dire need of advice re: getting started on finding a publisher or agent. I have, to date, published my own work, successfully selling to teachers throughout the UK and around the world; but I want to extend my selling position to a bigger market (at the moment its just through my own and various other websites). Can you tell me who I might contact to get started? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Kind regards Sue Russell


      • Hi Thank you so much for your swift response. I remember sifting through Writers and Artists Yearbook when I first started out – unfortunately I didn’t get anywhere at that time which made me stick with self-publishing. Is it true that the average writer gets around £5,000 a year? I know publishers take a massive cut which is another reason I’ve steered clear of them. It would be good to speak to some other writers and find out their experiences. Thank you again for your help.


  2. Hi Sue

    Try The Agent Hunter on-line as well. One of our speakers used them.
    The other thing is to find an author similar to you and Google them. If they have their own website it will often tell who their agent is.
    Or just pick an agency and on their website you’ll find a list of the authors they represent.
    It does take a while and some sifting through but the advice we have been given is research your agents well.


  3. Great suggestions – thank you so much. I’ve avoided using a ‘middle man’ to date but I recognize I may be limiting my selling potential. Do you have a forum of writers? I could do with speaking to as many as I can – the world of publishing is not one I am familiar with!


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