Author Danuta Kean

Danuta Kean is Books Editor of Mslexia and a respected publishing expert and journalist. Her work appears regularly in national newspapers, including the Financial Times and Independent on Sunday. She is a regular speaker at festivals, interviewing authors and revealing the inner workings of a trade that seems opaque to many writers. When not writing she is invariably found at the back of gigs in small venues or looking guilty as she walks past her gym. Follow her on Twitter at @Danoosha.

Around the Web
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What do agents really want? A unique voice, storytelling ability, likeable characters and believable dialogue, says Danuta Kean.

Yesterday I taught my first Guardian Masterclass of the year on how to pitch your book. A question students always ask is: what exactly do agents want? It is easier to answer than you might think. Of course everyone in publishing would say ‘voice’, by which they mean the character and personality of the writing. Agents want a voice that is unique, fresh and engaging. If you remain unclear what that means, the best way to understand is to read, read and read contemporary books.

Interviews Val McDermid - c Alan Peebles
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Weddings can be murder for Val McDermid. As can radio shows, conversations, walks on beaches and even book reviews. For these are among the unlikely inspirations for the crime writer’s 25 bestsellers, including recent UK number one The Retribution (Sphere, 2012).

Careers
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Temps. Remember them? They used to be the people who came in to cover the donkey work jobs no one wanted or no one had time to do. They also used to be the route into publishing for the vast majority – especially women. Not any more. Now budding publishers are expected to work free in long unpaid internships.

Case Studies
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Writers’ block: two words that strike fear into every writer. But for the past 11 years every November a website has come to the rescue. National Novel Writing Month was founded in 1999 by US-based freelance Chris Baty and 20 other writers. Aimed simply at getting words on the page, it sets participants a target of 50,000 words written by the end of the month, and provides forums and exercises aimed at overcoming writer’s block. It has an impressive success rate: of the 165,000 participants in 2009, over 30,000 crossed the 50,000 word line at the end of November.

One of those who participated in 2008 was creative writing graduate Julia Crouch, who had hit a wall. It helped more than she expected: before Christmas the books that came out of NaNoWriMo won her a three book deal with Headline. Her début, the psychological thriller Cuckoo, is published in March. Here she explains how NaNoWriMo helped.

Interviews
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Want to be a bestselling novelist? In the first of our features on writing, Barbara Taylor Bradford tells Danuta Kean what it takes.
Barbara Taylor Bradford is a tonic: a tonic for writers jaded by capricious publishers whose loyalty to authors’ careers is barely longer than a supermarket promotion. She is also a lesson to all that hard work is as essential to a long career as a passion about writing. At 77 there is no slacking off for BTB. Thirty-one years after her blockbuster début A Woman of Substance appeared, she has just published her 26th novel, Playing the Game, backed by a publicity schedule that would daunt far younger writers.

Digital
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If the music industry is anything to go by, it is not the J K Rowlings, Stephanie Meyers or Dan Browns who will suffer if peer2peer file sharing becomes rampant in books, it is the already beleaguered midlist authors, whose work already struggle to find a place in a market dominated by multi-million pound global hitters and celebrities.