I don’t know about you, but I love podcasts. I don’t know when I discovered them …. a few years ago, I think. Now, I listen to them a lot. Usually when I’m travelling, or when I’m out running.

So, it was in a podcast, or perhaps even in a book that I first heard of the 10,000-hour rule. Some say Bill Gates coined the idea. I don’t know, and at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. So, what is the 10,000-hour rule, and why am I discussing it?

The reasoning behind it is that people who are great at what they do, are 9 times out of 10, not so naturally gifted. Yet, they are phenomenal athletes, businessmen, actors and actresses, musicians, and even authors. So, what gives? Well, they say that people who make it big and become the best at what they do, have all invested a ton of hours into crafting their skills, leading them to success. People like Bill Gates himself, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Vonn, The Beatles, …. the list is literally never-ending.

If you think these people had an easy run to success, you are most certainly wrong. All of them have had their ups and downs. I would bet anything that there were times when they thought they had made it, only to fail, or hit a brick wall. But they persisted. Their “failures” encouraged them to fight on, to get better, to hone their skills further. And that is my message to you. Of course, it is hard to hear the words “no.” Of course, it is hard to not get that contract abroad that you have been dreaming of. But, take it as a positive. Use it to leverage you to becoming a better writer.

Learn from the best. Take a class. Do a course. Read successful works from other authors. Learn why they succeed. Promise yourself to be the best writer you can possibly be. Only in this way will the doors to success open themselves to you all that little more. Oh, and last but not least …. believe in yourself.

Kurt Wilkesmann
Literary agent for foreign markets

It happens a lot …. well, not a whole lot, but often enough. “Kurt, what is it that publishers and publishing houses are really looking for?”, they ask.

This is a difficult one. Not easy to explain. Not easy to prove …. unless, of course, you come from the same neck of the woods I come from. And if you don’t, well, you’ll just have to trust me on what I have to say.

It’s a touchy subject. It puts some people’s noses out of joint. Understandably. I can’t blame them, but then again, I’m looking at things from an entirely different point of view. How could I not? I am a native, after all. This is my language.

What I’m talking about here is the difference between something that has been translated from one language to another. But the important thing to ask is how. Or, more precisely, by whom. You see, a car is not a car. A Dacia is not the same as a Mercedes. And, I’m sure it doesn’t pretend to be. But they are both cars. The same goes for translations. Some are good, and some are not so good. Some people, or should I say, too many people, base their decisions on price. I get it. I can understand their logic. But. But not when you look at what’s at stake here.

At the end of the day, when a book is submitted for perusal, it stands to reason that it should be presented in the best manner possible. To give it the best chances of success possible. With so much on the line (read: the potential for a generous book deal, sales and perhaps fame for the author on the international market), why would one jeopardize this by penny-pinching? That’s ridiculous, right? But it’s something I come across with more frequency than you might imagine. Really.

The litmus test is that the words have to flow. And, they have to flow …. TO A NATIVE. Full stop. If they don’t fulfil this criterion, then it may end up being a waste of time. Sadly.

I have a lot more to say about this. But not here, not now. The point of it all is that disruption to the flow because of poor word choice, poor grammar, ambiguity and the like do nothing more than create a feeling of something less than …. not perfection, but something less than that which should have been. And that, my dear readers, is something that leaves more than a bitter taste in your mouth.

Kurt Wilkesmann
Literary agent for foreign markets

Quite some time ago, before I had started writing these blogs, I came across an article on-line that summed up something I felt was relevant to all the authors I had met, and was still to meet.

The article, which appeared in The Guardian in October 2015, wrote about the winner of the Man Booker prize from that same year. Jamaican author, Marlon James, was so distraught with his lack of success in finding a publisher willing to get his book out there, that he actually considered giving up writing.

It turns out that his first novel, John Crow’s Devil, was rejected 78 times before it was picked up by a publisher. And just as well as it did, because his book, A Brief History of Seven Killings, was announced as the winner of a £50,000 prize and described by Man Booker judges as “an extraordinary book”.

Need I say it, but it is so necessary to be patient. It’s hard. It’s difficult. But, if the work is truly great, as I always say, it’s just a matter of time before it sees the light of day.

Kurt Wilkesmann

Literary agent for foreign markets

I have been living abroad, away from my home country, for long enough now to know how non-natives of English think about themselves in the world arena. Especially, when it comes to speaking, or writing. Somehow, there seems to be a feeling that they have to do it better, work harder, strive longer, etc. in order to match it with everyone else out there.

That may, or may not, be true. I’m not saying there’s bias out there, but I kind of believe, that at the end of the day, a good piece of work is eventually going to get exposure, is going to be seen, is going to be read, is going to get the recognition it deserves.

And it does happen. If that weren’t true, Haruki Murakami, Paulo Coelho and Stieg Larsson would not be household names.

And that’s where I come in. It’s all about recognising a great piece of work, and believing in it. Then, presenting it to the book publishing world. And that’s what I do, and love doing.

Kurt Wilkesmann
Literary agent for foreign markets

I think I first started reading his books during my mid teenage years. I devoured them. To say I loved them was an understatement. I just couldn’t get enough.

I think much to my mother’s relief, nothing out of the ordinary came of me with respect reading Stephen King books. She never did say anything, but I guess some of the covers must have made her worry. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of a period in my life where I read, and read, and read. Books were everything to me. I gobbled them up.

So, from the point of view of writing, and becoming a better writer, the best pieces of advice going around are the following:

1. Firstly, and I quote the great man himself: ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time – or the tools – to write. Simple as that.’ – Stephen King.

Read a lot. And then some. It’ll guide you as a writer, take you in directions and show you things you’d probably never have gone otherwise. Learn from the greats. Remember …. they became great for a reason.

2. Secondly, from the highly respected Neil Gaiman: ‘When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right.’

Put simply, pay heed to the comments that come your way. If you hear the same ones over and over again, you’ll know something’s not right.

Kurt Wilkesmann
Literary agent for foreign markets