When Gold Dust contacted me to say Sarah May had said yes (to mentoring me), I was over the moon.
That was in 2019 when my first book was at 60k and we worked through it in 10K tranches. After each one was sent Sarah would read and we would meet in London and she would feedback, I would then send the net 10K and so on. By January 2020 I had a complete manuscript (by this time 3rd/ 4th draft) ready to send and she also advised on my letter and synopsis. Over the year I sent to 40 agents and had 9 requests for full MS. Sarah held my virtual hand through this torturous process!
Rather than wait during the painful (and it is very, very painful!) submission process, I decided to start my next book. I knew there was still much more to learn from Sarah and so I approached her again through Gold Dust and luckily she agreed to work with me again. Together we have worked through three drafts and I am very happy to say that the book has already been picked up by an agent before I got to the official sending out bit!
There are lots of editing / advice / courses out there. Some will read a section of your work, others will consist of peer group feedback (this doesn’t work for me because I don’t like giving others feedback and frankly, when I’m writing I just don’t want time away from my own work and also, I have seen a lot of work written off because somebody just didn’t get it / like it….that means little if that person isn’t experienced in that genre and could mean the writer abandons something that’s good). I passionately believe that the very best service is one that reads and feedbacks your entire manuscript piece by piece and draft by draft (up to the allocated hours).
I saw this as the equivalent to studying creative writing for a degree or an MA in creative writing (if the goal is purely to be published). I would learn everything I need to know to write a publishable book, but more than that I would actually get it written and finished by the end of our partnership. I didn’t do a degree, so this was my investment in myself now, and it was more than worth it (and cheaper than a full-time degree / MA).
I love working with Sarah, writing is very lonely and having her (now on zoom) kind and constructive feedback was so welcome. Also having the strict deadlines meant I finished on time. If you do go down this route, give it everything you’ve got, do the work and listen. There is no point if you don’t think your mentor knows better (they most likely do), they will be helping you write a book that will sell, so if you want to follow your own rules it might be better not to put your money here. I will forever be thankful to Sarah for the advice that got me to where I am now, with an agent! and rewriting in order to send to publishers.
– Sally-Anne Bedford, now represented by Katie Fulford at Bell Lomax Moreton agency, mentored by Sarah May