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A Review of Jericho Writers

Membership - Yay or Nay?

Writing is a creative outlet. It’s a creative process, and there isn’t a right or wrong way for it to happen. Plenty of people just want to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboards for the simple joy. Writing is a passion and every writer out there shares it. Even when it feels like all you’re doing is moving a comma from one part of a sentence to another – sometimes that is what we’re doing – there’s love and desire behind it. I would never discourage anyone from turning ideas into words, or art of any kind, and everyone should explore this side of themselves.

Becoming a published author is a little different, especially if you’re going down the traditionally published route. You may have to jump through a few hoops, but only you can decide if that’s something you’re prepared to do. We all know how little most writers earn and how few manage to do it full-time (and still eat). It’s an insanely competitive market out there and getting a foot in the door is tough. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent a lot of time reading articles and blogs, scouring forums, participating in writing groups, attending courses and conferences, and chatting with those in the same boat. All of us want the same thing – to get our stories out into the world. And if a living came alongside, well, that’d be just lovely.

But how does one accomplish such a feat? I’ll happily admit I’m hardly an authority on the matter and I’ve got plenty left to learn, but I’ve invested a lot of hours in research. On top of that, I’ve spent quite a bit of money; courses, books, conferences, websites and so on. The question is, which ones are worth it? This brings me to the point of today’s blog post (about time – yes, I hear you). You may remember my September post about the Festival of Writing. Jericho Writers are the organisers, and, last week, I received an email from them, asking for people interested in giving them a review in return for a year’s free membership. I duly sent my details and was selected to participate. I’ve rooted around their website and checked out the variety of different resources they offer, both free and for members.

So, what does being a member get you? First, it gets you access to the Masterclasses – these are generally replays of event talks. Having been to FoW myself, I can tell you a few of them are very good and worth watching. In particular, How to Write Characters with CM Taylor and Elevator Pitch. On top of this are the Video Courses, of which there are three; How to Write, Getting Published and Self-Publishing. I’ve only had a quick glance through, but they seem comprehensive and detailed, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s worth pointing out the first video course is available if you sign up with your email address – no membership required. An Indie Marketing Masterclass and Agent Submission Builder are also free in return for your digits.

One of Jericho Writers’ big selling points is ‘Agent Hunter’, a matching programme designed to pair up writers with appropriate agents. In theory, I love this idea and part of me wishes I’d had access to this before I put in all the legwork – scouring the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, doubling checking on websites, stalking writers I love to find out their agents (sssshhhh). Unfortunately, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and, from the looks of the community forum, it seems a lot of others aren’t happy either. Agent Hunter has search parameters; genre, location, etc, but the programme is glitchy and sometimes inaccurate. My simple search (fantasy and UK) brought up 94 options, many of which I happen to know aren’t looking for fantasy at all. Flicking between the list and the detailed information on each agent is an exercise in frustration, since it returns to the top of the first page every time. When you have 94 names to go through, it’s not a quick process. I would say their comments on dodgy or unreliable agents is a nice feature, but you don’t need to be a member for that snippet.

The Conversations feature is really interesting, and I’m intrigued to see how this works. It’s an exclusive part of the site where members can pitch their work to literary agents, ask questions and get feedback. There’s an event coming up on December 10 with Marjacq Scripts, so I’ll comment further once I’ve tuned in. Replays of previous events are available, which I imagine will answer a few burning questions and offer some useful tips.

Another benefit is the Cinema section, where you can watch interviews with agents, authors and publishers. We all want advice and industry experts are definitely a source you want to take advantage of. Any time I’ve sat in a lecture hall or watched a video, I’ve taken away something. It might be a different perspective on tackling a problem, a technique to use in your WIP, or perhaps something more profound, but it never hurts to listen to those who’ve gone before. That’s not to say you couldn’t find all this elsewhere, but it is nice to have it all in one place. I’m often short on time and you probably are too, so condensing your research is important.

The Townhouse is the members forum, a place where you can post your WIP for feedback, get critiques, get updates from Jericho and generally chat. They come across like a friendly, committed bunch in the Townhouse and I’m looking forward to getting to know them. However, there doesn’t appear to be large numbers of active participants, certainly not more than you’d get on a Facebook group. I’m a member of a few, and I’ve found them to be an invaluable source of knowledge and support. I’ll take this opportunity to give a shout out to the wonderful folks at The Fiction Cafe and Book Connectors – you guys rock! I don’t doubt you’ll get encouragement and help in the Townhouse, but I don’t know if it’s worth the membership fee.

Ask Jericho is an advice feature where you can submit a question to the experts at JW. The type of advice they offer seems to come under two broad headings. One is their advisory service, and this is the blurb. Having problems making progress with your novel? Got one knock-back too many from agents? Or are you self-publishing, but want to make the next step in terms of sales? Clicking the link takes you to a form asking about your WIP, publication method, and there’s a section where you can upload documents. I’m not entirely sure what sort of support they’ll offer, but feedback is necessary (sometimes evil), and not to be sniffed at. The other section is a free query letter review service. If you haven’t used an editor to help you draft one, are submitting for the first time, or have been rejected, then this service could be invaluable. Of course, it’s worth remembering one person’s opinion isn’t gospel. Having been on the receiving end of two completely polarised viewpoints, I know this only too well. Still, JW are made of experts and I’d use this service. My reservations come from not knowing who in the team would be reading and responding.

What else is there? Well, my feeling is there’s a lot of upselling on the site. I don’t doubt the team are keen to get you published, whether self or traditional; there’s benefit to them and you if and when it happens. All writers need editors, and like any writing resource site, JW offer an editorial service. Your membership gets you a 10% discount and I was quoted £629 (discount applied) for my 122k word novel. It was described as ‘in-depth constructive editorial report’ with the opportunity to ask follow-up questions. I don’t quite know if this is the same as working with your own developmental editor, but the price seems more than competitive. My concern in this area comes from the lack of information on their editors. First, their accolades don’t really focus on their editing skills, other than to say they’ve been doing it for however many years. Some are writers, successful ones I might add, but it doesn’t necessarily equate they know how to edit. It’s a different skill – I know from painful personal experience. You also don’t have the option to choose which editor you work with, and this is crucial for me. Do they know the fantasy genre? Are they experienced with omniscient narration? There is an option to ask questions, but this section of the site could really do with more detail.

Jericho also offers paid courses, which your membership again gets you a 10% discount on. I’d say that’s just as well, because they’re not cheap, ranging from £245 for the Beginners and Children’s Picture Book courses to £1,250 for the 1-2-1 Complete Novel Writing Course. Having not taken these courses, I can’t comment on their value for money or efficacy. There are some very positive testimonials scrolling underneath the advert, but who puts up lukewarm ones? Bar the Complete Novel, all courses are run as groups, with a maximum of 12 people in each and lasting approximately 6 weeks. Example: Self-Editing Your Novel costs £595 (£535 with discount). According to the blurb, nearly 1/6th of alumni get published (self or traditional, it doesn’t say), which is quite the figure. However, it still seems expensive to me. A 20-week course at university (with actual humans in a room), 3 hours per week, costs £440. I appreciate not everyone can do this, but I know what my preference would be.

It’s also worth noting, JW runs a few events throughout the year. As you’d expect, your membership guarantees a discount to these as well. You can read my review on the Festival of Writing for a breakdown. Since I haven’t been to any other events, I’ll leave this one here.

The last section to discuss is the Library. In here you’ll find a multitude of ‘how to’ guides on all different aspects of writing and publishing, from getting started to tips on character development, plotting, POV, showing and telling, etc. I liked this section a lot. It’s broken down into sensible chunks and is laid out in an easy to follow way. The best bit? You don’t need to be a member to use it.

Considering everything I’ve discovered, I’m now at the point where I need to decide whether I think the £195 yearly membership fee is worth the money. The answer is, it depends. If you’re a new writer who wants to meet people and find everything in one place, then I think it’s probably a good investment. For those of us who’ve been around a while or don’t mind putting in a little graft, I would say not. Personally, I like searching the internet, at least most of the time. I find people and perspectives I wouldn’t have accessed otherwise, and I’ve made some lovely writer friends on Twitter and Facebook simply by joining in. I’m not questioning how good some of the materials are – I’ve sung their praises already – but budgets are tight in the world of writing and we all have to choose where to spend our pennies. There’s good and bad and room for improvement, which I think they’re aware of. If they weren’t, I doubt they’d be asking for feedback and offering membership for reviews. That alone is positive.

It sounds like I’m sitting on the fence a little, and I am. My final recommendation? Try it for a month and see what you think. There’s no pressure to stay and you can cancel or upgrade at any time. It might be worthwhile for JW to offer a 10-day free trial or money back guarantee, but they don’t have that option at present. Click on the link https://members.jerichowriters.com/ to see for yourself.

If you’ve used Jericho Writers, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you try them out on the basis of this blog, I want to hear about that too. Please comment below, email me, or catch me on Facebook or Twitter.

2 Comments

  1. Kristina Egleton says:

    Very interesting review. I prefer this sort of review to the ones you get on a site. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Kristina. I’m the same as you – always prefer to read an independent review. I hope you found it useful.

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