I’ve been meaning to get around to writing a blog post for a while, but a few things have been keeping me busy; mainly, finishing the final edits on my debut novel, The Girls in the Water, and getting on with writing the second book in the series. It has been an eventful six months, filled with lovely and unimaginable things that I could only have dreamed of and hoped (but never quite believed) might one day become a reality. After the initial bubble of excitement and disbelief, it was time to get down to more work!
In March last year I was lucky enough to sign with literary agent Anne Williams. It was an exciting time, one that felt like confirmation of approval, like having someone say, ‘don’t worry…the past ten years of writes and rewrites, submissions and rejections haven’t been for nothing’. Then came the worry. Now I had someone I needed to impress. What if no deal with a publisher was to follow? What if my agent decided to drop me, and I found myself back where I’d started?
During the previous few years of submissions to agents – and the countless rejection letters and emails that followed – I read plenty of blog posts and articles about how other writers secured their book deals. There are two kinds of ‘book deal moment’ stories I enjoy the most: firstly, those where a writer has tried for years and years, knocking at doors that seemed to be well and truly bolted shut until finally finding the person with the key; secondly, the stories where a writer signs with an agent on Monday and lands a book deal by Friday. When the two versions meet in the same story, these are especially brilliant.
The second of these two didn’t happen for me, and finding a publisher took another ten months, as well as a new book. If at first, etc, etc… Needless to say, it was more than worth the wait. In January this year, I got a call from my agent – one of the most exciting phone calls I’ve ever had. Bookouture had made an offer of a three book deal. Still in shock, I ended the call with my agent and went downstairs to tell my husband the news. The conversation went something like this:
Me: I’ve been offered a deal.
Him: No way?
Me: Three books.
(I think at this point, there might have been a few tears – me, not the husband).
Him: Shut up…
Then we had a cup of tea and sat grinning silently for a little while before we both went off to work.
Next came the trip to London, to meet with my agent and my editor, both for the first time and both on the same day. I couldn’t eat my breakfast at the hotel, which happens to me never. I sat on the tube feeling sick with nerves until my husband pointed out that the woman sitting opposite us was reading an erotica novel, and he questioned whether that was appropriate during rush hour. It helped ease my anxiety for a while, though the respite was short-lived. We went to Covent Garden, where it rained relentlessly and trying to prevent my hair looking as though I’d spent the past hour in a steam room proved completely pointless. Then I headed to King’s Cross to meet with Anne.
Plenty of people regularly remind me that worry is generally a waste of time and energy, and on this occasion (as on most occasions) they were all correct. Both Anne and my editor, Jenny, were lovely, and there was a lot of non-book related talk as well as discussion about the deal. I rambled. A lot. Later, I wondered whether I’d managed to talk myself out of the deal, but when Bookouture’s announcement went out two months later, this was reassuring confirmation that I hadn’t managed to scare everybody off.
Two weeks ago, I finished the final edits of The Girls in the Water, ten months after starting it. I have seen the book cover, and couldn’t be happier with what Bookouture and their designer have created. It will be out on pre-order soon and I can’t wait to see what people think of it (while hoping, obviously, that it will meet with approval). It feels like sending a small child out into the world for the first time and hoping she’ll try her best, make some nice friends, and avoid the path of bullies.
For anyone else who writes, stick with it – you are THIS close. Amazing things can happen, often when you’re least expecting them. Those moments make all the hard work worthwhile.