I got a book deal. It still feels a bit surreal but I’m slowly getting my head around the idea that the characters that I’ve been carrying around my head for so long are finally going to go out into the big wide world.
I wrote about the long gestation of this novel in a previous post. (Click here if you’re interested.) But now I’d like to write about how the deal actually came about as I always love reading about other authors’ road to publication.
My first big break was sending my opening to Simon and Schuster’s Books and the City ‘One Day’ open submission call. They don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts except on this one day where they ask for the first chapter, a synopsis and a short bio. I was still a few months from finishing my book, but I took a chance and sent it off and was amazed when a few weeks later I had a request for the full manuscript from Sara-Jade Virtue and Emma Capron.
With trembling fingers I emailed back to say my book wasn’t yet ready, fully expecting to be told I’d blown my chance. However, they replied telling me to take my time and to send in it when it was ready.
It was all the spur I needed to buckle down and get the book finished.
I always knew that I wanted to get an agent so as I was polishing my manuscript I also focused on researching agents to find the right one for me.
I came up with an initial list of eight suitable agents. They were my A-list and even though I hadn’t actually finished my book, I nervously sent out the first three chapters and one-page synopsis.
Within a month, I had three requests for the full manuscript. I was overjoyed! Having previously queried agents I knew how rare it was to get even one call-in, so to get three out of eight was thrilling! By now I’d finished my book, and even though I wanted to keep fiddling with it, I sent it out.
Sadly, although one agent requested a meeting, all three eventually turned down the book. It was January now and a gentle reminder from Emma Capron pinged into my inbox. Too scared to keep her hanging any longer, I crossed my fingers and emailed it to her.
Then, even though I hadn’t yet heard back from all eight original agents, (three had yet to reply) I rolled up my sleeves and sent out the opening to about fifteen more. It might sound like a lot, but now that a real life editor was reading the book, I knew that should Emma reply favourably, I’d want an agent ASAP. I mentioned in my covering letters that I had vague publisher interest, and this seemed to help. Of the new batch of agents, four requested to read the full manuscript. And oddly, one of the original eight got back to me saying it wasn’t for her, but that she’d passed the submission on to another agent at the same agency. Because I’d had full requests, I cheekily sent the full off to her too, not expecting much…
It was February now, my birthday month, and that year, the big day landed on a Sunday. So, when I opened up my email on that Sunday birthday morning, and saw a message from an agent, my heart started to race.
Alas, it was a ‘no’. But props to this hard-working agent who read her submissions on a Sunday morning!
A few weeks later I got an email from Emma Capron telling me the book was going to a meeting. I wasn’t sure exactly what this meant, but had an inkling this was A Good Thing. The London Book Fair was coming up, and she asked me to be patient till after that. It was great news, but terrible timing to be emailing agents to let them know my book was going an acquisitions meeting at a major publisher… But I emailed those who had the full to let them know.
Astonishingly, three agents wanted to meet to discuss!
I knew from my previous round of submissions that meetings didn’t necessarily result in offers of representation, but allowed myself to feel a sliver of hope. I met the agents and found myself in the enviable position of having three offers of representation.
More astonishing news was to follow when Emma emailed to also ask to meet. A couple of days later, I found myself in the offices of S&S and had an amazing meeting with Emma Capron and Sara-Jade Virtue. They said they were going to make me an offer – once I’d decided on an agent. It was a huge moment – one I’d been working towards for years.
In the end, I went with Jemima Forrester at David Higham Associates, who had been one of my original eight agencies. It felt right and she’d been so enthusiastic when we met. She is also the master of brilliant emails. I was in a second-hand car showroom on the day (again, a weekend!) when she emailed to say she loved my book, and she expressed herself so eloquently and said so many amazing things about the book that I started to cry. Poor Graham who was trying to sell us a Volvo didn’t quite know what to say…
We finally signed a deal on my birthday. Yes, another whole year had passed. (Publishing can sometimes move at a glacial pace!) Sadly, I was to be Emma’s last acquisition at S&S. She subsequently left, but the gods were smiling on me because my new editor, Rebecca Farrell, has been a powerhouse of enthusiasm and brilliant ideas and I couldn’t be happier to be in her capable hands.