In this series of posts, I’m going to be taking you behind the scenes of Greythorne and the process I went through to write it. Click to read Part 1 (The Idea), Part 2 (Plot and Structure), Part 3 (Setting), Part 4 (Characters), Part 5 (Writing) and Part 6 (Revision).
Well, I can hardly believe it – tomorrow Greythorne will be published! I’ll have to wait another month or so before I get to hold the paperback (out 12 November), but even so…My 10-year-old self (whose dream was to get a book published) would be super proud right now.
I’m well aware how lucky I am in that my road to publication was a relatively straightforward one. Although I worked hard to give myself the best chance I could (by making sure the manuscript was in the best condition I could get it before I started submitting it), some of it – as with many things in life – was simply right place, right time.
As I wrote about here, I’m a member of the Australian Society of Authors, and one of the activities they run every year is something called ‘Literary Speed-Dating’ – they get a bunch of editors and agents in a room and aspiring authors get three minutes with each of them to pitch their work. I attended in November 2014, which was my goal from when I started writing Greythorne back in November 2013 – my editing schedule was built around having the manuscript ready in time for the pitching day.
The day itself actually felt a bit anticlimactic: my first pitch was disastrous, and the event was a real wake-up call as to how tough this industry is to break into. But by the end of the day I had editors from two publishers (Pan Macmillan and another that I won’t name) ask to see the first three chapters, so I counted that as a win.
One of the publishers never got back to me – never even acknowledged she’d received my manuscript. The editor from Pan Macmillan, however, let me know she’d received it and to get in touch if I hadn’t heard from her within 8 weeks. At this time Greythorne was also under submission to an agent from a major agency, who had asked for the full manuscript, so I settled down to wait.
The agent replied first: she liked the story and the style, but she didn’t think she’d be able to sell it. It was my first proper rejection and it stung for a few days, because it felt so close and yet so far. But as I later found out, even the writers of now-classics had their books rejected multiple times.
Then the editor from Pan Macmillan got back to me a month or so later – she wanted to see the rest of the manuscript. I tried not to get too excited, given the result with the agent, so I sent it to her then tried to forget about the whole thing. This was actually quite easy as I was planning my wedding at the same time.
She came back to me a week or so later (far quicker than I’d expected) and said that she loved the story and, although she didn’t think it was quite right for Pan Macmillan, she also acquired for their digital-first imprint, Momentum Books, and would I be ok with her taking it to the Momentum acquisitions meeting?
Would I be ok with it? Let me think about that for just a second…
As it turned out, on the third day of our honeymoon I got an email offering me a contract with Momentum. So I got a husband and a book contract in the same week – not a bad deal.
Actually, negotiating a book contract without an agent turned out to be pretty intimidating. The first thing I realised pretty quickly is that authors (especially new authors) hold very little power in this situation and basically you take it or leave it. The Australian Society of Authors’ contact appraisal service was very useful, but in the end only minor changes were made. The contract negotiation actually took longer than the copy-editing in the end – around two months.
The other thing I soon realised is that very few publishers have proper marketing budgets any more, especially for new authors. I had to get very familiar very fast with how to publicise my book on various online and social media platforms, as well as trying to get my head around things like organising book launches. It could quite easily be a full-time job, except I already have a full-time job, plus plans for the next novel. Learning to balance all this is one of the major skills the twenty-first-century author needs – and I’m still figuring it all out. It’s been quite a ride though, and I’m hoping this is just the beginning!
How do you prefer to engage with books and authors?