I’ve written the headline for this post, and I’m shaking my head because I’m still in a bit of shock that I am going to be a published author with Harlequin Australia.
To be frank, that post title is also probably a little misleading. Did I actually secure the deal? Or did I just happen to win the lottery?
It’s a bit of both.
But let’s rewind back to January 2016, when I decided to write a book. Actually, I decided to write my third book. In my metaphorical ‘bottom drawer’ I had two previous manuscripts that had been soundly reject by every agent and publisher in Australia. That’s okay, because they were incredible learning experiences and both were sad, serious books that weren’t quite ‘me’ anyway.
The third manuscript would be different. It would be fun, with slightly exaggerated characters. It would be about a world I knew well – parenting. It would also have a page-turning plot. At least, I hoped it would.
I gave myself until July to produce a draft.
This was not an arbitrary deadline. My two eldest children were in school. My third child was at pre-school three days a week. The plan was to finish my English language teaching degree and head back into the workforce. I had one subject to complete and would graduate mid-year.
In short, I had a six month window where I would have a fair amount of time in which to write this thing. So, I did. And it was loads of fun. The words came easily. Sitting down at the desk wasn’t a slog, it was a pleasure. Okay, so maybe there were some days where it didn’t come so easy, but compared to the first two novels, this one felt freeing. Liberating. I felt I’d found my true ‘voice’.
By June the first draft of After the Party was complete. At that point, I was the only who’d read the manuscript and it was clearly less than perfect so I engaged an editor, Kim Swivel, to undertake a manuscript assessment.
Again, this was a path I’d been down before with the previous two novels. In each case, the editors had provided reports providing general feedback about the main aspects of the work – plot, character, structure etc.
Kim’s report was different. Not only did she provide an overall report, she also provided me with an annotated manuscript packed full of ideas and suggestions. In other words, she’d given me an incredible gift!
Back to work I went, with a huge list of changes to make. I cut about 20,000 words and wrote 10,000 new ones.
By September I was ready to start submitting to agents, which I did. I sent it out to 24 of them – Australian and overseas. A couple of times I got asked for the full manuscript, but ultimately those agents chose not to proceed. About a third never responded at all.
I was slightly devastated but not terribly surprised. To take on a manuscript, an agent has to truly love it and want to be its champion. My manuscript had not yet met its champion. Maybe it never would. From the experience of my first two manuscripts, I knew this would be hard to take, but it wouldn’t stop me from continuing to write.
After 8 months of querying agents, and no success, I was ready to move to the next stage. Creatively, I felt the ‘not knowing’ was holding me back from progressing to my next project. One way or another, I needed an answer as to whether After the Party was going to be published.
It was time to query the publishers.
To say that I had low expectations of this process was an understatement. I knew the statistics. Of the cajillion manuscripts that publishers receive through their unsolicited submission process, approximately 0.000001% get published.
Still, like I said, I needed to know.
For Part Two of this story, sign up for my newsletter or stay tuned through the website for the next instalment.