Firstly, apologies for spreading this story over two parts, but it’s a fairly long, and hopefully not too boring, tale. I generally love reading other author’s publication tales, because they are little glimmers of hope in what can sometimes feel like a fairly futile activity. Though, it must be said, publication is not the sole objective of writing. I could go on about this and I will probably will, in another blog post.
Anyhoo, just to re-cap (and in case you didn’t read Part One or don’t have time) the short version is that by July 2016, I’d written the first draft of a contemporary women’s manuscript, After the Party. By September I’d re-drafted and started submitting to agents. By the following March, all of them had rejected it.
The things was – I still had faith in the manuscript. I’d loved writing it, and I enjoyed re-reading it. However, I did make a couple of adjustments. One of the agents had provided me with a little feedback that prompted me to cut the first two chapters so that the story began ‘in media res’ – that is – at the heart of the action.
It was time to approach the publishers, and when I say ‘approach’ I basically mean dive-headlong-into-the-slush pile. I made a list of every publisher in Australia that accepted unsolicited manuscripts and I proceeded to work my way through them.
To say that I had low expectations of this process is an understatement. After all, I’d been through it twice before with my first two manuscripts, for zero result. I knew the odds weren’t in my favour.
Of the zillions of manuscripts that these publishers receive each year via unsolicited submissions, they publish approximately 0.01% of them. I knew of only two authors who’d ever been published off the slush-pile. Two!
Still, I felt I had try, least of all so I could move onto the next project, satisfied that I had at least exhausted all avenues.
I started submitting, and continued to write short stories while ideas percolated for the next full-length manuscript.
During the ‘great wait’ for a response from the publishers, a couple of terrific things happened for me. Firstly, my short story ‘By Proxy’ was selected by Maxine Beneba Clarke for inclusion in The Best Australian Stories 2017 (published by Black Inc) alongside some of the best and brightest writers in Australian fiction. Also, I won the Shoalhaven Literary Award, which came with a two-week writing residency and gave me a much needed confidence boost. It felt like things were finally coming together.
In August, an email from Harlequin Books, one of the publishers I had approached, dropped into my inbox.
Thank you for your submission. I’m pleased to inform you that it has moved from the unsolicited pile into the reading queue of our editor.
My hope levels went up a little. I wasn’t quite sure of the significance of my submission being read by an editor, but it was certainly better than a ‘no’.
Three weeks later, another email dropped into my inbox, this time asking me to come in for a meeting with a senior Harlequin Publisher, and the publishing assistant who first read the submission.
This time I got excited. I clearly remember the email I sent to my husband. It was a little more sweary than this, but went something like.
Oh my goodness!
This MIGHT actually happen…
The next couple of weeks were a little tortuous. I didn’t sleep much. I ran through potential questions in my head. Possibly, I went a little crazy, internally.
Externally though, it was business as usual – working, writing, feeding and parenting the children. Though they can be huge time-suckers, it must be said that kids are fabulous for making you put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes it’s actually nice to forget about yourself for a while.
Meeting day arrived. I wore the outfit that made me feel most confident which was, coincidentally, a red top and black pants. In other words, I was a walking Harlequin logo.
The meeting was amazing. The publisher, Jo, and her assistant, Johanna, said the most lovely things about the manuscript. It was overwhelming. I didn’t quite know what to say. My manuscript had finally met its champions!
In response to their effusiveness, I may have raved a bit about how much I wanted to write, and meet readers and make this dream job of mine into a real thing.
From here, Jo committed to taking the manuscript to an acquisition meeting. I don’t know exactly what happens in these but, as the name suggests, essentially everyone in the company gathers together and a decides whether or not to acquire the manuscript.
Ahead of the meeting, I provided Jo with an extra couple of synopses for possible future books, and a few ideas as to what I could contribute to the marketing process. Basically anything that would help to make the book a commercial proposition.
At 2pm, on the day of the acquisition meeting, my phone rang while I was in the bowels of Central Station, hopping onto a train.
It was Jo and Johanna. With the wind of the approaching train rushing in my ears, she told me the meeting was over. What I thought I heard was that Harlequin wanted to publish After the Party. Actually, they wanted to publish two of my books!
Later that afternoon, I emailed Jo to confirm that I had heard correctly.
It seems I had.
From there, the contract was drawn up and three weeks after the acquisition meeting, it was signed.
At present, Harlequin’s plan is to publish After the Party in March 2019, which means plenty of time for edits next year.
I really can’t wait to sink my teeth into this and make the novel the best it can be. I’m planning to blog about the process because I have a feeling it’s going to be quite the ride.
I sincerely hope you join me for it.