There's been a lot of discussion on Twitter this week about routes to publication, and whether it's an open and fair system. I guess it's always good to pause and consider, to make sure that writers of quality can be found, even in less accessible places. It should be talent that wins out, but often it's combined with a great deal of hard work and determination, and of course, rejection. Tenacity is key, because very few authors have found an easy path to publication. CLOSE TO ME wasn't my first book, or even my second. It took me years to get an agent, because the books I submitted weren't good enough - simple as that.
My own story is, I hope, of some comfort, especially if you don't know anyone in publishing, or even much about the machinations of turning your idea into a published book. I was found via the Slush Pile, the rather unfortunate term for the teetering pile of submissions every literary agent must wade through, most often in their own time. My agent, Sarah Williams, was not the first agent I had approached, but she was my first choice. I didn't hesitate when she offered me representation, and it has proved to be a very good decision. An agent is key, they protect you, nurture you, ask the questions you may not have thought of, or want to ask! They keep the faith when it's sometimes hard to. They help you see what's working, and what isn't. They tell you things your friends and family won't.
Once you have an agent, you may well work with them editorially to get your manuscript into the best possible shape before it is submitted to publishers. That's what happened to me, so initially Sarah was my only point of contact. I knew no one and nothing much about the world I was desperate to join, but she knew it all, guiding me and managing my expectations. When she sent out CLOSE TO ME it sold very quickly, a planned auction then replaced by a pre-empt from Wildfire at Headline. All those years of trying and then it happened so fast - surreal!
Once I had a publishing deal, I begin to realise just how many people it takes to bring a book to the point of publication, and beyond.
For CLOSE TO ME, I first worked with my editor at Headline, another round of edits completed almost straight away, to get the book ready for type-setting so proofs could go out to early readers and reviewers. It's vital to build as much buzz as possible in the months before publication, so I was also invited by my publisher to a blogger night, and then a crime writers' party. At both events my book was one of the titles introduced for the following year, proofs given out and signed - another first.
Behind the scenes, the cover was being finalised, and Headline's publicity, marketing and sales teams were gearing up for publication, first an eBook, then paperback. There was also an audio version produced in the UK, and the sub-rights were sold at auction to Penguin Random House for a US audio version .
For the US version of the book, out in hardback in December, I had another editor, who emailed me as we worked through the cultural and language changes needed. A different cover design was sent to me for approval, from Quercus US, who have already pulled off an amazing cover reveal with an Instagram-er who has a huge following.
In Italy, the book has a translator, and another beautiful cover, and I assume the same will be true in the other terrorises where CLOSE TO ME has sold.
Via my agent, I also have contact with my foreign rights agent, and a TV and Film agent as there's a script in development.
It's hard when you are facing rejection, just you and those you choose to tell invested in your work, but with each rejection I edged closer to my dream. I was learning my craft and earning my place. It's impossible to imagine the huge network of individuals, teams, and whole organisations who will back you when your book is contracted for publication. The tendrils extend far and wide, the effort on your behalf humbling. It then seems even more impossible that it has happened - but it did, via that slush pile!
Not every book can succeed, not every book will be loved, or bought, or reviewed. I've been so lucky with the response to CLOSE TO ME, I know that, but it's still a white-knuckle ride at times, filled with huge highs and lows. Not that I want to get off, it's been my dream for a long while, longer than I care to say, but there are still days, weeks even, when it's just me and that fragile faith in the fact I can write another book, appear at a literature festival, conquer the imposter syndrome that still washes over me if I allow it to.
And now I've met other authors, who are friends, and our stories are not so dissimilar. Regardless of who you know, or which course you may be able to afford to attend, the slush pile exists for a good reason, because it contains those manuscripts which will be read, and loved, and nurtured to publication.
If you are a female writer with a manuscript ready for submission to agents, please take a look at my WoMentoring profile - it's free, why not apply?