It’s getting to the point where I realise my debut novel comes out in less than a week, and I’m just sit here thinking, “I DID IT???”
I’ve been working towards this for so so long. I often say “IT’S BEEN 5 YEARS IN AZKABAN” because it absolutely has and that’s no small length of time if you think about it. These last 5 years have been absolutely exhausting and full of heartbreak and encouragements and successes and nerves and triumphs — and now I get to actually hold my book???? I sometimes don’t know how to believe this is real.
I’ve been busting to share the details of my publishing journey with you! Every author tumbles into publishing a different way, but it’s interesting to read all the versions…so finally, here we go!
And please FEEL FREE when this post ends, to ask me questions! About publishing or A Thousand Perfect Notes! I may use some of the questions in a little Q&A on release day too.
Do you want to know how I started writing? I have one of those fantastic and heart-warming origin stories.
I was about 6 or 7 years old. I “wrote” the Three Little Bears out with eloquent illustrations and then told my family I’d invented it. HEARTWARMING, SEE? Later, at 12, my little sister started writing stories and was getting way too much attention, so I joined in. But it wasn’t till I was actually 15 that I finished a real book (it was probably barely 40K in retrospect ha) and thought, “Yep, this is going to be my life.”
Author. Bestseller. Adored all over the world. Etc. etc.
I grew up as a rather adorable book monster, the kind who’d hide with Tintin and Narnia on Christmas and ignore everyone, and my house was filled with books…so NONE OF THIS IS MY FAULT. I was doomed. I’ve always been obsessed with storytelling and had an incredible imagination — so figuring out I could tell my own stories plus control the ending plus (obviously) get famous for it someday was life changing.
What more could a little sharp-toothed, curious-eyed book monster want?
At 19, I was ready to start querying.
When I say “I researched”, I mean I was freaking obsessed with it. I still am, honestly. I still research and read and watch and listen to so much about the publishing world.
Before I queried, though: I had critique partners. I’d written dozens of (awful) books. I was really into a few teen writer communities and had feedback from authors. I religiously read advice and tips. I didn’t just work hard, I overworked hard, just in case you wonder if younger-me had some chill?
HAHA HAH AH. NEVER, NO.
- Writing out several versions of my query and ANGUISHING over them.
- I entered a few contests to get critiques.
- One (professional) author said, not only did my book not work, my query was awful too.
- I cried.
- Seriously querying is super hard on your self-esteem.
- I queried in the UK and USA. I’m in Australia, but this was 2013 and as much as I researched, I couldn’t find many Aussie agents?! I remember the biggest one took ONLY snail mail! Which they posted back to me…ya, thanks.
- I pretty much angsted and freaked out over making sure I followed every individual agent’s guidelines.
- I GOT REJECTIONS.
- I didn’t actually track it very well, because the rejections were devastating for me and I’m sooo not the whole “Put your rejections on the wall!” type of writer. My opinion on that: the heck no. I put encouragement on my walls, thanks.
- I did about 20-30 queries? Maybe less.
- They were all form rejections except…maybe…2?????
- Mostly there was nothing.
- Technically I’m still waiting to hear back from about 10 agents. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- I started to think Professional Author Who Said I Wasn’t A Good Writer was right…
- Then I got one yes.
- I only needed one yes.
- I signed with Polly Nolan @ Greenhouse Literary UK (who is, by the way, a super agent and our visions for my writing click so so well and I couldn’t be happier)!!! Seriously best moment.
- This took about 10 months all up.
Things did go slowly at first.
I was signed for a dark YA fantasy that I’d been rewriting and rEWRITING since I was 15, so it was like The Story™ but it needed help. We did a lot of editorial work first. (I still have no idea why I got signed loooool. I’m relieved I did! Don’t get me wrong! BUT HOW DID I GET SIGNED.) Then we went out on submissions to UK publishers.
Then we got rejected.
So my agent said, “What about another book? What about a contemporary?”
And I being (a) desperate, (b) incredibly motivated to work my eyeballs out, (c) wanting this dream to be a reality mORE THAN ANYTHING, (d) being excruciatingly good at saying “yes” and thinking later, and (e) really open to advice…
I said “I’D LOVE TO!”
(Note: I had written 15 books before this. None of which were contemporary.)
Apparently, it seems, I am tolerably good at contemporary. I insert a smug little cute smile here.
Because in 2015 I wrote a little book called “Tremolo.” After revisions and edits, my agent suggested the title, A Thousand Perfect Notes.
In 2016, when I was twenty-one, I signed a 2-book contemporary deal with Orchard / Hachette Children’s UK.
I actually got the email at 4am, because WHO SLEEPS (#insomniac #life) and waited until about 8am for my family to rise from the dead so I could just lurk awkwardly and stare at them which is absolutely how you convey you have a book deal. I swear, I’m super good at communication.
I stood atop a mountain for about 6 months, just screaming in relief. I am a good writer. I am worth a book deal. I worked so freaking hard and long for this and I made it.
(Also I apologies to everyone I ABSOLUTELY LIED TO for the 16 months between signing my deal and announcing it. Ha ha hahaha. Oh wow. I am great.)
Has it been a super easy road?! OH YOU SWEET SUMMER CHILD.
Haha hahha no.
As you can see, I didn’t have any magical shortcuts. I didn’t do query contests or pitchwars (I didn’t even have a twitter for ages?!) and I didn’t have 4989 agents asking for me or 9389 publishers vying for my book. I am the poster child of: “IT JUST TAKES ONE YES” for publishing. And it is so true. This is success and I am proud and happy! And freaKING NERVOUS.
I have social anxiety and autism, which makes communicating hard for me, but my agent and publisher has been 100% onboard with meeting my needs. I have a big online audience, but it actually did 0% in getting my book deal. (It’s the writing that’s important, peoples!) And little things went wrong along the way…like my ARCs didn’t have my copy-edits in them, and I didn’t get to do a cover reveal, and there’s been lots of niggling things behind-the-scenes that haven’t been perfect. I have stressed. I have eaten through a few brick walls.
I’m not telling you that to complain. I’m saying publishing isn’t perfectly smooth for anyone! It has its highs and lows. I’m pretty sure 0% of debut authors have got it all together.
And between all the waiting and hoping — I was writing. If I can ever give one piece of advice to writers pursuing publication: WRITE AND WRITE SOME MORE. Write literally millions of words. Nothing makes you better and more confident than sheer amounts of practise.
And the things I still can’t stop happily freaking out about??
Getting translation deals! Seeing people wanting for my book without me having to spend 398 years begging them to read it like I did pre-getting-a-deal (HAHAH LIFE IS SWEET). My editors saying the most AMAZING things about my owrk. Also my editor crying…oh oh my halo just slipped can someone grab that for me.
Having people understand my work. Having professionals improve my work and now my writing is 100 x better and I still can’t get over that. Having my book go to book festivals in Europe! Getting a gorgeous cover (!!!) Knowing I have a SECOND book coming out in 2019. My publishers bought a book off me that didn’t even EXIST yet. I still can’t get over how amazing that is.
And holding my hard work in my trembling paws and knowing that I finally finally did it after I thought I might never get here.
I am all sparkly and my heart is so full right now!
Also, I will just say: getting a book deal is wonderful for the self-confidence. 10/10 would recommend.
Thanks for coming along on this publishing journey! Even if you’ve just started reading my blog or been here for the last 7 years…it’s been amazing to share this with you! Look I’m getting emotional, ugh, someone bury me.
A Thousand Perfect Notes is out in just 5 days!