I remember the many questions I had, but didn’t like to ask, when friends got their first deals. I thought I might start a series of posts about the process of getting a debut novel from acceptance to the book shelf. Feel free to ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer.
Fortunately, my agent, the solid and determined Sophie Hicks, took me to my first meeting with the Usborne team, I can get lost in a cinema and my sense of direction was further impaired by being ridiculously over excited. Sophie’s guiding hand was really a Very Good Idea. The first meeting took place in a tiny room filled with books and people, publicity people as well as editors and I felt at home straight away. I do wonder if my editor, Sarah Stewart, thought she’d accidentally bought a book from an over-eager puppy. I found it very hard to sit still and not flap my hands about. We didn’t talk much about the actual book in that meeting, it was mostly about time scales and book covers and other things my puppy brain couldn’t distinguish over the internal noise of ‘I can’t believe I’m here, I can’t believe I’m here’ .
I’d calmed down a bit by the time the real book chat happened over lunch.
Yes. My editor took me out for lunch. I might just say that again, it sounds so nice. My editor took me out to lunch so we could talk about my book. And I’ll tell you this,
It was blimming BRILLIANT.
Not only did my editor take me out for lunch so we could talk about my book, not once were her lovely words followed up by
‘It just isn’t right for our list’
‘Paranormal cow stories are a really hard sell right now’
‘We’ve already got a book about ghost squirrels coming out next year.’
No. I didn’t get my script back in a bin bag, I got it back like this:
With notes on it and ticks and things like this:
We talked through all the weak areas, the areas of poor continuity, the down right odd bits and Sarah took me seriously. She talked about my characters as if they lived in her head as much as they live in mine. Even before I’d eaten the funny little tea-flavoured chocolates we’d decided to share for desert, I was itching to get back to my desk to start work. Yes, really.
And I got a proper deadline, not one I’d made up to con myself into getting on with some work. A deadline I could not miss or I’d look like an unproffessional twit – especially when Sarah let me set it. I gave myself just under two months to get the first edit done. Fortunately, there was no risk of slacking as I also gained a line supervisor:
It was a new joy to get up and write every morning, Sarah has a bilateral way of working – I had notes on my script and a detailed discussion document to work from. She had seen so much that I’d missed, it was a whole new journey to see the book through her eyes. The smallest comment triggered a train of change that enriched my story. In fact, I changed so much so that I was a tiny bit worried I may have over done it. Here’s another great thing though, at this stage you can send it back to your editor even if you’re not quite sure it’s where it needs to be. There’ll be more edits to do, it’s a work in progress for both of us.
So I hit my deadline and the book has gone. I can’t do anything with it until I hear back from Sarah, but, there is this old script I’ve been thinking about….