I know several people who read my blog are keen to become published authors. When Glenn got in touch to tell me about his new book, I thought it was a great opportunity to get some insight from someone who’s completed the journey – from almost giving up to signing a publishing deal.
How did I sign with my publishers? By pure chance. I am unrepresented, so I haven’t got an agent to approach publishers and pitch my manuscript on my behalf. I tried to go down that path previously, but it didn’t work out and it actually ‘persuaded’ me in inverted commas that my novel wasn’t good enough and, maybe most importantly, that I wasn’t good enough. The repeated knocks to my confidence just buried my ambition.
A few years passed. My wife and I left one part of the country to return to South Oxfordshire, where Juliet grew up and where she always wanted to live and settle long-term. I had to find a new job and used the upheaval to really look at what I wanted to do professionally with the rest of my life. Newspapers was a bad beat looking forward. I had worked on a busy daily newspaper for more than a decade and I was exhausted. I needed a change.
I moved into copywriting in marketing. Job one was at a posh public school in Berkshire, which was an eye opener and a lovely place to be… for a time. After 18 months, I moved into job two and found myself working for a former [BBC One] Apprentice winner in finance.
I didn’t know anything about finance, but the money was good, the commute was short, my new boss was fantastic and completely supportive, so I gave it a go. I was happy. I left my car at home for the first time in my working life and took a short, 30-minute bus ride into Reading every day. What to do during those 30 minutes?
I don’t even know why I revisited my novel now. But I did and I liked it. I read it from start to finish and I improved it a lot, refining the language, editing it more tightly and rewriting weaker sections. Progress. Definitely. My ambition was back. I read it through again entirely from start to finish and improved it significantly again, which only gave me more confidence and belief.
I started to research smaller publishing houses which read unsolicited manuscripts… and found a whole new world. Publishing, as I had been led to believe by agents – who I assumed were the gatekeepers to the industry holding all the key cards – was maybe not closed off to me.
It was early February 2018. I quickly got an offer from a small imprint from the USA. It wasn’t earth shattering, but it was a real offer. The journey was genuinely starting. In late-February I spotted Amsterdam Publishers –who, yes, are based in Amsterdam – on Twitter and saw that they published mainly Second World War and Holocaust fiction and non-fiction. That was interesting, I thought.
I emailed them straight away. It was a Sunday. No hours and hours spent agonizing over which words and precise tone to use in my pitch letter – just honest enthusiasm and passion for my project. They immediately responded. Liesbeth Heenk, who heads up Amsterdam Publishers, replied herself and said she was going on holiday for two weeks, but that she thought my novel sounded interesting. She would read my manuscript – which I had sent her in full – upon her return.
Exactly two weeks later, on the Sunday, she emailed again, saying she was still reading A Quiet Genocide, but that she loved it and definitely wanted to arrange a time to talk. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it! Amsterdam Publishers’ links with the Holocaust and heritage felt completely right. Liesbeth came across so well and so passionately on email that my heart was immediately 100 per cent on board. I knew I hadn’t signed anything yet with the American imprint; I hadn’t verbally committed either. Two days later, on the Tuesday, I took Liesbeth’s call during my lunch hour, by the river Thames in Reading and spent the whole hour talking about A Quiet Genocide. My feet hardly touched the ground walking back to the office. That night, Liesbeth emailed me a formal contract offer. I was in!
It’s so fun being able to share these posts with all of you!
Be sure to take a look at last week’s guest post by Chloe, about learning to see the good in the bad.