Working with my agent
From the first discussion over the phone to the first meeting during a trip to the UK, Maddy, my agent has been a great support. When you step into an unknown world for the first time you really do need somebody to hold your hand a little bit and explain the things that are going on. I was really lucky that I found an agent who likes to work editorially, and we did a couple of rounds of edits before we even thought about approaching publishers. They walk you through international accounting, liaise with your editor, and generally champion your cause to all who will listen. It’s been great having somebody who is always in my corner! I would say to anybody who is looking for an agent to make sure you find somebody who you trust. I ended up changing my title, adding new chapters to the book, and even got a new name before approaching publishers. They know what they’re doing, and they’ve got your back. Let them weave their magic.
Getting a publisher
When the manuscript was ready we started the submission process. To be honest, the very idea of further submissions was terrifying, and if you’ve got as far as searching for an agent you understand why; because the road is paved with the possibility of rejection. In this instance, getting a publisher is no different to securing your dream agent. They might just say no. And of course, rejections came for me as they do for many, but so too did offers. Headline submitted a pre-emptive offer for the UK and Commonwealth rights for two books just prior to the Frankfurt Book Fair. Talking to my editor for the first time was great, but to be honest I was a bit dazed. I got the email from my agent to say I had a deal, and within an hour I was talking to my editor on the phone. So when you have that first conversation with an editor who loves your book, just try enjoy it. I can barely remember anything that was said.
Working with the editorial team across two different publishing houses (UK and USA) was a real learning curve. As a writer you spend ages trying to finish your work and get it ready for submission to agents. You polish and polish and think you’ve done it, and then gingerly send it out for consideration. But don’t be fooled. My editorial team went back and forth for maybe four or five rounds of editing, with more comments and notes than you could ever have imagined before you begin. Be prepared to justify every character choice, every plot twist, and every day of your timeline. No stone is left unturned. Also, be prepared to learn loads. Working with a professional editor is no time to get precious; if you are receptive to their ideas you’ll find that the finished manuscript only gets better.
Getting the first artwork through was amazing. But what I didn’t expect were two different covers for the proof. The first blew me away, and that was taken for an exclusive giveaway at Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival. The second is currently going towards a print run, and is completely different to the first. You get to see just how many people are working to make your book special, and just how much in involved.
Writing a second novel
If you want a career as a writer you better be writing the second novel. I have never found it so difficult to write, swinging between writing a first draft and editing the first book. Concentrating was hard when one week you find yourself working on one thing, and the next working on something else. So learn to be adaptable, work when you can. When I went to my agent’s Christmas party last year somebody offered me a piece of advice; write as much as you can now before the first book is published. That was probably the most helpful thing I heard during that time. I just delivered my first draft of book two, so now I’m going right back to the start. Starting to write again with a new blank page. I aim to get a first draft of book three written before book one is even released. I rely on so many people to get my work published; my agent, my editors, my publicists, and designers, and many people I have never met. This past year has shown how without them none of the above would have been possible. But now they also rely on me, and that means that if I'm not writing there'll be nothing to publish in the future. So all the crazy and exciting events of the last year always come back down to one final thought; that blank page, and making sure I find the words to fill it.