One of the biggest moments in the life of a writer is getting the Call. No, not ‘Calling’ (though writing is, in a way, a vocation). No, this is an actual telephone call, from a real editor, saying they want to publish your work. It happened to me a week ago.
Rewind: I’ve been writing for many, many years. For me, for fun, for pleasure. The process itself is (mostly) enjoyable. Yet I never felt confident enough in my work to share it with an agent or publisher. It was partly self-doubt, and partly an honest assessment of the quality of what I’d written. I was an apprentice.
That changed in 2014. I completed a full-length novel – a ‘sweet’ Regency romance which flowed, and grew, and took on a momentum of its own. I knew it felt right. After revising and editing, I posted some of it on a writers’ website, where I got encouragement (and a few corrections) from other writers.
My confidence building, I shared the full manuscript with my husband, and a close friend. Another friend read most of it. Although they were biased (!), it was encouraging that they all loved it. I took a deep breath and decided to send it to publishers.
Next, the research phase. Consult the Yearbook, search online, look at different publishers’ approaches, specialisms and reach. Ensure you send what they want – format, word count, synopsis.
Then, a result – this email arrived from an editor at Harlequin Mills & Boon.
It’s hard to tell yourself not to be too hopeful when you’re flooded with hope. I sent the full manuscript, and crossed my fingers. In the end, time helped. It was many months before I heard back. A phone call from the lovely Julia, saying they were still interested, and would I be open to making some revisions?
Of course I was. I completed two sets of revisions in 2015, taking my book from Heyeresque to more Harlequinesque, which is what was needed to make it suitable for what their readers want. I ruthlessly cut some minor, comic characters, increased the tension a notch at key moments, and added more overt insights about my hero and heroine’s emotional journey.
I resubmitted in November, and waited again. I knew that Julia was consulting with the head of Harlequin Historicals, and that they both had to be happy with the manuscript. Julia indicated that more revisions might be needed, but there was no point asking me for them when her colleague hadn’t yet read the latest draft.
Finally, an email asking when would suit me for a phone call. We arranged a time. I had no clue that there would be an offer. I hoped that they would suggest more revisions, and that the manuscript was getting closer to what Harlequin readers love. There was always the possibility of rejection.
I had the afternoon off work as I was attending my daughter’s Leavers’ Day celebrations in school. Afterwards I went upstairs, got my notebook out and waited for Julia’s call.
The news was immediate: ‘We both love Waltzing with the Earl and we’d like to offer you a two-book contract.’
Well! There were shrieks, lots of ‘Oh my goodness!’ and quite a bit of babbling gibberish. I could hear Julia chuckling on the other end of the phone. My daughter and husband came running to hear, and exclaim, and hug. Eventually I calmed down enough to listen to some of the details. Luckily, Julia sent them in an email immediately afterwards.
It still seems a little unlikely. Me, published? Two-book deal? Really?
A few days later, more excitement. The official tweets were posted.
Turns out, I am Julia’s first ever Call. It’s lovely to know it was a special moment for her too!
Lots of other authors have been sending congratulations and good wishes – they truly know just how hard it is to actually get published.
I also posted on my personal facebook page, and got 157 likes/loves/wows, as well as 98 comments – most people didn’t know that this was in the pipeline.
What a week! Whew! 🙂