If you’re a submitting writer out there in the trenches, cover letter addressed, finger hovering over the send button, then just hold tight. If you’ve already stored a rejection or 20 in your mailbox, then fear not. You’ll love this interview. And you’ll definitely get something out of it.
My next guest author, debut Danielle Owens-Jones runs her own PR, copywriting and freelance journalism business, Bloomin’ Creative. And her story to securing an agent and publisher has a familiar ring to it. It’s one that will echo the emotions of many authors who have just signed with an agent. This is why I love having debuts on here. Their memory of this wonderful time is fresh and relevant and like Danielle, they offer current feedback and advice. As I was reading through the interview, I found myself smiling, feeling exactly the same emotions Danielle had while reading about her signing with Liverpool Literary Agency. Danielle has since gone on to secure a contract with Bookouture for her women’s contemporary fiction novel out next Spring.
Mostly, Danielle reminds us that rejections are hard, but don’t let them stop you from submitting. Her trick is to replace one rejection with another submission (I did this too and it made me feel so much better) and to target the right agent by doing the research. All around this interview feels right, happy, uplifting and encouraging. It’s perfect for aspiring writers.
How long have you been writing?
I guess for as long as I can remember! English was my favourite subject in school, and I’ve always been an avid reader. Plus, growing up, my mum worked as a journalist, so I felt like I grew up around stories. Professionally, my career has always been based around words. I started my career as a newspaper journalist and then moved into the PR industry, eventually going freelance as a PR consultant and content writer. I started writing my debut novel years ago, but the process was very stop-start (always stopping when life got busy!) Finally, last year, I finished my manuscript and queried literary agents before signing with Clare Coombes of The Liverpool Literary Agency.
What led to your offer of representation with an agent (or contract with a publisher, if you went that way around first?)
My first response when querying literary agents was a full manuscript request. Another two full MS requests quickly followed, which gave me an initial warped view of the speed of the entire querying process! Of course, the inevitable rejections came through too.
While querying, I watched a webinar that my now-agent was participating in, and I loved her story and her passion. I just had a great feeling that we’d work well together. I sent her my manuscript and was totally over the moon when she requested my full MS. Then, when Clare later offered me representation, it was honestly one of the best moments of my whole life! My full MS was still with a few other agents who had expressed interest, so I gave them a heads up, but after chatting with Clare on Zoom (lockdown life!) I knew pretty quickly that she was the agent I wanted to sign with.
How long did you have to wait to hear back and was it a partial or full request?
My first full request was about three weeks from submission, and then when I emailed other agents telling them my full MS had been requested, the interested ones responded within the same day. The same went for my offer of representation and the responses from other interested agents – it’s amazing how speedy the responses can be when things start to develop!
How many submissions did you make prior to gaining representation/publishing contract?
I queried 18 agents in total, who all represented authors in my genre (women’s commercial fiction). I had six full MS requests.
Any tips on cover letters/synopsis/pitches?
Don’t rush it; take your time. Tailoring the cover letter is the most time-heavy aspect of the process because you want to hook the agent with a fantastic pitch that showcases your book. You also want to demonstrate that you’ve done your research about why you’d be a good fit for each other and where your book sits in the market (comparative titles and authors).
The biggest tip I’d say is DON’T GIVE UP. Rejection is HARD, but it’s worth remembering that a rejection from an agent isn’t personal. Take note of the responses that are kind and encouraging – especially any offering constructive feedback. There are so many elements involved in a ‘thanks but no thanks’ (for example, an agent’s existing list of clients, genre preferences, their relationships with editors in your book’s genre etc.) My solution for handling rejection was to let myself mope a bit for that day/evening only. Then, the next day, I’d send a new query out to replace the rejection.
Your first reaction when they offered the representation/contract?
I was totally in shock when I received the email with an offer of representation from Clare. It was in the evening, and I was sat on the sofa in my pyjamas watching TV with my husband. I read the email, gave him (and our dog) a fright with a very high-pitched shriek and then sat there in complete silence, unable to form a sentence – so I played it very cool, all in all, HA!
Then, fast-forward months later, I was probably equally happy-hysterical when Clare and I FaceTime’d after she’d had the meeting about my book deal with the Bookouture team. I genuinely had to go and lie down afterwards because I was so overwhelmed with happiness and excitement (and also relief because being out on submission is an incredibly nerve-wracking experience!) Once I’d recovered, I celebrated with lots of Champagne!
What’s next for you?
2022 is going to be a very exciting year! My debut novel is out next spring, which is so incredibly exciting, and I’m currently writing book two, which will be published next summer. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a dream come true, and there were times during the brutal process that is publishing when I thought I’d never be signed by an agent or land a book deal, but it happened. That’s why I’d say to anyone who wants to be an author never to give up! You’ll find an agent who will champion you and your writing, and you’ll find the perfect home for your book with a publisher.
I cannot wait to read your novel, Danielle. I have a feeling this is just the beginning of a great career! Thanks so much for being on the blog. If you’d like to learn more about Danielle, you can follow her accounts below.
Thanks for stopping by,