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From MS Submissions to Contracts: How I made it There.

December 13, 2020

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Most of you know I’ve been writing since I could. I have a box in my shed filled with old stained manuscripts, a treasure trove of memories. From my earliest “picture books” about two girls going to a tropical island holiday, to my teenage stories about high-school crushes and the dream of living alone and independent. Most of the time I’d write the ending of films just the way I wanted it to end. This helped me feel satisfied with the story.

It’s very cool to be able to show my girls the piles and piles of handwritten work with the child-like scrawl and teenager scribbles.

I would be up for hours, writing until my fingers hurt. And then I remember going through a stage of typing on my mum’s old type-writer. That didn’t last long. When we got a computer, I fell in love with the ease of tapping away at the keys to get my words down as quickly as they arose in my head.

And now, I can finally answer my own questions that I’ve been asking other writers, (and will continue to) because I still find this greatly intriguing learning about an author’s journey from that first word, to that first agent/book-deal. I’ve recently signed with Darley Anderson Literary TV and Film Agency in London. London! I’m still on a high about this. Of all the agents and all the years I’ve been submitting old manuscripts and The Hidden, I have secured one of the best in the world! I was submitting to one-man-band agencies, agents who led all their own foreign rights etc. And to think I got rejected by them and then pushed my way to the top just proves that if you do not give up, have patience and self-belief, you’ll get something much better.

What led to my offer of representation with an agent?

Five months of sending it out to agents in London, Australia and NYC, with the hopes that one would bite. 15 did, but only one stood out enough for me to accept them! Before submitting, I ensured my MS was as polished as I could possibly make it. I wrote the MS in 8 weeks over the last Christmas holidays! I still shock myself with that and I hope my agent doesn’t expect that each time (although my sequel is seemingly pouring out of me just as quickly, so perhaps I won’t jinx it). Then after I had done about two rewrites on the draft, I spent about 3 months working with Louise Allan and my partner, editing and shaping it. I did about six re-writes all up before submitting to agents on Louise’s recommendation. On the way, I got into Curtis Brown’s three month novel writing course which also helped me to establish what I needed to work on. During this time, I could really see my MS was gaining attention and I knew it would happen. I was getting close.

How long did I have to wait to hear back and was it a partial or full request?

When I first started submitting back in June, after only four days a UK agent requested the full. In the first 3 weeks I’d received about 10 full requests. That’s when I knew I was on to something good here. My story was really standing out. Of those, some requested changes, which also helped shape and polish my MS even further. Some never got back to me.

With my agent, it took about four weeks before they asked for a partial and then about six weeks after that to request the full as they were extremely busy with their established clients. It only took one week after the full request before Jade sent me the email.

How many submissions did I make prior to gaining representation/publishing contract?

A great deal. I researched them all beforehand and looked at the agents I really thought would fit with my MS. I read up on interviews and YouTube videos and read about other author’s experiences with their agent. I sent to about 52 all up over five months. I knew that with Covid my odds were well and truly against me, so if I sent out loads I would hopefully attract the interest. 15 were interested, others didn’t respond and still haven’t. I had to tell a lot of them that I wasn’t going to go with them.

Any tips on cover letters/synopsis/pitches?

See my other blog about this.

My first reaction when they offered the representation/contract?

Very cliché, but I really did think I was still asleep as I received the email early on a Saturday morning. It was only 1 week after my agent had requested my full, so I was delighted when I read the first words, “I have been up all night reading your manuscript”. I couldn’t even read the long email until I phoned my mum and dad. It was two pages of my agent gushing over how much she loved it. She truly got the story, got my characters and what I was trying to say. I was non-stop crying as I read it aloud.

We all celebrated all day, all night and all fortnight long.

The best part is that Jade is a junior agent at Darley Anderson which not only means she has the time and energy to put me first, but her senior colleague is mentoring and overseeing everything as we go along, so I feel like I’ve got two agents for the price of one!

What’s next for me?

I’ve just completed the first round of rewrites that Jade suggested and she is currently doing a line edit. It’s so fascinating to learn about the process from here. I’ll do another blog detailing this later for writers who, like me, are so interested in the steps from agent to publisher.

After Jade has done my line edit, she’ll find more changes that need adjusting. We’re both keen and excited to get this moving so while we’re getting it prepared for early next year, I’ve started writing the sequel to The Hidden; which is keeping me pumped!

That just about sums up what’s been happening. I’ve been telling this story to death for three weeks, so found it easier to write about it here! I hope this helps anyone reading. I’ll continue to interview authors about their publication/representation stories and next up, Rachel Johns will be on here detailing her journey and latest 2020 novel, Flying The Nest.

Thanks for reading!

Holly

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