Look up Alex Holder’s name on Google and you’ll notice the incredible literary career she’s already had. Based in Portugal, Alex has been the content writer for UK Elle Magazine, Grazia and writes for The Guardian (just to name a few). Her articles are awesome to read over. From feminism and finance to hangovers and money, to abortions and UK marriage certificates leaving out the woman’s job role (this she queried and wrote to the minister about). I even love the titles such as “How the Dorchester asked their female employees to shave their legs and why I told them not to.” She’s a modern-day journalist, beautifully authentic and rooting for females, so it’s no wonder her non-fiction book Open Up: The Power Of Talking About Money is popular and gained attention.
What I love about Alex is her honesty about money. Like she says, she’s the person at the dinner party who people probably shy away from as she’s not afraid to ask the confronting and often taboo questions relating to money, salaries, sexist wage-gaps and spending.
Alex is interested in the the topic of money, and perhaps that’s what drew me to her. Being with a man who’s 25 years my senior, it’s often the first stereotypical reason people think I’m with him, “The Sugar Daddy”.
My novel is also about the competition between women and money and why “keeping up with the joneses” just simply makes me cringe. Therefore, I adore the way Open Up explores the misconceptions people have about other people’s earnings, what we truly spend and how we’re all so secretive about a topic that should and could be shared openly. Alex says, “By talking about money more, maybe we’ll shake off the shame. I don’t want to encourage only people who have money to talk about it; we must all integrate money conversations into our daily lives.”
Alex and I met in the Curtis Brown Creative Course and she is someone who I admire and look up to. Her latest fiction novel ain’t too bad either. But that interview will be for later date! Here, we talk about her journey to getting Open Up signed and published. It’s one for everyone- maybe start ordering up for the Christmas Stockings?
How long have you been writing?
Not that long. I didn’t write anything beyond an email before I was 30. I went to art school and always worked on the visual side of things so to find writing when I was in my 30’s was a revelation.
I had worked in advertising for many years as a ‘creative’ (actual job title). I had always worked with Elle magazine on their campaigns and we’d had success when a few of the campaigns I’d written and concepted for them went viral. This led to Elle offering me a maternity cover as a content director which turned out to be another title for features editor. I had to learn on my feet very quickly – I had to write and there wasn’t much time for self doubt. That job, even though it was short term changed everything, in the office I was surrounded by writers, I asked a lot of questions (pretty sure I was quite annoying) but I left the job with the confidence to write.
What led to your offer of representation with an agent (or contract with a publisher, if you went that way around first?)
I wrote a piece for Refinery29 that was smugly titled ‘I took a pay cut and have never been happier.’ It examined why we often choose money over time, our passions or our mental health. An agent got in touch after she read it and asked if I was thinking of writing a book. We met and I told her I wanted to write about ageing and she said ‘I was hoping you were going to say you want to write a book about money.’ I should have noticed that the articles about money that I’d been writing had been gaining more traction than other topics.
This all sounds very easy but the route to getting the article published was much harder. Lots of pitching to different outlets. Many emails were met with silence and I had to learn how to pitch.
How long did you have to wait to hear back and was it a partial or full request?
I put a proposal together for ‘Open Up’. And submitted it to three agents including the first agent to get in touch with me. I think it was lucky that it was such a timely topic because all three offered representation. Also by this time I had changed careers and was writing for more publications. I chose to work with Niki, the first agent who had prompted the idea of a book about money and have been so happy with that decision. She is everything you want in an agent, smart, kind, and a great editor herself.
How many submissions did you make prior to gaining representation/publishing contract?
We submitted it to nearly 20 I believe and 5 came back with an offer.
Any tips on cover letters/synopsis/pitches?
Every word you put in front of a publisher should be packed with your style and tone. From my proposal, to my chapter headings I made sure each was interesting in itself. It can be
tempting when you’re writing something like a proposal to drift into serious language to describe your book, but the language should reflect the books tone.
Your first reaction when they offered the representation/contract?
At first excitement, it was literally my dream. And then ‘fuck, I have to actually write a book.’
What’s next for you?
I have written a lot of words that haven’t been seen by anyone. So I think the next step for me is becoming brave enough to share new work with my agent.
Hmmm. I’m wondering if this is the fiction manuscript she’s been working on? Hope So! You can order Open Up online here.
Thanks for stopping by,