Lauren Chater is an author to follow for advice on all things writing/querying/publishing and agenting. Her best selling novel The Lace Weaver and latest historical novel, Gulliver’s Wife are two books which have firmly planted Lauren on the literary stage. Lauren has been praised for her meticulous historical research and incredible, evocative and spell-binding writing. I can’t leave out how stunning the cover of her novels are. Gulliver’s Wife, published in 2020 was a novel that stood out among piles of polished books in every bookshop and Lauren’s writing and reputation equally shines. From winning the Neilma Sidney Literary Fund award in 2018, to receiving the Fiona McIntosh Scholarship. Lauren is involved in literary festivals around Australia and is currently writing her third historical fiction novel, The Winter Dress.
What’s so great about this interview with Lauren are the insights she shares into how she made it there. Publisher first, agent second, and with the best of both, Simon and Schuster and Tara Wynn from Curtis Brown, no less. Lauren also offers tips on submissions and synopsis writing for hopeful writers!
How long have you been writing?
This question always stumps me! I’ve been writing seriously for around 10 years but I have always been a ‘writer’, if that makes sense…? Part of a writer’s job, I feel, is to observe and interpret, to experience and record. I’ve always been a bit of an outsider and I’m not so good with crowds of people – I prefer a one-on-one approach. If we were at a party, I’d be the person wanting to know all your deepest, darkest secrets. A curiosity about what drives human nature is an attribute I think most good writers possess and all those years of not-writing stood me in good stead for the crazy world of publishing.
What led to your offer of representation with an agent (or contract with a publisher, if you went that way around first?)
I was introduced to my publisher (Bert Ivers, formerly of Simon & Schuster) through a contact I met at a literary networking event. I pitched the idea for my first novel (The Lace Weaver) and she encouraged me to send what I had. When I had written the first third of the book and edited it as best I could, I crossed my fingers and sent it off to her. Obviously I don’t recommend doing this – you should finish your book first! Luckily though, she loved it and she offered me a contract for three books. Since then I’ve signed with an agent (Tara Wynne, Curtis Brown) and been contracted for two more novels with S&S. I was slightly giddy with excitement when I signed my first contract but I soon came back down to earth. Deadlines have a way of doing that to you!
How long did you have to wait to hear back and was it a partial or full request?
I think I sent the partial manuscript off on Sunday night and she got back to me on Tuesday. It all happened very fast. The advantage of sending your work out to many publishers is that, if they’re all interested, it could lead to an auction where you can have multiple offers (and the advance could potentially be quite substantial). In my case, I’m really happy I went with S&S. I loved working with Bert (she’s left now, and Cass di Bello is my new publisher but she’s also wonderful). I think it’s very important to find a publisher who shares your vision for the book and can provide a detailed marketing plan of how they will sell your book and make sure it reaches its intended audience. A big advance doesn’t necessarily mean a big success and if your book doesn’t sell for whatever reason, you may find it difficult to get another contract. It’s vital to feel you are supported by your publisher since they are partially responsible for building your career as an author.
How many submissions did you make prior to gaining representation/publishing contract?
I didn’t submit anywhere else, but I did win a mentorship and a competition for the initial few chapters of my first manuscript.
Any tips on cover letters/synopsis/pitches?
I would include any mentorships you have done and any prizes or scholarships. Even if you’re shortlisted with a dozen others, it’s a big achievement in this climate to place in a competition. As for the synopsis, mine always changed once I’ve actually rewritten the thing and I know what it’s about. Don’t be afraid to take on board the suggestions of a particular publisher or agent especially if it’s your ‘dream’ publisher. Their job is to see the overall shape of the story and your job is to write it (beautifully). Those are two very different roles. Having said that, you need to stay true to your story and your characters. It’s a hard road to walk but in the end it will be your name on the cover so you need to be happy with the work.
Your first reaction when they offered the representation/contract?
I can’t remember! I think I might have gone to the beach while the kids were at school? I have a very unglamorous life. Maybe when I sign my next contract I will take myself out for dinner with no children around. That sounds ideal!
What’s next for you?
I’m currently editing my next novel due out in October this year (2021). It’s called The Winter Dress and it’s about a textiles historian called Jo Baaker who is drawn back to Holland to investigate the origins of a mysterious 17th century dress brought up by amateur Dutch divers from a shipwreck off the coast of Texel. It’s a dual narrative so it’s quite a challenge. Hopefully it all comes together in the end.
It’s been such a pleasure to have Lauren on the blog with us. Getting advice and insight into successful authors like Lauren Chater and her publication journey is priceless and motivating. Once again we’ve seen how sometimes the road to gaining a contract can start with prizes, scholarships and writing courses, which anyone can apply for. Thanks again for coming on here, Lauren! Fans will be thrilled about The Winter Dress and its close publication. You can follow Lauren here to learn more.
Thanks for stopping by,