I suppose I must have been very naive at the time my lovely agent, Judith Murray, started sending my first novel, His Last Duchess, out to publishers back in 2008: I was so excited to know that I was being represented by such a prestigious agent that it had never occurred to me that she might not actually be able to place my book. Of course, I’d accepted that at least a few of the names she had run past me might pass on the novel, but was totally confident in her ability to secure me a publisher.
But as the weeks and then months rolled on, all the various people Judith had lined up for me sent back rejections – some of them those tantalising ‘almost-but-not-quite’ responses; others straightforward and uncompromising ‘no-thank-yous’. After ten or so of these, Judith suggested waiting for a little – there are many hiatuses in the publishing calendar – we should try again at a more promising time, later in the year, she said. She told me she had a few more names, to whom we could send the book; she was upbeat and positive, but I was beginning to feel distinctly anxious.
We duly began the process over again, and a couple more rejections quickly followed.
My anxiety became ever more painfully acute.
Signing into my email inbox became something to dread.
And then the course director of the MA in Creative Writing I had done a few years earlier at the University of Chichester told me that an independent publisher in Brighton was actively looking for local authors. I sent my book off… and an offer was made. I was delighted! I liked the company very much, and was keen to go with them, despite the small advance. Judith, however, said it would only be right to wait for the responses from the last few big names to whom she’d sent the book, before making a decision. She would, she said, let them all know that another offer had been put on the table.
I was happy to wait, and the independent publisher quite understood.
A couple of endless days snailed past.
And then a phone call came through.
It was Judith, sounding rather breathless. She said the immortal words, ‘Erm, I think you’d better sit down…’
My heart had begun beating so fast I thought it quite likely I might fall over, so it seemed sound advice. I sat down. Obviously smiling from ear to ear, Judith told me that Little, Brown – which had long been my secret publisher of choice – was offering not just a book deal, but a lovely big two-book deal! It took some minutes for me to believe what I was hearing – I know I kept saying ‘What? Do you mean it? Really?’
I felt dreadfully guilty about turning down the independent publisher, whom I had really rated, but in the event, there was no question about what I should do, and I very happily accepted Little, Brown’s offer.
Gabrielle Kimm's third historical novel, The Girl with the Painted Face, is released on the 21st of November.