The email from my agent, Oli Munson at Blake Friedmann, was anxious making.
He’d be submitting my debut, a psychological thriller with paranormal twists and turns, in a few weeks time. He gave me the names of the editors on his hit list. He’d set an auction deadline date: Friday 13th July. “An auspiciously spooky date,” he said. “Keep fingers crossed and pray hard.”
Four days before THE day, another email came in from Oli. He’d got wind of several other submissions going out and wanted to get in first. So my book was going out early. Right now, in fact, if that was okay. The deadline for offers would be brought forward too. “We’ll lose the omens,” he said, “but I’m quietly confident we’ll get a good result here.”
Then, the killer. Was I prepared to travel down to London to meet editors in the next few weeks?
Was I ever.
After years of dreaming about being a writer, then the years of thinking about writing a book, followed by years of actually writing, the slog of finding an agent, the rewrites, the hopes, the what ifs and maybes…
Suddenly, things were moving quickly. If any editors – real, live editors – wanted to meet me and discuss my book, I’d be there in a heartbeat. And they did. So I was.
The blurred scenery through the train window set the tone for my time in London. It rushed by, everything running into what went before and after, until we got to Orion House on Upper St Martin’s Lane. There, everything clicked and fell into place.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read articles in which editors say that they need to really love a book to take it on. It used to feel like a bit of a cop out – until I met the team at Orion. Their enthusiasm for the book blew me away. If anyone was going to do a great job on my book, it would be them. Instinct told me so. Factor in Orion’s track record in the genre and their stellar line up of writers and a decision wasn’t hard to reach.
I travelled back home, the world outside the train window less of a blur – more of a glow. The next day, thirty-six hours before the auction closed, Jemima Forrester at Orion emailed Oli. He rang me.
“We’ve had Orion’s best offer in,” he said. “I’ll run it by you.” He sounded a bit subdued. My heart sank.
I knew Oli was a great agent. But I didn’t know he was a great actor. I didn’t see the Ta Dah! moment coming at all. A two book deal. For a six figure sum. Final offer – and the book had to come off the market right away.
It was more than I’d ever expected. Like most wannabe writers, I’d fantasised about a deal like this, but the more I’d investigated the publishing industry, the more I knew they didn’t happen very often. I’d lowered my expectations, even if my dreams were as big as ever. Dreams won.
As soon as I put the phone down, I lost my home telephone line and internet connection for three hours. Agony. I resorted to a mobile with only a smidgeon of power left and had to make calls with the charger plugged in – not easy when you’re ten foot in the air. I was like a tethered balloon in a tornado.
Since then I’ve had champagne from my editor, completed an Orion author’s questionnaire and signed a contract, one clause of which specifies the delivery date of my next book – so I’ve been writing too! A book deal is a business transaction; yes, dreams are involved, but so are obligations and responsibilities.
All this happened during the Olympics. The whole country was on a massive high. The sun was out. People cheered and waved and wept. Every day I watched athletes achieve their ultimate goal; every day I watched others fail in the attempt. Not so very different from getting a book deal, I thought, except writers don’t only get one chance every four years.
This has been my turn. Who’s next?
The Second Life of Amy Archer will be out in June 2013