I can vividly remember my book deal moment – I was working in a TV production office putting together a new show for BBC3 called Murder in Successville. My team and I were struggling to find the right celebrity guest star for one of the episodes. As we pored over Heat magazine looking for inspiration, my mobile rang – it was the publishing company Corvus saying I had won the Love at First Write competition with my book How To Get Ahead in Television. I was going to be published! In an open plan office, all that my colleagues heard was me squealing with excitement then saying,
“No!! Really? No! You must be joking? Are you serious? Oh my god that’s so exciting!!”
When I came off the phone they waited with bated breath to see which mega star had agreed to guest star on our show. Who could I possibly be so excited about? Beckham? Cruise? Madonna?
“Well?” they asked.
“Oh, no, sorry that was nothing to do with work.” I admitted, “I’ve won a competition and someone’s going to publish my book!”
“Oh,” they sighed in collective disappointment.
“What book?” the Assistant Producer asked.
“Well, I haven’t exactly written it yet…”
Rewind a few years. I was 26 and having always dabbled with writing I realized I finally had an idea for a full-length novel (a Young Adult sci-fi trilogy no less) which just had to be written. I took time off work and set to it, surprising even myself with my rate of productivity. After a few months I had a completed manuscript and duly posted it off to agents and publishers. Fingers-crossed and heart racing, I sat by the inbox waiting for a reply.
The responses dribbled in. A few people saw potential but ultimately no one liked it enough to take me on. The whole experience was a reality check about how hard it would be to get published – it wasn’t purely about having the idea, doing the work and finishing the book, that was just the beginning.
The experience of rejection was so disheartening I gave up writing for a few years, throwing myself into my day job as a TV producer. Then someone told me about the Love at First Write competition Corvus and Lovereading.co.uk were running. All I needed to enter were the first few chapters of a book and a summary of the plot. Working in TV, I had always wanted to write a romantic comedy about the ridiculous things that happen behind the scenes– the diva strops, the alcoholic presenters, the office romances. This competition sounded like the perfect place for such a novel. So I started writing and suddenly I had an idea that just flowed – win or lose, publisher or no publisher, I had to finish this book.
Winning the competition was the kickstart I needed to get writing again. It gave me renewed confidence in my writing and perhaps helped me find the genre best suited to my writing style – romantic comedy. My colleagues might have been disappointed that Beckham wasn’t turning up for our TV show but I was much happier with my book deal moment than a potential Beckham moment… (Well… No, yes, if I had to choose, I’d definitely go book deal…)
How to Get Ahead in Television by Sophie Cousens is out now.