When I started sending
my first book, The Disengagement Ring, out to agents, I was very naïve about the submission process. I sent out bog standard 'Dear Sir' letters targeted at the slush pile, basically saying 'here's my book, please represent me'. The rejections that started coming back were bog standard too, basically saying 'no'.
Around this time I joined an online writers' forum, and discovered that I was doing it all wrong. It turned out there was a whole science around the submission process that I knew nothing about. There were books, workshops and blogs devoted to the subject. There were theories about the best time to submit, tips on bypassing the slush pile and targeting specific agents, even ideas for forensic clues you could insert in your manuscript to tell if it had been read or not when it came back. (Has anyone ever really done that thing with the hair, I wonder.) Not only did I realise that my submissions were rubbish, but I was given to understand that my manuscript was far too long for the genre I was writing in, and that no one would even consider taking it on.
All this threw me into a bit of a tizzy. Luckily I was part of a very friendly and supportive chick lit writers' group within that forum, and Claire Allan, who was already a published author, was also a member of the group. Claire assured me that all was not lost, and sent my synopsis to her agent, Ger Nichol. Ger subsequently asked me to send her the whole manuscript, and took me on straight away! That was in October.
Ger began sending the manuscript out immediately – and then another layer of rejections started rolling in. It was one of the most nerve-wracking times of my life. You're constantly on tenterhooks, always waiting for answers, and ultimately disappointed when the answer is no. Some said lovely things about my book, others came really close to taking it but baled at the last moment – those were the most frustrating of all. And then just before Christmas, as I was walking home from work one evening, I got a call from Ger on my mobile. Hachette Ireland had made an offer for the book! I still remember exactly where I was when I got that call, huddled into the wall in the darkness by the side of the road, trying to hear over the traffic.
I was already on my way to meet my sisters for dinner, so the evening turned into a lovely impromptu celebration. And it certainly made for a very happy Christmas!