Monday, January 19, 2009

How it started...

Like so many people, I wanted to be a fantasy author.
Now I am about to become what I always dreamed - thanks to hard work and a fair slice of dumb luck.
Literary agents would like the first few chapters of books I sent in, and would ask to read the whole manuscript - but there it would end.
Naturally I was getting frustrated, unable to see where I was going wrong.
Still, every book I was able to finish (no matter how bad) did help me grow as a writer.
Then came what I felt was my best book yet. Once written, I sent it out to various agents in an attempt to get it published.
Some weren't interested but one liked it enough to want to read it all.
Months went by, then I was lucky enough to get a call from her. She liked my latest effort but felt it needed too much work to pick up. Worse, she was about to go on maternity leave and would not be back for more than a year. It happened to be my birthday and, in something of a play for sympathy, I asked what was the greatest problem. Perhaps as a belated present, she told me - when most agents won't give you any feedback.
Inspired now, I re-wrote the book thoroughly and approached the publisher of Voyager, Stephanie Smith, directly. Luckily for me I work for a newspaper and thus she was willing to read my rewritten manuscript.
She liked it, but had plenty of suggestions for it to be better.
Months of re-writes and to-ing and fro-ing ensued.
This was the key, apparently. I have been told since (but not during that process) that many authors are able to get agents/publishers interested in their work. It is the ones who are willing to take suggestions for improvement, who can work with agents/publishers and rewrite their work again and again and AGAIN ... those are the ones who can break through.
Finally she told me it was to go before their Acquisition Committee.
The first time, it received neither a green nor a red light and ANOTHER month of agonised waiting ensued before ... YES! They offered me a three book deal.
My first book, The Wounded Guardian is out July 2009.
The second book, The Risen Queen is out January 2010.
The third book, The Radiant Child is out July 2010.
So what did I learn from this?
First, you need some impartial, possibly even brutal advice from someone who knows books. Friends who tell you it is great, in order to spare your feelings, are no good. Unless you discover the flaws, you might never break through.
Second, be prepared to rewrite. The Wounded Guardian goes to the publishers in April 2009 and is on its 20th rewrite. Publishers like authors who are prepared to listen and work on their manuscript to get it to the stage where it is publishable.
Third, be prepared to get knocked back. Several agents and publishers didn't like my work - but I will be on Australian shelves under the Voyager imprint, which dominates Australian fantasy.
Above all, DON'T GIVE UP.