Wednesday 14th November 2012. I almost missed it . . .
Obviously not the entire day (which would have been extremely careless even by my standards!) but the most important part of it. I was at work, and in a quiet minute I was tidying up my e-mails and decided it was time to empty my junk mail folder. I idly skimmed the mails, block-selecting as I went, and just as my mouse hovered over the ‘delete’ button my eye was caught by a message from Kate Allan: “please contact me urgently regarding the Piatkus Entice Writing Contest.”
That’s how it all started. From being told I had won a publishing contract with Saturday’s Child, to the day the book (re-named Maid of Oaklands Manor) was released, barely a day went by when something exciting wasn’t happening; from written interviews to choosing the cover, from proof-reading to re-writing and adding entire scenes. Every e-mail that dropped into my inbox from Piatkus gave me an undeniable little thrill regardless of its significance. Still does.
The support and enthusiasm of the editing team was infectious from the outset, and helped me get past my own rather stunned sense of unreality to the point where I could be really proud of my achievement. Having been in contact with Kate in her capacity as Festival of Romance organiser, I queried her literary agency (Kate Nash) with the book and have since signed with her as my agent. Under the gentle encouragement of Caroline Kirkpatrick I relaxed, and let myself explore my main characters, and as I did so I discovered the passion in them, and several layers of more complicated emotion that have made the book both stronger and deeper. And longer! I was able to re-instate several scenes I had left out in the attempt to keep the word count at 100,000, taking it back up to around 113,000. I’ve always been good at keeping to deadlines, which has turned out to be a useful skill!
Throughout the proof-reading and copy-editing process I was given excellent advice and guidance, and I very quickly learned that, while I might initially have baulked at changing certain elements, a moment’s thought and a “just try it and see” attitude revealed that the publishing house really does know what it’s talking about. At the same time, in matters such as the artwork, the team at Piatkus were very open to my own ideas and together we worked towards the perfect cover.
The marketing aspect is something I’m unfamiliar with, but I’m learning fast! I have found people are not only willing to review the book, and to post on their blogs about it, but actually eager to do so. I have re-discovered my Twitter obsession, set up a separate Facebook account for my author profile, and re-built my website. I’ve even learned to smile politely every time a non-writer laughingly asks if I want to be the next J K Rowling. And I mean EVERY time.
That’s quite a feat.