I was born in the wrong era. Once upon a time publishers bought manuscripts for ludicrous sums and paid equally ludicrous advances. Why can’t I have launched my writing career in those days? Even if I was forced to wear a corset while writing and had to publish under the pseudonym ‘George’, at least the publishing industry was thriving and companies welcomed new authors. (Well, at least this is my impression of those days.)
One good thing about today’s era is Google. Given that my novel is set in a fictional Australian town, it seemed logical to try my luck in my motherland first. A few hours’ googling taught me:
- Many publishers won’t stoop to considering your manuscript if you don’t have an agent.
- Many agents won’t stoop to considering new authors.
I soldiered on nonetheless and eventually, hooray, found an agent in Melbourne who did take on new authors. Even better, she was willing to accept me – on the provision that I reworked my novel to make it more ‘young adult’. So after a few deep breaths and a lot of swearing, I began work on another, more young-adulty draft under the guidance of an amazingly talented person known only to me then as The Reader (she later revealed herself as the young adult fiction writer, Emily Gale. Fortunately, I was happy with the results – and so was the agent.
The moment the agent offered me a contract was one of extreme excitement. My jump of jubilation caused my daughters, who were downstairs from me at that moment, to drop into ‘turtle position’ (something they’re well rehearsed in doing in the event of an earthquake). I finally had an agent! The hard work was over. My novel was in a professional’s capable hands now. All I had to do was wait….
I received a lot of positive feedback, but sadly, no takers. ‘Young adult fiction’ publishers thought the novel wasn’t ‘YA enough’. So the agent focussed on ‘Adult fiction’ publishers. Nope. It’s ‘more of a YA novel’. Aghhhh!
After two up-and-down years (during which I started and completed the first draft of my second novel), I stopped crossing my fingers. Once again, I turned to my NZSA mentor, Penelope Todd of Rosa Mira Books, for advice. She came to the rescue by reinstating her offer of publication, later going one step further by offering to bring out a hard copy version as well as an ebook.
So that’s how I got to where I am today. It’s been a heartbreaking process, but I’ve learned a lot along the way – from Penelope and Emily (and Google) – and believe that my manuscript is better because of it. Is it ‘young adult’ or ‘adult’ fiction? I don’t know. All I know is I wrote what I wanted to write (albeit several times) and if someone enjoys reading it, the long long journey will have been worthwhile.