Living My Best Life (Going behind the filters and revealing what it’s really like to have a book published!) by Claire Frost
Part 1 - Just Say Yes (my book deal moment)
Y-E-S: three little letters, one short syllable, but a truly massive word. When it comes to writing a book, getting an agent and finding a publisher, ‘yes’ isn’t a word that’s heard very often. For every ‘Yes, and have this large amount of money as an advance before seeing your book in the hands of the great and the good,’ that’s uttered in the course of a year in publishing, there are thousands of ‘No, it’s not quite right for us,’ emails sent to hopeful writers continually refreshing their inboxes.
Too often in life we are told that the answer is no: ‘Can I have a pay rise?’, ‘Will the trains ever run on time?” and ‘For the love of god can you put your dirty clothes in the washing basket and not on the floor?’. No, no, and, seemingly, no.
So when you hear that short but powerful word, it can be life-changing – especially when it’s followed by the words ‘…we’ll publish your book!’.
Back in 2014, I took two months’ unpaid leave from my job and wrote a novel. I make it sound easy and nonchalant, but although I loved writing my story, I found it ridiculously hard to tear myself away from Homes Under The Hammer every morning and sit at my dining room table until I’d typed the 2,000 words I knew I had to write each day if I was to finish my book before I went back to work nine weeks later. And I missed my job, or at least I missed having people to talk to. So when I arrived back in the office with 90,000 words under my belt I was eager to chat to my colleagues about what I’d been up to. But after two weeks of, ‘So when can I buy it in a bookshop then?’ and me having to explain that no, I hadn’t got an agent yet, and no, I hadn’t got a book deal but maybe one day, I quickly shut up.
Over the next year or so, I beavered away at weekends, polished up my manuscript until I felt it was good enough to send to some willing family, friends and a few bookish people I had met through my job, as well as a couple of agents. While I got some invaluable feedback from some super-kind and knowledgeable people, I was also met with the inevitable ‘thanks, but no thanks’ from the agents I’d approached. I’d very much been expecting this, but rejection is still rejection, and it was impossible to not feel disheartened.
Then my friend Sara-Jade Virtue (yes, BATC’s very own BookMinx!) said she’d read the first few chapters that I’d sent her and would I mind if she passed it on to her colleague Emma? I replied with a big, fat YES, as you can well imagine!
Months passed, until an email from Emma Capron pinged into my inbox in March 2017. When I finally worked up the courage to open the message, I scanned the type until my eyes rested on the phrase ‘this isn’t the book’ and that familiar feeling of dejection kicked in. Crestfallen, I read the email again – and this time I started to notice phrases such as ‘the characters have really stayed with me’, ‘you’ve got a fantastic voice’ and ‘I really think you have something, but I just think this isn’t the book to launch your career with’.
After having a coffee with Emma and hearing her explain why she felt my book wasn’t right for her to publish, but that she thought I should write a whole new one that she would work closely with me on, I was totally buzzing – and not just from all the caffeine. Maybe I could be an author after all, I thought as I skipped home. But when I woke up the next morning all I could focus on was the fact that the book I’d written wasn’t good enough. My confidence and excitement began to dissolve again.
Over the next year, despite repeated chivvying, prodding and support from Emma, SJ and anyone who’d ever been subjected to my regular rant about my dream of becoming an author, I wrote precisely nothing. ‘How’s the writing going, have you got anything to send over?” they’d ask. ‘No, I’m horribly busy at work/had a terrible cold/hurt my finger/lost the will to live,’ I’d bleat pathetically.
If you’re reading this thinking, ‘What an idiot, I can’t believe she had all these opportunities and just kept saying no!’ then I am with you all the way! However, if I’m honest, I think I was sub-consciously self-sabotaging and protecting myself from more failure – if I didn’t even try then I couldn’t possibly fail again, right?
Eventually, the team sat me down and said firmly, ‘We still really want to work with you, but to have a book published you do actually have to write some words. So let’s talk about what this book is actually about and then you can send us a chapter breakdown in seven days’ time.’
Now, being a journalist, I LOVE a deadline, and suddenly my adrenaline kicked in. For the first time in months I felt inspired. I felt confident. I felt like I could actually write a book! So I finally sat down with my laptop and created characters I loved, constructed a plot I was excited about and decided on a structure I thought worked. Thankfully, Emma and the team agreed and they said they would present it at the regular acquisitions meetings attended by all the top bods at Simon & Schuster. And then I heard nothing. The demons began to creep in and I started to doubt whether my characters were as interesting and believable as I’d thought. Just as I was about to send myself yet another ‘test’ email to check my inbox was actually working, a notification appeared. I opened the email immediately and scanned the type until my eyes rested on the word ‘YES’. I actually had a book deal. That night I drank a vat of wine and stared at that email until my eyes went fuzzy.
However, I’m not sure I still truly believed that Simon & Schuster wanted to publish my book at that point. Or even when I signed the contract that laid it all out in black and white. Or even when I finished writing the manuscript and sent it off to Emma to read. Or even when I first saw a cover with my name on it. Or even writing this blog now! Being an author has been my dream for so long that I’m not sure it will EVER quite sink in that it’s actually happening. But it is – and, crazily, there’s not long to go until you can read it!