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The road to being published - Part Three. Getting a publishing deal.

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

I had an offer from my dream agent and I accepted with unbecoming alacrity. I loved Danielle’s passion for books, her depth of publishing knowledge, her razor sharp advice and her warmth. I particularly loved that she put her hand up and said I had an ‘in’ with Penguin without her and that I might not need an agent at all. She even gave me the name of another agent who did freelance contract work, in case I wanted to go down that route. She said she understood if I did that, but wanted to pitch herself as being interested in nurturing author careers, not just individual books.

If I’d had any niggling doubts, that would have quashed it. I needed that sort of honesty and also, I really wanted a partner in this publishing game. Someone who had my back, had a vested interest in my success, could steer me through tricky new waters and give moral support. It had been so long slogging away on my own, second-guessing my own instincts, that the prospect of an engaged, expert, like-minded ally was almost too good to be true.

Happily, it hasn’t been. I’ve been very lucky in having a wonderful agent experience. Danielle is a fount of publishing knowledge and very generous in imparting this. I have showered her with questions and she’s given me SO MUCH excellent advice. But back to the next part of the story - getting a publisher.

The next stage was a flurry. Signing contracts, getting a head shot to go up on the website, getting together a pitch document to go out on wider pitch, in case Penguin didn’t come through (Katrina had already warned me that it was notoriously hard to get anything past Acquisitions). I headed off to Europe in the midst of all this so that my countersigned agency docs came back while I was in Bulgaria. On 10th October 2018 Katrina confirmed that the editors were taking it into an Acquisitions meeting the following week! So much excitement and anticipation…

And then - nothing. For ages. I came back to Australia and still nothing. The end of the year rolled round, and still nothing. Danielle said she would give them a ‘now or never’ prod but otherwise prepare to go out on submission in the new year. My hopes were deflating fast and December was upon us.

And then, disaster struck. Katrina let us know that she was leaving Penguin after 12 years. She had been my champion there and now she was GONE.

That was it, then. It was over. I despondently emailed Katrina to say thank you for her support and for boosting my writerly esteem and wished her well. But then! She emailed back and said no, all was well, she’d handed it over to another editor and they’d decided it needed some tightening before taking it to Acquisitions. Oh, and by the way, here are some editorial notes for you to do just that.

The notes were gold dust! Pages and pages of helpful comments. Katrina said she had a few more days in the job so if I would let her know whether I would like to redraft with the notes and then send to Penguin early next year, they would take it to Acquisitions then. And could I make the series two books and not three?

Yes, yes, yes I definitely COULD! I was elated. I re-wrote When Days Tilt (no longer Snatched, to Danielle's approval!) over the summer and sent to to Danielle at the end of Jan 2019. She made a suggestion and I agreed, rewrote it again, and sent the changes back on Feb 13th. Danielle loved it and we rushed it straight through to Penguin.

And then - another excruciating silence. Nothing in February, nothing in March. At the end of March Penguin told Danielle that they were still reading it (!) and had yet to decide whether they would move forward with it to Acquisitions or pass. The apparent lack of enthusiasm was a big damp squib. We were bracing ourselves for a hard ‘no’.

April came, and another email from Penguin - asking for the synopsis for book 2! They liked the edits, thought the ending still dragged a little and needed some work - but not a ‘no’.

April passed, May arrived. It felt like the longest ‘not no’ ever.

And then. And THEN!

Danielle forwarded me an email from Penguin dated May 16th (our wedding anniversary, as it happens) with these glorious opening lines:

‘I’m very pleased to send through this offer of publication for Karen’s exciting historical fantasy adventure, When Days Tilt. ‘

The letter went on to make a two-book publishing offer with proposed publication dates of Feb 21 and Feb 22 (which seemed aeons away!).

It had actually happened. And the lovely thing was that my dad just happened to be over visiting at that time, so he was involved in the celebrations that day. I rushed out to buy a bottle of champagne and we all danced around the kitchen. I wasn’t allowed to say anything yet, until the contract had been negotiated and countersigned, but we could celebrate our socks off at home. And we did!

The contract went back and forth a few times - Danielle and the agency overall were happy with it, but there were few clauses that they wanted to negotiate. Finally it was all agreed and on 25 June 2019, I sat down, took a deep breath and signed a publishing contract for When Days Tilt and its sequel, When Souls Tear.

To be continued…

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