However, before reading on please join me in saying a HUGE thank you to all the RNA NWS members who have so kindly taken part in the feature and shared their journeys over the last few weeks. Without them the feature would still be nothing more than an idea I came up with one Saturday afternoon in June! So thank you all very much. I am confident that publishing success is just over the horizon for us all.
My Path to Publication by Kerry Fisher
Once I’d naively announced to the world that ‘I was writing a novel’, my path to publication included a lot of mumbling into my wine glass at parties: ‘Er, no, I haven’t been published yet.’ A suggestion from my husband that I give up writing and become a shepherd also featured as did my son describing me as ‘an unsuccessful author’ when asked whether or not I worked.
The fact that rejections moved from mainly paper to mainly via email is a reflection of how long it took me to get published…technology moved on apace, while I was stuck in groundhog day, squinting first at the pile of letters on the mat with one eye, then later at the inbox with half an eye.
After three novels and about three years of a ‘hopes raised, hopes dashed’ cycle, my husband suggested that I self-publish.
At the time, I flung myself on the sofa, spun on the spot, moaned about it being a cop out, then, as I often do with the husband’s brainwaves, came round to the idea.
Since my first novel consisted mainly of characters moving from restaurant to restaurant in search of a plot, I went with the second one and uploaded The Class Ceiling shortly before Christmas 2012. It was the push I needed. I threw myself into marketing with gusto, learning masses about Twitter, Facebook and networking along the way. All of my novels had been through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and I usually went to the RNA parties. I’d met lots of lovely people there – some who have become close friends.
However, I’d rarely made the most of the opportunity to speak to agents, as usually when I saw one coming, I’d find myself scuttling off to hide behind a pillar. It was something about the imbalance of power that paralysed me, the sheer scale of my wanting something from them, more than anything I’d wanted since I was about eight and was desperate for a trampoline. However, once I’d published my novel myself, I was immediately much more confident.
So, at the RNA summer party in May 2013, I was buzzing about, joyful and relaxed, when I bumped into Helen Bolton, commissioning editor at the Avon imprint of HarperCollins. We chatted about one of her authors and went our separate ways, without discussing my work.
Afterwards, I kept thinking about the author we’d discussed. My own writing was in a similar vein, so I decided to send Helen - unsolicited and unagented – the first five chapters of The Class Ceiling. A long shot to accompany all the other many long shots I’d tried over the years. Within a week, she came back to me to request the rest, plus my next book, The Divorce Domino. I didn’t dare get my hopes up. Even if she loved it, she’d still have to convince the marketing team, the finance team and goodness knows who else. By this time, I was not so much squinting at my inbox as getting the dog to look for me. In July, we had a really positive meeting at HarperCollins’ swish HQ, where I just about managed to restrain myself from doing a cartwheel on the front steps – but still nothing concrete.
The waiting continued. In the meantime, I approached agents I liked, mentioning HarperCollins’ interest and receiving a completely different reaction: ‘Yes please, send the full manuscript.'
By now, it was August and I went to see the agent who had responded the most enthusiastically - Clare Wallace at Darley Anderson. The whole meeting had a professional but warm and honest feel. I knew I could work with her. I left with an offer of representation. When I got home, there was a two-book deal from Avon in my inbox.
You don’t get many days like that.
The Class Ceiling has been republished by HarperCollins as The School Gate Survival Guide – it’s currently out as ebook and will be published in paperback on 11 September.
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