Right now, I hope, my agent is looking at a draft of my latest book. This may lead on to more exciting things, or then again, it may not. The Road to Publication can be a long and rocky one, as well I know from my single successful journey down it (and from many unsuccessful ones). When my book The Cat Kin was going through the arduous submissions process, I kept a log of its progress. Be warned: if I had read this post four years ago, I would probably have chosen a different career.
Part 1: Finding an agent
After more than a year of hard work, in November 2004 I decide my book ‘Cat Kin’ (initially it lacks a ‘The’) is ready for submission. Between November and December I send extracts to six separate agents, one of whom has already shown cautious interest. Come the New Year, already impatient for a reply, I target three more agents.
Part 1a: Result!
It turns out I don’t have to wait long at all. By February 2005 not one but two of the agents are interested in ‘Cat Kin’. For a couple of weeks I work through the manuscript diligently with one of them… and then sign a contract with the other one, Curtis Brown. I’m not especially proud of that, but given the second agency’s reputation it seemed like the right decision. It depends on whether or not you believe in karma.
Part 2: Looking for a publisher
So it’s February, only four months after I finished the book, and already I have an agent. This is going to be easy. My agent gets to work, submitting ‘Cat Kin’ to a long list of publishers. In June, twiddling my thumbs, I ask for an update. No, there are no offers yet (as if they would forget to mention it). August arrives, and I can’t resist another query by email. Any news?
By October I’m getting really twitchy. I want to write another book – I have a barnstorming idea for a sequel to ‘Cat Kin’ – but I can’t bring myself to write it if the first one isn’t published. I contact my agent again. They’ve tried 16 children’s publishers, and not one has expressed any interest at all.
Part 3: Desperate measures
So I give up. I decide that ‘Cat Kin’ will never find a ‘real’ publisher. I search the web for self-publishing options and find the print-on-demand company Lulu. With nothing to lose now, I put together my own edition and publish it in January 2006.
I don’t hope for big sales. Neither do I get them. I sell about 50 copies of that edition, most to friends and family. But I do send one to the Times’s children’s book reviewer, Amanda Craig. And – wonder of wonders – she likes it. She reviews it in the Saturday paper.
Part 4: Finally…
I tell my agent about the review. Barely a month after it appears, Faber make me an offer. It is now March 2006 – more than a year since I signed with my agent, and 17 months since I first began submitting the book.
Another year is to pass before ‘The Cat Kin’ appears in the shops, and the whole sorry saga of the sequel is yet to unfold… but that’s another story. Just to get to this point has been a long, hard slog, consisting mostly of agonising waiting. Yet this experience is hardly unusual, and is by no means confined to first novels.
So, yeah – fingers crossed that the next book has an easier time of it.