My passion for reading and writing started at an early age and I eventually became a journalist, but the lure of writing feel-good romance became too irresistible several years ago. That was when I had my first two books, Rock My World and Hero or Zero, digitally published by London-based independent publisher Not So Noble Books.
But to even get to that stage, saw piles of rejections from both publishers and agents. No-one seemed prepared to offer me representation or publish my books. Sometimes, I never received a reply to my submissions at all. Like so many authors, I always dreamt of securing a traditional publisher and holding a paperback copy of my books. But that dream seemed impossible. Although I received some positive comments about my next novel, A Room at the Manor, an offer of representation remained elusive.
Give up or carry on?
There were moments when I wondered if perhaps someone was trying to tell me something and I should just give up, but I remembered what my much-loved, late Mum used to say; “Never give up. Ever.”
It was when I stumbled across an online interview with eponymous Australian literary agent Selwa Anthony in 2017, that I decided to submit the first ten pages of A Room at the Manor to her. I was convinced that I wouldn’t receive a reply or that it would be a polite “Thank you for thinking of me, but I will pass”. To my surprise, I received a reply from Selwa two days later, saying she enjoyed reading my excerpt. She offered to read my full manuscript and reply within a couple of weeks.
After a nerve-racking 12 days, during which time I tried to think of other things and failed miserably, I received another email from her, arranging a phone chat. She said the book required some work, but she liked my writing style and wanted to offer me representation. I remember not being able to speak for what seemed like ten minutes.
We conducted several rounds of edits, before Selwa began submitting to publishers, one of which was Allen & Unwin. Within six weeks, they put in an offer and A Room at the Manor was released in e-book, paperback and audiobook in Summer 2018. It was also released in e-book and paperback in Germany.
By this time, I was already aware of the growing reputation of HarperCollins new imprint at One More Chapter. I mentioned One More Chapter to Selwa in Spring 2020, once we had finished our final round of edits on my next book, which became A Secret Scottish Escape, and she duly submitted that in May that year.
There was silence. A small voice kept whispering no news was good news, but I was determined not to get too optimistic. I had experienced a lot of disappointment before. We were also in the middle of the first lockdown and I knew delays were inevitable.
I tried to focus on writing my next book in the meantime, with limited success!
I still remember switching on my mobile that Tuesday morning in September and noticing an email from Selwa, titled “One More Chapter – Harper Collins.”When I read they wanted to publish it, I had to check my phone to make sure I hadn’t imagined it.
A Secret Scottish Escape has sold over 30,000 copies in e-book to date and I was thrilled when my wonderful editor, Jennie Rothwell, offered me a brand new, two book deal, following its success.
Book two, A Scottish Highland Surprise, was published last April, with The Cottage in the Highlands, book three in my feel-good romance Scottish Escapes series, released in e-book on 1 December and paperback on 8 December.
Furthermore, Jennie offered me a brand-new four book deal a couple of months ago, which will see books six, seven, eight and nine in the same series. Book four, A Scottish Country Escape, will be out in e-book on 16 March in and paperback on 27 April, with book five, The Christmas Highland Lodge, out on Kindle and in paperback on 12 October. Book six, The Bookshop by the Loch, will be out in spring 2024.
Did it really happen?
If someone had said to me a few years ago, I would be represented by Selwa and published by One More Chapter, I wouldn’t have believed them. It has been a tough old road with so many lows and bumps along the way. Someone said to me once that a published writer is an unpublished writer who never gave up. I think that is so true. It is very often a long and frustrating journey, but if you believe you can do it and enjoy what you are writing, then there is a good chance the reader will enjoy it too. Keep going! I cannot stress that enough.
My Writing Tips – for what it’s worth!
Like so many other authors, I am often asked for writing tips. Firstly, I would suggest you read as much as you can in the genre you want to write, as well as any other genres that appeal to you. You will discover what works and what doesn’t and learn so much.
Read submission requirements carefully for publishers and agents and send them only what they ask for. Tailor your submission letter to that particular agent or publisher. What is it about them that appeals to you? Do they represent one of your writing heroes? Do your research.
And I can’t stress this enough, but keep going. If you want it badly enough, it will happen. Don’t let anyone deter you or tell you that you can’t be a writer. You already are. And please remember that it only takes one person to say yes! It might not be agent A’s cup of tea, but it might just be what Agent B has been looking for. Writing is very subjective.
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