Last month I had the honour of speaking to a group of Australia's most talented emerging writers about what life is really like for a newly published author. Many of you already know that attending a commercial fiction masterclass run by best-selling author Fiona McIntosh kick-started my publishing career, so I was delighted when Fiona asked me to return to Adelaide and tell my story.
More than anything, I was grateful for the opportunity to give something back. I've received so much support from Fiona and Penguin and the other authors from my masterclass group, that I was only too happy to return the favour. Fiona hosts the masterclass in the beautiful Adelaide Botanic Gardens so making the short flight wasn't exactly a hardship.
In my (so far limited) experience, making the right contacts is vital in publishing. Attending a course where you get to meet a publisher and hear them speak about the industry is invaluable. Being able to pitch your manuscript to them is a huge opportunity, but even if you're not quite ready (as was my case) you still have a foot in the door. I sent the Yes, Chef! manuscript directly to the editor from Penguin I met at Fiona's course. I knew I was aiming high (Penguin are the biggest publisher in the world and this editor is Fiona's editor) but I still believed it was best to take the chance on a direct contact than try my luck with the slush pile. It was worth it. The Penguin editor sent me the loveliest email of encouragement and put my manuscript in the hands of an editor from the imprint that publishes chick-lit.
I received a call from an editor from Penguin Destiny almost straight away. Yes, the people at Penguin are not only lovely but highly efficient! After discussing my manuscript she asked if I was open to taking on some structural feedback and resubmitting without a contract. To be honest, this was what I had been expecting. As a new author I wasn't about to be choosey and I guess it gives the editor an idea as to how you will respond to editing before you're both locked in to a contract.
When my contract did arrive (aside from doing a happy dance) I asked an acquaintance of mine, who happens to be a literary agent, to look over it. Even if you don't have or know an agent I would highly recommend hiring a professional publishing service to advise you on your contract. Not that I ever thought Penguin were trying to pull the wool over my eyes, so to speak, but it helps to really understand what you're signing. I didn't approach a literary agent for representation purely because things all fell into place rather quickly with Penguin so I didn't need to search elsewhere. I am considering trying to obtain an agent. I think, as a new author, I would really benefit from the experience, wisdom and network an agent can provide, not to mention assistance negotiating future contracts.
Once the contract was signed my editor and I were down to the real nitty gritty. We'd already been through a few structural edits; working on characterisation, adding scenes, developing a stronger ending. Now it was time for the copy edit. Nothing could have prepared me for how difficult the copy edit was going to be! I won't go into detail here as it would double the size of this already long journal post, but I will say this; when you make it to this stage, don't worry if you freak out. Apparently all new authors lose it a bit when they see their manuscript copy-edited for the first time.
After the hard work was over, the manuscript went to a proof reader, who helped with many things, but one of them for me was timing. That was it for my involvement with the manuscript. It went off to a few more proof readers to double check everything while I moved on to P.R.
A publicist from Penguin phoned me about two or three weeks before Yes, Chef! was due to be released. I had written a bio for myself and we discussed the points in my bio that we could leverage off to help promote the book. In my case it was my background in restaurants, travel, the masterclass and the fact that I lived on an organic vegetable farm. I'm not one to boast about myself, but it's important when writing your bio to make yourself sound interesting. The more interest in you, the more interest in your book. As much as we love to write, let's not forget that publishing is a business like any other.
Because Yes, Chef! was published as an eBook, almost all of my P.R was also digital. This meant answering a lot of Q & A's and writing guest blog posts which thankfully I really enjoyed. I did one radio interview which was scary and fun but most of my publicity involved me sitting at my desk. I'm not sure if this will change much when Yes, Chef! comes out in print in February. I think I'll have to write a few more books and develop a stronger readership before I get to do anything so glamorous as a book signing.
Goodness, I've just realised how long this post is. I better wrap up here, but if you're an emerging author and have any questions about what to expect, please email me and I'll happily answer as best I can.
Thank you for reading. To receive email updates when a new post is published please add your details here.