I’ve been not published for long enough to allow a kettle to boil, much less forget how articles on How I Got Published are inspiring and galling in equal measure. I have however finally made it to print, so sharing the experience of how it happened feels at least appropriate, even if it feels like fluke. Getting published feels like the glowing perfection of a film’s first act, before a Boeing 747 crashes into the house. This is how it happened, getting published I mean, not the plane crash.
An actor friend told me two years ago how he was giving up his pursuit of acting, and I was struck by what a momentously adult moment this was; to surrender those dreams of his younger self. Well, I reached a similar moment. Over the past two years I had sent my novel the Life Assistance Agency to so many agents that I had reached Z in the literary agent lists, and stopped even noting where I had sent it. Any advice of submitting to only 4 or 5 agents at a time long-since ignored.
Random House then showed an interest, which they probably regretted as I followed them home every night. Mind you, the meeting involving a free cup of tea and Kit Kat in the Random House cafeteria was the most exciting thing to have happened, which speaks volumes about my literary endeavours up to then.
Sadly, this was the peak of my involvement with Random. They had recently signed a novel involving the Elizabethan alchemist and magician Dr. John Dee and feared it risked overkill. They also wisely declined to provide me with this writer’s home address, which might have risked another kind of overkill.
Over the years I also managed to gain and lose two literary agents. To misquote Oscar Wilde, “To lose one agent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”
At this point I put the manuscript to pasture, and started another novel, set in a small tenement block in London Bridge. Once I finished this, I glanced again at the Life Assistance Agency. It was at this point, were it a movie, the audience would groan at magnitude of cliché. Yes, I decided to give it one more chance. I would give it another edit and tidy up, before sending it to every agent/publisher foolish enough to publicise their address in the country in a sort of mail-shot more associated with general elections.
There were no takers, but during this time I was building up a Twitter following, mainly by making friends with people in the hope they might return the interest. Once I had gained 2000, a newly found friend suggested Urbane Publishing, as a publishers happy to consider manuscripts without agent representation. And it was while buying tickets to see Hotel Transylvania 2 with my son that I received the email I thought I would never get. I celebrated by buying the 4-year old the sort of ice cream he never thought he would get, and won’t have again, unless film rights are requested.
And it so happened. The first thing I did on returning home was to recycle the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2010 edition with a satisfying ‘fuck you.’ And spent the next 9 months endeavouring to not fantasise about selling enough paperbacks to cover my expenses. Mind you, I’d prefer not to calculate the hourly rate. It feels surreal; all those dreams and aspirations now to be made public. Annoyingly, the moral of the story is never give up.
The Life Assistance Agency is available to buy from local bookshops and at Foyles:
Kindle is available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Assistance-Agency-want-forever-ebook/dp/B01JDPGZHO/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=