It's finally happened - I've signed a contract with one of the Big Five publishers! HarperCollins's digital first imprint Impulse will be publishing my novel The Replacement Wife - about a woman who falls in love with another man, so she tries to find a wife for her husband. Here's how it happened ...
I sent the synopsis and first three chapters to HarperCollins Australia's online submissions scheme The Wednesday Post. On the following Tuesday I heard back from the publisher at Impulse asking if I'd be happy to publish it as an ebook. She sent me an information sheet about Impulse and asked me if I was happy for the novel to be published as an ebook to send through the rest of the manuscript. If HarperCollins had offered to print my story on low-grade toilet paper I probably would have said yes. So of course, I sent through the rest of the manuscript!
A week later, I heard back from the Publisher saying the Impulse team really liked my manuscript. BUT, before they could offer me a contract, they had concerns about the way I'd narrated the story and would I consider changing it to be more immediate. The story had originally been written as the mother's confession to her son, so it was told in the second person - 'your father', 'that was for you', 'you boys were'. Half way through writing the story I'd had a niggling worry about whether it was working or not, but I was so far in, I'd kept going with it. So I wasn't surprised that they'd found this a problem. However, I'd also been worried that a commercial publisher wouldn't like my ending and would want me to change it for a mainstream audience. The ending was important to me, so I said alright I'll change the narrative, but I just want to make sure I can keep the ending as it is. She said the ending was fine. Phew.
So I cleared two weeks for the rewrite. I booked in family members to babysit the kids and took some time in lieu from work. I had to write a new beginning and in some chapters almost every sentence had to be changed. It was a massive undertaking and with any rewrite there's always the fear that I was making it worse than better. And the pressure was huge because this was a real chance of getting in with a big commercial publisher.
I submitted the rewrite and waited for a response. By the start of the second week, I was regretting that I'd told so many people. 'Have you heard back yet?' was making me wish I'd kept my mouth shut. But ten days later the publisher's name reappeared in my inbox and the news was good! They liked my rewrite and sent me an offer memo.
I'm really lucky they could see through the problems with the way I'd narrated the story and were happy to work with me on fixing this. I think the story is now stronger with the changes I've made and it's a good lesson for me - if I think something isn't working, then don't be lazy, fix it. It's hard work, but it's work worth doing.
There's something kind of serendipitous about HarperCollins publishing this book. Four years ago I became a member of Authonomy - an online community of writers. Authonomy is run by HarperCollins in the UK; writers upload their stories, members critique and rate the stories and at the end of the month five stories are selected to be reviewed by HarperCollins editors for possible publication. It was the first time I'd put my work out there in the world and in the process I became acquainted with other writers and I started to take my work more seriously. It was a really important step in my development as a writer. So I'm thrilled that this book is being published by HarperCollins.