Catching my breath

I am making time this afternoon to write a post, which I have (as you can see above) entitled ‘Catching my breath’. It’s a ‘fake it ’til you make it’ type strategy as I am professionally breathless.

I am still working fulltime and getting up every day to put in an hour or two of writing/editing/author biz before work. But soon I will be paring back to .9 (woo hoo), giving me every other Friday off to write like a little writing fiend.

When asked about my WIP (work in progress) I currently respond with, ‘which one?’ ’cause there is a little bit going on in my author world.

Status update:

  • My travel romcom series recently got a name: The Holiday Romance series
  • My third book got a name – not officially shouted out on social media yet, but it will be A Sunset in Sydney
  • The same cover artist who created the covers for Books 1 and 2 is – as you read this – creating a gorgeous depiction of Sydney (squee)
  • In January, I finished the first draft of my Christmas novel (coming in October), called The Christmas Swap
  • I am completing structural edits for A Sunset in Sydney right now (well, not right right now, as I am writing this post)
  • When structural edits are handed over, I go back to a re-write of The Christmas Swap which is due at the end of March
  • Once that’s handed over, I will get copy edits back for A Sunset in Sydney
  • In the midst of all this, I am working on the launch of Book 2, That Night in Paris (April 15 – pre-order now!)
  • In June, I go to the UK to attend the HarperCollins author party, the RNA Conference, and to meet my editor and agent in the personage
  • While in the UK, I will go up to Edinburgh for research, as it is the setting for the second half of my 5th book, the 4th book in The Holiday Romance series, which is about a supporting character from Book 2 (did you get all that?)
  • Also while in the UK, A Sunset in Sydney will be published, so lots to do in the lead up to that!
  • And once back from that trip, in early August, I will be finishing Book 5 and will receive structural edits for The Christmas Swap

Actual picture of me when I’m killing it:

pop-art-multitasking-busy-business-woman-at-office-vector-11222980

And sometimes me:

exhausted

But also me:

Jennifer-Aniston-gets-excited-after-winning-her-first-SAG-award

I really, really, really, love being an author and I am still pinching myself.

 

My name is Sandy and I am an author

I met with a financial advisor once – once. When he asked about my long-term plans (career, finances, retirement), I replied that I would probably never truly retire, because one day I’d be an author and I would continue to write ’til the day I stopped breathing.

He laughed at me. Out loud. Then he tilted his head and gave me a pitying look. I asked him to leave and went back to my desk and wrote a chapter.

That was in 2001.

I finished that manuscript, a travel biography of my year as a Contiki Tour Manager, then stuck it in a drawer. For years.

I dusted it off once and gave it to a writer friend. “This should be a novel,” she said, so I started turning it into a novel. In late 2012, I got 70000 words into a re-write, then queried it to an agent in Australia. He loved the first three chapters and immediately asked for the rest.

“This isn’t your first book,” he said on the phone a few days later. “It’s good – you’re an excellent writer – but you’re not Liane Moriarty. There are too many narratives, too many characters. Go and write a single narrative – a simple story. Then come back to me.”

Encouraged, I did.

Mining my own (sometimes interesting) life, I turned my true-life love story into a novel. I wrote You Might Meet Someone about a woman in her late-thirties, who – post-breakup – is fed up with men and takes herself on holiday to Greece, sailing the Cyclades Islands. Everyone tells her how she might meet someone – so condescending and unhelpful – but she just wants to travel and soak up the briny air and sunshine. Of course, she does meet someone – make that two someones.

(Aside: in real life, there was only one someone and he is still my someone.)

I went back to the agent. “Hi, do you remember me?” – that sort of thing. He did and said he’d read the first three chapters. Loved them and later that day, he asked for the rest. The next morning, well before I’d had my first cup of tea, I got the call. He’d read it twice and loved it. ‘Eat, Sail, Love,’ he called it.

He represented me for a year – per our contract – to no avail. No publishing deal. In retrospect, my synopsis and pitch were ‘off’, but my agent thought I should add some ‘danger’ to the book – apparently, danger was selling at the time. I wondered how I could do that. How could I turn a travel romcom into a book with danger? We parted ways amicably and I put the book in a (metaphorical) drawer. That was 2015.

In 2016 Ben and I had been together nearly 10 years and we decided to celebrate our real-life ‘meet cute’ with another sailing trip around the Greek Islands with the same skipper.

On return from that wondrous trip, I was inspired to pull out the book and give it another pass. “Why don’t you self-publish on Kindle?” asked my supportive love. I percolated on that question for a short while, gave the book a final edit, handed it off to a colleague with editorial chops, collaborated with a cover artist in London, and – bottom lip firmly between my teeth – published it on Kindle.

My book was out there. I was an author.

Fast forward to our sabbatical in 2018 and I wrote the sequel (also published on Kindle), then book three in the series. Sarah (books one and two) and her sister, Cat (book three), came to life. The men they loved, their travel adventures, their friendships, their internal battles, their journeys to love, came to life.

Concurrently, I soaked up as much as I could about author life. I took a course on building my author profile and engaged with fellow authors on Twitter. I read widely – both within my genre and about the business of being an author.

As I embarked on the indie author path, I tweaked and honed and finessed my pitches to book bloggers, agents and publishers. I joined author communities. I sought and gave feedback. I engaged beta readers and I became a beta reader – I learned what a beta reader is and why they are so important to the writing process. I entered contests and Twitter pitches, and was featured on book blogs and UKRomChat (hi, lovelies – I adore you so much!). I even did my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and smashed it, writing 70000 words of my third book in three weeks.

I worked my little Aussie bum off.

Along the way, I made friends with some incredibly talented, generous, and supportive people – most of whom I’ve yet to meet face to face. I became part of the writing community.

Excitingly, my blood, sweat and lots of tears – a.k.a. ‘hard work’ – is now paying off. I have a new agent, the inimitable Lina Langlee of the Kate Nash Literary Agency in the UK, and she has secured me a two-book deal (!) with a soon-to-be-named imprint of a soon-to-be-named (big five) publishing house.

It’s happening. I am being published – by a world-renowned publisher.

I am embarking on a long-distance, long-term relationship with an agent who loves my work and believes in me, and a publishing house who described my writing as ‘beautifully sumptuous and evocative’.

So, as I commence writing my fourth book, as I assemble the dream cast for the movies of my books, as I continue to work in a field I (also) love and am great at – adult education – I am humbled, excited, terrified, vindicated, grateful, and … well, I am an author.

p.s. Doesn’t Lina Langlee have the best name ever?

p.s.p.s. If you read either of my first two books while they were out in the world, thank you. They’ll be back. (pssst, please leave a review on Goodreads)

p.s.p.s.p.s. Thank you to William (Bill) Aicher of the Indie Author CoalitionAimee Brown, fellow romance author and leader amongst women; DC Wright-Hammer, who shines the spotlight on fellow authors; Rebecca Langham, who started #AusWrites on Twitter (often the highlight of my day); Jeanna, Eilidh, Lucy and all my fellow authors of UKRomChat on Twitter (always the highlight of my romance author week); Allison and Valerie from the Australian Writers’ Centre; and Jen and Kerry from The Business of Books. Thank you Lindsey Kelk, my favourite author who (actually) replies to my emails. And thank you to my friend, Mike Curato, who took a leap of faith to become a best-selling artist and author.

p.s.p.s.p.s.p.s. Thank you Ben and my sis and my family and Lins and Jen and all my lovely friends. x

 

 

The hardest part is getting published

Writing a novel may seem like a big task. It is.

Start to finish, including chapter re-writes, incorporating feedback from trusted editors and reviewing the whole thing 3 times over, You Might Just Meet Someone took about 2 years. That’s 2 years alternating between intense labouring and equally intense procrastination.

You see, I love to write, but I don’t always feel like doing it. The majority of my job is writing – documents, training materials, reviews, editing – so when I get home from work, sometimes I don’t want to sit in front of another computer and do more writing. And of course when I get in the habit of browsing Reddit, watching Netflix or reading instead of writing regularly, it is easy to ignore the niggling voice in my head that says, “Sandy, this novel is not going to write itself.”

Well, it’s done now, and I have already started the outline for the sequel, but harder than writing and editing it, is getting it published.

Just like a novel doesn’t write itself, no one is going to knock on my door and say, “hello, I’m looking for a novel to publish. Do you happen to have one lying about in a drawer somewhere?”

No! It’s up to me. I have to get the word out!!

I need a publisher, or an agent, or both. Whichever one I get first will (probably) make it easier to get the other one, so I am working on getting a publisher and an agent at the same time. It’s a bit chicken and egg, really.

And you may not know this, but an aspiring author needs a brilliant book proposal, one that can be adapted for each potential publisher and agent, because they all want slightly different things.

Essentially, I need a detailed synopsis, a shorter synopsis, and a really brief synopsis – something that might appear on the back cover. Plus I need an engaging author’s bio which highlights my brilliance and my bankability, and to identify the target audience as well as competing titles – these are the books mine will sit next to on the shelf. Publishers and agents need to know what books are similar to mine – and in what way – as well as how mine is distinctive from other books.

I learned all of this from two incredibly brilliant women, Kerry and Jen from the Business of Books based out of Seattle. Between them they have written (and published) 40+ books, and because they both worked as publishers before they became authors they really know the biz of books. And they share what they know.

Publishing is a business and if I am going to make it my business, I still have work to do. Now begins the hard part.