My journey to publication – Maddie Please

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By Maddie Please

Some years ago I went on a course that was part of the Cheltenham Literary Festival when there used to be a side festival of tutoring and writing classes. The tutor that day was a literary agent and she probably looked at a room full of shining, hopeful faces with a fair amount of weariness. There were even a couple of attendees there with manuscripts under their arms. Did they imagine she was going to take them home on the train? Well they were doomed to disappointment; she said to learn to be a writer you need to write a million words.

That sounds an impossible target but it’s surprising how it all adds up over the years. I have written 9 full-length books and many short stories most of which must never see daylight so I think I’m about there. We were also told that many people start to write a book but apparently finishing it is unusual. Some times I look at the massive piles of books in Waterstones and Smiths and find that hard to believe but apparently it’s true.

I started out writing paranormal romance, had a go at historical and then tried contemporary fiction. It wasn’t until I started writing feelgood, romantic comedy that I found my ‘voice’. The Summer of Second Chances was the result.

Mind you that didn’t stop me sending out loads of stuff over the years, convinced it was exactly what the publishing industry was looking for (it wasn’t).

I did what all debut authors do – sent it out far too early! The rejections were always disappointing of course. Even more disappointing were the times when I sent my works of literary genius out and received no reply at all!

But although you can’t please all the people all the time, (or in my case no people all the time!) all it takes is to put your very best effort on the right desk at the right time.

I sent out my first rom-com (then called The Education of Lottie Calder) in April last year. Within two days I had a request for a full MS and a few days later the magic phone call. You know the one? I had an offer of representation from Annette Green and through her efforts I signed a two-book deal with Avon, part of Harper Collins. From desperately trying to attract the attention of agents I was now able to gently let the others who approached me down! How amazing is that?

I worked on book one with my editor Rachel Faulkner-Willcocks and she helped me with helpful suggestions and advice and came up with the new title of The Summer of Second Chances. A glorious book cover then appeared, the book was edited, copy-edited (it’s surprising how mistakes do slip through even when you think you know every last punctuation mark) and put out for pre-order on Amazon, for review on NetGalley and Goodreads and finally on 17th July 2017 it was actually published! I’ve had people I don’t know and will never meet reviewing it and giving me 5 stars. It’s astonishing. By the way the paperback is out now.

Is this as exciting as I imagined it would be? Oh yes it certainly is.

And now? Can I sit back, eat chocolate and bask in my success?

No, the work continues, because to me this is a job and I try to write every day. Sometimes it’s really difficult and occasionally a pile of ironing looks like a really fun alternative! Like most things worth doing everything needs practice and persistence.

I’m now working with Avon on book two which is due out early next year and I have a wonderfully enthusiastic editor Victoria Oundjian. I’m editing and completely rewriting the last quarter of the book because it needed a stronger journey. (Sounds like a drag but having fought to get to this point for many years I’m not now going to ignore the advice of the professionals am I!)

You can and will succeed if you put the hours in. Go to writing festivals (I went to The Festival of Writing at York twice – it was invaluable). Go on writing retreats and network with other keen writers. Blogs and Facebook and Twitter are great ways of ‘meeting’ people in the publishing industry, finding out who is accepting submissions, who has started a new agency and is looking for clients.

Never give up, always believe in yourself, surround yourself with positive people who will help when the going gets tough and my personal mantra that applies in a lot of areas; Keep Going! Good luck!

After a career as a dentist, Maddie Please now lives in rural Devon with her husband Brian. She writes full time because then she can pretend she doesn’t have time to do the hoovering and reading books isn’t an indulgence it’s ‘research’. Maddie’s debut novel, The Summer of Second Chances, is out now.

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