Welcome to our new Novelicious series - My Book Deal Moment in which some of our favourite authors tell us about the experience of getting their first book deal! This week - the awesome Linda Green...
When I was little I had a schooldays treasure album which asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. At the age of nine I ignored the tick-box options of nurse, airline hostess, model and secretary (this was the seventies, after all!) and wrote in ‘author’. By the following year I was even clearer, ‘to have a book published’, I wrote under ambitions. That was it, there was no going back, I could have been easy on myself and put, ‘to be a writer’ but no, I’d stated the need to be published, so condemning myself to years of torment and rejections.
After school I trained as a journalist and spent ten hugely enjoyable years working on regional newspapers. But by 1998 the urge to write a novel had become too great, so I quit my staff job and went freelance in order to realise my ambition.
What I didn’t know then was that it would take seven years, more than 100 rejections and a different novel to get that first book deal. When I tell the story of my torturous route to publication, people often ask me if I would I still have done it, had I known. The simple answer is yes. You do not give up on your lifetime’s ambition because it will be tough, or take a long time to achieve.
But fortunately at the time I was naïve enough to think success was just around the corner. When I finished writing and rewriting the novel I sent the first three chapters, a synopsis and covering letter off to the agent at the top of my list. Some weeks later it came back to me in the stamped, addressed envelope I had provided. Indeed, I became very used to seeing my address written in my own hand over the next few years.
On ten occasions agents asked to read the full manuscript. I learnt after the first one, not to get too carried away by this. Finally, after several years, 102 rejections, a hugely useful critique from author Martyn Bedford and more rewrites than I care to remember, an agent offered to represent me. I went out with my husband for a celebration meal that evening – we came home to discover we had been burgled.
I should have realised it was an omen. Six months later I had a collection of what are known in the trade as ‘rave rejections’ from publishers – though to be honest, the second word is the only one that matters.
My agent suggested I write a different novel. I took a deep breath and agreed. A year later I sent her the manuscript of ‘I Did a Bad Thing’ and promptly gave birth to my overdue son two days later. Somewhere in the sleep-deprived fog of new motherhood I read her email saying she didn’t feel it was as strong as my first novel and was, regretfully, going to let me go.
Fortunately, my son proved a welcome distraction from my disappointment but nine months later I decided to rewrite the novel and sent it off to another agent. The first person I sent it to, Anthony Goff at David Higham Associates, offered to take me on. When he sent the manuscript out to publishers, I would have liked to say there was a bidding war but the truth is there wasn’t. Only one of the publishers, Headline Review, came back with a modest offer of a two- book deal. My agent sounded almost apologetic when he rang me. If he could have seen me grinning inanely at the other end of the phone he would have realised just how ecstatic I was.
I ran upstairs to tell my husband but he was changing our son’s nappy at the time – and it was a particularly messy one - which meant my moment of triumph has a rather unsavoury smell associated with it.
Six years and four top thirty bestsellers later, I still get a massive thrill out of being an author and hearing from readers who have been moved by my novels. The road to publication may have been a difficult one but I am so, so glad I persevered.