The path to publication can be a long and varied one. This week, Alice MCVeigh, shares her inspiring writing journey with us. Welcome to the blog, Alice. Can you tell us how you got published?
When I was young, life was easy: I scribbled a novel (about the secret life of an orchestra), mailed it off – no email! – got an offer from the fifth agent I tried (President of the agent’s association, no less) and – within two months – had a two-book contract with Orion/Hachette. My friends all thought I was made for life – but I wasn’t so sure. My father is a biographer and I knew that I’d have to sell well. My first (contemporary) novel did. It reached 35 in the bestsellers, and the film rights were sold to Channel 4 – though never made, the money was handy! . . . However, the sequel didn’t do quite so well. . . then my IVF daughter showed up. . . and then my super-starry agent dumped me.
I decided to break into ghostwriting, having made some good connections in the industry. This worked, and I forgot all about fiction, for over 15 years. But when my daughter left for Oxford, I suddenly found ideas for novels nagging at me.
To my amazement, one of these was a sci-fi book about a rebel assassin on 23rd-century Earth. I lay down and waited for the idea to go away. It didn’t: and, within three months, I found that I’d written 113,000 words. However, what was I to do with 113,000 words, however funny, erotic or brilliant, in a genre where I’d never even published a short story, had no track-record or contacts at all?! I queried, and got some lovely refusals – one of the top sci-fi agents, in Manhattan, sat on the whole manuscript for almost five months – but the publishing world had got a lot tougher during all those years I’d been ghosting. Also: one only gets one shot at being a debut novelist, and I’d had mine.) Although, in the late 90s, even debut novelists even got reviewed. The Sunday Times: ‘Characters rise and fall to McVeigh’s superbly controlled conductor’s baton. The orchestra becomes a universe in microcosm; all human life is here . . . McVeigh succeeds in harmonising a supremely comic tone with much darker notes.’)
Anyway, I was wondering about self-publishing when a writer friend told me about UK publishers Unbound. They’re small but risk-taking, and recently published a novel long-listed for the Booker Prize. They can afford to take risks, because they ask every author to crowd-fund the first part of the book’s publication costs. (Which is what I’m doing at the moment. Only one week in, and 59% already, whoop whoop!) So, against all odds, sometime in 2020, I’ll have a new sci-fi novel in the bookshops, despite being no debut novelist and now in my fifties.
So my advice? If you feel a book hammering at you to be let out: do it. Go for it, and be willing to take that risk!!!! Yes, it’s hard – everybody knows it’s hard – but you have to be in it to win it!
Great advice, Alice!
Check in next week to read another ‘path to publication’ journey.
And if you want to read about my writing journey, I’m talking about it over on Tom William’s blog here.