The journey to publication with The Webs We Weave, has been a huge learning curve, to say the least. I wanted to share it with you all, because it might inspire anyone who is currently struggling to either get their novel onto the page, or even into the hands of a publisher!
It’s quite a long story, so maybe grab a cuppa before we start. 🙂 Have you got one? Good. Okay, here we go:
I first had the idea for The Webs We Weave, in the autumn of 2017. I had been speaking to a member of my family, who told me that her ex-husband had now left wife number 2, for someone else. I wondered what my family member would do, if the second wife knocked on her door. She assured me that the door would remain closed, but I couldn’t help but wonder – what would happen if she opened it?! That was really the basis of the story, and I wrote the book over the course of the next six months or so.
As I was writing the book, I signed with a new agent – one who dealt with fiction as well as non-fiction. It was my hope that this person would be able to guide my career and represent my novel and any future non-fiction work. This agent – let’s call him Agent X – read the first draft of The Webs We Weave, and told me that the beginning was good, the end was good, but the middle did not live up to the premise – i.e. that it suddenly turned into a women’s fiction book, rather than a psychological thriller. I agreed and set about rewriting to make the entire book into a thriller….
Unfortunately, I didn’t know what I was really doing with the story, and ended up throwing every kind of psychological thriller cliché into the mix. In my naivety, I sent it off, and not surprisingly, the agent disliked it, his assistant disliked it, and I ended up throwing the whole thing away. The time had come for some serious thinking, so I sat down and spent a long time writing a detailed plan of the next version of the book. As soon as I wrote it, it all just clicked, and I knew I had something I believed in. I submitted the plan to Agent X and phew! He liked it!
By this time it was the beginning of 2019, and I spent the first four months of the year, writing and rewriting the new version of my novel. I was really happy with it, and thankfully so was my agent! In fact he said I’d cracked it and thought it was an enjoyable read. Then his assistant read it and thought the same. Yay! I was so happy! We were in Weymouth at the time – one of the seaside towns used as inspiration for the fictional town of Cromwey – and we celebrated with fish ‘n’ chips, and a walk around all the places I mention in the book. It was the beginning of June 2019, and I was ecstatic that finally I had written a book that I figured would be sent out during the next half of the year.
But don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, as they say…
Several weeks later, I received an email from Agent X, saying that he now believed the book needed extensive self-editing; that it was unsellable in its current form. I was shocked and devastated, since just weeks before, he seemed so positive that it was a great read. What had gone wrong? I just couldn’t figure it out.
For the next three months I dived back into the book and went through every word, sentence, comma and full stop. The book was gleaming when I sent it back, but this time Agent X said it was over-worked, and I needed to look at it again. Cue more confusion on my part, but I did what he said, and worked on more revisions in the weeks ahead.
Because I was worried that Agent X was having second thoughts about my book, I decided to put together a contingency plan. Should he decide to drop the novel altogether, I did not want to get caught with no plans, no money and no future, so I made a list of what I would do, if the worst happened. I wrote down several non-fiction book ideas, (one of which is the now sold Marilyn in England project), and researched some independent fiction publishers, jotting down their guidelines for submission. I was all set, just in case…
In late autumn 2019, Agent X told me that the book was now ready and would be sent on submission in early 2020! Hooray!!! My family were all excited, but I couldn’t allow myself to feel anything except reservation. I just had this strange feeling that my book would never be sent out. I couldn’t shake the feeling, and when – in February 2020 – Agent X told me that he’d had reservations once again, I wasn’t at all surprised. I once again became involved with revisions, though my heart wasn’t in it. Still, I sent the manuscript back, and then waited again.
In March 2020, as Boris Johnson was giving an address to the nation about Covid-19, I received what was to be my last communication from Agent X. In the email he told me that he was dropping the book, and I was not at all surprised. I wrote to tell him that we should part ways altogether, and then after spending the day venting to friends and family, I put my big girl knickers on, and pulled myself together.
The funny thing is, I hadn’t realised until I parted ways with Agent X, just how unhappy I had become, and how much I now doubted my abilities as a writer. I have been traditionally published over a dozen times, but I felt as though I was the worst writer that ever lived. Now, as I got myself back together and dived into new revisions, I felt my confidence come back. I changed the title from the one he had suggested, back to my original; I took out all of the edits I had done in the last month, and took comfort in knowing that if my revisions didn’t work, nobody but me would ever see them. 🙂
Once I got my manuscript to where I was happy with it, I sent it to two publishers – Bloodhound Books and Bookouture. I sent it to Bloodhound on the Friday, and by the following Wednesday, I had a contract for two books! It really was as simple as that. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. I cried when I read the acceptance email, and clapped in delight when I was added to their website, and they released the news on their social media.
In the six months since signing with Bloodhound, I have been counting my blessings and savouring every moment of the editing process. My confidence has returned, and as well as my novel (and 2nd novel), I’ve also sold the Marilyn in England project, and another secret book, which I will talk about asap. I’ve even negotiated my own contracts, and saved myself 15 per cent in the process!
I have to say that I am not angry with Agent X, and I’m certainly not disappointed that he dropped my novel. If anything, I’m grateful. If we hadn’t parted ways, I’d never have signed with Bloodhound, and I would never have met such a wonderful bunch of supportive, funny and caring people, who are now my friends. Going my own way was the best decision I could have made, and it has taught me a great deal. I now look to the future with wonder, hope and excitement. So thank you Agent X! 🙂
The moral of this story is, don’t ever give up, because for every person who says they don’t think your work is sellable, there is someone else who thinks it’s fabulous! So keep going, because you never know what delights tomorrow will bring. You just need to keep moving forward, and make sure you have a contingency plan… Always have a contingency plan!
The paperback of The Webs We Weave is available to order from all good bookshops. The Kindle version is on a 99p limited-time deal, and it can be ordered here.
Until next time,