Last week I told the story of how I found my dream agent. Problem was, I still didn’t have my dream contract with a major publisher. Maybe my agent could use a little help? A writer friend of mine, fellow rural author Margareta Osborn, had asked me to go with her to the Romance Writer’s Conference in Melbourne.
‘I don’t write category romance,’ I said.
‘You don’t have to,’ said Margareta. ‘All sorts of writers go. It’ll be fun … and you get to pitch face to face to editors. Not just any editors, but key industry professionals like Beverley Cousins of Random House, Annette Barlow of Allen & Unwin and Belinda Byrne, a commissioning editor at Penguin’.
‘Really?’ I said, my ears pricking right up. ‘Editors?’ Now, all I needed was a novel to knock their socks off. I already had two manuscripts with Curtis Brown. Maybe I needed something fresh, something that fused my passion for the land with an equally passionate love story. It was January, and the conference was in August – eight months. I could only try. Thus Brumby’s Run was born. I wrote and wrote, revising as I went, and had a polished first draft just in time for the conference.
I scored pitch sessions with Bernadette Foley of Hachette and Belinda Byrne. I agonised over my pitch, practised ad nauseum and was sick with nerves. The five minute pitches were reduced to three minute pitches. Not much time to impress anybody. Then the moment arrived for that long walk into the room, and I was the one who wound up being impressed. Both editors were so friendly and natural, and did everything they could to put me at ease. And best of all, both of them took my three chapters and synopsis.
Ten days passed without word, so I sent out polite reminders. Far from being annoyed, they both asked for the full manuscript. Then, after several encouraging emails from Belinda, she asked to meet me, and in October I received an email headed Penguin Letter of Offer for Brumby’s Run. At last!. I printed that letter out and carried it with me for weeks, looking at it occasionally to check it was real. My agent was happy too, cheerfully returning emails once again and launching into contract negotiations with great gusto. And the rocky road to publication was suddenly an easy, downhill run.
Heading for Ireland on Monday, to take up a month-long residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Soooo … my next post will be from the Emerald Isle. Pretty amazing, huh? (I’m almost jealous of myself!)