The power of persistence

That thing I couldn’t talk about last week? I can talk about it now, because it’s signed and agreed.


Yesterday I met the lovely Harry Illingworth from DHH Literary Agency for lunch and to talk about my debut fantasy novel, Godblind. Harry really likes it, is extremely enthusiastic about it, and is confident he can sell it to a publisher. (Side note: I did not fall over, puke or faint during our lunch, even though I felt like doing all three out of sheer excitement and a nagging worry I was hallucinating everything that was happening to me).

So we talked my book, his plans for it, the trilogy, his plans for those, and then books in general. He has possibly the coolest job(s) ever – he’s an agent whose agency is inside a specialist bookshop (Goldsboro Books), so he’s an agent until someone comes into the shop, at which point he’s a bookseller, then he’s an agent again. Books everywhere! Books galore! Heaven.

So, Godblind is a novel I originally wrote the first draft of ten years ago – at least. It has gone through probably eight revisions since then, and the focus of characters, their outcomes, the entire structure of the novel, has changed almost beyond recognition since that first draft. So, persistence is key.

Even when it was in its final, current format (I say final, Harry some ideas to the contrary on that, but since I agree with them all, I’m keen to start the final round of edits) (final until an editor sees it, anyway) it wasn’t plain sailing to find Harry/an agent. It did the rounds of agencies, it did open door submissions with the big publishing houses, for around three years.

Three. Years.

Did I ever feel like giving up? Hell, yes. Did I ever think this is the last submission, if this doesn’t get me an agent I’m retiring the manuscript, it’s crap? Hell, yes. Did I ever do that? Hell, no. Because I had faith in it. I had faith in the characters and I had faith in my abilities as a writer. That’s not arrogance; that’s the carapace every writer has to develop to deal with rejection.

Godblind was rejected 36 times. So 37 is henceforth my lucky number, because 37 was Harry and Harry loves it.

So how did I end up submitting to Harry? He published a post about his wishlist for submissions. He mentioned what he was looking for, giving examples of authors he particularly admired. I’d never put myself in their league, but the premise of my novel was similar, the world-building and experiences of my characters similar, so I sent it in. So persistence, coupled with patience and dusted with luck is how it worked for me.

So now I have edits to make so that we’re both happy with the final version, and then Harry’s job is to sell it and make me sickeningly rich. I’m sure he can manage the first; the second is less likely but I’ll take it if it happens!

So thank you Harry, and here’s to all the other writers who are plugging away. Have faith, and keep on going.


Currently listening: Blackstar, David Bowie

Currently reading: Golden Son, Pierce Brown

Currently watching: X-Files, Gotham, The 100, Beowulf, The Walking Dead, Vikings season 3



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