Today was a day I've been looking forward to and dreading in equal measures for AGES!
I was looking forward to it because...well, that's fairly obviously really isn't it? In my mind it was the day that would make all this getting a book published malarkey real.
And dreading it? Because:
a) I was nervous I'd be asked to make lots of changes to HoWG
b) I was nervous my editor wouldn't like my idea for book 2
c) I'd been told I had 'lots of fans in the office' who wanted to meet me and I hate being the centre of attention
d) I was sure I'd do or say something so inane and idiotic they'd immediately rescind the 2-book deal and tell me never to darken their door again!
As it turned out I really, really shouldn't have worried. It was a great few hours and none of the scenarios I'd been dreading came true.
So what happened?
I met my agent at her agency at 11am. She gave me a guided tour of the agency (I'd only seen a little bit of it during my last visit) and I totally fell in love with it. It's a house that has been converted into offices and it's full of charm, an adopted cat - and books. Books everywhere! There's a ten foot bookshelf in the hallway that is absolutely stuffed with books and every office is absolutely crammed with shelves filled with book after book after book. The staff there even use piles of hard-back books to raise their computer monitors up to the correct height! Book heaven I tell you.
I was introduced to my agent's assistant who told me she'd sobbed over the last few pages of my book when she read it at her desk (is it awful that I love that fact it made her cry?) and then gave me some fabulous news - she'd sold my novel to Russia!
I was still taking in that news when my agent and I set off across London to my publishers'. It was an impressive-looking building with glass doors, fancy lifts and two reception desks to navigate and if I hadn't had my agent at my side (and been dosed up on cold and flu remedies) I'd have been quaking in my boots when my editor came out to meet us! I shouldn't have worried - she was really lovely and very welcoming. She led us into the main office (which looked just like a normal office - little booths in the middle with glass-walled offices on one side) and then into her office. I was introduced to someone who went off to make me a cup of coffee and then my editor started talking about my book and what happens next -
First of all she'll get some edits to me before Christmas (not very many thankfully!) and she thinks I should be able to get them done within a week. The manuscript will then go off to a copy-editor who'll go through the book with a fine tooth comb and highlight any inconsistencies, glitches in time span/clothing/description etc and get them back to me. I'll then have to make the changes and a 'proof' will be produced (my manuscript in book form - either with a plain cover and my name and book title or a mock-up of the final cover) and I'll get to read through that to check that the typesetting hasn't introduced any glaring inconsistencies/changes. A proof-reader will also do the same. At some point during this process I'll also be asked for my feedback on the cover (apparently the first cover mock-ups will be produced in around February time next year!).
So we talked a bit about covers and retailers and various people popped into the office to meet me. I can't begin to explain how truly BIZARRE it is to meet so many people that have read (and enjoyed) your book. Other than my agent and publishers NO ONE other than me has read the book from start to finish (my editor told me she's read it FOUR TIMES now!) and for someone to say, "It was really funny," or "I could hear my colleague giggling from my office," or "there are some really touching bits," is a real pinch yourself moment. For a start you have no idea how to respond. My natural response was to go, "Really?!!!" but I managed to smile and say "thank you" instead. Of course now I feel a HUGE pressure to make book 2 equally as funny but I'm trying not to think about that!
At one point I was asked how I'd written the book as it all seemed to slot into place and I sheepishly admitted that, while I knew the first few scenes and how it ended, I'd made up the middle bit on the fly. I expected everyone in the room to gasp in horror but instead they just nodded sagely and commented that all authors were different - some plotting every scene while others sat down with a blank screen and made up the whole lot as they went along.
That was a relief as I'm approaching book 2 in the same way (I know the first 9 scenes and the ending but not the middle) and I was dreading being asked to provide a more detailed synopsis! I asked when I'd be expected to let her see book 2 and she said I could either provide a bit at a time or finish it and then let her see it. I went for the latter - I'd much rather finish a draft and then edit it into shape than send in 3 or 4 chapters that I might end up changing later anyway. My editor suggested next September as a delivery date and I agreed that that sounded do-able.
So about an hour into the meeting my editor suggested that we go to lunch. She took us to a lovely restaurant in Covent Garden and ordered each of us a glass of champagne and toasted me (so weird!) and then we perused the menu. I had king prawns and squid for starter and swordfish for main and a coffee instead of dessert. We mostly talked about non-writing things over lunch and the next two hours flew by.
Goodbyes were said and then I headed home.
So there you go - my not-very-terrifying-at-all meeting with my publishers! There are more people to meet in the future (there's an authors' party in January that I'm really looking forward to - apparently the last one was at the Royal Opera House with unlimited champagne!) and lots of work to be done but it's all really exciting stuff.
And I'm not going to feel stressed about book two (much!).