The Unpredictable Journey from Agent to Publication

Laptop and book
Category: Writing

As aspiring writers we often imagine our struggles will be over as soon as we find an agent. We’ve passed the first major hurdle and publication will, we hope, follow swiftly. My debut psychological thriller, She Chose Me, was recently bought by Legend Press and is scheduled for publication in September 2018. My journey to this point was in no way swift, but it has provided a valuable apprenticeship.

I allowed myself to glimpse the dream

I submitted my opening chapters to Charlie Brotherstone at the Ed Victor agency in April 2015. A week later, he had read my full manuscript and signed me. I was thrilled to hear he considered the novel ready to send to publishers. When the submission process began a couple of weeks later, I allowed myself to glimpse the dream: agentless to major book deal in less than a month.

As the submission process progressed, that dream began to fade. The rejections we received were positive, praising both the quality of the writing and the way the novel dealt with its difficult subject matter. Several editors wanted it but couldn’t get the support of their sales and marketing teams.

In retrospect, I’m amazed I didn’t sink into despair. Yet despite not securing a deal, I kept perspective. A month previously I didn’t even have an agent. Now I had one, and editors were reading my work and taking it seriously.

Much of this positivity came from Charlie’s belief in the novel and in my writing. Whilst getting an agent doesn’t guarantee instant success, getting the right agent means you have someone to champion your work and to steer you through the tough times.

Charlie arranged for us to meet with four editors who’d enjoyed the book. These editors provided further feedback on my work and advice for moving forward, and I remain extremely grateful for their time. After these meetings, and over a strong cocktail, Charlie and I decided to see if I could find a way to reimagine the novel whilst staying true to the issues and ideas we both believed to be unique about it.

I settled down to the task of reworking my manuscript

Buzzing with inspiration, I settled down to the task of reworking my manuscript. Life, however, had other plans. In September that year, my mum died after a failed kidney transplant. Shortly afterwards, I began a six-month stint as a teaching fellow on the Creative Writing MSc at the University of Edinburgh. An experience I loved and, at that time, needed. When not teaching, I read as many novels in my genre as I could and jotted down my developing ideas.

When the teaching ended, I could no longer avoid writing a new draft. Self-doubt and grief were ever-present, but I forced myself to start. Somewhere in the midst of the daily struggle, the voices of the characters slowly transformed and fresh ideas for plot and structure took shape. At last, the novel began to fall into place. My friend and fellow writer, Lesley Glaister, did me the honour of reading this early draft and providing crucial insights. I also received guidance from Claire Baldwin, an experienced freelance editor who pointed out the final glitches that needed addressing before I sent the manuscript to my agent.

To my relief, both Charlie and I loved the revised version of the story, and I found myself unexpectedly grateful for that ‘failure’ during the first round of submissions. So don’t worry if your path to publication is a long and winding one. Try to trust the process. Chances are you could end up with a better novel at the end of it.


Picture by SCY via Pixabay

Tracey Emerson

Tracey started writing fiction after a career in theatre and community arts. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and literary magazines and her debut novel, She Chose Me, will be published by Legend Press in 2017.