Career 25 - the last career. I am now an author.
That’s a sentence that I never dreamed I would actually write. I have been working on my book, The Radical Sabbatical, since November 2016 - just three months into the 25before25 project. It has finally come to fruition. It has taken me so long to write this post because I didn't know whether I would be writing about a success or a failure until fairly recently.
It all started on day seven of 25before25, when I ran into an old friend’s mother, someone I have known since I was four years old, and she said to me, ‘there is a book in this’. I laughed it off as a kind comment. Then a couple of other people said it. Then a few more.
Three months later, the project was featured in The Telegraph. Within hours, I got an email from a literary agent in New York encouraging me to write a book and asking if she could represent it. That was one mind-blowing email to receive.
Giddy with excitement, I signed with the agent and started to keep a journal of my experiences, thinking through what I might write. Six months later, I got an email saying she was no longer able to represent me as she was leaving the industry altogether and changing career. Ironic, right?
This meant that if I wanted the book to happen, I was going to have to write full proposal with sample chapters and then start trying to convince another literary agent to take me on. As I later realised, this is often just as hard, if not harder, than getting the actual book deal with a publisher.
Literary agencies act as the first filter for publishers and getting over this initial major hurdle was big step. It certainly was not something I had any expectation of succeeding in.
Incentivised by a competition being run by a London agency with a very close deadline, I wrote a 50-page draft proposal and sample chapters in a week, in a deep state of flow. I then sent it out to over 20 agencies and waited.
Within a couple of weeks, I already had replies trickling back in.
No, thank you.
Not for us.
Good luck, I’m sure someone else will take this.
Rejection. Rejection. Rejection.
Rejection after disheartening rejection.
After a month and a half, I had given up hope. Virtually all the agencies had replied and said they weren’t interested. I reasoned that the ones who hadn’t replied yet hadn’t done so because they weren’t interested.
A full two months later, and weeks before I finished the 25before25 project, someone finally said yes.
An email came through from an agent who had been out the office for weeks on a holiday, she asked if the project was still available. Yes, it most certainly was!
We arranged to meet that week in central London.
I put on my best pair of heels and tottered through a spotless glass reception and into a mirrored lift. When it opened, I walked straight into an office built to resemble a library. It felt a bit like coming home. I signed with Peters Fraser & Dunlop (PFD) on the spot.
Next came the process of editing the proposal and then sending it out to publishers, at the same time as finishing the last few careers on my list and starting to think about what would come next. All of this took about three months, and again, there were lots of rejections to contend with. It wouldn’t be a writer's story without it.
My proposal had been with publishers for a month, and in the same way as with literary agencies, I realised that if I hadn’t heard by then, I probably wasn’t going to.
A week before Christmas things were at their bleakest, I was terrified that it just wasn’t going to happen, after the idea had been seemingly so within my grasp.
I was at a work Christmas parties listening to a carol service, mulled wine in one hand and a mince pie in the other, after feeling down all week. The choir started to sing the atmospheric Walking in the Air and half way through, my phone buzzed.
It was an acceptance email from a publisher wanting to make an offer.
I immediately cried and gracefully spilt the mulled wine down my sweater in the rush to read the full email while making as little sound as possible. I am an emotionally driven person, if you hadn’t noticed – a wreck at weddings.
Receiving an offer on my book and then, a month later, physically signing the deal are quite possibly the best moments of my life to date.
In the interceding months, I wrote the manuscript alongside the rest of my portfolio career. I learnt a huge amount about the publication process, which is something I knew absolutely nothing about beforehand. When there is talk of publicists, booksellers, literary fairs and cover designs, it still feels a little like a dream. There is definitely a bit of Imposter Syndrome going on – I occasionally wonder if it’s actually happening to someone else, and I’m just along for their ride.
But, you can now pre–order The Radical Sabbatical on Amazon (it's coming out on January 4th 2019), so it must be real.
This book is the product of the final career, number 25. For me, this really is a dream come true.