Like so many other Harlequin authors before me, I’d been waiting for “the call” for years, and yet when it came it took me completely by surprise.
Previously I’d submitted seven manuscripts to Harlequin. I had just started working on manuscript number eight when I saw that Harlequin was having a book blitz. They wanted the first chapter and a synopsis, and they guaranteed feedback on every submission.
I figured I had nothing to lose. I’d get some valuable feedback and find out early in the writing process where I was going wrong.
I received an email back, but it had no feedback. Instead there was a request for the first three chapters. Great, I thought. I’ll get even more feedback.
So I submitted the first three chapters. But I still didn’t get any feedback. Instead I got a request for the full manuscript, and a couple of suggestions on changes I might like to make.
This was when I started to panic. I had sent the first chapter off before the book was finished, and it still wasn’t’ finished. The good news was, the request came just before the Christmas holidays, so I had three weeks off work when I could focus on writing. All other plans were put on hold. No spring cleaning, no gardening (I live in New Zealand so Christmas is in the middle of summer) and trips to the beach became quick dips rather than long leisurely days lying in the sun.
I finished the book, sent it off, waited for the feedback, and tried very hard not to get my hopes up.
The first time I sent a manuscript to Harlequin I’d received a request for a rewrite. I’d been so excited and had convinced myself I was well on the way to becoming a famous romance writer. Then my rewrite was politely rejected. I was devastated.
With each subsequent rejection I’d coped a bit better, until I was coping so well that I expected rejection. But I’d never been asked for a full manuscript before. This was unsettling.
Then the email appeared in my in-box. There was no feedback, no request for a rewrite, just an inquiry from Julia Williams, asking if I’d be available to take a phone call at 9am UK time the next day. With the 12-hour time difference, plus one hour for daylight saving, that was 10pm NZ time.
I emailed back, yes – of course I’d be available. Then I spent an anxious day and night, waiting. At 10pm I sat watching the phone. Then it rang, and a woman with a lovely British accent told me my book had been accepted and Harlequin would like to offer me a two-book contract. I’m sure she gave me lots of other details, and I hopefully answered sensibly, but all I can remember is smiling like an idiot and having to stop myself from breaking into a dance until I put the phone down.
Over the years I’ve heard many published authors say, don’t give up, it will happen, and now I can say the same. If you’ve had a manuscript rejected, don’t give up. Even if you’ve had several rejections, or, like me, seven rejections, don’t give up. Take notice of any feedback and keep going. And one day “the call” will come.
My journey has involved lots of support from others, so I should mention the Romance Writers of New Zealand, the Romance Writers of Australia, and the Christchurch branch of the Romance Writers of NZ. Their advice, enthusiasm and support has been invaluable.