Since announcing that Penguin Random House are going to be publishing The New Mum’s Notebook and the next Notebook, I’ve been asked quite a lot how it happened. How did I get a book deal? Did I approach them? Did they find me? So I thought I’d share exactly how it happened. For those who are interested.
‘Sorry about the terrible book.’
Firstly, I wasn’t ‘discovered.’ Nor did I ever see this as an ending, or should I say, a beginning for The New Mum’s Notebook. I was REALLY happy with the way things were going. Self-publishing has given me autonomy, huge satisfaction and financial stability.
But, earlier this year, I found myself wanting to write another book. Not a Notebook (although Notebook Two was also in mind). But a book with just words. Lots and lots of words. And it wasn’t something I wanted to attempt to self-publish, even after the success of The New Mum’s Notebook. So I decided, on a complete whim, to get in touch with an agent. The same agent, David Higham Associates, who I’d approached five years ago. With the first (and only) novel I’ve ever written, Up The Duff without a Paddle. Which they rejected. Understandably.
I didn’t follow their submission guidelines, like last time. Because I only had a very vague book in mind. Instead, I wrote a friendly email. Apologising for the rather badly written first book, telling them what I’d been up to since (blogging, freelance writing and The New Mum’s Notebook) and that I thought (hoped) I’d found my voice and my writing had improved. I also included popular blog post links and a few stats on followers and Notebook sales. Boring as stats are, if you have an audience already, this helps an agent think that someone might possibly read a book you’ll write. Other than your mum.
Which is something they apparently like.
The email I sent somehow got me a reply from lovely agent (and fellow mum), Laura, which then turned into some nice banter. I sent Laura a copy of The New Mum’s Notebook because she has an 18 month old. She opened it, loved it and then asked me if I would like to come in for a meeting.
At which point, my pelvic floor completely failed me and I may have wet myself a little with excitement.
I’ve had three kids. AND a trampolining incident. It’s totally not my fault.
The day of the meeting.
The morning of the meeting was a complete disaster. Naturally.
I had stupidly told my kids that Mummy had a REALLY important meeting to get to and needed everyone to behave. I think I actually said the words, ‘Teamwork.’ Which is just asking for trouble, isn’t it?
True to form, at that point, they did exactly the opposite. My eldest said she had a tummy ache and didn’t think she could go to school. The middly was doing her phonics homework loudly, ‘M-U-G. That spells GUM!’ Noooooooooooo! And the youngest thought it would be hilarious to tip a whole beaker of milk over the floor. (Whoever said ‘there’s no point crying over spilt milk’ never had to clear it up.)
I hadn’t planned my outfit the night before, as we are always told to do. Because obviously I imagined I would have LOADS of time to do this in the morning, whilst the kids were focusing on their teamwork skills. The thing is, if your ‘outfit’ usually consists of saggy leggings and a grey slogan sweat, you are going to need to try harder than most to look presentable and should probably have started 72 hours earlier.
‘I’ve got on PVC trousers,‘ I said in a desperate call to my friend. ‘How much time do you have to change?‘ she said. In other words, ‘WHY THE HELL ARE YOU WEARING PVC TROUSERS AT 10.00 AM ON A MONDAY MORNING? THAT IS QUITE POSSIBLY THE WORST OUTFIT YOU COULD HAVE PICKED.’
As I finally left the house, it started to rain. I had just had a fringe cut. I have naturally curly hair.
Good old Yazz would have said at this point, ‘The only way is up!’
Before I went in I took this (badly focused) picture, whilst hoping there was no CCTV. I wanted to remember this day, regardless of whether it went anywhere or nowhere at all.
I liked Laura instantly. And we spent the next two hours talking babies and books and why she should persevere with watching Gilmore Girls. At the end, she talked about how we could go forward, ‘if’ I wanted to work with her. IF?! It was a bit like the end of a date, where you’re treading on eggshells wondering if you both want to see one another again.
I didn’t play it cool, haha.
After that, Laura and I worked on a submission for another book together. She pitched it to publishers AND sent every one of them a copy of The New Mum’s Notebook. It soon became clear that The New Mum’s Notebook was the book the publishers were interested in.
Two weeks later, we got an offer from Sarah at Hutchinson (Penguin Random House) for The New Mum’s Notebook and a second Notebook. A relatively ‘new mum’ herself, Sarah’s lovely letter alone was enough to convince me there and then that she was the right person to take The New Mum’s Notebook forward. I could feel how much she understood and believed in it. And, from the beginning, all my instincts said YES.
So, I said YES.
Work, work, work (and love what you do).
I have had all the emotions this past couple of months. And whilst I know that I have worked hard and consistently for four years, since I launched my blog and wrote posts that only my mum and five others read, at the same time this part of the ‘journey’ feels like it is happening all by itself. The stars seem to be aligned. Or maybe, the timing was just right.
I wanted to write this post because I think, so often, we see other people’s progress and we don’t understand it. It seems to come out of the blue and land on someone’s lap. Some days, it can feel like your piece of the pie is never going to come. I know that feeling, I do. And yes, there are a few brilliant people out there who may get discovered through the combo of sheer talent, luck and timing. But, for the majority of us, I think it’s more about sheer hard word and putting one foot in front of the other. Committing to your ‘craft.’ Loving what your craft is and being consistent about doing it. Always being consistent.
On the good days. And, especially, on the not so good days.
Thank you to everyone who has made this ‘announcement week’ so special! You have all been SO kind. I celebrated HARD on Tuesday night, drank the gin, read (and hopefully replied to) every comment you took the time to write and had a little kitchen dance. Much love to you all. First ‘Limited’ edition of The New Mum’s Notebook is available online now. The ‘new’ version is available to preorder on Amazon. Notebook Two for you not-so-new mums will be published next year!