The thing they don’t tell you about Undiscovered Voices is how it turns your writing life upside down. I’d been writing for a long time before I became a 2014 winner, and I knew the process. You write a novel. You edit the novel. You edit some more. Then you send off queries to some carefully-chosen agents and wait while, one by one, the polite rejection notes come in. Then you repeat.
Yet within days of the Undiscovered Voices 2014 longlist coming out, I had a query from an agent. (Don’t they know how this is supposed to work? I’m supposed to query them, not the other way round.) And when the shortlist was published, it all went a bit mad. Not just agents, but editors – real, live editors who weren’t just having a laugh, but sounded really serious about wanting to read my book.
And this is where I discovered the real strength of Undiscovered Voices – the organisers. Their patience is endless and I couldn’t have managed without their advice and support. Over many phone calls and email exchanges, they never once made me feel like my questions were silly or a waste of time. Everything from what should I wear to the launch party to how on earth do I go about choosing an agent when everyone is so brilliant.
The launch party is the most amazing, exhilarating, terrifying experience. Hundreds of agents and publishing people all wanting to talk to you about your book. And once again, the organisers are on hand to steer you towards the right people and make sure you’re never left standing on the side-line. As someone who has spent every party ever standing on the side-line, this was something new.
I came away from the launch part with multiple offers of representation and spent weeks agonising over a decision before signing with Gemma Cooper of the Bent Agency. It still hadn’t occurred to me that my book might actually sell, but this is what happened here.
Less than a month after going on submission, my book sold at auction in a transatlantic deal. Not just the first book, but two more books that I hadn’t even written yet.
Almost exactly one year after the UV2014 longlist came out, I gave up work to write full-time.
The Accidental Pirates: Voyage to Magical North will be published by Macmillan in the US on the 5th July and the UK on the 14th July this year. Book two will be out in 2017.
My advice to the 2016 finalists is: celebrate, keep writing, ask all the questions you want and take your time with everything. Enjoy the magical adventure.