How I Met My Lovely Publisher

I was lucky enough to get a ten minute editor appointment with the very lovely Anna Baggaley from Harlequin at last year’s Romantic Novelists Association Conference and I have to admit it was a last minute thing and I owe a huge thank you to Jan Jones for sorting it out. I had been under the impression that no-one would want to speak to me because I write contemporary crime with a romance story running through it. So I emailed Jan just to enquire and she set me up on the best meeting I have ever had. I had to send my synopsis and chapter one off to Jan to pass on to the editor so I did. On the day of the conference I met some wonderful people, there were many names I had heard of that I was finally able to put faces to and should I say the biggest honour was saying hello to the Queen of agents Carole Blake and the wonderful Liz Fenwick as we headed back from lunch. It was a bit like a writer’s day at the Oscars for me and I had great fun reading everyone’s name badges, I was overwhelmed at first when I walked in and very, very nervous but I knew that if I wanted to succeed and become a published writer I would have to get over these nerves very quickly.
Throughout the day I overheard people talking about their editor appointments and some of them were so nervous I began to feel nervous for them. I was lucky enough to strike up a conversation with Bernadette O’Dwyer who has become a firm friend and we keep in touch through twitter to keep each other motivated and on the straight and narrow. As the time neared for my editor appointment I felt a lot better, I think I just wanted it to be over with and by this time I had totally convinced myself that Anna would hate my work, ask what a crime writer was doing pretending to be a Romantic Novelist and shoo me away with a look of sympathy. Five minutes before my appointment I snuck from the talk I was in after being wished good luck by Bernadette and I made my way upstairs. There were a fair few of us congregating on the landing outside the room the editors were inside and they were so nervous I felt bad that I wasn’t in the same state as them, we all chatted and wished each other good luck and then the lovely Anna came out and called my name. I followed her into the room and sat down and did not expect what she said next, ‘I read your first chapter on the train down here and loved it, you had me biting my fist and I wanted to read more when I had finished.’ I was a bit awestruck by this point, she then proceeded to tell me there were a couple of things she would change and I told her I already knew what she was going to say and I pointed out exactly the same things she had been thinking. It was wonderful, bizarre in a good way and I sometimes think I was supposed to meet Anna and that it was fate I asked for a last minute appointment. I came out of that ten minute appointment and really believed that I could write because up until that point I only thought that I could and was worried I was being delusional like some of the X – Factor contestants, you all know the ones who tell the panel that they are here because their friends have told them how good they are – really? The only difference for me is that I haven’t let any of my friends read my work except one when it was a very rough first draft and being such a good friend she loved it. I can’t wait to give it to her to read now; it is still the same story but a much better, fluent and tighter version.
The last talk of the afternoon was one by all the Harlequin Editors which I had intended to skip but my gut instinct told me not to. I sat at the back and listened to all three lovely editors telling us what they loved and loathed about writers and it was very interesting. At the end they gave out business cards with a big P for priority marked on them and told us if anyone wanted to send in their work they could. I guarded that card with my life tucking it into my purse, I left after that talk as it was the last one of the day and began my ninety minute drive home but I was absolutely buzzing.
I then set about making the changes to my first chapter, proofreading my next two chapters and then sent an email to the lovely Anna asking if she would like to take a look. She emailed back and said yes, so nervously I sent off my first three chapters. After a few weeks I got a letter back from Anna to tell me she loved them and could she have the full manuscript? Panic time, I spent the next six days rewriting and checking my manuscript to make sure it was as good as it could be. This time I emailed it off to her and tried my best to forget about it. About six weeks later I got an email from Anna telling me once again that she loved it but would I be willing to make some changes she thinks would make it more commercial, I had to stop myself from telling her that I would have dyed my hair purple and shaved half of it off if she had asked me to. A couple of weeks later I got an email which was very complimentary about the story but it also picked out the weak parts and she had three pages of changes she suggested I should make. I looked at it and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, I was unsure if I could make the changes that she wanted and if I did manage would it be good enough? It has certainly been a nerve wracking couple of months, so much so I haven’t been able to diet to save my life and have existed on chocolate and rose wine (okay slight exaggeration, I have eaten the occasional Chinese takeaway as well.) Anna told me to take my time and not to rush it, so I did and I think it took me about ten weeks to make the changes and rewrite the whole manuscript again. My poor fingers have typed so much the skin is wearing thin on them (have to say it’s the only thing that is thin at the moment) I sent it off to the lovely Anna five weeks ago and since then have been an even bigger nervous wreck than I was previously. In the end I could take it no more and decided to go against my rules of being cheeky and email her to ask if the changes had been okay, I didn’t want her to think I was being a needy writer but I just wanted putting out of my misery sooner rather than later. She emailed back the very next day to say she once again loved the changes and that it is with the buying department now to see if they like it strongly enough to buy it and did I have a phone number as all our previous correspondence has been by email. There have only been two previous occasions when I have been rendered speechless one was the sudden death of my brother and the second was being told my best friend had terminal cancer so on the grand scale of things this was a big deal for me. So now I’m waiting to hear if the buying department at Harlequin actually want to buy a novel by an unknown writer called Helen Phifer, fingers crossed they will and you will be able to read the book that has taken eight years of my life to get as close to perfection as I think I’ll ever get and the moral of this story is – Don’t Ever Give Up, if you believe in yourself you will get there it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.


10 thoughts on “How I Met My Lovely Publisher

  1. What a fantastic story, Helen, you had me on the edge of my seat just reading it! Good luck with all the changes and i hope that it’s a success:)

  2. Helen

    Thank you so much for sharing the details, which you know we have been dying to hear 😉 It sounds like a nerve wracking process from beginning to end! Thrilling too that Carina UK have announced you as an author on Twitter, that must mean something about the acquistion… Can’t wait to hear more about how the process unfolds over the coming weeks, the new title of your book, the cover, the release date and everything else. Such well deserved success and eight years that were also well worth it too. I just hope the rest of us can emulate your success and keep repeateing the mantra “not to give up”, although sometimes I come close!

    Jo xx

    • So lovely to hear your story. Wondeful news, congratulations. It is really an encouragement to us all.
      Lorraine x

  3. Thank you so much Jean that’s very kind of you 🙂 and thank you Helen, Jo and Lorraine I was very surprised yesterday sitting at my weight watchers meeting when I got a text from my friend who is a writer telling me that Carina had just announced me on Twitter. I can tell you that was a wonderful feeling and needless to say I never listened to a bit of the talk it all went over my head 🙂 I should have my cover design soon which I can’t wait to see and when I have some more info I’ll pass it on. Yes ladies you are going to get there because you are all determined and fabulous xx

  4. Hi Helen,
    Thanks for telling us about how you met Anna and the process that you’ve been through with Carina. The editing process sounds tough! It’s so fabulous that they’ve announced you as one of their authors. Looking forward to hearing more and seeing the cover design.

  5. Hi Helen
    As you know, Jo and I both love the detail and can I just say what a fabulous post that was for giving us all the gorgeous details from how you felt to what happened next. Perfect. I’m so pleased that we’re all able to be part of this journey with you and can’t wait to read your 1st novel. It’s also really helped me understand how the RNA Conference may pan out. I’ve submitted my form – bravely – and am hoping lightning will strike twice!!! xxx

  6. Thank you Alex, Vikki and Julie 🙂 I’m looking forward to catching up with as many of you as possible at the conference. I’m only going on the Saturday but we’ll be able to get Jan Jones to put thewriteromantics on our badges under our names if we ask her. I noticed the lovely Romaniacs had it under their names last year. I’ll keep my fingers crossed Julie how fabulous would that be but you can all submit to Carina Uk anyway they are calling out for submissions I noticed on Twitter and Facebook so why not give it a go and send your novels off to them.

    Helen xx

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