Friday, 15 April 2011

Reader Request: the Journey

Today's Reader Request post comes courtesy of Saumya, who wanted me to talk about my journey to getting a book deal, from start to finish. This could easily turn into a monster of a post if I let myself yammer on, so I'm going to try and be as concise as I can.

How long did it take me? That depends on which way you want to look at it. I was fifteen/sixteen when I first sent a letter/partial out to a publisher (it was awful, but the editor who replied was very nice) and twenty-two when I got my book deal for a very different book. So I guess it took me six or seven years.
On the other hand, I could boil it down to just A TORRENT OF LIGHT. How long did it take me from starting the first draft of TORRENT to getting the book deal? 

About thirteen months. 

I did it by the book i.e. I researched agents, I wrote the dreaded query letter, I had requests for partials, requests for fulls, ultimately got an agent, who then sold the book. So I probably could be a poster girl for How Hard Work and Persistence/Pigheaded Stubborn Determination Can Pay Off. I could also be a poster girl for How One Agent Had to Read Four of My Manuscripts Over the Course of Four Years and Ultimately Rejected Them All But Was Still Terribly Nice About Giving Me Second Chances, the Poor Bloke.

But anyway, for Saumya and for any other interested reader, here's how a manuscript called ECHOES became the soon-to-be-published A TORRENT OF LIGHT-

Late September 2009
Sangu starts writing a book. (Ironically, she is in Bangalore for the end of her summer break from university and she's writing the first part of her book which is set in England.)

November 2009
Sangu is back at university in England and stops writing the book because she thinks it's rubbish. (By this point, you will no doubt be unsurprised to hear she's writing the part of the book that's set in Bangalore. Go figure.)

January 2010
Sangu starts writing the book again because Steve (then boyfriend, soon-to-be-fiance and eventual husband) tells her it's amazing and she should and, moreover, he kind of wants to know how it ends so could she please stop being such a selfish cow and just finish the damn thing already? (He's the best cheerleader ever.)

February 2010
Sangu finishes her 'first draft', though it's not really a first draft as she's done a lot of going back and editing as she wrote it. She starts to edit, using beautiful red pens and shiny pieces of paper and feeling distinctly proud of Her Editing Tools.

March 2010
She starts querying agents. She probably did this a tad too soon, in hindsight, as the manuscript would be revised several more times in the months to come, but Oh Well.

March-August 2010
She gets a lot of query rejections, a fair few partial requests, and three full requests in these months. An agent called Holly Root finishes the manuscript in August and likes it, but doesn't think it's right for her, so she gives Sangu a referral. Sangu emails the agent she was referred to. This agent, in case you didn't already know this, is Melissa Sarver.

One week later
Melissa gets back to Sangu and wants to talk. After a long chat about the manuscript, Sangu does a few revisions, sends it back to Melissa, and

Mid-September 2010
Sangu HAS AN AGENT. Like, ohmygod.

Late October 2010
Sangu is on her way to Bangalore (funny how these things come full circle, hey?) on holiday when Melissa sends her a text to ask if Sangu is available to speak to an editor. Sangu spends the rest of the trip (a four-hour flight from Dubai) freaking out and annoying Steve with questions like 'BUT WHAT COULD SHE WANT FROM ME STEVIE TELL ME WHYYYYYY'.

Early November 2010
Sangu speaks to two editors in the space of a week, ends up with two offers on her book, talks things over with her agent, ultimately goes with one of the two offers, and HAS A BOOK DEAL OMG FAINT.

Okay, so it did turn into quite a long post after all. But I tried, I promise. Alas, me and concise will never be the best of friends.
And that's how it happened. My journey to a book deal: six years or so, five manuscripts, an awful lot of rejections, and thirteen months of crazy, exciting stuff.

And no, it doesn't end there. That's when the real work started!


  1. Heheh. Sounds like a trip (Round trip? Head trip?) of the best kind!

  2. You think this is a long post, how funny. Gotta say I'm loving the agent who read four of your manuscripts in four years and remained nice and presumably vocal (one assumes he didn't send you four form rejections, ouch) about the whole thing.
    - Sophia.

  3. Oh that's so interesting Sangu. Holly sounds really nice - I can imagine some people in her position would have just said "not for me thanks" and not bothered passing it onto someone else.

  4. Well, Sangu! Congrats on your journey, each one's tales is very exciting to hear! :)


  5. Yay! So nice to hear how it all happened, and yay for Steve for encouraging you!

  6. OMG I thought I had commented on this lovely post. I'm so sorry! Thanks for answering my question. Your journey is so inspiring instead of the "oh, I knew someone who knew someone with a secret handshake." So proud!