What I liked was that her name was Vero, which means real or true in Italian. I took it as a good sign – and I was desperate for one of those, because I was prepared to meet with the commissioning editor, of course, but not the director, as well as sales, as well as publicity. It was the PR who was “truth”. Well, that’s unheard of, I thought, cynically.
I sat in the glass-walled meeting room of the publishing house with views of the Thames, swallowing hard as I sought courage enough to meet the eye of the woman with my future, my dream, in her hands. She’d said in her email, I honestly believe every woman will find themselves in this book, and my agent had told me so as reply to my email that said: Urm, OHMYGOD THE WHOLE TEAM ARE FOLLOWING ME ON TWITTER. That’s a good sign, right? They wouldn’t follow me if they weren’t interested?
When those names appeared in my notifications, I almost threw up.
Waiting for the week of scheduled meetings was the longest month of my life. The day my agent sent out the proposal for my manuscript, polished as it could be, laboured over with 45,000 words of the book, an ‘about me’ section, ideas for future projects and links to my social media, I whispered into the flame of the candle I burned daily as prayer to the publishing deities, PLEASE JUST GET ME A MEETING. I knew, believed in my bones, that if I could simply get an audience with the editors I most admired, I could get a book deal itself. I just needed my foot in the door. Face time.
“So,” she said, the one with my future in her hands. “Can you tell us more about you, and the book; your vision?”
I laughed. I couldn’t help it.
“That’s the biggest question I’ve ever been asked.”
Everybody else laughed, too.
I rose to it. Soft faces and kind eyes encouraged me to. I started off timid, I think. I remember looking to my agent a lot, for approval that what I was saying was okay. Over a breakfast meeting before the week began she’d said to me, when I asked her what, exactly, I should behave like in these meetings, “Laura, just be yourself.” That seemed a bit of a gamble, but I trust Ella more than I trust myself, so if she said do me, me I would indeed do.
The women around the table were all about my age, give or take. And… and way back when - way back when I decided, almost ten years ago, to commit to writing every day and hone my craft, when five years ago I first started work on this book, when twelve months ago I began to piece together the proposal I understood all books needed - I didn’t think it would be that way. I thought the gatekeepers were old, fat men in suits, chomping cigars and gleefully telling girls like me no. I didn’t know the women commissioning my book would be women like me. But then, of course they are. Of course they are. Who run the world?
I talked about pre-sale marketing strategy and did impressions of my mother, both. These women, I wanted to head down to the pub with them and drink – get totally arseholed – and swap stories about our lives. I trusted them. In the other meetings we had, at other fancy offices with other fancy publishers, I was a version of myself. Myself, of course, but more guarded, less confident, somehow not all there. But with them, I was home. For a full hour magic coursed through my veins and I knew I had presented myself not only as a writer, and as a woman with a story to tell, but also as a businesswoman who has toiled for a decade to get a seat at the table. It was my moment, that meeting. I felt like I shone, and knew – just knew – that they’d ask for a second meeting. They had to.
They didn’t ask for a second meeting.
What happened, instead, is that they emailed my agent to say they’d be putting in an offer. And then, when they did, it was a pre-emptive offer, meaning it was for a bit more money than they’d normally give, on the condition I agree or decline by the end of the day. “They’ve done that,” my agent told me, as I groggily woke up from a nap that saw me miss her first four calls, “So that you don’t go with anybody else.”
“But… But I already told you I don’t want anybody else!” I exclaimed, unbelieving and not unsure that perhaps it wasn’t an actual dream, half-asleep as I still was.
“Well then I advise you, as your literary agent, to say yes.”
So we did. We said yes.
My book, the labour of love from the whole of my twenties, gets published in June 2016 – a sort of thirtieth birthday gift to myself.
I’ve never worked harder.
I’ve never been prouder.
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