I was really just amusing myself when I started writing Tweethearts. I didn’t take it seriously until I hit about 15,000 words. I completed some fiction subjects at uni and I’d also read a lot of chick lit, so that was my training. There’s a reason writers give the advice “just start writing” over and over. That’s because there’s really no better way to learn.
I decided I wanted to show an editor in early 2012. I was also working as a journalist and I had a couple of publishing house contacts. I asked a publicist I knew to recommend an editor who’d consider reading my first chapters. The publicist put me in touch with Belinda Byrne at Penguin. I had a coffee with Belinda and she told me she’d enjoyed my first chapters. She encouraged me to complete the manuscript and submit again. There was certainly no guarantee of publication, but her enthusiasm for what I’d started gave me the motivation to see it through. Belinda didn’t tell me what to do or how to do it. That was something I had to work out for myself. For me, it was really important to have fun in the process so I just wrote then tightened the structure later. It took about eight months to complete the first draft, but I edited many drafts after that.
The publishing deal
There was a fair bit of time between finishing the manuscript and finding someone to publish it, so my advice to aspiring writers looking for a publishing deal is to be patient and be open to alternative routes such as digital publication.
Belinda, and another Penguin editor, Ali Watts, liked my manuscript, but for a couple of reasons they weren’t able to offer me a print deal. However, Ali put me in touch with Sarah Fairhall and Carol George at Destiny Romance (a Penguin digital imprint). They read the manuscript and offered me a digital deal with their imprint, which was expanding from romance to include chick lit.
As I learnt more about digital publishing I realised that it was an exiting way to read and publish fiction. I still had access to all of the publisher’s traditional editing and marketing tools that I would have been given if I had a print deal, but going digital meant there was no limited print run and it would be available in the US and UK as well as Australia. Tweethearts is set in a digital world so it made sense for it to be published digitally. When I signed my contract everything happened pretty fast – another bonus of digital publication! There was about seven months between signing and publication. I did another round of editing based on Carol and Sarah’s feedback. Carol is based in Sydney but we spoke quite a bit on the phone. I also met with Sarah in Melbourne to talk through the process of completing the final draft. Once I’d finished my final edit it was over to Carol and Sarah to approve the final copy and prepare it for digital publication.
Aesthetics and essentials
Sarah sent me a jpeg of my cover to make sure I was happy with it – I loved it. A few weeks before publication I released the cover on social media and had some great feedback. At that time, Tweethearts was also available to pre-order on iTunes and Amazon so if people liked what they saw they could buy in advance and it would automatically land in their reading device on publication day.
Marketing and publicity
I met with Destiny’s publicist, Anna, a couple of weeks before Tweethearts was published and we had a chat about media opportunities. Anna made sure the book was available to the relevant bloggers and reviewers. I also set up a couple of my own opportunities through my media relationships. Aside from traditional media and publicity, I also maintained a social media presence and posted news about the release of Tweethearts on Twitter and Facebook as it came to hand.
I didn’t have a traditional book launch, but I did have a small bash with a handful of friends who’d been really supportive during the process. I also encouraged those who came along to read it, and, if they liked it, to share the details with their own networks. Word of mouth definitely helps when you’re trying to establish an audience. Mostly it was just great to have a glass of champagne and celebrate the fact that Tweethearts was published and available to read. Many of my friends downloaded it on the spot and began reading it on the night – yet another cool thing about going digital.