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  • Writer's pictureMarve Micheal

How I Got A Three Book Deal

Welcome!


This is a follow-up on my How I Got My Agent post, so check it out first if you haven't- it's got some good info. And here is the full query letter that my agent said yes to.


I completed my first book at 21, a suspense thriller, HIS DARK REFLECTION (Available everywhere). Then I took a long hiatus writing poems and short stories, coming back to my next novel in a new genre in 2022. I completed the first draft of my fantasy novel, FIRSTBORN OF THE SUN in about six months (this was hard- very hard). I had a few beta readers read the first draft over the summer. At the same time, I hired an editor for professional feedback. Highly recommend Emma's Edit - Professional Copy-Editing and Proofreading Services (emmasedit.com). I should mention that you don't HAVE to get a professional editor to get an agent or a book deal but I wanted to and I found it extremely helpful. Also helped that I found an editor who was affordable and permitted flexible payment schedules. I should also add that while I got incredible feedback from my beta readers, my editor's notes were more targeted and actionable. For example, I have 8 POVs in my first draft and I wouldn't have been able to streamline it to the much tighter 4 POVs I have now in the final-ish version.


I got my edit notes in the Summer of 2022, (hint: your first edit note will hit like a rock). I took a couple of months off to reorientate myself and step away from the work. I did other things like applying for competitions with the first chapters of the work. I attended short courses, and writing festivals, and did intensive research on all the agents I wanted to query. Love a good spreadsheet. I also spent lots of time revising my query letter and synopsis. Special shout out to this Facebook group, SUB IT CLUB who provided feedback alongside my critique group and many writer friends. After getting a few full requests from Agent 121 meetings, I got the boost I needed and got to editing in September 2022. Turning 120k words to 170k words in a full extensive rewrite. I completed this at the end of April 2023 and started querying immediately. I sent my first query on April 26th 2023, got my first offer on May 17th, and signed with my agent on June 1, 2023.







(Image: Birthday cake November 2022- I figured might as well put my biggest wish on the cake itself. I prayed to have this come true before my next birthday! It did! A month to the day! Note at this point, I had no agent, no offers or deals, just a manuscript that needed a full overhaul).






I edited my manuscript again with my agent over the summer of 2023 which required a substantial edit to the last 25% of the manuscript. I will say that while it felt like a huge amount of work, my agent assured me that my previous edits made it a strong enough manuscript to not need too much work in the majority of the book. At the start of autumn, we had another round of copyedits to clean up the manuscript and then went on submission!


We went on submission in the first week of October. Having a full list, we submitted it in staggers and from the very first email, my heart was threatening to stop. I don't know what I'd have done if it took much longer but I literally couldn't sleep. Awake at night thinking, God please, let someone buy this book. I had a few editor requests- about eight at the time of submission. Many of these were from being a finalist in the Future Worlds Prize Competition (Highly recommend this one- it's life-changing).





Going on submission is hard stuff. I recommend picking up new or old but fun hobbies. For the first month, I wouldn't even recommend working on something new, just leave the book world and start catching up on TV, painting, knitting, and anything that's not writing will do. You deserve and need the break much more than you think. This Facebook group, ON SUBMISSION was super helpful.




We got quick acknowledgement emails in response. Confirming receipt, sharing excitement for it, and saying how much the editors were looking forward to it. This both calmed me and kept me anxious at the same time. Somehow their expectations made me worry even more that it may not live up to the hype.


It took a few days to go through our list and the following Monday, just chatting with my agent, as we so often do, she goes, 'Can I call you?'


I froze.


I had read enough of these kinds of book deal posts that had somewhere in the middle a line from the agent saying- can I call you?


I stared at my phone for a moment that was likely a second but felt like forever, then typed - YES OMG YES CALL ME!!!


She called. We had an offer. We had a pre-empt. We had a three-book deal offer from an Editorial Director at Penguin Michael Joseph.


I paced around the parlour as my agent went on, I could hardly understand her, I just kept thinking, I could not believe that this was happening. After much screaming from both ends of the phone, she hung up for me to think, breathe and scream some more. I ran up the stairs faster than I'd ever done to tell my husband, who had never doubted for a moment that this would happen. I called Kesia back and we talked about it again and again and after some of the most intense few days (time zone difference was the antagonist of this story) of my life (negotiating is not for the faint of heart), we said yes.


In the middle of this, I got the most beautiful four-page letter from my editor saying how much she loved my book and all she had planned for it. She had other team members send notes about it too and their excitement for it. In the end, their passion for my book won me over above all else. It was 48 hours between when my editor got the submission and when she came back to us. So when her acknowledgement email said, 'I'm so excited, sending this to my Kindle now.' She meant it! And read it! And loved it! And bought it! Could not agree with that.


In the middle of that, I had a call with my editor as well which was the fastest meeting I ever prepped for with about half an hour's notice. Running late for a work event, and one foot out the door, we had a quick call with my agent, and it felt to me on that call that my book would be safe and thrive in her hands. I was too nervous on the first call to think up all I wanted to ask, so my agent handled most of that so skillfully. Then, a week later, my editor and I had another call, where I was a lot more settled and got to ask lots of questions. Lots! The call took the full hour and felt much like the call with your agent. I like to ask everything. Ideas, plans, goals, timelines, everything.





New birthday, new me! An author with a three-book deal. FIRSTBORN OF THE SUN is out with Penguin Michael Joseph in October 2025.







I got my contract a couple of months later and that was it! (Offer in October, Contract in December, Round 1 edits in December, Round 2 edits in March)









And of course, I kept up the tradition and had this year's wish on my 2023 birthday cake. For this one, I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed, welcoming all prayers!









In an odd turn of events, the whole sun drama escalated and went viral on the day I signed my contract. What a day! What a month! What a year! What a journey!!!


Lessons learned

  • While you’re waiting for news, find the best thing(s) to distract yourself with. Writing works but would recommend only after a proper break which is a minimum of two weeks for me. The anxiety is real, do something that no pressure and not for sale or commercial interest.

  • Editor interest is amazing. An offer is better. Also, everything you can do within your power to stand out helps. My way choice here was to apply for as many competitions as I could. One of the most useful ones for me were free to submit like the Jericho Writer's Friday Night Live Competition and the Future Worlds Prize (which comes with a publishing mentor for finalists). This is not mandatory, it's a nice to have not a must have. Fantasy is so popular now, which also means the amount of submissions are remarkably high! Know your genre and have a good strategy with your agent.

  • Your agent matters, they are your champions. Use them! While I did go with the first agent who offered, my agent has been in the business for a long time, is well-connected and respected. My agent responds to my emails within the day (often within the hour or less), stayed on top of all the editors we were out to, kept me in the loop (this was my request, doesn't work for everyone) and was a incredibly empathetic and encouraging during a time when I was too nervous to form cohesive words. Never be afraid of 'bothering' your agent. You’re in a business partnership with them, and you are paying for this service. (Also you should get to be as involved with the submission as you want to. We had a working editor list which I had access to view as suggest names to include).

  • Writer friends will see you through the toughest anxiety ridden times. You need friends who know nothing about publishing to ground you but you also need friends who know everything about it to help you navigate these waters.

  • For every YES, there are many NOs. Quick deals, fancy announcements, etc are all fun and games but the NOs don't get as much publicity. Don't let any post or journey dismay or discourage you from yours.

  • Celebrate EVERY SINGLE WIN. It helps to know you're doing or have done what was once a mere dream or idea. Keep at it!


That's all folks. Back to editing this chunky book! Happy to answer any questions in the comments.


xoxo

M.






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