I have exciting news – I finally have a publisher for my first novel. Readers of this blog will know that the journey has been a long one. I commenced writing my first book five years ago. It took two years to complete the final version, including the multiple edits which were needed, the polishing and refining which went into making ordinary words more poignant in places, sharper in others. I then had to wait another year before being signed up by a literary agent in New York, Thomas Colchie, a well-established agent who specialises in representing international authors. He and his wife loved my book. Despite that and despite their agency’s credentials, it took him nearly two years to find a publisher.
This delay is not unusual. The prize-winning Irish author Colm Tóibín had to wait nearly three years before his agent was able to secure a publisher for his first novel, The South. By then, Mr. Tóibín had almost completed his second book. His story is a good illustration of the crucial role which an agent plays. I followed my own agent’s advice, and was well on my way to completing the second book in my trilogy when Thomas called with good news. It really pays to have an agent who believes in you, who is persistent and at the same time, able to think outside of the box.
My publisher and I have now signed a contract. There is still plenty of work to be done: the final editing touches, the design of the cover, not to mention the actual title of the book (which we will need to agree upon). Such details may seem trivial, but they are what give a book its tone and feel. Titles are particularly important; choosing one is an art form, and while I have a working title, we may not use it in the end.
I have also just written a page of Acknowledgements, and it dawned on me how many people I needed to thank. There are my Malaysian family members of course, as well as the many friends who generously shared their life experiences as I set about doing research into a host of eclectic subjects. For the record, this research ranged from childbirth to the colour of elephants’ eyes, so some of my friends had to be quite tolerant of quirks! There are also my guinea pigs to thank, the beta readers on whom I unleashed drafts of the novel at various points. Not forgetting my developmental editor, my agent and his wife and of course my partner Svetlana. But I did not want the Acknowledgements page to be a mere list of names; in order to make my thank you more meaningful, it took over a day to perfect the prose.
Fortunately, when it comes to creating the final product, I will have the support of a whole team of editors and designers from my publisher. This is one of the advantages of having a traditional book publisher. It is quite exhilarating. At present I cannot reveal other details, such as when my novel will be launched. However I will give readers of this blog a heads-up as soon as I am able. Watch this space!