Tag Archives: The Colchie Agency

At Last, a Publishing Contract!

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!

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By Serendipity, I Have an Agent!

Many things in life happen by chance.

I met my partner by chance. Russian-Malaysian combinations are rare; we met only because, while attending a networking event for professional gay women, we found ourselves seated next to each other at a lunch. Seating was on a first come, first served basis along an extremely long table; if either of us had turned up a few minutes earlier or later, or if anyone else had come in at a different moment, we might never have struck up a conversation. How serendipitous is that?

And now I have just returned from New York, holding in my hand a signed contract from a literary agent. This too, came about by chance.

At the start of Chinese New Year celebrations in February, my partner and I invited a Russian family to her house in France. There, over a meal of Malaysian-Chinese fondue, otherwise known as steam-boat, I got to know our guests – a couple and their son. I had not met them until then, even though they live in Paris. I had heard that she was a respected psychologist, he a journalist and published author, but I had no idea quite how well-known he actually was in his native country.

This is just as well, because it meant I felt no inhibitions. Malaysian steam-boat is a very interactive meal; basically, you cook what you eat – meat and vegetables, seafood, tofu and noodles – in a boiling vat in the middle of the table. When your food is ready, you fish out the tasty morsels with metal nets. The smell is wonderful and so close to your nose too, which always puts everyone at ease.

Being writers, Sergey and I began to discuss books. When Sergey asked about my novel, I told him how it had been inspired by my great grandmother, and that the story contained a unique mix of family drama, history, business, food as well as mythology. I’m sure I must have sounded passionate – I can’t help myself. Before I knew it, Sergey was asking for a synopsis. He casually mentioned that he had an American agent who might be interested in my novel. Would I want an introduction?

I jumped at the chance. As fate would have it, our dinner guest turned out to be Sergey Kuznetzov, whose novel Butterfly Skin achieved cult status in Russia and has been described as ‘Russia’s answer to Silence of the Lambs’. There I was, happily fishing out bits of chicken and pak choi leaves and dropping them into the bowl of a Russian literary star, and I didn’t even know who he was.

In turn, Sergey’s American agent is none other than Thomas Colchie, who specialises in representing international writers. Could I have had better luck?

Of course, there was always the possibility that Thomas and his wife would not like my work. Fortunately, they loved my manuscript and immediately offered to represent me.

Suddenly, I had hit a milestone in this journey of my novel.

I now have as advocates two people who are passionate about my book and who are highly respected in publishing circles. The Colchie Agency has represented and continues to represent many great Latin American/Iberian authors, among them Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate), Reinaldo Arenas (Before Night Falls), Manuel Puig (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Shadow of the Wind). It has notable Asian authors too, including Shazaf Fatima Haider (How it Happened). I am proud to be their first East Asian novelist and short story writer.

There remains a long road ahead: the path to publication is slow and not without pitfalls. I’ll be sure to keep the readers of this blog informed of progress. Meanwhile, it’s back to writing, this time a work of non-fiction – about the many surprises of France!

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