Vicky Newham’s debut novel, Turn a Blind Eye, is out at large!
Since signing with Peters, Fraser & Dunlop in July 2016, with agent, Adam Gauntlett, subsequently getting a deal with publisher HQ and working alongside editor, Clio Cornish, Vicky is at the hugely exciting point of publication day.
Her London launch, shared with Roz Watkins, was very exciting – yes, I was there, living vicariously, on a whistle-stop tour with the 7 year old – and April 5th is THE DAY you can buy Turn a Blind Eye, the first in the DI Maya Rahman series. (Oh, and it’s also been optioned for TV!)
I first got to know Vicky when she was writing her early drafts of Turn a Blind Eye. DI Rahman is a female Bangladeshi police officer working in Tower Hamlets, the east end of London, and Vicky had stumbled across a copy of A Blonde Bengali Wife in her research. I was lucky enough to read some very early versions of Vicky’s novel – and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.
Who better, then, to share some of her journey about how – and when – to start the arduous, unforgiving but sometime (just sometimes) amazing process of submitting your novel*
It IS difficult to know when your book is ready to send out on submission:
Consider if the timing is right. It’s easy to talk about your novel, get excited and impatient but if your book’s not ready you’ll either get a straight rejection or a ‘Great. Contact me when it’s finished.’ You need to be able to send out the full MS straightaway. You usually get only one chance to make your mark.
Writing courses or masterclasses can help enormously but check out who is tutoring, and what their credentials and experience are, before you sign up. For example, I did a Guardian masterclass with the literary agent, Juliet Mushens. I knew and liked Juliet as she supervised my MA dissertation (which became my novel). Two of her very successful authors, Jessie Burton and Francesca Haig, came along and talked through their submission processes.
Pitching events offer feedback on your concept and writing, too. Bear in mind that your work will be judged on a short sample and synopsis, and polishing 2,500 words isn’t the same as re-writing 100,000 words and getting your structure and pace right. If the feedback is encouraging, it’s validating. If it’s not good, it can knock your confidence. I find pitching sessions a little like speed dating but without the alcohol …
In 2012 I went to my first London Book Fair and Crimefest, and to Theakston’s crime writing festival in Harrogate in 2013. The debut author panels at these events are really informative about what novels have been bought a year earlier by which publishers and from which agents.
I paid for a professional manuscript critique – which really wasn’t helpful (Note from Anne: this was not me!) – and an author friend offered to beta read it, which was. Another author friend read it, too, and I compiled a master list of all three sets of feedback, and set about making all the changes which felt right. Then I rewrote the whole MS twice more, line by line, and read it aloud.
When I was ready I spent ages with the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. I took notes from Agent Hunter and Query Tracker…. being sure to adhere to the submission guidelines for each agent and agency.
I was very lucky. I quickly got several offers of representation, and I made my decision before everyone who had my full MS responded. Why? Because my gut feeling told me Adam was the right fit. Do get clear before you sign with an agency what edits the agent is going to request, and whether you have a similar vision for the novel. None of the edits Adam suggested were deal breakers, and they’ve all helped to make the book stronger and tighter. I think it’s important to know what edits you are prepared to make and which will fundamentally change the book for you.
On Facebook one day, I got one of those memory things. It reminded me I began writing it in early 2014. Since then, I’ve re-homed a crazy puppy, finished my MA, finished the novel, bought three flats, done two up and sold them, and am finishing the edits of my second DI Maya Rahman novel
My point? ‘Luck’ and timing all come into play. All the rest is hard graft, and takes a lonnnng time.
You can find Turn A Blind Eye here
*This is all shamelessly paraphrased from Vicky’s own blog. For the full post: Vicky Newham -Blog
Best of luck to Vicky, a talented author and all-round lovely person.