A (Not So) Small Introduction IV – My Journey to Publication III

How I got my Agent

As I’ve already explained in my previous articles, it’s really unusual for a French-speaking author (at least in Europe, I don’t really know the situation about writers from other parts of the world) to get a literary agent.

You can even say it’s a rarity even if things in this regard are slowly stirring up, thanks to some authors (who are not necessarily best-selling ones) getting agents. But I want to lay stress on the fact it’s really not the norm.

That being said, how did I find myself being represented?

As many things in my writer’s life, it was a combination of circumstances.

First of all, I’ve always been intrigued by the (mostly) English-speaking publishing process and especially the fact that writers got represented by literary agents before being even published. My curiosity about it was such that I took part in two writing festivals (York and Winchester) in order to (among other things) better know that system.

It was an enlightening experience, and I started asking myself – why don’t we have the same system in French-speaking countries? Why is getting an agent such a rarity?

 

Historically and culturally speaking, there’s a ton of reasons why the agent system never got really developed in France and other French-speaking countries to the same extent than let’s say the UK or the US. I won’t give you a lecture about this, especially when other persons do know a lot more about this subject than me, but let’s just say that most French publishers do prefer a direct relationship with their authors without going through an agent first (even if things are now slowly changing in this regard)

As I said before, that situation has pros and cons for the author as well as for the publisher. That fact that there’s no intermediary between them means a direct communication, but also the lack of any filter when things can get difficult or rough. And trust me, there’s plenty of opportunities in the publishing process for things to get difficult!

But it certainly wasn’t the main reason for me to become interested in the agent system. Another (sad) fact about books being published in French-speaking countries is that it’s very difficult to get foreign or book-to-film deals. It’s even more true when you write YA novels. I don’t really have to tell you that the YA market has grown fiercer over the recent years, especially with the success of book adaptations such as The Hunger Games or the Maze Runner.

For the French-speaking authors, it often means having to fight for finding a place on the bookstores’ shelves. I don’t resent that situation – I read and enjoyed many English-speaking YA novels. But I would lie if I didn’t admit that I was frustrated not having the same opportunities that many English-speaking authors did enjoy. Of course, French-speaking publishers do their best to promote the novels they’re publishing, but they speak for their whole book list and not just one author. Not really the case when you got an agent, right?

Meeting Roxane Edouard (that’s my agent, if you haven’t grasped it yet!)

I first heard of her through CoCyclics, the writing forum I’ve mentioned before. She was recommended to one of my writing pals as not only being in charge of foreign rights on behalf of Curtis Brown, but also and especially for starting her lit agent’s activity.

It was only logical it caught my attention. I first emailed her in August 2015 – I knew she has already read my series The Trespassers and with the agreement of the publisher, I took the opportunity to get in touch with her asking if she would be interested in promoting them as rights manager.

Of course, it helped rather a lot that Roxane was born and raised in France AND knew a lot about the English-speaking market due to her job. She quickly replied to my mail – another great surprise! – and from that point on, we talked a lot about our aspirations and how we did see the French-publishing market. I won’t lie though – when she offered to represent me, I hesitated.

It was a HUGE step to take and I knew that if I accepted it, it was going to have an important influence on my career and my relationships with my publishers.

But on the other hand, I knew it was a unique opportunity and I wanted to experience it.

So, after long discussions on the phone with Roxane – kudos for her never-ending patience! – I decided to accept it.

And now?

I’m represented by Roxane for more than two years. As I said earlier, I realised from the start it was going to influence in a very important way my writing career and it’s true. But I really didn’t know to which extent! I’ve discovered many aspects of the writer/agent relationship – the negotiation with publishers, the submissions to foreign publishers/scouts as well as the emotional support that an agent provides. I know that if I have a question, I can always ask and that Roxane has my back on any occasion. Honestly, it’s a relief and I have much more head space to focus on my writing and other necessary things in my publishing process.

As for the foreign or book-to-film deals, we haven’t concluded any yet, but I’ve come to understand it’s quite a long process in the making and I know that Roxane is working on it with the same energy and enthusiasm she demonstrates when she concludes publishing deals (and in this regard, I’ve come to see the difference!)

So, am I happy to have an agent? Yes. Especially since it’s only the start of new and exciting adventures!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Journey to Publication series! Rest assured, I’m far from being finished with this blog…

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A (Not So)Small Introduction III – My Journey to Publication – Second Part

As the saying goes “You never forget your first time”. That’s especially true when you receive your first “yes” from a publisher. But let’s not get too fast and put the cart before the horses! Let’s speak instead a bit more of the first book I completed (that’s a true achievement in itself, as any writer knows!), which was the first book of the Trespassers seriesthe Heirs.

I don’t even know when it all started or, at least, when I first started collecting the ideas for this novel. One thing for sure – I’ve always been interested in fairies (but not the Disney kind, mind you) and ancient lore about them. The fact that I’ve definitely fallen in love with the Peter Jackson films – yes, I’m talking about the Lord of the Rings series – only convinced me further to delve into this subject.

From that moment on, I slowly but definitely gathered every element I found to my taste and which might turn out to be useful for my book. You might have guessed there were a lot of them and during the writing/revising stages of the Heirs, I had to prune without any pity any unnecessary darling until only the most efficient, vital twists remained (at least to my eyes!)

 

It was a very long process, in part because I couldn’t write every day (and I still don’t!). Word after word, page after page, my story began to take shape. That’s the magic of writing, when the characters you’ve only dreamt of start to truly express themselves, when they manage to surprise you and lead you away onto paths you’ve never glimpsed before. At that time, I didn’t realize I’ve found something precious and invaluable to me. Sure, I knew I loved reading and writing a little bit, creating whole stories in my mind, I’ve always been a dreamer. But there’s a huge difference between this and becoming a true, fully fledged writer. Has someone told me I’d become one published (!) writer at this moment, I’d have laughed my head off.

The Heirs started with Peter, a young boy living in London (one of my favourite cities in the whole world), who dreams of becoming a professional football (the soccer variety) player. He’s living a perfectly normal life until one night, after coming home, he finds himself attacked by two big dogs in his garden. He’s rescued in extremis by a vixen… which reveals herself a moment later as Hermeline, Peter’s own mother! That’s the start of the Trespassers (les Outrepasseurs in French), a solid 4-book series about a secret society with faes, skinchangers and other wonderful (or horrible. It depends on how you see them!) beasts.

As I’ve said before, in French-speaking countries, once your manuscript is finished and you deem it worthy to be sent to publishers, you don’t get an agent first (or at least, not when I first submitted the Trespassers). You send it directly to the publishers. And then, you wait. You wait. You wait quite a long time before you might get an answer (and that’s not a given, let me tell you!). I was lucky enough in that regard – first, I had the support of my writing friends from CoCyclics. Secondly, I only waited 8 months and a half (yes, I counted!) to get my first “yes”. I only realised later how unusual it was for a first novel to get accepted for publication. Kind of a miracle, really!

 

From that moment on, I learned what happened after that “yes”. How you work together with a publisher, what “revising” really means and especially how everyone expects you to write the sequel even if you don’t have the slightest idea about it! (Don’t worry, it turned out just fine.) Being a published writer also allowed me to live true, precious moments of joy and happiness – when you get your first invitation to book fairs; when you first met your readers and see for yourself the enthusiasm in their eyes, heard how they speak about your characters as if they were true, living persons; when you see your book nominated for an award and when a few weeks later, you discover you’ve won this award.

That’s when I knew deep down that I was made for this life. Writing, sharing my stories with other people, getting their reactions after they’ve read them… I got addicted to it.

That’s not to say it’s easy every day. I have to combine my writing life with my other full-time job as a translator without speaking of my personal life. Being a writer has its perks but also its disadvantages – the unexpected emails (and more often than not, as a result, you find yourself swamped with work), the tight deadlines which must be observed, the fact you’re going off for the whole weekend because you’ve been invited to a book fair (and as all my publishers are French, it means I’m travelling a lot in France).

But in the end, it’s worth it. More than worth it – I really couldn’t do without it.

Besides, as a person and as a writer, I enjoy rising to new challenges. And writing certainly got many surprises in store, as I’ve already experienced!

Next in this series – How I got my agent! 

A (Not So) Small Introduction II – My journey to publication

My journey to publication

As you can see from the buttons in this blog’s left column – spoiler alert: if you click on one of them, you’ll get access to my books’ presentation – I’ve been published six times yet. My seventh book, Land of Mist, the first in a 2-book series, will be out on September 11th. Of course, all these publications have occurred in France. For the moment, I’m only writing in French (but – second spoiler alert – it won’t stay that way for long!).

 

Being published in French-speaking countries

 

Before I really get to the heart of the matter, that is to say my journey to publication, I’d like to specify a few things in this regard. Unlike what is the standard in English-speaking countries (and certainly in other parts of the world), when you decide to submit your book for publication in France as I’ve done, you directly address the publishers in this case. Until very recently, literary agents in French-speaking countries were some kind of a rarity, only available for best-seller writers (as far as I know, anyway, because I won’t claim I am aware of everything in this matter). At the time I submitted my first book, sending it out to publishers, I was totally unaware of the fact that literary agents even existed.

 

Dealing directly with a publisher who is interested in publishing your book has pros and cons. Pros – there is no one between you and the publisher, so things may get done quite quickly (although there are exceptions to this rule. There *always* are.). Cons – you’re alone when standing up for your rights as a writer. And it’s especially true when you get your first book deal, because you don’t quite know what to look out for in publishing agreements. Of course, you can ask questions to the publisher and let him/her explain things to you. But let’s be clear that publishers will first act in their own interests, which is quite logical. Book publishing is a business. It doesn’t necessarily mean that things will work to your disadvantage, it means that your interests and those of the publishers don’t always coincide.

 

You have to be vigilant, reading carefully every clause, finding more experienced people in this matter and asking them questions (because you will have questions about the publishing agreement which has been submitted to you. Trust me on that one!) In short, you have to do your own research before signing (or taking the risk and suffering the possible consequences afterwards). Described like this it might seem very logical – of course, you won’t sign something before reading it! – but when you’re in the thick of things, being overwhelmed by the fact that your book has been accepted and might be soon out in the wide world, it’s actually quite easy to forget any recommendation in this regard and throw caution to the wind.

 

That being said, let’s come back to this post’s main theme – how I got published!

 

CoCyclics

 

It might seem a very weird name, especially in English, but I can’t talk about my journey to publication without speaking first of CoCyclics. It’s an online community of SFF writers which has been created more than ten years ago by a very dear friend of mine, and it so happened that we’ ve just met when the idea came to her. I’d never forget the day I received a message stating “Hey! I’m going to create an Internet forum to help writers find critique partners… You’re in?” That’s how great adventures begin, right?

 

To be a little more specific about CoCyclics, it’s an online community based on the solidarity between its members – you read my text, I’ll read yours. And we both write an honest as well as constructive critique about it. It might seem simple, it isn’t! Looking back at this project in which I was involved right from the start, I realize that I developed some critical skills for my future career without even being aware I was doing so. Reading other people’s works, learning how to help them as best as possible, drawing up critiques stating the strong and weak points of entire manuscripts helped me a lot with my writing. Because, when you start noticing someone else’s darlings – you know, elements from the novel that don’t serve to further the work as a whole, but that any writer loves to use – you are much more likely to spot yours.

 

Last but certainly not the least, that’s where I found extraordinary people, generous with their time and their ideas to improve my writing and make my first novel shine. The principles of solidarity and mutual assistance thanks to which CoCyclics is still thriving could only encourage people to forge strong relationships with each other. That’s where I met people who have become very dear friends as well as successful authors (among other things). When people asked me for writing advice, I always told them not to remain isolated. The truth is you will need other people’s help in your writing career, which looks like a rollercoaster most of the time! One day you’re at the top of the mountain, buoyed up by some good news you’ve just received and the day after, you might as well feel the rug has been pulled beneath your feet and feeling completely depressed. Having people around you who not only share the same passion but also understand what’s writing life is like will give you stability and proper motivation.

 

If CoCyclics hadn’t been there to help me take my first steps as a writer, I’m convinced my writing career would have turned out in a very different way.

To be continued!

A (Not So) Small Introduction – I

Hi there,

As it’s the first post for this blog’s brand-new version, I thought it was only logical to introduce myself a bit more.

 

Let’s start then! I’m Cindy Van Wilder (It’s a Flemish name, that explains the two-part name), I’m 35 years old, I live in Belgium – despite what I told you just before about my name, I was born and raised in the French-speaking part of the country. I’m afraid I won’t be able to help if you have any need for a Dutch translation 🙂

Speaking of languages, I’m working as a translator. The first reaction I usually get when I told people I’m a translator is “Which kind of books do you translate?” Sorry folks, I hate to burst your bubble in this regard, but technical translation is in greater demand than the literary kind. I’m also lucky enough to be employed by a public service and not working as freelance – I said “lucky” because freelance lifestyle wasn’t my cup of tea, but of course, it’s my point of view.

I’m queer (I have chosen this term because in my eyes, it reflects at best what I am and how I define myself) and feminist (One of my literary idols is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author among others of We should all be feminists and I strongly advise you to read the essay which has been adapted from it).

I read a lot. I’ve been trying for a few years now to break out of my reading comfort zone and broadening my horizons in this regard. I started then with crime, thriller – reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl before watching the film. Verdict: the book wins, despite Rosamund Pike’s performance – but also historical fiction (Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is one of my favourite books) and more recently, nonfiction, as illustrated with my current read, Gender Games by Juno Dawson.

To be continued!