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'I’ve been offered a deal for £50,000'

11 June 2007

'New author scoops big publishing deal' is always a cheering story about the launch of a first-time writer's career. All those still battering at agents' and publishers' doors can take comfort from the fact that sometimes they do open. All you need is a really good manuscript, ready for publication, and a lot of luck…

Bookseller Marie Phillips has become one of the lucky ones. Success hasn't come suddenly though, and she wrote her first novel at the age of 13, her second, an erotic novel written with two friends, at 15, and a screenplay after university. Then, having ditched her TV career for a day job in bookselling, she produced a novel about a homicidal screenwriter who becomes possessed by her imaginary twin, based on Macbeth. Perhaps not surprisingly, publishers didn't jump at this one and she then went on to write Gods Behaving Badly, which follows the antics of Greek gods living in contemporary London.

Now she had a possibly saleable manuscript, but Phillips still had to get a publisher to read it, or an agent to take her on. She started her own blog and got some help from Scott Pack, formerly of bookseller Waterstone's, who gave her some editorial advice and mentioned the novel in his own blog. Still nothing happened to get her closer to publication though.

The breakthrough came through the day job, showing that bookselling can be a useful jumping-off point for writers. Peter Fry, Random House UKPenguin Random House have more than 50 creative and autonomous imprints, publishing the very best books for all audiences, covering fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s books, autobiographies and much more. Click for Random House UK Publishers References listing's central London rep, let slip that Dan Franklin, publisher of prestigious Jonathan Cape, was looking to read something new and original. Phillips sent him material and two weeks later he asked to see the manuscript. He read it over the weekend and by Monday Phillips had an offer for £50,000. She wrote in Publishing News: 'This was the best bit. It has to be every would-be author's dream to phone up an agent and say 'I've been offered a deal for £50,000 ($19,705) and I need to see you by the end of the week. Can you fit me in?'

But this was just the beginning, for then: 'The book exploded at Frankfurt - we sold it in over a dozen countries. I have been invited to the kind of parties I used to pour drinks at. The book comes out here in August and I am now a full-time writer, working on my next novel and fielding calls about TV and film rights. Who knows what will happen next? The only thing I'm sure about is that I will not be submitting any of my previous work for future publication.'

Marie's blog

Scott Pack's blog