02 December 2022
Scottish romance novelist Julie Shackman describes how she achieved her dream of being a published author
At the age of thirteen, I read Princess Daisy by Judith Krantz and I remember thinking, 'Wow. Someone is getting paid to sit and write such wonderful romance!'
My passion for reading and writing started at an early age and I eventually became a journalist, but the lure of writing feel-good romance became too irresistible several years ago. That was when I had my first two books, Rock My World and Hero or Zero, digitally published by London based independent publisher Not So Noble Books.
But to even get to that stage, saw piles of rejections from both publishers and agents. No-one seemed prepared to offer me representation or publish my books.
Like so many authors, I always dreamt of securing a traditional publisher and holding a paperback copy of my books. But that dream seemed impossible.
Although I received some positive comments about my next novel, A Room at the Manor, an offer of representation remained elusive.
There were moments when I wondered whether I should just give up and perhaps someone was trying to tell me something, but I remembered what my much -loved, late Mum used to say; 'Never give up. Ever.'
It was when I stumbled across an on-line interview with Australian literary agent Selwa Anthony in 2017, that I decided to submit the first ten pages of A Room at the Manor, to her.
To my surprise, Selwa offered to read my full MS and reply within a couple of weeks.
After a nerve-racking twelve days, I received another email from her, arranging a phone chat. She said the book required some work, but she liked my writing style and wanted to offer me representation.
We conducted several rounds of edits, before Selwa began submitting to publishers, once of which was Allen & Unwin. Within six weeks, A&U put in an offer and A Room at the Manor was released in e-book, paperback and audio in summer 2018. It was also released in ebook and paperback in Germany.
I was already aware of the growing reputation of HarperCollins new imprint at the time, One More Chapter.
I mentioned One More Chapter to Selwa in Spring 2020, once we had finished our final round of edits on my next book, which became A Secret Scottish Escape and she duly submitted that in May that year.
There was silence. A small voice kept whispering no news was good news, but I was determined not to get too optimistic. I had experienced a lot of disappointment before. We were also in the middle of the first lockdown and I knew delays were inevitable.
I tried to focus on writing my next book in the meantime, with limited success!
I still remember switching on my mobile that Tuesday morning in September and noticing an email from Selwa, titled 'One More Chapter – Harper Collins.'
When I read they wanted to publish it, it took me ten minutes to regulate my breathing!
A Secret Scottish Escape has sold over 30,000 copies in e-book to date and I was thrilled when my wonderful editor, Jennie Rothwell, offered me a brand new, two book deal, following its success.
Book two, A Scottish Highland Surprise, was published in April this year, with The Cottage in the Highlands, book three in my feel-good romance Scottish Escapes series, being released in e-book on 1 December and paperback on 8 December.
Furthermore, Jennie offered me a brand-new four book deal a couple of months ago, which will see books six, seven, eight and nine in the same series.
If someone had said to me a few years ago, I would be represented by Selwa and published by One More Chapter, I wouldn’t have believed them. It has been a tough old road with so many lows and bumps along the way.
Someone said to me once a published writer is an unpublished writer who never gave up. I think that is so true.
It is very often a long and frustrating journey, but if you believe you can do it and enjoy what you are writing, then there is a good chance the reader will enjoy it too. Keep going! I cannot stress that enough.
Julie's top tips
• Read as much as you can in the genre you want to write, as well as any other genres that appeal to you. You will discover what works and what doesn’t and learn so much.
• Read submission requirements carefully for publishers and agents and send them only what they ask for.
• Tailor your submission letter to that particular agent or publisher. What is it about them that appeals to you? Do your research.
• Keep going. If you want it badly enough, it will happen. Don’t let anyone deter you.
• It only takes one person to say Yes!
A Cottage in the Highlands is published by One More Chapter
Are you interested in writing a rom-com? Follow these top tips from author Della Galton.