Debut Author Spotlight: How I Got My First Book Deal

My publication story is a long one. Grab a cup of tea. Back in 2011, an agent signed me on the strength of my first novel, but with a view to guiding me through the writing of my second one. That second novel was what eventually became Missing Pieces, but it was originally titled A Sister-Shaped Gap. I wrote it, my agent submitted it, and it didn’t sell. My agent and I went our separate ways.

I was devastated. This coincided with the birth of my first child, in 2013, and my emotions were all over the place. I felt very lost. I’d really thought that, after writing for many years, it was finally going to happen for me. I was really knocked, confidence-wise, and I didn’t write much for quite a while (my son kept me pretty busy).

In 2016, I had my second child, and I had breast cancer. I started writing a blog ( I wrote guest posts for other people’s blogs. I wrote some flash fiction. I wrote a 50,000-word draft of a novel in a month. There’s nothing like a brush with death to focus the mind. But I was still lost, in a way. I had two novels tucked away in my computer, and this new, urgent draft. I didn’t know what to do with them.

In early 2017, I went away with some friends and their families. My friend Jodie, who I’ve known since I was sixteen, had read A Sister-Shaped Gap and said some lovely things about it. She’s an academic and she works with creative writing students. She asked whether I’d considered sending it to smaller publishers. She said that she thought it was worth another shot.

I hadn’t considered this. In my mind, the options were the literary agent route or the self-publishing route, and I’d failed with one and didn’t really fancy the other. Lifted by my friend’s encouragement, I started looking into smaller publishers who accept unsolicited submissions. I’d done some blogging for The Motherload and knew that a fellow blogger had published her novel with the team at Agora Books. I sent my first three chapters out to them and one other small publisher, and I waited.

A few months later, the team at Agora asked me to come in to meet them. This had to be good news, didn’t it? They knew I wasn’t London-based, so part of me was sure they wouldn’t ask me to go there unless they wanted to publish the novel. But I didn’t dare to think about that too much. I travelled to London, trying (and failing) not to get my hopes up. And I had probably the nicest meeting I’ve ever had with Kate and Sam, who both loved my book and said they wanted to publish it. It was pretty hard to take in after so many knockbacks, to be honest.

Since then, things have been so exciting. Agora ended up signing me for three books (my first and second, and that hastily written draft), and the first one, Missing Pieces, is coming out on 21 June. There have been so many dream moments: seeing the final cover, receiving the page proofs, finally holding a physical copy in my hands. I really couldn’t be happier and I’m so glad that I never gave up. For most people, it’s a really long and winding road to publication, but the view when you get there is worth every step.

Follow Laura on twitter @LauraPAuthor