I submitted my book to agents

[This post is imported from my old Livejournal account, where I blogged from 2007-2015.]
So this is a thing that is happening:

Harper Voyager, the global science fiction and fantasy imprint of HarperColins is accepting unsolicited manuscripts for the first time in ten years for two weeks from 1st-14th October 2012 in the following genres: adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural.

Obviously, I’m going to submit my stupid thing. It’s basically all of those genres, and it’s a complete manuscript, and when am I ever going to get another chance like this? HARPERCOLINS, GUYS! So even though it really, really isn’t ready- like first-draft-there-are-some-parts-i-haven’t-reread-since-I-wrote-this levels of unready- I’m doing it. Excuse me whilst I ahhhHhhhhhHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I know it’s extremely unlikely to go anywhere but even just the possibility of other people, professional book publishing people, looking at my stupid thing, is freaking me out. So far the people who have read it completely are my mum, Abbii, Sarah and Steph. Am I being stupid, sending it in this early? I mean, it’s the first time they are doing this in a decade, if I miss this opportunity I have to go the long route of getting an agent and drafting and redrafting and blah blah. So I’m doing it. It’s a thing.

Consequently I’ve spent the last week frantically redrafting, and I can’t even write this entry without betaing the hell out of it in my head. I’m so sick of the first few chapters right now, guys. I can’t tell if they are any good at the minute.

Sooooo, anyone want to read the first few chapters and give me feedback? I would really, really appreciate it, and I’m trying to catch as many errors as possible (funny how they never run out however many times we go over it). My mum and Katie and Abbii and Sarah are being real troopers in helping out (Katie has read half of the entire thing in one night, she’s a power machine) but the more eyes the better, etc, etc. LET ME KNOW IF YOU ARE POTENTIALLY INTERESTED IN HELPING EDIT A THING I WROTE IN LESS THAN A WEEK, GUYS!

Update: I finished editing my novel with the amazing help of an army of awesome people, and I’m submitting it…tomorrow. Ahh!! I’ve had to write a query letter, which was a painful, agonising, insert other hyperbolic adjectives here, experience. Anyway, here it is. It’s a good synopsis of my book, so I thought I’d post it so you guys can see what all the fuss is about!

Dear Agent,

The Red Earth Rolls is a completed 120,000 word young adult novel based on the idea of reincarnation, and encompasses genres such as dystopia, regency, romance, science fiction and thriller. An adventure spanning three hundred years, this story has something to interest every reader.
Katherine and Matthew have done this before. They keep being brought back to life and every time they do things seem to be getting worse.
In 1745 Katherine Hallward is spending a little too much time with her coachman, Matthew, when the Jacobites attack the city of Carlisle, on the border of Scotland and England. Somehow the city has to defend itself against the feared Highlanders, and Katherine is determined to help in any way she can, regardless of the consequences.
In 1853 Katy, an orphan girl, is running from the police in disguise when she accidentally gets stuck on board a steamer bound for the battlefield of the Crimean war. Luckily a journalist is there to take her under his wing; although there is the slight problem in that he thinks she is a boy. Together they try and help the war effort as much as possible, despite the hostility of the soldiers.
In 2090 Kate meets a new researcher in her biology lab and discovers that together they bear a startling resemblance to her mysterious great aunt and uncle, who may have been more involved in the cause of the apocalypse- a destructive virus released during the third world war- than the government are willing to admit. Although they know that investigating a classified case means risking their own careers in a world still on the edge of survival, they can’t help but delve into the intriguing past hidden in their ancestor’s possessions: an ancient laptop and a coded diary. Meanwhile, Kate keeps recalling memories that aren’t hers: the siege of a castle, a kiss that never happened on a battlefield from a history book.
In each lifetime they are fighting for what is right, but however hard they try to help, will it ever be enough to stop them being brought back once more? Revealing the power of love regardless of circumstance, this book looks at the determination of two people in the face of growing turmoil.
This book should appeal to students; people who grew up speaking the language of the internet, who enjoy science fiction but also have a soft spot for Jane Austen. The Red Earth Rolls was written by a teenager, for teenagers: I’m currently in the third year of a Chemistry and Physics degree at the University of Nottingham. I wrote this novel after becoming increasingly frustrated by the glamorised science often found in media. This prompted me to write a more accurate story about scientists, and my love of history and genealogy brought forth another element.
I would greatly appreciate any advice you could offer me about my manuscript. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

If you are reading this before Friday and you notice any errors, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. If you are reading this after Friday then never, ever point out any errors to me because I will have submitted it already and I will go and kill myself. WISH ME LUCK GUYS, PUBLISHERS ARE GOING TO READ MY STUPID NOVEL!


October update: I got my first rejection letter! A month after I sent my query out.
January Update:
So I sent out a few query letters to some agents back in October, and I got a reply from one in December who wanted to read the full manuscript. I got this response from her a few days ago:

Dear Lauren,

Sorry to keep you waiting. I finished this just a few days ago, and have been giving it a lot of thought. You are an exceptionally talented writer. I’m afraid that in my view there are some significant plot issues with THE RED EARTH ROLLS that don’t allow me to feel confident of finding it a place in a very competitive market; however for a first novel at such a comparatively young age it is a really extraordinary feat. Katherine and Matthew felt real, and their relationship was beautifully drawn – as well as often very funny.

Are you based in Nottingham full time? I’d be really happy to meet for a coffee should you be in London at any point, to discuss your work further. No worries at all if not – I can put my thoughts into an email and then we could always talk it over on the phone

Best wishes,

UM. OMG. Firstly, even though it’s a rejection, she wants to meet me in person to discuss it. I think that kind of says a lot about what she thinks of me. For a while I thought she might just be letting me down gently because I’m so young, but because of that I think not. She wants to work with me on the plot, it sounds like, and it looks like if I redraft it (which I really do need to do anyway- a lot of it is pretty terrible and all over the place) she’d be willing to look over it again. At the very least she read the whole thing, and think’s I’m ‘exceptionally talented’ and ‘often very funny’ !!!!! !!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and she knows who I am. I’m so excited, even though at first I was kind of upset that it was a rejection. This is actually real guys, an agent read my book and thinks it was a ‘really extraordinary feat’. AHHHHHHHHH

I am completely bowled over by the fact that you wrote this at such a young age, not to mention the fact that you are a scientist too, on the side! This is an incredibly exciting demonstration of talent in a what you refer to as a first practice attempt – I can only imagine what fantastic books lie ahead of you, and am so pleased to be in touch. The below feedback might feel a barrage of criticism, but please know that I have spent so much time thinking about this because I’m genuinely excited about what you can do. It’s very rare to come across such an exciting new voice.




Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

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