The Very Non-Traditional Path to Publication for THE SECRETS ACT

by Alison Weatherby

THE SECRETS ACT is not my first YA novel. Nor is it my first agented novel. But it is the first that made it to publication after many years and tons of ups and downs. My roller coaster ride to publication started several years ago when I began querying US agents for my contemporary YA mystery. Almost immediately, I had two full requests and three months later, I had an offer with a super-star NYC agent. I thought I was set.

We worked on revising my novel for almost a year and then went on submission. Then four months after going on submission, my agent informed me she was changing agencies and she couldn’t take me with her. I thought my dream of publication was over, especially after hearing from another NYC agent that no one would go on submission with a novel that had already been shopped around by someone else. 

I had to start over. Thankfully, a trip to England and Bletchley Park sparked my interest and I spent two years drafting THE SECRETS ACT, whilst also packing and moving from Seattle to Dublin. I really loved my little mystery about friendship and spies, but I had zero confidence in myself. I felt like it was a matter of time before this one joined the first novel in my virtual desk drawer. 

Then in early 2020, I saw a post about the Chicken House Open Coop mentorship competition. I had nothing to lose, so I quickly emailed in a submission. But with the pandemic slowly eclipsing everything, I forgot about it completely until three months later when Kesia Lupo, a Senior Editor Chicken House, emailed to let me know I was a finalist (!!!) and then two months after that, to let me know I’d won.

I’d been chosen for their mentorship. I was over the moon.

Kesia sent me an editorial letter and asked me to provide a plan on how I would approach their suggestions. We set up another Zoom call and after telling me they loved my direction and approach, I asked them what the next steps were. To which they casually replied: “We’d like to offer you a contract to publish the book.”

Thankfully I didn’t burst into tears.

After being utterly shocked and blurting, “You can do that?!?” I graciously accepted their offer.   

In spite of my experience with my first agent, I knew I needed a good agent on my side to help with contracts and to further my career as a writer. Ultimately, I was lucky enough to secure representation with my extraordinary agent, Lucy Irvine at PFD. 

While not your traditional sub story, I could not have imagined a more fulfilling publication journey than this one. I’ve definitely learned to never accept defeat and always expect more ups and downs from the confusing and often backward-seeming world of publishing. But I am beyond thrilled to have had the experience I have with the team at Chicken House and look forward to what comes next in my writing career.

THE SECRETS ACT by Alison Weatherby is out now in paperback (£7.99, Chicken House)

Follow Alison on twitter @aliwea

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