There's a lot of general information out there already about the process of trying to get published. So I thought rather than rehash this, I'd tell you how it happened for me.
I decided to write Daughters of Fortune because it's the kind of book that I love to read. I wanted to write about three very different female characters, and trace their development from their formative teenage years to being women. I wanted to have strong storylines, examining each girl's love-life and career, and have them all linked together by a common denominator - that they were all family. I also wanted the book to be glamorous, to have an escapist edge - so no matter how stressful the readers' day, they could disappear into a different world. That's how I came up with the idea of writing about three very different sisters, heiresses to a luxurious fashion house.
So I had a strong idea of what I wanted to do, but nevertheless my path to publication certainly wasn't easy. I'd always wanted to be a published author, but like lots of people I thought there was no chance of realising my dream. In fact, when I first conceived the idea for Daughters of Fortune back in January 2004, I initially dismissed it as having no chance of getting published. There didn't seem to be much around in the genre, and I had a very demanding job, which didn't leave much free time to write. But the idea just wouldn't go away, so in October 2006 I finally decided to give it a go.
After working on it for a few months, I was having doubts about how good it was, and was on the verge of giving up. But my husband encouraged me to send it off to an agent. This was back in March 2007. First on my list was Darley Anderson - who represents the likes of Martina Cole, Lesley Pearse, Lee Child and John Connolly. He called me the following day to say that he'd loved the first few chapters and wanted to see the rest ASAP. I hadn't actually written the rest then, and it took me until December that year to finally finish it.
I sent the manuscript off early December 2007, and waited eagerly for a response... and waited and waited. By mid-January, when I still hadn't heard back, I was convinced it was a "thanks, but no thanks." Then came the call - Darley had given my manuscript to his Head of Rights at the Agency, Maddie Buston, and even though there was still some work to do, she had loved it and thought it was a real page-turner. The main problem was that the manuscript was way too long at 220,000 words - it needed to be closer to 150,000. He then went on to relay Maddie's list of what she liked, and what she didn't think was working so well, which was really helpful. After a lot of cutting and editing, I sent the manuscript back in July 2008. Darley read it this time, and luckily he loved it!
I went to meet Darley in his Fulham office at the end of July 2008. As it was coming up to the summer, and there weren't many editors around, he wanted to wait until September before submitting to publishers, which was a little disappointing. Then came September and more disappointment - there were a lot of manuscripts out there, Darley said, so he wanted to wait a little longer, until the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. It was hard not to be paranoid - had he just decided that my book wasn't that great after all, but couldn't find the words to tell me? To make matters worse, in the meantime, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and everyone was terrified about the world recession. I could see my chances of getting a book deal slipping further and further away...
But in fact, far from working out how to kindly let me down, Darley had been hard at work - talking to editors about my book, building a bit of a buzz. He also asked a buyer at one of the UK's major bookstores if she would be interested in seeing the manuscript of an unpublished writer. She kindly agreed to read it. I had more nerves waiting for her verdict - but to my relief, she came back saying that she had loved it and had spent the weekend turning the pages. With that endorsement, Darley finally submitted my manuscript to publishers.
Then came the good part! Darley had timed it perfectly, and just after Frankfurt, he sent my manuscript out. A few days later, I got my first bid from a major London publisher. Someone actually wanted to publish my book! Someone, in fact, who I'd seen thanked in the Acknowledgements' section of some of my favourite authors! A fortnight of calls back and forth, and we had four bids, which resulted in a three-way auction. After weighing up each offer, Simon & Schuster in the UK and Atria in the US won the day.