The main reason why I so far attended BritMums live every single year (even when it was called ‘Lunch at the Rainforest Café’ and only counted 34 attendees three years ago) is its social aspect. The longer I blog, the more blog friends become real life friends – and of course I wouldn’t miss the chance to see so many of them at once.
Banter, chatting and socialising aside, this year’s agenda has so far been the best. I particularly enjoyed the Social Media Strategy workshop and the panel discussion that attracted all budding novelists: Getting Published.
I couldn’t help but smile when multi-published author Kate Morris said, ‘Don’t send your finished manuscript to agents straight away. Put it aside. It’s not ready for submission yet; you need a very polished product.’ Because that’s exactly where I went wrong last year, having just finished my novel, eager and keen to get it out there. Of course, it’s been far from polished, and it took me another year to get it where it is now (read: still far from being perfect). But back then I just couldn’t help myself.
I might have blushed a little – you know, not Anastasia style, I just turned a very pale shade of baby pink – when literary agent Erin Niumata mentioned that she receives about 100 to 120 unsolicited query letters and manuscripts per week. Sometimes those letters contain gifts, someone even sent wine, and a lot of them are printed on pink paper and have glitter in their envelopes (lots of hoovering for Erin, I’d say). One of them was mine. Albeit without glitter and pink paper, I hasten to add. I sent a plain email that, most likely, never made it over the threshold of the trash folder. I guess that’s what you get for ignoring the statement I am not currently accepting unsolicited queries.
The whole session reminded me of my own journey of finding an agent: the hoping, the frustration, and the randomness of the process. Getting published is a long journey with many steps – finding an agent is just one of them, and I am anxiously aware that I am only at the beginning of this trip into the unknown.
It also reminded me that had I never started the Metropolitan Mum blog, my novel would most likely not exist. Although the content of my novel has nothing to do with the fluffy musings on my blog, it has given me the confidence to write in a language that isn’t my mother tongue. It has encouraged me to write more and keep writing; it has shown me that there is an audience for my voice (thank you!) and it has inspired me (through other blogs) to continue what I am doing.
Had I written a novel without having a blog, I am not sure if my agent would have taken me on board. I can only echo soon-to-be-published blogger Emily Carlisle, who said that a blog demonstrates professional skills agents (and hopefully publishers) look for in authors: it shows that you are able to manage an online platform, that someone wants to hear what you have to say, and that you are marketable. In other words: don’t underestimate what your blog says about you as a writer. And also: there’s lots to do.