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My Say - Eliza Graham


My Say gives writers a chance to air their views about writing and the writer's life.

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Getting my novel published

British author Eliza Graham, author of Playing with the Moon, on her route to publication.

In June Macmillan New Writing will publish my novel, Playing with the Moon. It's the story of two women, one old, one young, bound together by the discovery of the body of a black GI, murdered in a coastal village in 1943.

It looked as though Playing with the Moon wasn't ever going to take off. I couldn't interest an agent in it. Some liked one of the storylines but not the other, and others liked one protagonist but not the other. I couldn't win! Without an agent there seemed little hope of attracting a publisher’s interest.

I'd almost given up hope when I read about the Macmillan New Writing (MNW) scheme. I didn't need to have an agent and could submit the entire manuscript electronically. Easy! So I winged off an email, not expecting very much.

Four months passed.

On a scorching day in July 2006, I received an email from Will Atkins at Macmillan New Writing. I scrolled through his message looking for the familiar "but we'd like to wish you luck in the future" line. His email seemed long for a rejection and included editorial suggestions. Then my eye caught the bit about being interested in talking to me about publishing Playing with the Moon. At which point I shrieked, sending the dogs running for cover.

Before making a firm commitment Will wanted some structural changes and alterations made to a protagonist - meaty but not daunting changes, and I had plenty of editorial support.

The book went through two sets of revisions plus a final tweak. Kind critique partners reread the book for me in between drafts. Meanwhile the mercury rose so high I worried the school would send the children home for the holidays early. My fingers stuck to the keyboard. Then the summer holidays started and I was still working on the rewrites.

Finally, in early autumn, we had a draft that satisfied Will, and the contract came through. The book went off to the copy-editor, who pointed out some discrepancies in locations and a few anachronisms needing attention. Then came the thrill of seeing the cover and proofs and meeting the team at MNW in their King's Cross offices.

At its launch Macmillan New Writing attracted some criticism because it doesn't give advances and writers receive a fixed, royalties-only, non-negotiable contract. Macmillan also has first option on any second novel on the same terms.

None of this worried me. After five years of writing I was thrilled at the prospect of getting a book out onto the shelves earning something and hopefully getting my name known.

At the moment I'm doing all I can to boost the fortunes of Playing with the Moon by going out and talking to bookshops and book groups, taking with me the first four chapters in 'sampler' format. In 2008 the book will also come out as a paperback, giving me another bite at the cherry.

It's certainly been an exciting year.


Eliza Graham's novel Playing with the Moon comes out on 1 June. She lives in Oxfordshire in the UK with her family and has wanted to be a novelist since she was at primary school. When she's not writing fiction Eliza works as a freelance editor.

Macmillan New Writing was launched in 2006 with the aim of discovering superb new novelists writing in all genres. It publishes one novel per month and welcomes submissions from unpublished novelists.

My Say 3 by Phyllis McDuff on why writers need to get out there to talk about their work, with tips on how to speak effectively.

© Eliza Graham 2007