the cross-dressing duke lives!

So the big news this week is that I sold My Lady Untamed! After three years of writing and rewriting, 150,000 words scrapped and then more writing and rewriting, I’ve found a publisher who loves it just as much as I do.

At the beginning of the year my brother gave me the contact for a non-fiction editor at Penguin Australia – the wife of a barrister he shared chambers with. I went to talk to her about what it takes to get into the industry as an editor, but we ended up talking about what I was writing.

As soon as I told her I was writing romance, she called another editor in from down the hall. It was Sarah Fairhall, who was busy building Destiny Romance at the time, ahead of its launch in August. She was excited to meet me, because she’d been trying to explain to Marketing that young women read romance, too. She gave me her card and told me to send her my MS when it was done.

A month ago I’d finished another major draft. The five agents at the top of my list had all passed on my book, and I was waiting for another round of beta feedback before I did another set of edits and sent it to another round of agents.

I was feeling quite desperate about it all – feeling like no one would ever even see, or get it, and what on earth was I going to do next? So I sent it to Sarah, thinking at least she might feel obliged to give me some feedback.

She called me a week later, and made an offer for it. She said she and Carol, the editor, hadn’t stopped talking about it for days. I can’t even describe the feeling of having a publisher express their love of my book – and more than that, get my book.

I asked for a couple of weeks before I responded to the offer – which was pretty hard, when the offer was made on a Penguin Australia letterhead!

Destiny is a digital-first imprint, which means they publish e-books which may or may not be followed by a print edition – and it’s also based in the Australian market. That wasn’t what I’d imagined for MLU. 

I contacted another round of agents, letting them know there was an offer on the table, and asked their opinion on whether MLU had a chance in New York. The answer was the same across the board – too risky for New York, for a newbie author.

I felt like I had to go through that process, just to be sure I was doing the best for my book and my career, but I was pretty stoked that accepting the Destiny offer was my very best option. I had a long phone call with Sarah after I accepted their offer, and it left me feeling so excited about the whole process.

Especially after talking to people who saw the subversive elements as too risky for publication, it was great talking to Sarah who wants to celebrate how different my book is. E-publishing really is an exciting extension of the industry that allows a wider range of books to be published and is in a position to champion subversive literature.

Plus, their new offices are just down the road from my house! My book will be available internationally, but I gotta say, it’s exciting being able to just pop into the office for a chat with the editors, and to be near local media, ready to take part in the local press events Destiny organises.

It’s looking like the e-book will be out around April next year, and it’s likely MLU will get a print edition too, which would be so exciting.

I can’t believe this book is actually going to be done!

Feel free to ask me anything about the process. I ended up signing with an agent, too, which is its own whole thing, so I’ll post about that next.

Comments 30 Responses

    1. anna cowan Post author

      Thanks Valerie! I remember feeling so terrified when I sent you that revised first chapter – and the fact that you loved it gave me such encouragement to write the book as it is.

    1. anna cowan Post author

      Yep, it’ll be available internationally pretty well right away. Which is great! (Sarah and I had a long chat about all things international, and they’re really on top of it, which is encouraging.)

      They do have a nice look, don’t they? And everything I’ve experienced myself or heard from their other authors suggests they’re going to be a wonderful house to work with. Kind of exciting to be part of something in its first year!

  1. Merrian

    I am looking forward to reading your book very much. I have enjoyed what you have shared about your writing process and the book itself and it is great to hear that an Australian publisher is reaching out to make the best of new opportunities too.

    1. anna cowan Post author

      Thanks Merrian – it’s been wonderful having people along for that first, difficult part of the journey. Isn’t it great that e-publishing lets people take a chance, and in the Australian market, too!

  2. Serena Tatti

    Congratulations, Anna. I always knew you could do it! You’ve worked long and hard and now your ground-breaking book has found a home. Look forward to congratulating you in person atthe MRWG meeting!

  3. Alex

    Anna, this is great news! I’m sure all your blog followers now feel a little extra happy because we’ve been following your struggles and hard work.

    Digital is global, no matter what, right? Let us know when it’s available for purchase.

    1. anna cowan Post author

      Thanks Alex! I feel extra happy that I’ve had people to share my struggles and hard work with – and now my first successes! 🙂 It truly does make it so much sweeter. I can’t wait for you all to read it.

  4. bleu

    I know I am kind of late to the party, especially after asking….
    April you say? Hopefully it won’t come out just when i am fretting over something uni related… otherwise my marks will be in *big* trouble 😉
    I am so happy for you!

  5. Pingback: the list | diary of a(n accidental) housewife

  6. cead

    I was linked here today from the comments on a Dear Author post, and I just wanted to congratulate you and tell you how much I’m looking forward to buying a copy of this when it comes out. I’ve been wishing for less stereotypical gendering in het romance for ages, and this sounds exactly like what I’ve been wishing would get published (and the fact that it’s a historical — wow). This is obviously great news for you personally, but it’s also great news for the genre overall. Congratulations! I wish you the best, and I really hope that your book will be only the first of many books that dare to do interesting things with gender.

    1. anna cowan Post author

      I’m so excited that you’re so excited! 🙂 It’s starting to become slightly more real that actual people will have this book in their hands and read it. I hope some of you will love it to pieces. The idea came about when a friend was talking about how she loves the cross-dressing trope in historical romance and my brain immediately went to – But what if it was the man cross dressing? My brain has never yet met a trope it doesn’t immediately want to subvert (which sometimes results in things I just have to back away from slowly). So I think I can’t help being interested in gender, and will hopefully get to write and read many more books that challenge it in interesting ways.

      1. cead

        I like the way your brain works. 🙂 For years now (YEARS, I tell you) I have been wishing someone would write a historical in which the hero and heroine are both cross-dressing spies who don’t realise the other is also a cross-dressing spy, and also know and loathe each other in their regular non-spy lives. Cue massive gender-bending confusion. May this book be the first of many trope-subverting books for you!

        1. anna cowan Post author

          Please write that book IMMEDIATELY!!! I am in love :-). Have you read The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer? It’s the only other place I’ve found the pretty cross-dressing male. And it’s so good.

          1. cead

            I have read it now!

            That is, I tracked down a copy of The Masqueraders on your recommendation, and enjoyed it immensely; I hadn’t read any Heyer before. Thank you! To return the favour: Anne Stuart has one, Shadow Dance, in which a pair of brothers disguise the younger brother as the elder’s wife; the elder brother falls in love with a woman disguised as a boy, and the younger brother has a secondary romance. I’m not a fan of Anne Stuart’s, and I don’t remember it being brilliant, but I gave it so many brownie points for the premise that I convinced myself I liked it.

            I would totally write that book if I thought I could, but I’m kind of too afraid to try. It’s been years since I’ve attempted to write fiction.

          2. anna cowan Post author

            I’ve only read Anne Stuart’s House of Rohan series, and I found her compulsively readable, at the same time as being appalled at what I was reading :-). She walks a very fine “No means yes” line. That premise does sound amazing though, so I’ll have to track it down! Other Heyer books I love are The Corinthian, Black Sheep and (of course) The Grand Sophy. She’s such a gem!

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