This was posted in December 2018 but I accidentally deleted it! My website wizard Adrian Anderson rescued it from the bin and reposted it, hence publication date June 12!!!!!

What a few weeks.

I moved house on the 30th November. I have moved to the other side of Maleny into a beautiful rammed earth house on an acre with established gardens and fruit trees and adjoining Mary Cairncross Park. I hope I stay here forever and this little paradise will curb my restlessness.

Throughout the packing, moving and unpacking my book was still forefront on my mind. Someone had suggested that maybe I need to use an agent so I looked up some online but what I read made me even more disheartened. Margaret Kenny said there are two common mistakes authors make when contacting an agent: they contact too early or too late. Too early is the worst as your work will be only behalf-baked. An agent isn’t a book doctor. Contacting too late is when writers make their own approaches to publishers, then look for an agent if they have no success. An agent isn’t a miracle-worker.

I had a dreadful sinking feeling. She was describing ME!!! I had left it too early AND too late. My impulsiveness and recklessness had sabotaged the whole project.

On Tuesday the 4th of December I had texted a friend to say ‘this [trying to find a publisher] is turning into a nightmare’.

A few hours later I got a phone call that changed my life. Alan Whiticker, commissioning editor for New Holland Publishers, rang to say they wanted to publish my book in Australia AND New Zealand and even take it to the Frankfurt Book show next year. I have never been so excited in my whole life.

The really weird thing is that he had my OLD version of Sundowner of the Skies, sent to him in hard copy in April. NHP were on the top of my growing list of REJECTIONS. Most publishers state that if you don’t hear back from them in a certain period of time (usually three months) then this means they are not interested. I am so glad now that I got all those rejections. Almost all the university publishers in New Zealand and Australia and a few small publishers had rejected it. NHP were always at the top of my list as they had offices in Auckland, Sydney and London.

As for the first publisher I submitted my ms to - Catherine Milne from Harper Collins - I consider her rejection an endorsement. She wrote that she was quite torn about my manuscript, as she thought it was very elegantly written. However the Sales team thought that it would be quite hard to get viable sales figures, Oscar is just not well known enough. Catherine added: you do have a lovely style to your writing – though I’m sorry if that’s cold comfort! Unbeknownst to me she then forwarded my ms to Alex Hedley HarperCollins NZ who turned it down for the same reason. But his rejection was also an endorsement. He said he thoroughly enjoyed it and that is is ‘indeed very well written’. He said he was most saddened by the ending, but he felt that readers will really appreciate my ‘honest and brave account’ of my family’s story and my own personal struggle. At the same time, he said, there were some wonderful moments and he particularly enjoyed the chapter on the first flight to Stewart Island.

These endorsements were what had particularly impressed Alan Whiticker.

But Alan was even more excited to hear that I had done more work on Sundowner: I had got a new title, had it edited by the marvelous Samantha Miles and collected some endorsements etc etc. I had even written one of those Market Position Statements. All thanks to Sean Doyle of Lynk Manuscript Assessment Service. When Sean rang me on 3rd October he said he was surprised that my manuscript hadn’t been been picked up yet. I had contacted Sean to say I had reached a dead end. I must be doing something wrong. Either it was not good enough or I hadn’t marketed it properly. Ironically, even though Sundowner is so much better now, NHP were prepared to accept the old version.

It just goes to show that you can break all the rules. And rules are only guidelines.

I emailed the few publishers I had recently submitted the new revamped version to and WAIT FOR IT! I could not believe the email I got from Wakefield Press in South Australia. They publish beautiful books.

Hello Mary,

I can understand New Holland accepting Sundowner of the Skies. I loved it.

We had a submissions meeting earlier this week and of the 45 submissions, yours was the only one accepted.

All the best with the book’s publication. It deserves to do very well.


Julia Beaven
Submissions Editor

As I said what a few weeks!

Mary GardenComment