Emma Herdman on The Weightless World

pictureWhen I was browsing through our submissions in March last year, I wasn’t expecting to find a book I’d fall in love with. It happens so rarely – we get literally thousands of submissions – but of course you open each with the hope that this will be The One. So, when I opened Anthony’s, scanned the cover letter and scrolled down to the first line – Raymond Ess is going to kill me. – I instantly sat up: this was a book for me.

In no time, I had read the full sample he’d sent, and emailed him to request the rest of the manuscript. Then came a few days of anxiously waiting for his response during which I worried: had we left it too long? Had he already signed with another agent? Was he playing it cool? Had he looked me up and decided I wasn’t the agent for him?  Was I ever going to find out whether Raymond Ess snapped?! Finally, a full four days later, an email arrived: ‘I’ve been trying to get back in touch with you, but there seems to have been some problem with delivering to your server.’ No cool games from Anthony, then – just a technical glitch. Ironic, given the themes of the novel, which I then devoured over the following weekend. Thereafter followed a few phone calls and meetings with Anthony, where we discussed editorial notes which he turned around expertly and quickly. With each read of the novel I became more passionate about it – about the characters he’d created, the landscapes he drew so beautifully and the themes he explored intelligently yet subtly.

And so the time came for me to pitch to publishers and send out the manuscript (and all I’ll say about this process is that yes, the rumours about literary fiction being difficult to sell are true). After lots of praise but no bites, we finally got a call from Sam Jordison at Galley Beggar Press who, with Elly, wanted to offer for the book. You’ll note that I say this in a very offhand, nonchalant way, but truly this is one of the most exciting moments of being an agent: finding that editor who is as enthusiastic about a novel as you are. Not only that, but I knew instantly that Galley Beggar would be a perfect home for this book (if you don’t know them, look them up – they now famously published A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, and are a tiny house whose aim is to be ‘an old fashioned publisher for the 21st Century.’). And now we have a finished product, which is being read by real, everyday readers. An odd, but thrilling, feeling.

So I hope that this blog, and Anthony’s before this, will give you a little insight into the life of The Weightless World – when you see it in a bookshop, or look it up online, you’ll appreciate that this little book has had a whole life before making its way onto your shelves and becoming part of yours. And it hasn’t been the smoothest of rides – but that makes this publication all the more exciting. Over a year after Anthony first submitting it, we’re at the stage when the book is officially published tomorrow. How I hope that you read it and get that same feeling that I did – that you see how clever and timely and funny this book is, and that you understand why this is a book I wanted to talk to other people about. And now I can, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop…

The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan is published by Galley Beggar Press tomorrow. You can follow Anthony on Twitter at @agmtrevelyan, and Emma at @emduddingstone


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