Guest Blogger: Beyond the Book Deal by Bryony Pearce

Each month, Words & Pictures will be inviting a guest blogger to share their inspirations, writing tips and experiences of being a published author. 

In this first guest post, Bryony Pearce, author of Angel's Fury and The Weight of Souls writes about the journey that led to her second book deal.

Everyone knows how hard you work to get your first book deal. 
You start off knowing nothing; you have only an idea and a need to put pen to paper. You write until you can say The End and feel like you’ve landed on the moon. 

Then comes the editing.

When you can do no more to improve your work, you try to find an agent. You persevere through rounds of rejections. Maybe you enter a competition, Undiscovered Voices. Perhaps you win both the competition and representation. Of course that’s when you get to be rejected by publishers. 

"my editor kept making noises about ‘your second book’"

You have another idea in the wings, so what the heck, you write another book. This time you’ve learned. This time it’s quicker, easier, more intuitive. This time you get a book deal. 

You think the hard part is over. 

I was over the moon when I got my contract, with Egmont, in 2009. It was a one book deal but my editor kept making noises about ‘your second book’, so even though my contemporaries were announcing two- and three-book deals, I wasn’t worried. I was a little surprised at the 2011 publication date, I hadn’t realised this part could take two years; nevertheless I embraced the editing process with excitement. At the back of my mind though was the thought that if I wanted a career I should be thinking about that second book. 

"This new story ...                                  ...had to be force grown."

 So in the weeks spent waiting for edits I started to plan. As Angel’s Fury was a one book deal I had to come up with a different story. Ideally, to maintain career momentum, the new book would hit the shelves in 2012, so I had around twelve months to write the first draft and, crucially, secure a contract.  

Angel’s Fury had been percolating for years, periodically drawing attention to itself. This new story would have no such gestation period. It had to be force grown. I knew I had to write in the same genre as Angel’s Fury: dark magical realism, so I started to ask myself more key questions: 

  • What have I enjoyed?
  • What have I been obsessed with?
  • How can I make this into a story? 

Now, my writing tends to evidence epic or mythic elements. In Angel’s Fury I used Christian, Hindu and Jewish religious doctrines to come up with a mythology involving fallen angels. As a teenager I had an avid interest in world mythologies. This time I used Egypt to create a back-story involving Anubis, his interment in Nefertiti’s tomb by his enemies, his subsequent release by grave robbers and his conferment of a curse on my character’s ancestor. This allowed me to have a teenage girl avenge deaths by sending killers to Anubis for judgement. She represents the earthly vessel of the Egyptian god’s power. The mythology enabled me to flesh out my character. As with Cassie, Taylor just appeared in my head fully formed one morning, a half-Chinese girl with a backbone of steel, who resents her powers and is bullied at school because of them. 

"when she said she loved it I thought the deal would follow"

Now I needed a storyline. It came to me fairly easily. What if the bully, the boy who had made Taylor’s life a misery for years, was murdered? What if she had to solve the mystery of his death and avenge him?  

The Weight of Souls was written swiftly and delivered to my editor within eight months. I felt a huge sense of achievement and when she said she loved it I thought the deal would follow. I bought wine. 

I never drank it. 

In July 2011 Angel’s Fury was published and started selling steadily but slowly. Too slowly; I received word from Egmont that when the print run was sold out, there wouldn’t be another. Angel’s Fury was dead. And so was my hope of a second contract. 

My agent and I went our separate ways. I was literally back to square one. Having parted amicably, my agent offered to suggest others and wrote a letter of recommendation. I wanted an agent I ‘clicked’ with, who loved my work, would communicate with me regularly and had the support of a large agency (for foreign rights). I found the perfect partner in Juliet Mushens.

She swiftly sold The Weight of Souls to Strange Chemistry (teen imprint of Angry Robot Books) but this time my advance was smaller. The things I thought were advantages (an existing readership, an award) turned out to be unimportant compared to the fact that my previous book hadn’t set the world on fire. I was a proven ‘bad bet’. 

Looking back on it, my ignorance during my first deal was a blessing. I rode high on assumptions. Now I know more and that makes hope for the future harder. 

Post book deal is not the easy ride I’d hoped for but, and this is the important bit, it is a hell of a ride and I have no intention of getting off. I have a deep vein of unassailable stubbornness and lots more ideas in the wings.  The Weight of Souls comes out in August, in both the US (in Hardback) and the UK (paperback). 

And one essential thing doesn’t change between the first book deal and the second: I’m still excited. 


Bryony Pearce completed an English Literature degree at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge in 1998 and afterwards worked in the research industry. After a while she moved to a village at the edge of the Peak District and went freelance so she could devote more time to writing. She is now a full time mother to two children, writes as much as possible and enjoys doing school visits and events when she can fit them in. Her first book, the award winning Angel’s Fury, was published by Egmont in 2011. 


  1. Thank you for such a candid post, Bryony :)

  2. I'm also guilty of buying expensive beverages in the anticipation of deals that never arrived! "There's many a slip twixt cup and lip" has proved to be a very useful maxim for publishing - even when the deal seems certain, it can still fall apart. This is as true inside publishing as it appears to the author from the outside - big publishers are terribly risk-averse and I've had a number of projects that have almost but not quite come to fruition.

    As you say, this kind of knowledge is useful, if not especially comforting!

  3. This is both terrifying and exhilarating. Thank you for being so honest Bryony. I'm kind of stunned. I LOVED Angel's Fury - it was head and shoulders above others aimed at a similar audience in my view - there in lies another question - what makes a book a commercial success? What is the magic ingredient?

    1. Got to refer you to William Goldman here: "Nobody knows anything." And for that reason, it's vital that trade publishers take a chance on new and different books like Angel's Fury and The Weight of Souls, which is something they're rather wary of at present.

    2. I think marketing spend and timing of publication have a lot of impact. I'd like to echo Kathy and thank you for being so honest, Bryony. It's tough out there - no doubt about it.

    3. My experience and my research tell me that this is a total mystery. Even a lot of competent and enthusiastic marketing and publicity thrown at a project does not guarantee success, neither does having a fabulously written text.
      But we persevere and seek the right to write by having our work endorsed one way or another.
      I don't know whether this helps but I did write AF a couple of good reviews. But then, who am I?
      I always take heart form looking at the life of Louisa May Alcott. Twenty years as a jobbing writer before Little Women made her rich. It's the Little Women I aspire to. The richness is just a bonus.

    4. Thank you for the reviews Gill. Every bit definitely counts!

  4. As someone still waiting to be published (or even agented!) I just wanted to say thank you for being so honest about your journey. I like to think I'm going into this whole thing with my eyes open about not just the possible joys and successes but the more difficult parts also and interviews like this help me gain that perspective. Good luck with your new book!

  5. Thanks, Bryony. I remember talking to you at the 2012 SCBWI conference about this. Glad Weight of Souls has found a deserving home! A lots of resonance for me with the demise of Frances Lincoln YA list...feels like I'm starting over, too. Delighted to hear about your happy ending!

  6. Gosh, Bryony, I salute your perseverance and a big hurrah for yournext book. This business is about starting over again and again and the long wait for a book deal is good practice.

  7. Thank you for such an honest post. It's not always 'happily ever after' when you get a book deal. I always tell school students that persistence is all, and that's true whether you're published or unpublished. Best of luck with The Weight of Souls.

  8. Heart-breaking - I really enjoyed Angel's Fury and think the reading world would have been a poorer place if your next book hadn't found a home.

  9. Thanks everyone. I hope The Weight of Suls does well, but am making no assumptions this time. Fingers crossed for us all!

  10. The honesty of this post is really refreshing, though I agree with Linda that it's heart-breaking that "Angel's Fury" didn't sell better.

    I've pre-ordered "The Weight of Souls". :)

  11. Thank you for such a brave and honest piece. But I'm finding out that stories like yours are WAY more common than I once imagined.
    I absolutely loved Angel's Fury (as did my teen son) and couldn;t believe a mega deal didn;t immediately follow. I wish you tons of success Bryony. You deserve it.

  12. Bryony, it's an incredibly huge service you've done for writers in being brave enough to write this post. It needs to be known. You also need to know that there are many, many writers with several/many books behind them who find themselves in similar positions. I have been in a similar place to the one you describe and there are a couple of reasons (not pride or cowardice) why I can't tell that story fully. I also love that you say that it's a "hell of a ride" and you're "not getting off". I didn't get off, either, and I've never regretted it!

  13. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Bryony. I loved Angel's Fury too and can't wait to read The Weight of Souls. I hope you'll continue to be a published author for a long time to come!

  14. A sobering post indeed - good luck with Weight of Souls - great title!

  15. A great post. Really appreciate your honesty. Good luck with everything that comes next. x

  16. Bryony, you are not alone! I have a ton of sympathy for this post, the successes of the past year notwithstanding. Stay excited. (And drink the darn wine. For years and years I grew my hair out thinking I was going to make a sensation by chopping it all off at the podium prior to accepting a Newbery Award. One day I woke up to reality and went... wait, I really want a haircut and I'm never going to get a Newbery Award. And no one loves a drama queen anyway. I got my hair cut THAT MORNING and it was the most liberating thing I've ever done. Life's too short to let celebratory bottles of wine go untasted!)

  17. Well all these lovely comments might be cause for drinking celebration wine ... It's an excuse anyway. Bet the haircut looks great too.

  18. I've drunk ALL my celebratory bottles of wine

    (always on the lookout for on offer champagne to replace the last 'just in case' bottle)

    Thank you Bryony you've caused a wonderful stir with your heartfelt honesty!

  19. Good luck with your new book Bryony, you deserve it.

  20. Thanks for your honest and interesting post, Bryony, and all the best for The Weight of Souls.

  21. There is consolation in knowing that even the deserving don't have an easy ride. it reduces the self-chastisement just a little bit. Thanks for this post and good luck with Weight of Souls

  22. That is indeed an honest and helpful post, Bryony. So far the kind of books I've written have all been commissioned because they're educational. It's helpful to know that if I ever get a novel accepted and published, it doesn't mean the battle is over by any means. I loved 'Angel's Fury' too and will be waiting to read 'Weight of Souls' when it's out. Fingers crossed!

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