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Danielle Owen-Jones on Author Branding and Working with an Agent

Danielle Owen-Jones on Author Branding and Working with an Agent

Author Danielle Owen-Jones has written for Jericho Writers on a range of topics, from literary devices to anti-heroes. Now, we’re proud to see her first novel ‘Stone Broke Heiress’ published by Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette. We chatted to her about working with her literary agent and how to build your author brand.

My debut novel, ‘Stone Broke Heiress’, is a romantic comedy set in Liverpool. My agent, Clare Coombes of The Liverpool Literary Agency, came up with the brilliant idea to set the book in Toxteth. The location is an interesting hook for the story because Clare and I believe it’s the first rom com set in the Toxteth area of the city.

Clare was one of the literary agents who requested my full manuscript when I was querying. After she read the book and offered representation, one of her suggestions was to change the setting from London to Liverpool. The minute Clare suggested it, I was sold on the idea. Looking back, I’m not sure why I set the book in London – a place I adore, but somewhere I don’t know well. Liverpool, however, I know very well. I grew up in a seaside town half an hour away, and my family are proud scousers.

While discussing the location change, Clare and I agreed this would give the book an interesting angle for publishers and would be its USP in the busy and competitive rom com market. It turned out that the new Toxteth location transformed the book; the different setting affected every aspect of the story. Most importantly, the more I wrote about the city I loved and knew so well, the more the ideas flowed, and the story grew stronger. I hoped I was painting a picture of the location through the pages. It was important to me to capture the spirit of Liverpool and fly the flag for it – to represent the city in the right way.

The more I wrote about the city I loved and knew so well, the more the ideas flowed, and the story grew stronger.

After enthusiastically editing the new setting of the book and revising the draft to include Clare’s other brilliant ideas, we went out on submission to publishers. I sympathise with every writer going through the submission process. It’s nerve-wracking enough when you’re querying literary agents. Then, after you’ve signed with an agent, it feels like you do it all over again. (Though your book being pitched to publishers is probably even more stressful – if that’s possible!) It’s torture waiting to hear if you’re going to get a book deal. I was refreshing my emails every thirty seconds, but I knew I could trust Clare and her passion for the book. All I could do was hope that a commissioning editor would feel the same way!

Luckily, one did – Emily Gowers at Bookouture. I was blown away by her enthusiasm for the book. She completely ‘got’ it – both the story and me as an author. What more could you want from an editor? Clare and I talked through the options, but we were both immediately impressed by Bookouture’s pitch, together with Emily’s passion and vision. So, I excitedly signed a two-book deal! It was one of the most surreal and incredible days of my life – and for a while, it felt like I was dreaming. Even now, I’m still not entirely sure it’s sunk in.

I knew I could trust Clare and her passion for the book. All I could do was hope that a commissioning editor would feel the same way!

Since signing my publishing contract, my writing life has been a whirlwind. Like many authors, I juggle my day job with writing my books. However, I’m fortunate that my work is flexible, as I work for myself. It’s meant plenty of early mornings, late nights, and weekends spent writing or editing. But it doesn’t really feel like work because, as cheesy as it sounds, this is all a dream come true for me.

A plus point of my job as a freelance PR consultant and content writer is applying the skills I use with my clients to myself when building my author brand through marketing. The best tip I can give to authors when doing this is to show the person behind the books. Nobody likes a hard sell or a constant, repetitive message of ‘buy my books!’ So, let your audience in and show them who you are as a person and a writer. What inspires you? What’s your writing process? Which books do you adore? What do you love doing at the weekend? In terms of social media, it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to juggle everything. So rather than trying to be active on all the various platforms, instead focus on those you genuinely enjoy.

A significant part of the entire writing and publishing process is the people you meet along the way. I feel so lucky to have met an amazing and talented group of writers throughout my experience as a debut author. I’ve made friends for life, and it makes the whole process so much easier when you have the genuine support of people who understand what you’re going through on the rollercoaster ride that is publishing.

In terms of social media, it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to juggle everything. So rather than trying to be active on all the various platforms, instead focus on those you genuinely enjoy.

Another aspect where that important support from the writing community (and of course, friends and family), plays a major role is when dealing with rejections. They are hard. Incredibly hard. However, something I’ve learnt along the way is that rejection is unavoidable as an author. You have to take the highs (signing with an agent, a publishing deal, glowing reviews) with the lows (rejections from agents, publishers and even readers).

Rejection is part of being an author because writing and storytelling are naturally subjective. However, a rejection typically isn’t personal. For example, when querying literary agents, there are so many elements involved in a ‘thanks but no thanks’ (e.g. an agent’s existing list of clients, genre preferences, future publishing trends, their relationships with editors in your book’s genre etc.) It’s human nature that rejection can be hard to stomach, but I’ve found that the more you experience it and get used to it, the easier it is to handle. You learn how to pick yourself up and try again. I remember feeling devastated at my first few literary agent and publisher rejections. But if it’s your dream to be an author, you can’t give up; you have to keep going.

From Clare Coombes, Danielle’s literary agent (The Liverpool Literary Agency):

“From the first read, I knew this book was special. There was a lot of interest but I’m so happy we’ve found the perfect home for it at Bookouture. Danielle has such an amazing writing style and comic timing. Readers are going to love Arabella’s journey of self-discovery (and the world of soup, which is such a hilarious and unique framing for this whole story).  

For our first women’s fiction signing and book deal in this genre to be set in Liverpool (and the first romcom we know of based in the Toxteth part of the city), is just incredible and we’re so proud of Danielle.” 

About Danielle Owen-Jones

Danielle Owen-Jones is the debut author of the romantic comedy ‘Stone Broke Heiress’. Danielle started her career as a senior journalist and features writer before launching a PR business, and later signing a two-book deal with Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK.

‘Stone Broke Heiress’ is now available on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Find out more about Danielle on her website and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook.