The Second Chance by Charlotte Butterfield

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The Second Chance

By Charlotte Butterfield

Author Charlotte Butterfield on her journey from self-publishing to digital-first, to auction, to publication with Avon.

The first stories I sold for money were photocopied on my Dad’s fax machine and were sold to my schoolfriends for ten pence a story. It was 1984, I was seven and I should have known then that writing as never going to make me millions! While doing my English degree I wrote reviews and articles for local magazines to help pay for my pot noodle addiction, and after graduating I became a features writer for a magazine in Bristol, before moving to Dubai and working my way up to be editor of a women’s lifestyle magazine.

Filling column inches with copy had been my day job for twelve years, and after having my third child I decided to become a freelance writer, taking any writing gig I could – airline menus, toilet bleach blurbs, employee manuals, furniture catalogues, you name it, I wrote it. I yearned to write something I wasn’t being paid by the word for, and so in the evenings during 2016 I started writing a novel. I didn’t tell anyone apart from my husband, and when it was finished I very quietly self-published it using Kindle Direct Publishing as my fragile post-partum self-confidence couldn’t bear any negative rejections. It was such a simple, pleasant experience, the online templates made layout a breeze and a graphic designer friend created a lovely cover.

Buoyed up by my handful of Amazon reviews and (very biased) friends and family’s compliments, I entered the Montegrappa First Fiction award at Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai and I came second. In that moment, everything changed. I was signed by Luigi Bonomi, one of the judges of the competition and he got me a three-book deal with what was Harper Impulse (now One More Chapter), and set me up with my current agent Hannah Schofield who got me my next two-book deal with Hodder after an auction, and now I’m back with Harper Collins at Avon for a new two-book deal. While I loved the freedom and autonomy of self-publishing, I really enjoy the collaborative aspect of now working with an editor. Bouncing ideas around and having a second, third, and fourth pair of eyes over your work is a very reassuring experience, and definitely makes for crisper writing. Despite being a professional writer for my entire adult life, it turns out that I still don’t really know how to use a comma properly, so having a team of subeditors to highlight my Oxford comma abuse in tracked changes is brilliant.

I would also say that having marketers and publicists on hand in a traditional publishing house is a real privilege. Like all authors, I love choosing great words and putting them in a pleasing order, but I don’t really have the skillset for getting my books into the hands of my readers, so it’s great to have experts to help do that. My friends who have self-published work really hard in making their books visible, probably more time than it takes to actually write the novel in the first place – which some of them love, and others don’t. I fall somewhere in the middle; I love visiting bookshops and speaking at lit fests, I’m not so good on social media and quite often a month will go by and I remember I have posted nothing online, which is not a recipe for success.

My first experience of traditional publishing was with digital-first publisher One More Chapter at Harper Collins, who were a glorious team of passionate editors. Digital-first is a really interesting model, and allows much greater flexibility of marketing, promotions, tracking audience engagement, and the lead time was much shorter to publication. Whilst I am a kindle-lover myself, and do alternate between the two mediums in my own reading, I would say that for me, the thrill of holding my own paperback did eclipse seeing my own novel downloaded in my library.

Once my three-book deal came to an end, I went on wide submission with my fourth book, By This Time Tomorrow. As ever the rejections come in pretty rapidly and my agent asked me if I wanted only positive feedback or the negative as well. As it was mid-pandemic, I chose the former not the latter! I was living in Italy at the time, on an incredibly strict lockdown, neither me nor my three children had left the house for months when the call came in from my agent to say that she was instigating an auction for it. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life: living in a foreign country, during a global pandemic, being told that my novel was being bid on by multiple publishers. Thank goodness good wine and coffee was very cheap in Italy, because I got through a lot that week!

After two books with Hodder, I joined Avon last year, and a more joyful team of literary magicians you could not hope to meet.

So, from start to finish it’s been an unconventional journey to publication, one fraught with stumbling blocks and the highest of highs, and I often think back to seven year-old me standing in the school corridor shouting, ‘Stories for sale, come and get your stories’ and realise that actually, not much has changed…

(c) Charlotte Butterfield

About The Second Chance by Charlotte Butterfield:

Nell has always known her expiry date.

After a psychic predicted her death date twenty years ago, she has lived life accepting she would never see forty – embracing adventure and travelling the world, choosing fun over commitment and laying down roots.

So, when the fateful day comes, Nell feels ready. She sends five excruciatingly honest confessions to her sister, parents and past loves, knowing she won’t be around to face the consequences. Then, with her heart laid bare, all that’s left to do is check into a glamorous hotel and wait for the inevitable…

But when Nell unexpectedly wakes up the next morning broke, single and very much alive, she must figure out exactly how to seize this second chance at life. And then it also hits her:

What on earth happens now that everyone knows how she really feels?

This is the perfect book club read for fans of David Nicholls, Holly Smale and Beth O’Leary, asking what it is that makes for a life well lived.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

A former magazine editor, Charlie Butterfield was born in Bristol and studied English at Royal Holloway. She moved to Dubai by herself on a one-way ticket with one suitcase in 2005 and left twelve years later with a husband, three children and a 40ft shipping container. She now lives in the Cotswolds, where she is a freelance writer and novelist.

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