What Next?

22nd January 2024
6 min read
18th April 2024

Children's author Puneet Bhandal offers an honest insight into a writer's unpredictable career.

Where next?

If only I could get that publishing contract! Just that first publishing contract…

How often have you thought that? Most unpublished writers dream of the day they sign a deal with a book publisher.

And why wouldn’t you? 

You may have been honing your craft for years, if not decades. It’s possible you have written multiple drafts of your story. You may have attended manuscript-writing classes, entered competitions, pored over the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook year upon year. 

The reality of holding your published book in your hand for the first time is almost guaranteed once you nab that publisher. And becoming a traditionally published author means you have finally cracked the code. You’ve done something that thousands of writers have failed to do. 

But… (there’s always a but…)

The reality is that even after being published, you could find yourself at the very beginning of the cycle soon after, because there is no guarantee that the door that opened to let you into this exclusive world will lead you to another.  

I find myself in this strange situation. 

I managed to find a wonderful publisher for my Bollywood-themed middle grade fiction books after more than a decade of trying, failing, failing better.

During that period of writing and rewriting, I had interesting conversations with multiple different publishers and multiple different agents.

There was a time when I had an agent but no publishing contract. There was a time when I had two offers of publication from overseas but didn't accept either because I was on the verge of signing with a very large international publisher. There was a time when I almost signed with a Big 5 publisher.

Thankfully, there came the time when I finally signed a publishing contract - albeit without an agent. 

The fact that I didn’t have an agent didn’t bother me in the slightest. I enjoyed working with my publisher and felt wonderfully supported throughout the whole process of signing the contract, through editing, proofreading, and my very first book launch.

Not soon after, I began writing the second title in the series. Again, it was a seamless process and I was so busy with managing the rest of my life alongside the drafts and edits, that I didn’t think of what would, or wouldn’t, happen afterwards.

I now have two traditionally published books that I adore and am extremely proud of but reality is staring me in the face: I am, somehow, back at the start of the cycle. I want to write more books but in order to reach out to most publishers, I need an agent. 

And to sign with an agent, I need a book. 

A different book.

A book that hasn’t been published.

And I find myself in a curious position. As a published author, I visit schools and literary festivals with my Bollywood-themed workshops while I continue to work full-time. My free time often involves social media or website management for my platforms. 

I am not a full-time author and couldn’t afford to leave my day job. How can I ever find the time to write books that may, or may not, elicit interest from an agent or a publisher?

Do I want to put myself through a process that took between 10-15 years the first-time round? Can I really handle hundreds of form rejection emails all over again?

Don’t get me wrong: I love being a published author and I have always had full conviction that my idea for a Bollywood-themed middle grade fiction series could be realised.

I love visiting schools. I love seeing the enthusiasm the children have for my books and I love being invited to incredible literary festivals in stunning places like Oxford and Gibraltar.

But, unless you have a very active and committed agent, or are published by a top publisher where your advance and book sales will allow you to contemplate leaving your job and writing full-time, chances are that your journey may look similar to mine.

I often find myself asking if I should just focus on the books I have in print: visit schools… promote… sell… repeat. Or whether I should take that chance on writing another book to find an agent, to land another publishing contract.

But there is nobody to hear my questions. Being an author means you often work alone, think alone, make crucial decisions alone. 

I love writing so I know I will continue to do that. I have already written 25% of a MG historical fantasy novel and aim to complete it by Easter. Will I pitch again? 

Am I ready for the inevitable barrage of rejections?

About that, I am not so sure. 


Puneet Bhandal is a journalist, author and fashion designer.

She has written two books in the Bollywood Academy series, Starlet Rivals and Melody Queen, published by Lantana. She has also written and self-published tennis-based picture books to help keep the sport growing.

Puneet has plans to add to the Bollywood Academy series and is currently halfway through a MG historical fantasy novel set in India during the time of the Sikh Empire. She also plans to write YA and adult thrillers - but expects plenty of plot twists on the way to publication.

Writing stage