Starting next week, I get to live the dream. As a debut author, my first novel, The Fifth Knight, will be published by Thomas & Mercer. Exciting times, and something I’ve worked towards for a decade.
It’s a fairly typical story of the road to publication- up to now. A completely, utterly and absolutely dreadful first novel. One that was 150,000 words long. Or rather, 150,000 words too long. The dawn of realization (despite a couple of partial requests from agents) that Novel #1 had to be forever consigned to a box in the attic, its back-up copy on a set of carefully labelled floppies. (Under 25? Look that one up). Oh, and I did rewrite the whole thing along the way. Twice. It was still awful.
But, hey, Novel #2 would be the one! It started as Novel #1 had. No proper structure, a lot of enthusiasm. Then I ran out of steam a third of the way in. I realized I wasn’t a pantser, but a plotter. One outline and one complete rewrite later, there it was. And at a modest 85,000 words. It attracted quite a few agent partial requests and (one of the most exciting days of my life), a full. But it wasn’t to be. The agent who requested the full sent me a lovely, personalised rejection, giving me invaluable advice. By the time the rejection arrived, I was deep into Novel #3: the novel which would become The Fifth Knight. The agent had asked me to send her anything else I wrote. So I finished Novel #3 and off it went. Still no.
More re-writes, more submissions. Critique partners with immense patience and wisdom. Entering contests, getting feedback. Judging contests and giving other writers advice, then realizing I should be taking that advice myself. A face-to-face pitch with yet another agent at the Historical Novel Society conference in 2010. She requested a full. Still no dice. A contest win in 2011 that got another full request . Reading through my MS before I sent it off, I realized that at least 30,000 words had to be rewritten. So I did.
I finished re-writing in early 2012, ten whole years since I started this crazy pursuit. Then, in a ridiculously short space of time, three offers of representation. Josh Getzler of HSG was my choice. What can I say? He’s been a tireless champion of The Fifth Knight, putting boundless energy into finding a publisher for it. And what a find- Andy Bartlett of Thomas & Mercer. Sometimes good things happen, eh?
But this is where it ceases to become typical. Publication day on 13th November next week isn’t a one-off. The Fifth Knight goes out first in serialized format on Kindle Serials. It’s to be published in six episodes, each two weeks apart. Readers will have it automatically sent to their Kindles for a one-off purchase. There’ll be a link to Kindle Forums, a customer’s discussion forum for the book on Amazon.com. That means I get to engage with readers as the episodes go out, which is amazing.
Is this scary? Yep. Looking at the Kindle Serials home page, you’ll see that readers can get free serials of Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers. They were originally published in serial format, so readers are being offered that original experience. Erm, that would be Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers as written by Charles Dickens. My link to my debut serialized novel will sit on the same page. Told you it was scary.
So, scary- yes. Typical? No. But it’s exciting. Exciting not only to be published, but to be part of the changing landscape of how books are published and are read. Ironically, The Fifth Knight is a medieval thriller, set nearly 300 years before the invention of the printing press and over 800 years before the Kindle. But I forgive Thomas & Mercer for not putting it out on historically accurate vellum manuscript.
Like I said, they’re making my dream come true.
And if you fancy an additional extra to the serial, check out the Fifth Knight Tales page on my website. Here you’ll find stories of other characters that appear in the novel. There’ll be one per episode. The first one is a taster of what’s to come: the tale of The Red Cap.
Note: The Fifth Knight can be found on Kindle Serials. At this time, only US customers can purchase the serialized format. The book will be released in complete format by Thomas & Mercer in 2013.