Last week saw the announcement of the acquisition of debut fantasy novel Infernal by Mark de Jager. Mark’s editor, Michael Rowley of Del Rey UK said, ‘written in a style that reminds me of bestselling authors Joe Abercrombie and Peter V. Brett, I was instantly drawn to the character Stratus, an anti-hero set to take the genre by storm and break new ground. Like a magical blend of Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher, he moves through the world as an unstoppable force of nature in this action-packed, dark and violent fantasy thriller. We’re thrilled to have Mark on the Del Rey list.’
You can view the article here in The Bookseller, announcing news of the deal, announcing a ‘bold new voice in fantasy fiction.’
The full press release can be viewed here on the DHH blog.
The past year has proved to me that time is relative. Little over a year ago I was muddling through the second or third draft of my latest manuscript and quite happy with it, toying with the idea that maybe it was in a good enough shape to let someone else read it.
I bit the bullet and sent it off to a few willing and brave friends and then patiently waited, although by patient I mean largely resisting the urge to whatsapp them for an update every 10 minutes. Eventually though, I had my feedback and was surprised to realise how differently some things had been interpreted. One of the problems with living with a story in your head for so long is that you forget that just because you know that X knows the backstory of Y, no one else does!
After another nip and tuck, I was ready to level up and submit it to an agent. Both Liz and I are fortunate in that we’ve been exposed to the industry in one form or the other for some time, initially via the contacts made while running our (now closed) blog, but more handily for me, I had learned my lessons a lot when Liz went through the process with her Blackhart manuscript. My first course of action was to get hold of a copy of the Writer’s Handbook and made a list of agencies who would accept fantasy, but I also approached others who we knew socially to ask them for pointers as to who might be looking. One of those kind people was Hannah Sheppard, who suggested that I add DHH to my list, which I did (and I still owe her a number of drinks for that).
Being a bit of a nerd, I set up a spreadsheet listing the agencies I wanted to approach and then broke each down further to list which agents in particular I should be addressing my cover letter to and what their submission criteria were. The latter is more important than many people realise: ignoring them doesn’t make you a groundbreaking rebel, it just makes you easier to pass over in favour of somebody who can actually follow simple instructions.
There are quite a few dedicated blogs and articles out there about what you should and shouldn’t say in a cover letter, but in the end I just bore it in mind that whether I knew the person I was writing to or not, I was now approaching them in a professional capacity and kept it succinct and neutral-friendly (a description that owes a lot to many years of D&D), again with an eye on their submission guidelines.
For all of the dozens of spellchecks and read-throughs, after I clicked ‘send’ it took me less than 30 seconds to spot the glaring typo on the first page of the extract. Facepalm. I think I might have said something along the lines of “oh golly gosh, what have I done?” *
Three weeks later I received an email from DHH requesting the full manuscript, which I may have read a few times and taken even longer to send a cohesive reply to that wasn’t all in CAPS. A fortnight thereafter I sat down with David Headley and Harry Illingworth and accepted their offer of representation, which felt surreal enough already, let alone that I was talking to people who understood my characters and my world and were so enthusiastic about it. We discussed the structure and character arcs, and I went away and prepared a fresh synopsis charting how I saw the story progressing.
The outline was agreed, and having considered it, I opted to do a full re-write. I knew where the story and characters were going, so it didn’t take anywhere as long as the first draft had. There were a few more revisions, including my first proper full manuscript edit complete with comments and suggestions which I was ludicrously excited about. Eventually it was ready to submit to actual publishers, and away it went, coincidentally accompanied by a spike in the sales of Jura whiskey.
Several parties were interested in the manuscript, which was thrilling in itself. Having the DHH team fighting my corner meant that the process was far less fraught than it might have been, the inevitable rejections notwithstanding. Some of these were actually uplifting despite the ‘no’ attached to them- from the perspective of a newbie author, it is still quite a shot in the arm to know that an editor wanted to read your manuscript, and having done so, hasn’t simply replied with ‘are you serious’ or ‘LOL’.
And then I received an email asking me if I would be available to meet with Michael Rowley of Del Rey, as if they really needed to ask. I knew Del Rey, and had in fact raided their stand at Worldcon the year before quite extensively. Michael was as enthusiastic as we were, and had picked up on everything I had been trying to do throughout the manuscript.
He got it, and was keen to take it forward.
Publishing has taught me a lot about patience and managing anxiety, but eventually we received the news that they were making an offer! What a year. It’s been an amazing experience, but wow, it went fast!.
* Not my exact words by a long shot
Infernal will publish as hardback in August 2016.
Follow Mark on twitter: @Gergaroth
Follow David on twitter: @davidhheadley
Follow Harry on twitter: @harryillers