Ninevoices are delighted to welcome one of our periodic guest contributors, writing here about how she succeeded in having her debut novel published. The Governor’s Man is currently available on Amazon for a modest £6.67 for the paperback edition or £2.99 for the Kindle. As ever, Kindle Unlimited reads are free.
by Jacquie Rogers, author of The Governor’s Man.
Exactly a year ago to the day, I sat writing in my little garden cabin while a scant shower cooled the air outside. My journal records I wrote 1400 words that afternoon of what was then titled The Bronze Owl, getting my main characters moving along a trail of stolen silver to Cheddar (or Iscalis, as it was known in AD224). The world of my story, 3rd century rural Britain, was almost completely imaginary, as were virtually all of my characters. The only real thing was the shining hoard of denarii, beautifully curated and exhibited in the Museum of Somerset, which had started the story up in my mind some years earlier. Suddenly in February 2020, that story started stretching out wings I didn’t know it had.
I’d already been published as a short story writer, but aspiring to write a novel felt ridiculously over the top. Like a passenger in a glider suddenly deciding to fly to Mars. Hadn’t I read that the chances of getting a novel published were 1-2%? And those were the books that got finished and submitted. In an average year. What were the chances of getting a book researched, written, and accepted for publication, in a lockdown year when everyone and his/her dog was writing the Great Lockdown Novel?
About much reality in that ambition as there was in my imagined Roman world of AD 224.
On the plus side, as a clinically-vulnerable shielder I had precious little else to do. And I had a short story already written, screaming to be extended. Actually The Bath Curse was pleading to be turned from a YA 2200-word snapshot, into a full-blown crime novel. With two much older, world-weary adults — a military investigator and a British healer — replacing the original teenagers. And a stroppy Londoner sidekick who insisted on muscling his way into the plot. And then there was the antagonist. Take your pick from a lengthy line-up of ne’er-do-wells crawling out of the woodwork.
So okay — new form, new MCs, new villains, additional subplots. And a lot of unnatural deaths. Eight in total. Not including the major battle scene, which wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye last year. But with the aforementioned time on my hands, it was surprising how many words got written. By November the first full draft went off to beta readers, and simultaneously to my independent editor. One thing short-story publishing had taught me — yes, you always need an editor.Expensive, but vital.
Back came the MS, with a lot of re-writing to do. Fortunately my readers and my editor were largely in agreement. After several more drafts, I started sending my baby out into the world in February 2021, to publishers who were accepting direct submissions in the genre of historical mystery, and to agents who liked that genre too and were actively seeking new clients. No-one else, no matter how enticing they sounded. Waste of time, that, I already knew. Many, many hours spent painstakingly fulfilling the requirements of carefully-researched agents and publishers, thirty-something of them. Then I waited, while beginning the sequel to The Governor’s Man.
One agent like the MS, but was retiring the next day. Would I send it to his colleagues? Who never responded. Two other agents rejected, politely. Three publishers said it wasn’t their thing. Then a month of silence.
Then I remembered I had been given a name at an Arvon course. Endeavour Books, who specialised in historical and crime. My book was both. Jackpot! Only Endeavour Books no longer existed, it seemed. I returned to seeking more agents/publishers. Heart sinking a little, but buoyed by reading that the best way to sell books is to write them. I also began seriously researching self-publishing at this point.
Then I saw a tweet from Sharpe Books, saying they were open to submissions. Checked them out. Oh, here is Endeavour Books, resurrected! Still liking exactly my genre. And the publisher writes Roman adventure books himself. I sat up straight, gave the opening chapters and my synopsis a last polish, and pressed Send. Within 24 hours they wrote to ask for the full MS, to distribute to their reading panel. Within another two days I got the phone call I’d been dreaming about. Would I like a contract for three books?
Well, what would you say?
In a whirlwind came the contract, then editorial feedback — not much to change, but must lose 10k words. By Friday. It felt quite a draconian diet. The slimmed-down final went back, and I was published on 19 May, 2021. Paperback two weeks later.
And then my real full-time job began. No, not writing the second book of the trilogy. That’s still waiting. For three months I have been a full-time publicist. Emails to everyone I know (Do you still read books? Guess what? I have a book – would you like to read it?); guest blog posts; begging letters asking book bloggers to review; re-designed and renamed blogsite; even a change of book title, pen-name and email address; interview with BBC Radio Somerset; my own YouTube channel, and recording a road trip round the West Country to please readers begging to know more about Roman Britain. See, I didn’t make it all up — that lumpy field has a large villa under it; and over there is a redundant Roman mine. And that river has changed its course, used to have a Roman port, no you can’t see it now. It was more fun than it sounds.
And endless, eternal social media. I now tweet in my sleep, and my best friend after Instagram is Tweetdeck. Still, there’s the local village arts festival coming up. I’m the resident writer. I might buy a painting from a fellow stallholder, if I ever get any royalties.
You’re going to love it all.
To follow or contact Jacquie Rogers, go to https://linktr.ee/jacquierogers