How ‘A Fatal Drug’ found a publisher

Two years ago I wrote and published First Dead Body, a murder thriller with a background of newspapers, set in 1971. Fahrenheit Press have now published the second in the series, A Fatal Drug.
This is not a promotional article for the book – but feel free to buy it on Amazon, it’s a remarkably low price! What I want to explain is the path from self-publishing to a worldwide publisher. This is a personal account. There are many ways of achieving the end result, but only common criteria is that manuscript has to be of the highest quality you can reach.
First off. Don’t be fooled. Finding an agent or publisher is tough for a new author. It’s time-consuming, soul-destroying, confidence-sapping, and at times you really do have to wonder why you’re doing it at all. Everybody has different reasons. Mine was to prove to myself that my work was good enough to jump that enormously high hurdle.
Self-publishing is a way forward for many writers and some go on to great careers with agents and publishers, but they are the tiny minority. I self-published my first book, First Dead Body, for a variety of reasons: some vanity, but mostly because I was aware that finding a publisher or agent for a debut novelist is hard and I really wanted to get a paperback out there so that I could prove to myself that it could be done.
An additional reason was that, having exhausted the patience of many friends and introduced a starry, far-away look, accompanied by raised eyebrows and yawns, and profound interest in the inside of the pint glass in front of them, I was under pressure. Then a good friend was diagnosed with cancer and told me: “I want to read that bloody book before I go!” That was incentive enough. Thankfully my friend is not just still with us, but still drinking pints in the pub and smiling his way back to health.
First Dead Body went down well with those who read it, but there lies the rub: I am a writer, not a publisher or salesman, so it was never going to get the number of readers I hope for.
I vowed that my next book would involve an agent and/or publisher. Time constraints had been removed; vanity put in a box and stored away on an unreachable shelf.
I pitched my book to three of the world’s top agents in the crime genre. I was aiming high. Two rejected it outright; the third not only rejected it, but showed me why it wouldn’t work and why it would fail. I hated that man. I went back to work, and hated him even more when I realised that he was right. A Fatal Drug was re-written.
Then came the second pair of eyes: not a family member; not a sycophant who was going to agree with me; not someone who didn’t know me. My second pair of eyes was a friend who I knew would be honest, open and, if necessary, cruel. Tony Moss was my former sub-editing boss in Nottingham and he proved to be the best mate a writer could wish for. It’s sufficient to say that, when A Fatal Drug went to Fahrenheit Press’s appointed editor, what came back was a clean bill of literal and grammatical health and just a dozen queries on sequences and plot.
How did I find Fahrenheit Press? The simple answer is research, then more, then asking other authors, reading their blogs and Facebook comments, and working out who to approach. I also asked a published author for advice and, instead of the expected reaction of a sharp intake of breath and literary obfuscation, I was given a list of names and contact details!
I went through the usual process of writing my letter of submission, re-writing, rejecting, screwing up into a ball and lobbing across the room, and eventually found a form of words that succinctly summed up my hopes for A Fatal Drug. It worked. Not immediately, but it helped that, after much digging, I’d plumped for Fahrenheit Press as my first choice.
One thing I have learned is that a book’s synopsis is a vitally important document. It sets out the plot, introduces the characters and, hopefully, ‘sells’ the entire work in up to, and not over, 1,000 words to a busy agent or publisher who has a stack to read through every day. The vast majority are going to be binned. Therefore, I have a golden principle about a synopsis: it must not be written by the author. They’re too close. What is needed is someone who has read the manuscript, gets the plot and loves the excitement and storyline. That is the person to cut through the intrigue and get the grit out.
So, on we go. A Fatal Drug is set in Derby and Spain in the prog rock days of the early ‘70s. It is the story of how a young, hot-headed reporter, Simon Jardine, and his friends Dave Green and Tom Freeman become involved in a trail of murder and drug dealing as the reporters search for a front page lead.
It’s out now on Amazon and there’ll be a paperback in a few weeks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *