Psychological thriller author Jake Cross is my guest this week. Welcome, Jake, I know that – like me – you’re currently published by Bookouture. Can you share your ‘publication journey’ with us?
Of all the embarrassing claims I ever made, one rules: “I bet you I’m writing a book with Stephen King by the time I’m 16.”
A silly 13 year-old said that, way back in 1986, and it shows two things. One: the love of storytelling has been with me for decades. Two: I had no idea how hard getting a book contract could be.
This post is more like a “Long Road to Publication”. I wrote all manner of dross in those early days. First film scripts, then fantasy gamebooks, and finally novels. I loved horror and my first story was inspired by someone showing me how the rearranged letters in Santa Claus made Satan Claus. Bang, I had my title – Satan Claws (copyright 1986). Obviously, I mean obviously it had to be about a two-legged werewolf serial killer dressed as Santa on a Christmas Eve rampage.
Laughing? 13 years old, remember.
No way was Stephen King was going duet with an unpublished author, so I set out on that long road by hitting the agents and publishers. Adios pocket money. For years. 16 came and went, no Steve King in sight, but wages soon replaced pocket money and I could afford more stamps and photocopies. Bear with me, Steve. The rise of the Internet upper the submission tempo again, but still the road wound on over the horizon. Email did mean fewer legit rejections, though: with no paper manuscript to return, agents could relay their decisions using stony silence. A little unfair, because hope dug in its fingernails even as months cruised by. But ultimately this tactic works: I don’t expect Penguin Books to suddenly ask for the complete MS of my fantasy gamebook, The Golden Owl (copyright 1987.)
Rambling story short, I continued to work/live/submit/ over the years. A long road indeed. If you were an agent accepting thrillers by email between 2011 and 2017, you said no. Or said nothing. I started to believe that only celebrities or the massively lucky got book contracts. However, for every lucky writer getting a deal, there’s someone out there becoming a crime statistic, so I wasn’t sour about my place in the inert middle.
But all roads go somewhere. Out of nowhere, an assistant agent I’d impressed two years before contacted me. Since then, Natalie had left that agency to become a commissioning editor at a digital publisher called Bookouture, who were making big waves in the e-book world. She said she’d like another look at my book, I said hell yes. That book went nowhere, but she was willing to work with me on another novel. Eight months later I had a three-book contract.
Natalie: Thank you.
Penguin Books: I apologise, but The Golden Owl is no longer a book I wish to pursue. However, I have this idea about a serial killer in a red suit…
Stephen King: Ready when you are.
What a fascinating story, Jake, and it made me smile. There’s nothing like being an ambitious teenager! Congratulations on your three book contract with Bookouture and look forward to reading about the serial killer in a red suit. 🙂
Jake has been making stuff up from a real early age, always with a dream of publication. It took a long time, a lot of rejection, and a bunch of dead end jobs. He has three children of his own. So far none of them has shown the writing bug, but he thinks that’s because they have dreams of careers that aid those in need. Or maybe it’s just Netflix and Angry Birds.
Here are the covers of two of Jake’s books
You can purchase them here:
THE FAMILY LIE: https://amzn.to/2J7gLaI
THE CHOICE: https://amzn.to/2GYj2Uh
Remember to check in next week to see how Gilli Allan became a published author.