I love talking to authors about their work and finding out the different paths that led them to become a published author. Wendy Percival‘s journey is particularly interesting as she was first published in hardback with her book being sold mainly to libraries. Morning Wendy, can you tell us about your writing journey, please.
I started writing seriously after spotting Writing Magazine in WH Smith’s. I bought a copy on impulse and took out a subscription.
I entered all their short-story competitions and was short-listed several times. Then, in 2002, I won the Summer Ghost Story competition! I put the prize money towards a laptop and although I continued writing short stories (and even sold one to a women’s magazine), it was novel writing which interested me most.
Meanwhile I’d been bitten by the family history bug, having discovered an 1868 Australian death certificate amongst some documents belonging to my husband’s late parents. Unaware of any Australian family connection, we spent months unpicking the intriguing story behind the certificate, learning the research process by default.
I found its parallel with detective work and unravelling mysteries fascinating and it inspired my first novel Blood-Tied.
During the customary trawl around agents and publishers, I received encouraging comments scribbled on rejection letters. One agent asked to see the full MS, but decided she “didn’t love it enough” so I was back to square one.
Then author Fenella Miller mentioned her publisher, Robert Hale, in a Writing Magazine interview. I sent off a submission and within 2 weeks they’d responded, saying they’d like to publish!
In my excitement, I didn’t fully appreciate the limitations of a hardback-only publisher selling mainly to libraries. But at the time I was happy enough getting a publishing deal.
The first print-run of Blood-Tied sold out in under a month (possibly due to my one-woman campaign to pitch to every library in the UK!) but Hale decided against a re-print, probably because I was a new author. But they did get Blood-Tied published in large-print – and it’s my hardback and large-print editions which get borrowed most often from UK libraries!
Around this time the self-publishing phenomenon was blossoming so when Hale declined my 2nd novel, I wasn’t unduly bothered, as it released me from my contract, allowing me the option of searching for another publisher or going Indie. The idea of being in control appealed and I chose the latter.
Although Hale released the rights of Blood-Tied back to me, I was wary of messing up if I did everything myself. So, following a recommendation from hybrid author, Helen Hollick, I approached assisted publisher, SilverWood. I was impressed by the quality of their books and that the MD, Helen Hart (a published author herself) was selective about who she took on.
I re-published Blood-Tied in paperback and ebook. By now readers were asking me what next? for my genealogist character Esme Quentin and I realised I had the makings of a mystery series. So I wrote a second novel, The Indelible Stain and a third, The Malice of Angels.
I’ve since written Death of a Cuckoo (commissioned by SilverWood for their “short-reads” imprint) and a prequel novella, Legacy of Guilt.
I’m currently writing the 4th novel in the series, which will have the usual mix of crime, social history and genealogy.
Thank you for sharing your interesting publishing journey with us, Wendy. I love the idea of mixing social history with crime and genealogy and how your own family history inspired your novels.
Here are some of Wendy’s books:
The time honoured ‘box of old documents in the attic’ stirred Wendy’s interest in genealogy – the inspiration behind her Esme Quentin mystery novels, Blood-Tied, The Indelible Stain and The Malice of Angels, as well as her novella Death of a Cuckoo, (published by SilverWood’s “Short Reads” imprint, S Books) and prequel novella, Legacy of Guilt. She’s currently writing her fourth full-length Esme Quentin mystery.
Wendy shares the intriguing, sometimes shocking, discoveries in her own family history on her blog and has had several articles published in Shropshire Family History Society’s quarterly journal and in Family Tree magazine.
She lives in South West England in a thatched cottage beside a 13th century church with her husband and their particularly talkative cat.
Check in next week to read Carol Warham’s publication journey.
And if you want to read about my writing journey, I’m talking about it over on Tom William’s blog here.