How to get published: my Istanbul thriller PALLADIUM is a white-knuckle ride to save a city from destruction
In 2011 I visited Istanbul. At the time I was the British Ambassador in Kyiv, Ukraine, and writing my thriller “A Killing in Sevastopol”.
The beauty and history of Istanbul knocked my socks off. I thought: I must write a thriller set here.
I moved to Istanbul, as British Consul-General, in 2012. I wrote in the evenings and at weekends. My first notes for the book that was to become PALLADIUM date from that year.
What, I thought, if an archaeologist racing to excavate a site ahead of the construction of a new skyscraper dug up an ancient relic that played into contemporary fears? Perhaps the novel might flash back to historic events? What if people believed the relic protected the city from harm? What catastrophe might threaten?
With the help of friends in Istanbul, I came up with a terrific idea for a cataclysmic threat.
‘Wait!’ I hear you cry. ‘You want to tell us how to get published, but you have been writing PALLADIUM for nine years?’
Dear readers: writing and revising a novel can take any amount of time.
How to get published: a timeline
- 2011: inspiration strikes on a visit to Istanbul.
- 2012: I move to Istanbul and start researching and writing the novel. I explore the city and bookmark websites such as (no spoilers) “Palladium: classical antiquity”; “Byzantine Constantinople”; “Hellenism: religion”; “US Aircraft Carriers”; “US archaeology student found dead in Turkey”; and “Building frenzy devours Turkish archaeological legacy”.
- 2013: the Gezi Park protests explode in Istanbul. Disturbances, and tear-gas, engulf the area I live, making my life particularly busy and slowing my writing efforts.
- 2014: a first version of the novel, entitled “Istanbul Rising”, is complete.
- 2015: I submit “Istanbul Rising” to around 20 agents and publishers, without success. As any of you authors out there know who have tried it, this is a dispiriting business when unsuccessful. I devote my efforts to a new comedy thriller.
- 2016-17. “Istanbul Rising” slumbers.
- 2018: I attend an Arvon writing course, “Editing Fiction: Turning First Drafts into Publishable Books” (click on link for a review of the course). We are asked to bring a manuscript. Because my new novel is not yet ready, I take “Istanbul Rising”. The 16 participants all have a chance to present, and discuss, their drafts. I get some valuable feedback from the tutors and other participants (thanks, everyone!) and make lifelong friends. In a vote, participants say PALLADIUM is the best title.
PALLADIUM – a TV series?
- 2018: a TV producer says that PALLADIUM would make a brilliant TV series. But it would be easier to sell, she says, if it were already published as a book.
- 2018: I publish my Berlin thriller, BLOOD SUMMIT, under my then writing name of Robert Pimm.
- 2019: I send a revised draft of PALLADIUM to ten “first readers”, who provide invaluable feedback (again, thanks, everyone). A friends from the Hurst gives me a copy of Will Storr’s, “The Science of Storytelling“, with its concept of “the sacred flaw”. I find both comments and book excellent and try to apply the lessons I learn to my next redraft.
- 2020: I send a new, improved version of the novel to 14 agents. Most do not reply. But honourable exceptions include Darley Anderson, one of the most famous agents on earth, who finds time to give me some useful feedback. I revise and polish the manuscript further.
- 3 September 2020: a friend tells me about #pitmad, an event held four times a year on Twitter where authors can pitch their novels direct to potential agents or publishers (details at the link). I try it for two of my books. Staci Olson, an acquisition editor for “Immortal Works”, a US publisher, contacts me and asks to see the first five pages of PALLADIUM.
“Can I see the full manuscript?”
- 24 October: Staci comes back to me and asks to see the full manuscript.
- 10 February 2021: Staci expresses enthusiasm for PALLADIUM and holds out the prospect of a contract, but not guaranteed. She asks for some initial edits focused on the use of the passive voice, with some excellent examples from the text. The quality of these suggestions encourages me to feel I am dealing with a top editorial team.
- 27 February: I send Immortal Works a revised version of PALLADIUM, in which I have made the changes suggested.
- 29 April 2021: I sign a contract with Immortal Works to publish PALLADIUM. The same day, IW Chief Editor Holli Anderson sends me a handsome welcome letter noting “it’s never too early to start promoting your book” and suggesting I use my social media channels to document my author journey. This strikes me as great advice.
- The welcome letter also sets out an editorial timeline, of which the first step is a further round of self edits, based on detailed guidelines around tense, point of view, adverbs, characters, echoes, cliches etc. Again this attention to detail strikes me as reassuring and professional. I have already started the self-editing exercise and will be working on it [deletes adverb: intensely] in the coming weeks. Wish me luck! And thanks to the team at Immortal Works for your belief in PALLADIUM!
I will post here further as my author journey continues. Watch this space.