This time last year a 24-year-old called Roger Hobbs was one of thousands of unknown writers. Today he’s the author of the UK’s bestselling début crime novel of 2013, which is also a New York Times bestseller. He has a film deal with Warner Bros with an A-list writer and director attached. So how did he get there?
Whilst an undergraduate at Reed College, Roger took a creative writing course. Not long afterwards, New York literary agent Nat Sobel read one of Roger’s short stories in a magazine and offered him representation. A few months later Roger delivered the opening pages of Ghostman.
The book was immediately picked up by Gary Fisketjon at Knopf and was sent out wider with publishers all over the world clamouring to acquire Roger for their lists. As soon as we at Transworld read the opening chapters of Ghostman we knew we had something very special in our hands. We fell in love with Roger’s slick, confident and incredibly visual writing. And in his protagonist Jack, we instantly saw an intriguing anti-hero who had the potential to lead a series of intelligent thrillers.
We acquired Ghostman at auction from Sobel’s co-agent Caspian Dennis at the Abner Stein agency on a tidal wave of collective passion and belief. Like most publishers we get a lot of fantastic novels submitted to us. But because we already have great depth on our crime and thriller lists we have a very selective acquisitions strategy. Once we’ve acquired, we do what we always do—we focus. We always start with the intention of building an author into a brand, and Roger was no exception.
At this early stage of an author’s career you can’t rely on their name opening any doors, whether in press or retail circles, so you are reliant on peers conferring greatness upon your new writers. And this they did in spades—including our very own Lee Child—generating an early buzz and a sense of anticipation. Armed with these, a great jacket and a competitive cover price, we went out to the retailers. Happily our list is relatively lean, so we were able to get some air time for Roger which led to some great support over the whole retail estate. And once it was out there, the good reviews kept coming.
To cap it all, on Monday at the Crime Writers Association’s gala dinner, we learned that Ghostman has been longlisted for both the CWA’s Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. It’s clear that Roger has an incredible future ahead.
Rachel Rayner is commissioning editor at Transworld Publishers