It’s a publishing fairytale. Rebecca James made international headlines in 2009 when the manuscript for her book BEAUTIFUL MALIC, ignited a bidding war between several major publishers that would eventually see the author netting more than $1 million in advances. Beautiful Malice has now sold to 37 territories around the world, making its international first print-run around 500,000 copies, virtually unheard of for an unknown author.
The book’s Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin says it was the largest young adult print-run from the publisher since Harry Potter and the book has sold so well in it’s first week of release, an Australian reprint is now being rushed through to meet public demand for the novel. Two days after the book’s Australian release on 3 May 2010, I spoke to the lady behind the international best seller.
Speaking from her home in Armidale in country New South Wales, Rebecca James, 39, is exhausted after travelling home by train from Sydney with her four young sons. Ranging in age from 6 to 10, these youngsters have no idea what all the fuss is about. Nor do they know how close the family actually came to financial ruin last year, before the sale of mum’s book brought about a reversal in the family’s fortunes.
After struggling to stay afloat during the Global Financial Crisis, Rebecca James and her partner were forced to close their small business on June 30th last year. With four kids to support, the couple were understandably worried about the future. But as Rebecca explains, God never closes a door without opening a window.
“For about a year we were struggling and supporting our business with our mortgage, borrowing more and more money which was just crazy and in the end, it was just too stressful. My husband had actually had a heart attack about five years ago and he was working an enormous number of hours and it wasn’t even keeping us afloat anyway. Closing the business was a terrifying thought and having four kids and a mortgage, we didn’t know what we were going to do.”
“But then the very next day, on the 1st of July, I received an email from my agent saying that Allen & Unwin wanted to make an offer. It was like we made this decision to close the business and then we got rewarded. It felt like that at the time, like it was some kind of miracle.”
After Allen & Unwin acquired the rights to publish the book in Australia, the manuscript was snapped up by Faber & Faber in the UK before eventually making it’s way to auction at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, where a bidding war broke out between several publishing houses. Suddenly, Rebecca James was receiving requests for interviews from The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, A Current Affair and The Wall Street Journal,
But before all you aspiring authors out there start thinking that’s all there is to it, let me remind you that behind every publishing success story, are years of struggle and a stack of rejection slips. Of course there are the exceptions, but those are very few and far between.
Beautiful Malice is actually Rebecca’s fourth novel and only the second published. Her first published novel, Nightswimming earned the author just $100 when it was published by Samhain, a small independent publisher in the United States.
Before Beautiful Malice landed on the desk of British agency Conville & Walsh in the UK, the manuscript had been read and rejected by every major literary agency in Australia and a few in the United States. But unlike some who find themselves on the receiving end of a rejection slip, Rebecca James holds no animosity towards those who chose to overlook the book’s potential.
“Quite a lot of Australian authors have overseas agents because we have so few [literary] agencies here and there are so many writers trying to get published that they’re struggling to cope with the demand,” she said. “In my case, it worked out really well.”
Although her life at home as a wife and mother hasn’t changed, Rebecca James the writer, has struggled to accept her new status as international best selling author.
“I was actually really anxious at first because I wasn’t use to talking about myself. I’ve had to learn to take myself more seriously because at first I felt like I was big-noting myself, even when answering people’s questions. It’s hard to take yourself seriously as a writer after so many rejections. It’s like there’s this massive shift in the universe where you go from being someone nobody takes any notice of, to being asked for your opinion on writing and publishing. But you get use to it.”
And with Beautiful Malice scheduled for release in more than 30 countries, Rebecca James will have many more opportunities to get use to taking herself seriously as a writer.
Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James is published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is available now for the recommended retail price of AU$24.99.
For more information about the author visit her blog at http://rebeccasjames.blogspot.com/