I’ve been sitting on this news for over a year and a half, but I can finally say it: my debut novel THE EDGE is being translated into German as ABGRUND, and it publishes in July!
A Well-Kept Secret
Back in August of 2021, I was outside repainting the summerhouse and listening to Taylor Swift in the sunshine when my agent, Hannah Schofield, called me with “exciting German news”.
At this point we’d been on submission for just over a month, and while all we’d heard from UK editors were polite passes, I was aware that there was some interest from overseas — particularly in Germany. But I didn’t expect the exciting news to be quite so exciting:
THE EDGE had gone to auction with two German-language publishers bidding for the rights to translate and publish it. And they were very nice bids indeed!
It was an incredibly bizarre afternoon. I went back to slopping the world’s stickiest wood varnish onto the summerhouse (and my skin, unfortunately) in a bit of a shaky daze, knowing that I was going to be published. My name would be on a book. People would read it. Hopefully, people would like it. The dream was happening.
But back then, it felt like a strange thing to celebrate. Yes, I was going to be published — but without a UK publisher, I might only be published in German. I wouldn’t even be able to read my own book!
I accepted the offer from Rowohlt for a Summer/Autumn 2023 publication, and then spent the next month (and my birthday) feeling simultaneously elated and disappointed. Don’t get me wrong — being published anywhere in any language is huge! I was incredibly grateful! But the thought of having to say “yes, I’m a published writer — no, you can’t actually read it…” to people I know was a little mortifying. Publishing is a strange enough business for non-writers to understand without throwing that into the mix, too.
But luckily, everything worked out.
About a month after the German offers, Hannah worked her magic and secured two offers from UK publishers for THE EDGE. No awkward conversations with friends or acquaintences required — no doubt about it, this was publication for real.
Publication of THE EDGE
I signed with Thomas & Mercer (the crime and thriller imprint of Amazon Publishing) in September 2021, and THE EDGE started on its preparation journey towards publication: edits and more edits, two title changes, cover design, and a battle with my editor over keeping my protagonist’s name as Clementine. (I just couldn’t see her as anyone but Clem!) There was a Goodreads giveaway that thousands of readers entered, a book giveaway I did on my social media that a dozen people entered (truly embarrassing when I’d spent over £100 on extra goodies to entice shares, lol), and I managed to scrape together about 25 pre-orders — mainly due to my dad forcing his friends into it, I think…
So just over a year after I’d signed the deal with Thomas & Mercer, THE EDGE released early as part of Amazon First Reads, and then had its official worldwide publication in November.
THE EDGE has been in the world for about six months now — and it’s been a very strange six months, for numerous reasons that I’ll get into in another post. There’s a lot of elation involved — seeing sales spike as the Amazon algorithm did its thing was wild, as are the number of reviews for an unknown debut author — as well as a lot of humbling, get-your-arse-back-down-to-earth disappointment — like my own local bookshop not wanting to stock copies, or the second ever rating I received on day one of publication being a one-star review based entirely on a perceived error in the first paragraph…
In the stress of pre-publication nerves, the murk of conflicting publishing emotions, and the frantic, shaky, and sleepless weeks of hammering out the first draft on Book 2 that I did not plan my time well for, it was easy to forget about ABGRUND.
Well, not forget. In a lot of ways, the “exciting German news” has been my constant companion in this journey so far. It’s always been there in the background, like a safety net or an extra parachute — something I know is there, but that isn’t the main focus. It’s always felt so far away, both because of the 2023 publication date, and because it’s a thing that’s quite often happened without me.
Hannah pops up every so often to forward something — ‘Can you sign this?‘ ‘Here’s payment for that!‘ ‘Do you approve this cover?’ — but mostly everything ABGRUND is someone else’s problem. As it’s a translation, all I had to do was finish edits on THE EDGE with Thomas & Mercer, and then the full manuscript was sent over to Rowohlt for them to translate into ABGRUND. (A big thank you to Katharina Naumann for the translation, by the way!) I haven’t had any direct communication with the editors at Rowohlt. There’s been no negotiation over colour schemes, or fussing over back cover copy. Things land in my inbox in their finished state, and that’s that.
In a way, ABGRUND is like a child away at summer camp. I’ve signed the permission forms, but it’s the camp leaders who are in charge of taking care of it now. Its experience is in their hands.
And honestly, it’s a relief.
Learning to Let Go
THE EDGE ended up being a hugely personal book — Poppy’s social anxiety is my own, as is Clementine’s mental health — and that meant pouring my heart out onto the page in several exposing and (in hindsight) fairly humiliating ways. I took a book that was mine, all mine — one I’d spent two years intimately getting to know — and handed it over to a marketing team of strangers whose job is to boil the book down to as sellable a product as possible.
And… it was tough.
As someone with social anxiety (and a big chunk of the regular kind), I worry a lot about being judged by others. Although I’m confident in myself and my abilities, it’s often because I’ve taken control and got myself to a place where I’m comfortable with what I’m presenting to the world.
So, if I’m having one of those days where I don’t feel good in my clothes, I change outfits until I find something that works before I leave the house. (Or I just don’t leave the house!) Back when I was at school and university, I’d take charge of group presentations — despite being the shyest person in the class who’d much rather be hiding in the loos than nauseously speaking in front of 30 other people. And when it comes to updating this blog, I draft and draft and re-draft a post until I’m happy (or at least, not crippingly embarrassed) with the thought of someone reading it.
If I have to be on stage, I want to make sure everything in the spotlight is perfect.
It was only when I was writing this post (well, one of many previous drafts of it!) that this coping mechanism clicked into place for me. I’d never noticed it before, but it’s true: although I much prefer to coast through life and not take charge of anything, when I feel out of control, I take control.
But I couldn’t take control of THE EDGE.
Once the writing was done, the Thomas & Mercer marketing team took over. Although I was always kept in the loop and asked for my opinion, I realised that my influence was very limited. I could let them know my favourite of the three suggested titles, but they’d already decided which one they wanted. I could say which shade of yellow I preferred for the coat on the front cover, but I couldn’t get it to be red like Poppy’s in the book. I could point out the spoilers and upsetting reveals included in the promotional text, but I couldn’t get them removed from the back of the book or the Amazon page.
My involvement, I realised, was superficial. I was being given the illusion of control, but really I was just a passenger on a flight with a set destination, one who’d been invited into the cockpit to see the pilots at work.
I found this difficult — painful, even — not because I didn’t trust the team to make good choices, but because it gave me a front row seat to my own lack of control. We were hurtling towards publication of a book that would have my name on it and my heart inside it, but I could no longer do anything to influence it.
After almost three years of making the book my everything, it was no longer mine.
Over the Precipice
I’d always known that publication would mean losing my book to the public. Once published — and once read — a book exists in the mind of its readers, and their opinions and impressions of it are always valid. I knew this part was coming, and that’s part of what makes writing a book so exciting.
But losing the book early in the design process wasn’t something I expected — and it rattled me.
I worried a lot about whether people would like the cover, whether the blurb would ruin the surprises, and whether I’d get nit-picky reviews about why the book shows a bright yellow coat when the one in the book is specifically referred to as red…
But I needn’t have worried. I suppose that can be said after most anxiety spirals, but this time it was really true.
Thanks to the cover design and blurb, THE EDGE debuted 3rd on the UK Kindle Bestseller Ranking on its first day of sale, behind only Richard Osman and Andy Weir. And as part of Amazon First Reads, it was downloaded by tens of thousands of Prime members as their free pick of the month.
Anxiety made me consider every possible bad outcome, because that’s what anxiety does. It made me miserable, and made me feel trapped in the (smart! professional! absolutely-for-the-best!) decisions of others.
Anxiety made me dread what turned out to be the most successful day of my life.
THE EDGE was already out in the world when the cover for ABGRUND arrived in my inbox.
And I instantly loved it.
I love THE EDGE’s cover, too — but it took me time to process my anxiety and get over the knee-jerk fear it caused. Once that settled, I realised I adored the colour scheme, the drama, the storminess, the vulnerability. It pops on the shelf and on the screen. It conjures emotion. It sets the scene.
It isn’t just something assigned to my words anymore. It’s my cover. It’s my book.
It’s THE EDGE.
But ABGRUND just hits differently.
Aside from being hauntingly beautiful, ABGRUND’s cover came to me fully formed and final. There was no quibbling about shades of pink or tagline placement or whether it had the right number of seagulls. This was it: The Cover. It was non-negotiable — and it was never presented as anything else. As usual, Rowohlt made all the decisions and Hannah forwarded me the end result.
And honestly, there’s nothing I would change anyway.
While THE EDGE’s stormy blue and yellow image might be the OG cover and look for the book, I can’t emphasise enough how refreshing it was to see a different colour scheme and a new look. That’s what’s so fascinating about having an alternative cover for the same content: it’s the chance to see the same themes and ideas represented in a different way.
And that’s what I’m looking forward to the most this time around — the same publishing experience again, but different.
Because the pressure is well and truly off. I don’t have to worry about getting ABGRUND into my local bookshops, because it doesn’t belong there anyway. If I get tagged in a bad review, I have to actively do an extra step just to translate it. While I was definitely lucky that THE EDGE’s success is entirely down to the Amazon algorithm going in my favour rather than me having to do stuff, this is probably even more so the case now. As a Brit who lives most definitely not in a German-speaking territory, I’m in the back seat again.
As always, Rowohlt handles everything. And any updates in my inbox will continue to be “exciting German news”.
So, here comes ABGRUND — the first book I ever got an offer for, and the longest secret I’ve kept so far on this publishing journey.
But trust me, there are plenty more secrets that I can’t wait to share!
(If you’re a German reader who found this post, welcome! I hope the translate button served you well!)