Self-publishing led Reading author to six-figure dealBy Caroline Cook
November 22, 2012
Reading author Kit Berry has created a best-selling series of fantasy books.
Caroline Cook finds out how the Stonewylde series was almost left unpublished
It is hard to believe that JK Rowling got 12 rejections for Harry Potter before it was finally taken up by Bloomsbury.
But Reading writer Kit Berry, author of the Stonewylde series, can do one better.
The first novel in her fantasy series was rejected 13 times before it was picked up by a publisher for a six-figure sum.
“I had an agent and she had been very positive and sure about it, but we got 13 rejections,” says Kit, who will be signing copies of her latest book at Waterstones in The Oracle on Saturday.
“She said people liked it but they commented that it was a bit different, and very hard to put in a genre.
“After the 13 rejections she mentioned self-publishing. That was in 2005. We didn’t have ebooks, and self-publishing was like a dirty word – if you were not very good you would self-publish. The agent said, ‘I don’t normally recommend self-publishing, but I really want it to see the light of day’.”
Kit published the first three books in the Stonewylde series herself, and the series began to get a huge following.
“By 2009, we had built up this following, and my husband had made a beautiful website for the series,” says Kit. “With a series you need to keep people’s interest going. They were so enamoured they wanted more books.”
Kit organised a big gathering in Dorset, hiring a mansion and inviting 50 fans to join her for the day.
“We had 50 fans only and we had people dressing up as the characters and things,” she says. “It was a full moon and the books are about that kind of magic, and we stood out in the gardens by the trees and it was just beautiful.
“I thought, ‘shall I self-publish the last book or try a publisher one more time?’
“When I got back I found a new agent and he sold them straight away for a six-figure sum. The time was finally right. It was literally a dream come true.”
The Stonewylde series is based around an alternative community, hidden away in the heart of Dorset and ruled by the charismatic Magus.
The series begins with a young girl, Sylvie, who is dying in a hospital bed suffering from allergies, chronic eczema and a strange illness.
Her panic-stricken mother is at her wits end when an attractive benefactor offers her a chance to relocate with Sylvie to Stonewylde. At first the community seems idyllic and Sylvie quickly heals, but things are not quite what they seem.
“The idea came from the Drax Estate in Dorset,” explains Kit. “It’s quite a famous landmark and it has a very long, high wall which has a stag on it. I used to imagine a community behind it.”
Letting her imagination run free, Kit wrote the first four books from her home in Weymouth, before falling in love and moving to Reading to be with the man who would become her husband.
But the move came with concerns that she would not be able to find the natural inspiration for her wild, magical world.
“I was a bit worried because when I was writing the first four books I was surrounded by nature and I used to go walking to get inspiration, but when I was writing the final book I wrote it here in Reading.
“I live on the edge of Sulhamstead Woods and I thought it would be awful if I couldn’t do it. But the world of Stonewylde is so real to me I go there in my mind. And the place we have is so lovely there are birds and wildlife so it’s all still present, it’s beautiful.”
Having settled into life in Reading, in a house with chickens pecking at the end of the garden, Kit put pen to paper to write the final book in the series, Shaman of Stonewylde.
“The end is quite shocking but the fans love it,” she says. I was so worried because it’s quite brutal but they know it’s the right ending.”
Having finished the series, Kit is now hoping to write a historical novel for adults based around the Civil War, and she is also thinking of exploring the history of Reading.
A picture book based on some of the Stonewylde imagery is also a possibility but, for now, Kit is enjoying the success of her first series, which has no doubt left 13 publishers kicking themselves, just like those who turned away the most famous wizard in the world.
Kit will be signing copies of her books at Waterstones in The Oracle on Saturday, from 2pm to 3.30pm. Fans will be able to pick up free Stonewylde badges, bookmarks and cakes at the event.