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David Albertyn’s Undercard is a Knock Out with Publishers

It’s a familiar motif in literary circles: the unpublished manuscript in a desk drawer or dark corner of a hard drive. And for good reason. Many writers don’t publish the first books they write, so David Albertyn is in good company.

Albertyn is the author of Undercard (House of Anansi 2019), one of the most buzzed-about books of the winter. He abandoned two novels before starting work on the manuscript that would become Undercard, and from the outset, Albertyn knew this book was different.

“As I was writing it, everyone was responding to it. I felt like I'd really like struck on something,” Albertyn recalls.

It was while Albertyn was revising Undercard under guidance of Donna Morrissey, his Humber School for Writers mentor, that his agent called with the good news: Anansi loved the boxing story and wanted to publish it.

And so did HarperCollins Germany. And HarperCollins France. Dreamscape Media went on to buy world English audio rights to the book, and Shaftesbury, screen rights.

Albertyn attributes part of Undercard’s appeal to a strong opening. While studying at Humber, he revised the first 50 pages multiple times in response to Morrissey’s feedback.

“[Donna] really helped me get those first few chapters so sharp and tight, and I think that made a big difference when my agent and I pitched it to publishers,” Albertyn recalls. “It sets the tone. If the book is strong at the beginning, that's [the reader’s] impression of you.”

Albertyn also credits Morrissey for helping him to improve his approach to dialogue, voice, perspective, and narrative flow.

“For someone in my position, I think [the Creative Writing program] was that extra boost needed to take my writing up that extra notch.”

To learn more about David Albertyn and his writing, visit, or follow him on Twitter @DavidAlbertyn or on Instagram @davidalbertyn. Undercard is available directly from the publisher or wherever books are sold.

David Albertyn