About eight years ago, after a series of started-but-never-finished attempts at writing a novel, I suddenly had what I thought was a good idea for a book. It wasn’t a groundbreaking concept by any stretch, a story about a teenage kid fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world, but as I started writing, and the book began to take shape, I realized that I was on to something, and that is wasn’t half bad. For the next few years, I worked as often as I could, finding time in between work, kids, and life in general, writing a few pages here and there. It was a slow process, and after several full re-writes, and some invaluable feedback from family and friends, eventually I had what I thought was a decent book. The only problem was that I had really long book. In fact, too long. I was well aware that agents and publishers won’t even consider looking at a book over 100,000 words from a first-time author, but by the time I was done, my manuscript was a dense 140,000 words.
Fearing massive rejection before I was even out of the gate, I went back and re-wrote the entire book (again), omitting whole sections, deleting characters, etc, etc. It was a miserable process. When I was done, and finally just under 100,000 words, I sat back and read what I had written, and quickly realized that I hated it. Too much had had been cut out, and the story was not the same one that I had written. So, frustrated, but not willing to give up, I went back for another full re-write of the original manuscript, this time omitting nothing. In the end, whether it was too long or otherwise, I had finally written the novel that I wanted.
Flash forward to October 2016. I finally decide that the book is ready, and I begin the process of trying to land a literary agent. But before I could do that, I realized that I needed to decide who my audience really was. Was it purely a young adult novel? A coming of age story? Something else altogether? To be honest, I wasn’t sure, but I believed that it was good, and that good writing speaks for itself. I was wrong. That’s not how it necessarily works in the literary world. Agents want to know exactly what publisher to market your book to, and publishers need to know the target audience before they even consider reviewing a manuscript. In the end, with the main characters being teenagers, I decided to focus on agents who specialized in young adult books, and I began to craft something called a query letter.
A query letter is simply an email or letter that might contain a very brief synopsis of the book, or at least something with a hook that gets the agent interested in reading more. If they like it, and you’re lucky, they will ask for a few pages, or a partial manuscript, whatever they want. Most times they just say no thanks, if they reply at all. My plan was to send 100 queries in total, a handful each week, and if no agent was interested after that, I would basically give up, and begin reluctantly looking at self-publishing. Disclaimer: Self-publishing can be great for many writers, but it simply wasn’t my true goal.
So, I sent out the first five queries, and waited. One agent replied within a day or two, a polite decline, wishing me luck. Another replied a week later. Another decline. Not quite as polite. I sent out another five over the next two weeks, and on a Wednesday afternoon, just hours after sending a query to an agent at literally the top literary agency in the country, I received an email from an agent requesting a full manuscript. A full manuscript! I honestly could not believe it. The rest of the day, and all of the next was a blur as I got the manuscript ready, and I finally sent it off on Friday morning.
I have to admit I was pretty excited, and although I assumed I would not hear back for a week at the earliest, two days later, on a Sunday, the agent sent me an email. I recall only seeing the words, “thoroughly enjoyed reading” and “a moment to discuss literary representation” before the room started to spin.
From then on things started moving fast. My agent gave it to me straight. The book was way too long, but it would be ideal if I could split it into two. The more I thought about it, the more it made perfect sense, and within a month I had it done, as well as an outline for a third book to complete the trilogy. My agent was happy, and he told me to just be patient, and to let him try and place the project. So, I did just that, and in the meantime, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and I just as I was about to finish the third book, during the ides of March 2017, I received another email. The subject line read, “Offer In!”.
A publishing company called Month9books had made an offer for not just one, but for all three books, citing a “certain cinematic” quality to the story. Again, it was all very surreal, but as I started thinking about things like the percentage of paperbacks sales, audio rights, and cover designs, it all started to sink in. This was really happening. My novel was going to be published!
Then things began to slow down a bit, and another 6 months ticked by until we had a final contract, but after 8 years of work, what was a few more months? While I waited I kept busy, and in that time, I was able to write an entirely new novel (the first in a whole new series), so it was by no means a complete waste.
Now, with the contracts freshly signed, it is all about getting the first novel in the Dark Tomorrow series ready for print. Where it goes from here depends on so many factors, but one thing has remained the same throughout this process, and that is the fact that I’ve always believed that it was possible. From the first word that I wrote, I believed that if I put in the time and effort, and if stayed focused on my goal, one day it would become reality. Now, I can’t say that I’ve reached my ultimate goal quite yet, but I know that at least I’m headed in the right direction, and with a little luck, and a lot of persistence, I will get there yet.
I think when it comes down to it, everyone has a story to tell, and I feel very fortunate, and excited, to have the opportunity to share mine. The first book, Dark Tomorrow, is slated to come out in paperback, e-book, and audio-book in October 2018, and I hope you will want to check it out when it does.
Check back for the latest updates on the entire process, or better yet sign up for blog updates, and thanks for reading!