It is my pleasure to share a guest post by author Edward Ashton who muses...
Writing a book is easy. Getting it published is hard.
by Edward Ashton
I started work on my first novel, Three Days in April, in the spring of 2013. I finished the first draft six months later. It was at that point that I realized that I’d given exactly zero thought to getting what I’d written published. So, I did a little digging, and quickly came to the conclusion that submitting a manuscript directly to publishers is an agonizingly slow and painful process at best, and in most cases a complete waste of time. Most major publishers will not review a book unless it comes from an agent. Those that will, generally require you to submit exclusively, and they take anywhere from six months to two years to get an answer back to you —that is, if they ever do at all.
So, I skipped that step entirely, and started querying agents.
The process of trying to find someone to represent your work is painful in its own way, in that you wind up collecting a lot of rejection letters, but it’s a much more streamlined experience than direct submission to publishers. The vast majority of agents permit simultaneous submissions, so you can query several of them at once, and their response times tend more toward days or weeks rather than months or years.
The process for querying is pretty simple. You write a query letter, which is basically the copy you’d see on the back of a paperback at the bookstore with a bit of boilerplate around it, and a synopsis, which is a two page document summarizing every character and plot point in your four hundred page book. Then, you send them out in whatever format each particular agent requires, and you wait for a response.
There are a number of print and online databases that will help you find agents who are willing to take on new authors, and who work in whatever genre you prefer. I used AgentQuery.com, as well as Writer’s Market. I sent queries to what I thought were six reasonable agents. I also made a prioritized list of which agencies I would reach out to next, and as each rejection came in, I sent a fresh query to whoever was at the top of the list.
After ten rejections, I re-tooled my query letter. After ten more, I re-tooled it again. The first one, I would describe as workmanlike. With the second, I tried to be a bit more creative. The third one was just sassy. That’s the one that got results. I queried ten agencies with letter #3. Of those, I got five form rejections, three personal rejections, two requests to read the full manuscript, and finally, in September of 2014, an offer of representation.
From there, needless to say, everything was smooth sailing. My new agent had me re-write a major chunk of the book before he’d even show it to publishers. It then took four months for him to land an offer from HarperCollins–an offer that came with the requirement to cut an entire POV character and almost thirty thousand words of text, and re-distribute all those words (and all the critical plot information those words conveyed) among the remaining characters. Then there were structural edits and line edits, cover designs and jacket copy, blog posts and interviews and a lengthy lecture from my new publicist about establishing an online presence (still working on that one). At the end of the day, it took just about four times as long to get from finished first draft to book release as it did to get from first word to first draft.
Does it get easier? Well, my second book, The End of Ordinary, was just released in June, only ten months after I sent it in to my agent. Baby steps, right?
by Edward Ashton
GENRE: Science Fiction
Drew Bergen is an Engineer. He builds living things, one gene at a time. He's also kind of a doofus. Six years after the Stupid War -- a bloody, inconclusive clash between the Engineered and the UnAltered -- that's a dangerous combination. Hannah is Drew's greatest project, modified in utero to be just a bit better at running than most humans. She’s also his daughter. Her plan for high school is simple: lay low and run fast. Unfortunately for Hannah, her cross-country team has other plans.
Jordan is just an ordinary Homo-Sap. But don’t let that fool you -- he’s also one of the richest kids at Briarwood, and even though there isn’t a single part of him that’s been engineered, someone has it out for him.
Drew thinks he’s working to develop a spiffy new strain of corn, but Hannah and her classmates disagree. They think he's cooking up the end of the world. When one of Drew's team members disappears, he begins to suspect that they might be right. Soon they're all in far over their heads, with corporate goons and government operatives hunting them, and millions of lives in the balance.
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s take this one step at a time. Why do you need accomplices?”
“I already told you,” Micah said. “We are like ninety percent fully opposed to your plans to murder Jordan. Ninety-five percent, even.”
“Quiet,” Bob said. “Grownups are talking now.”
“Micah’s an idiot,” Marta said, “but believe it or not, he’s mostly right. We know about Project Snitch, Daddy.”
Bob’s eyebrows came together at the bridge of his nose.
Marta rolled her eyes.
“Give it up, Dad. I don’t have anything else to do around here, so I snoop. I’ve heard you and Marco talking about Project Snitch more than once.”
“Actually,” I said, “I think Hannah said that the real name for it was Project Dragon-Corn.”
Bob’s face went blank.
“Oh,” he said, after a long, silent pause. “Oh. Oh, honey. You mean project Sneetch.”
I looked at Marta. Marta looked at me. Micah finished his smoothie, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and smiled.
“Uh,” Marta said. “What?”
“Sneetch, honey. Not Snitch. Sneetch.”
“Oh,” Marta said. “I thought you were just making fun of Marco’s accent when you said it that way.”
We all turned to stare at her.
“Anyway,” I said. “Confusion-wise, I’m not sure that’s…”
I slapped my palm to my forehead and let out a long, low groan.
“What?” Micah asked. “Are you having a stroke?”
“Sneetch,” I said. “Project Sneetch. Holy shit, dude. You think you’re Sylvester McMonkey McBean.”
“Right,” Bob said. He leaned back, and crossed his arms over his chest. “See, honey? Your gay boyfriend gets me.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Edward Ashton lives with his adorably mopey dog, his inordinately patient wife, and a steadily diminishing number of daughters in Rochester, New York, where he studies new cancer therapies by day, and writes about the awful things his research may lead to by night. He is the author of Three Days in April, as well as several dozen short stories which have appeared in venues ranging from the newsletter of an Italian sausage company to Louisiana Literature and Escape Pod.
You can find him online at his website.
Facebook: Edward Ashton Writing
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