Facebook has just informed me that it’s been two years since I finished my novel and my first round of editing. Two years ago was when I began to seriously look into my options for publication. In fact, two years ago today was the day that I called my father on the phone and we spoke for almost two hours about what options I had available at the time. There was a lot of guesswork involved since neither of us knew what we were doing.(Not a lot has changed on that front).
Two years ago today was also the day that I turned down publication for The Last Faoii. Just!Fiction had offered to publish my novel and get me started on my career as an author. I was…thrilled, since they were literally the first publisher I contacted. I felt that, since 100% of the people I’d asked had shown interest, my options were wide-open. As such, after the 2-hour discussion on what I wanted to do with a novel I had spent years making– I finally decided to turn down Just!Fiction and look for other options.
Two years ago today, I might have ruined any chance I had of getting published.
Now, I’ll be upfront about this: It’s possible that I’m not qualified to discuss publication tips with people, seeing as how I’ve never succeeded at it myself– but I can share tips on how not to get published. I’ve succeeded in not getting published several hundred times now. So let’s look at that, shall we?
So, yeah. Two years ago. I had just barely finished The Last Faoii and had gone over it with a fine-tooth comb (I thought. Really, it was more like an ineffectual hairbrush. More on that in a minute). Everyone I knew was just so impressed that I had finished a book. They acted like I’d successfully turned lead into gold. A whole book? With original characters and everything? You’re amazing, Tahani.
The thing that none of us realized, though, is that writing a book is easy. It really is. The Last Faoii wanted to be written. It was the first thing I thought about upon waking every day. I used my lunch breaks to sketch people and worlds. Develop antagonists. I stayed up for days at at time as I tried to accurately portray the characters that were demanding that I tell their story. So I told it. And I was just so positive that people would want to hear it.
When I finally decided I was ready to test the waters of publication I contacted my editor (read: father. Again, I didn’t know a lot of about the real world then). He had a friend who’d published with Just!Fiction, and seemed to have a positive opinion on it, so I decided to give them a try first. My manuscript was accepted the next day, and let me tell you– I was flying high. 1 day? At this rate, people could buy a copy of my book for Christmas!
Maybe the immediate success made me cocky, but something seemed off about Just!Fiction. I can’t even tell you what it was– maybe there was nothing and I just thought I could do better (again, cockiness). I had just succeeded on finding publication immediately, so I thought that I had a good enough novel to succeed on whatever avenue I decided to pursue. This line of thinking ultimately made me decide to look for agents–I wanted guidance on the road ahead. Just had to find a guide.
I went online and found every agent I could find that represented Dark Fantasy. If there was more than one at a given agency, I picked whoever seemed to best-suit my novel and put them on the list. I read all of the submission guidelines incredibly carefully. I wrote out an individual query letter for each person, giving sample pages when they asked for samples and following their guidelines perfectly.
Then I sent out each query. All of them, one after the other. I got a few responses, several requests for more material, and a lot of praise. But no offers of representation. Months passed and the replies trickled in, but none said what I was hoping for. No one was ready to take The Last Faoii to the next step. Where had I gone wrong?
It wasn’t until agent number 149 that I finally learned what my issue was: My novel was too long to be published as a debut.
How could I not have known?
I took a hatchet to that novel. I didn’t think it was possible to cut it down, but I was going to try. And I did. I cut 5,000 words. Then another 7,000. Then another 5,000. I murdered entire characters– butchered entire subplots. Every paragraph, sentence, word that wasn’t necessary was given the boot, no matter how beautiful I thought it was. No matter how much it hurt to say goodbye. Then, instead of editing it myself a fourth (fifth?) time, I sent it to betas. They cut another 3,000. They helped me correct my pacing and my tone. They were like angels. And I loved them for it.
I’d done it! I definitely had a novel worthy of publication now. I just had to send it to…
Well… crap. I’d dug myself a hole. I’d already sent a too-long novel to more than 200 agents. I didn’t know of any others. Who else could I turn to?
I sent a few queries out to people who’d shown interest in the past. Most seemed angry that I would re-send them something they’d already turned down. I did get one call-back, though (which is a story in itself. Click here to read it), but it didn’t result in anything. It seemed like everything was over.
I gave up. I deleted The Last Faoii off of my computers. I left it on a USB and put that in a drawer. I started a blog and decided I wouldn’t write books anymore. I wasn’t cut out for it. I became incredibly, suicidely depressed.
A year passed. Eventually I decided that maybe I could write another book. I started one. Deleted it. Started another. Deleted it. Started another. Saved it. Then started it again. I kept trying to make something worthwhile. But I was never able to get past The Last Faoii sitting in that drawer. Everything else I wrote just…paled in comparison. I wanted it told. I wanted people to have it, even if it wasn’t as an actual book.
I started putting it on here. One chapter after another. People read it, and responded. In fact, they seemed to love it. I don’t know how many people told me that they wished it was published. I began to feel hope again.
So… one last try. I decided to go through Inkshares. 250 pre-orders seemed so… plausible. Look at all the response I’d already gotten! Surely I could actually succeed. I even had 90 days to make it happen.
Since then, I’ve put up excerpts, character concepts, and chapters. I’ve started contests, had some amazing reviews, and even won an award. I’ve made book covers, blurbs, and glossaries. I’ve handed out business cards, participated in Renaissance Faires, and spent (probably too much) money on advertisements.Today, The Last Faoii is on the Top Ten list for the current Geek and Sundry competition (A HUGE DEAL).
I have until November to get into one of the top 3 spots. I think I can do it. I think I can finally succeed at this. Will I finally get to say that everything I’ve learned– the mistakes I’ve made and the disappointment I’ve faced–will lead to publication? I really hope so.
Whoever you are. Wherever your are– never give up hope.
Take care of yourselves.
Want to help make it all worth it? Go to inkshares.com/books/the-last-faoii.