The Scribbler is pleased to host Ethan Adams this week. He is a speculative fiction writer living in the small town of Fredericton, New Brunswick. He’s the father of a tween and two fur babies, has an affinity for pasta, and escapes the modern world weekly with fantastic authors in his writers group. Ethan has begun writing a series called DiAngelo whose first novel is due to be published by Torguere Press late February 2017.
Between writing ‘The End’ and finding a Publisher
Thank you, Allan, for hosting this post. You remind me of the story about the boy and the starfish. There are many authors on the beach and even though it may be impossible to help them all, the things you do matter to the few.
My name is Ethan Adams. On February 22, 2017, my first novel titled DiAngelo: Revelations will be published electronically. I created a web site for the occasion, ekadams.com, so visitors can connect with me easier. At ekadams you can also find blog posts about writing a book. Here, as Allan’s guest, I am sharing something I haven’t posted before - my experience of what happened between the time I wrote The End on my first draft to when I found a publisher.
Those two solemn words carried more weight than I had ever imagined. The end of what?
The End of writing my first story, of course!
I threw a party because I ran the proverbial gauntlet and came out the other side a changed person, albeit a paler one after having spent so much time indoors. Alcohol isn’t my thing so I poured a strong glass of ice water and drenched myself in that substance people call ‘sunshine’.
The End of the incessant fear of failure
I laid to rest the doubt that I could finish writing a novel. No more guilt over spending time with my family when I could have been writing, or missing my friends when I sat staring at a monitor until the wee hours of the morning.
The End of being a Writer.
The moment the period adorned “The End.” I become something else, a mix of re-writer, fledgling editor, and beggar. On the inside; I pleaded. On the outside, I played the part of cool and collected. “Would you be interested in reading a book I wrote?” I begged. Many people agreed. Only a small portion actually did.
Some of the people who didn’t read my book are: my best friends, brother, and father. It wasn’t that they tried to and couldn’t. They had a copy and simply didn’t. It sucked, but swallowing my pride at this point helped teach me a lesson; you can’t force some people to read outside of their genre, or to read at all, regardless of who they are to you. My feelings aren’t on the line when I ask for critiques now; I think this is a good place to be.
With feedback came re-writing and editing. The work I had undertaken to improve my 110,000-word novel felt like a mountain on my shoulders again. Doubts about why I worked so hard on this project resurfaced.
1. I checked to make sure I said what I meant to say – more gibberish made it into my draft than I expected.
2. I made the story more immersive by exposing the characters’ experiences in as much of the five senses as possible.
3. I addressed storytelling and plot, or more accurately, plotholes by asking myself questions like ‘Did I close all of the plot lines?’ and ‘Did my characters really need to have breakfast if it didn’t advance the plot?’.
4. I fixed grammar, selected the right words for the tone of the paragraph, page, and character.
These edits took two years’ worth of spare time hours. I began querying agents after the second edit.
Yes, agents, not publishers. Agents know where your book will do best and know how to approach the publishers they have in mind. Agents generate revenue for me while I am writing my next book and they are my best bet for a fair contract with a publisher. Did I mention agents also sell audio, video, and international rights for you too? People think of their price as fifteen percent of the author’s profits. I see it the other way around, that I get 85% of the financial results of their efforts using my work.
So who’s my agent, you might ask? I didn’t get one. Yah. It worked out that way.
The majority of agents I’ve reached out to set the expectation of a response between six weeks and three months if they choose to work with you. If they don’t, they don’t reply. Hoping and dreaming for something that never comes is hard. Really hard.
Let’s talk querying. In my experience, the query game goes like this.
Stage 1. Starting out.
Research the agents who’ll accept your genre. Order them top down from most to least favorite. Start querying agents from the bottom of the list and work your way up because you don’t want queries that may be rough around the edges to scare away your good prospects. Also, many agents don’t mind if you send to multiple agents simultaneously, but some do. Be aware and respectful of that.
Send about six queries out to those bottom agents. If you get no response from those six, investigate why your query might not be effective, make some changes and resend six more.
Stage 2. You get requests for pages now but none for your manuscript (MS).
Your query’s good, your book’s pages aren’t. Consider buying “The First Five Pages” by Noah Lukeman. He didn’t endorse me to say that. There’s a million reasons why the pages are unappealing. Follow that book and there’ll be a lot less. Send six queries again. No MS request again? More editing and more resending.
Stage 3. You’re getting an MS request or two. Awesome!
Apply the fixes you put on the early pages to the entire book. Page by page, paragraph by paragraph, word by word. It’s a full novel edit but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Send your queries now to the agents at the top end of that list you made.
On average, people would send 27 queries in 9 batches over 1.5 years to get a request – if they ever get a request.
I travelled this path until two years ago, when I discovered Twitter events.
Or rather Chuck Bowie, a good friend of mine, exposed me to them. I didn’t have a Twitter account at the time. How could 140 characters even work in a contest? A quick visit to a pitch contest web site motivated me to give it an earnest go.
· Post limit is once every four hours
· Add genre tags, like #ya and #sf
· Don’t favorite anyone’s tweet unless you’re an agent or publisher
· If favorited, visit the agent or publisher’s twitter page for instructions
· You must have a polished manuscript, not just a draft
The contest is really an event where professionals cherry-pick their favorite plotlines. It works when an organizer prompts writers to tweet their synopsis in under 140 characters using a specific event’s hashtag on a specific day. Publishers and editors peruse that hashtag. The event and its rules are publicized online.
If a professional ‘favorites’ your tweet, they like you! Check out that professional’s twitter page and follow the instructions on what to do if you’re tagged. You just skipped ahead in line to Stage 2 – sending pages.
Freak out but don’t go too crazy. It’s still your responsibility to research that agent or publisher. Find online interviews and get a feel for their personality because you want a good working relationship with your future business partner. Keep in mind too that these events can be poached by anyone, even people pretending to be agents, so protect your work and do your homework. You’ve been warned.
That first contest I entered had 35,000 tweets in one day. Mine might not have even been seen, let alone considered and immediately rejected. In March, 2016, I entered my third contest, a year-and-a-half after the first one and close to the end of my fourth round of editing, I caught a favorite. Many other writers’ tweets went by that day. Some made me laugh out loud, others brought me to near tears. My own tweet had been retweeted by others in an expression of admiration. This is the tweet my publisher favorited “The Demon Greed brought his fury. The psychics brought hope. Roan brought his sister's memory and his last thread of sanity
A publisher liked my tweet! I’d have preferred an agent, true, but beggars can’t be choosers. The publisher direct messaged me on Twitter then on Facebook. We chatted for nearly an hour because we were both having fun, the connection took me off guard. Publishers are friendly? Whaaat? By the end of our light-hearted conversation she requested my MS. Another person at the publisher’s house vetted it and some weeks later a contract was offered. I’m still amazed at the whole surreal experience.
It’s my sincerest hope that this post resonates with you and helps in some way. Please leave questions and comments to your heart’s content and remember to thank Allan because if not for his kindness, this post wouldn’t be here.
Thank you Ethan for this very informative blog and for being a guest this week.
Don't forget to check out Ethan's website.
And let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Thank you for visiting the Scribbler.