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Publishing is a Journey, a guest post by Claire Andrews

Publishing a novel can be daunting, especially once you realize that writing the book isn’t even the hardest part. There are lots of comparisons between publishing and marathons, and they are pretty correct. The only sprint you’ll find might just actually be in completing the first draft, and that would best be done only when you’re on deadline. Otherwise, take your time and do it right, or you’ll be eating every word you typed up later.

My own publishing journey was definitely of the marathon variety. It felt endless, the goalpost a mere illusion at times. I’m not saying this to deter anyone, but I do feel that it should be said. The stories we often hear are of authors with big, quick success stories, the ones with agents and deals snapped up within months. This isn’t the case for 99% of authors, and it is definitely not my story. But I don’t want to bore you with the details of my slog to the finish line. For reference, here’s my own timeline:

  • First query sent for a (now) shelved project – Summer 2013
  • Finished DoS – Summer 2015
  • First DoS query sent – August 2015
  • Signed with first agent – Spring 2016
  • Left agent – Spring 2018
  • Revised DoS
  • New agent – Winter 2018
  • Went on submission – March 2019
  • Sold DoS – July 2019
  • PUBLICATION – June 2021

That’s EIGHT years to publication. I don’t know about all of you, but most marathons are shorter than eight years. Again, I’m not putting this on the internet to deter you. I am hoping to encourage you when the publishing slog feels eerily similar to Sisyphus and his boulder. Or, because my book is releasing soon, like Daphne’s seemingly endless quest to save Olympus from itself. Poor girl just can’t catch a break.

First things first, the place to start – once you’ve finished writing and revising your novel, of course – is to start drafting that query letter. I’m including my query letter below (which might be embarrassing someday) because it was, ultimately, successful.

Dear Amy,

Seventeen-year-old Daphne has spent her entire life honing her body into a weapon, her heart and mind into stone, to be accepted by the unyielding people of ancient Sparta. When the goddess Artemis holds Daphne’s brother for ransom, she must leave behind her family, friends and Sparta to travel across the dangerous and unforgiving world of ancient Greece. 

In return for her brother’s life, Daphne must find and return mysterious objects stolen from Mount Olympus. With each step of her journey she battles foes from the ancient myths of Greece alongside her guide, the enigmatic and flirtatious god Apollo, who has a secret agenda of his own. Her heart is torn between worry for her brother and a growing attraction to her companion, and her nights are haunted by a shadowy specter seeking to bring her mission to an untimely end. A mere pawn in the games of the gods, the true weight of Daphne’s task to restore the waning power of Olympus is revealed when she uncovers a plot to ignite war between Olympus and the world of men. 

A reimagining of the classic Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo, OLYMPUS RISING is a 97,000 word Young Adult Historical Fantasy that explores female empowerment and acceptance, as well as Greek mythology and history. The first in a proposed trilogy, this novel will appeal to fans of Madeline Miller’s unique Greek retelling and determined, self-sufficient heroine in CIRCE, and to those who love the sweeping adventure and ancient folklore of Adrienne Young’s SKY IN THE DEEP. Based on your MS Wishlist, your interest in voice-driven and female-centric historic fiction, and I believe that this novel will pique your interest. 

I would like to be represented by Dystel Goderich & Bourret LLC because your agency strives for quality, has a stellar client list producing excellent literature, and promotes long fruitful careers. I am a graduate of the University of Alaska Southeast with a degree in Social Science, with an emphasis in history, archaeology and anthropology. Inspired by my research as an undergrad, I have sought to breathe new life in the forgotten women of ancient Greece. Below, please find the first 25 pages of my manuscript. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Claire Andrews

I had multiple offers because of this query letter, and I think that boils down to three things: a good pitch, doing my research, and following guidelines. What worked in my query letter? The fact that it underwent countless drafts, for starters. Have your friends and critique partners look it over, get opinions. Does it make them want to read the book? That’s the point if they do. If they don’t? Well, time to figure out why not. What else worked? My comps were relevant. I made sure to pick out books that had released recently and were also popular. This showed that I knew both the genre and the market, and that my book had the potential to cater to fans of those books. One thing I cannot stress enough, though, when writing your query: do your research! Make sure you research the agent your querying. How many pages will they want for their sample? What are some of the other books they like and represent? MSWL and Manuscript Wishlist are great sites for really learning what the agent likes and is hoping to read. It’s also important to research what the agent does NOT want. Some agents may be interested in fantasy, but don’t want to read historical fantasy and may only want to read paranormal. Some agents may want fantasy sometimes, but at the time of querying the agent may only be interested in non-fiction. I’d also like to point out the wee grammatical error in the query, which just goes to show that agents are more interested in the big picture things. Don’t stress if you’ve sent your query and realized you made a mistake.

Thus, querying becomes your first of many lessons in persistence. Even when on submission with your agent, there will be a lot of waiting by your phone and obsessively refreshing your phone. This business takes a lot of perseverance, and gumption. There will be times, even after you’ve sold your novel, that you’ll want to crawl under a rock because guess what’s next? More waiting.  But don’t turn away from the process and please don’t let this deter you. I want to read your story, and I know a lot of agents and editors out there want to as well! Just remember to tighten those laces and charge your phone, because you’ve got a long hill to climb and a long wait at the top. In Daughter of Sparta, Daphne is faced with a choice: return to Sparta or continue on her journey and do everything she can to return power to Olympus. There might be times when the finish line seems farther, but you’re a champion for even beginning the race.

Meet the author

Claire M. Andrews was raised in both Alaska and Scotland, but currently lives in Vermont; when not writing, she can usually be found outside swimming, skiing or hiking across the state’s famous green mountains. Daughter of Sparta is her debut novel. She is a 2014 graduate of the University of Alaska Southeast.

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About Daughter of Sparta

In this thrilling reimagining of ancient Greek mythology, a headstrong girl does whatever it takes to rise up and become the most powerful fighter her people have ever seen.

Seventeen-year-old Daphne has spent her entire life honing her body and mind into that of a warrior, hoping to be accepted by the unyielding people of ancient Sparta. But an unexpected encounter with the goddess Artemis—who holds Daphne’s brother’s fate in her hands—upends the life she’s worked so hard to build. Nine mysterious items have been stolen from Mount Olympus and if Daphne cannot find them, the gods’ waning powers will fade away, the mortal world will descend into chaos, and her brother’s life will be forfeit.

Guided by Artemis’s twin—the handsome and entirely-too-self-assured god Apollo—Daphne’s journey will take her from the labyrinth of the Minotaur to the riddle-spinning Sphinx of Thebes, team her up with mythological legends such as Theseus and Hippolyta of the Amazons, and pit her against the gods themselves.

A reinterpretation of the classic Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo, Daughter of Sparta by debut author Claire Andrews turns the traditionally male-dominated mythology we know into a heart-pounding and empowering female-led adventure.

ISBN-13: 9780316540070
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 06/08/2021
Series: Daughter of Sparta Series #1
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years