My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. Dawn has been kind enough to allow me a little space on her blog to promote my new book, Mahoney. I thought it might be interesting to any new writers out there if I talked about my journey in general and the publishing business in particular.
I sold one of my first short stories and it was published in an anthology of short fiction entitled The Best of 2011. Since then I have written seven books. Several have become best-sellers on Amazon and two went on to win awards in their genres.
My first book, Yellow Hair, was a 164,000-word historical novel. And in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent, I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing, to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.
“So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!
I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer and banged out Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months. I had them as adults in the Old West. Then I sent out query letters to literary agents.
A few weeks later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in the country emailed me. He loved the story and suggested a few changes. They were good suggestions, and I incorporated some of them into the book. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults. The book went on to reach #1 status in its category on Amazon (twice) and won the Editor’s Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. And just for the record, the final word count was 79,914.
My readers really enjoyed the book. So I ended up writing two sequels, one of which reached #5 in its category on Amazon. Then I turned my attention to my first novel, the one I couldn’t sell to an agent. I whittled it down from 164,000 words to 132,000 and published it myself. It won Book of the Year from one outfit and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from another.
Now that I’ve established my bona fides, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned along the way. It might help you with your writing career or it might not. I hope it does.
The first piece of advice I received from a fellow writer (while I was writing my first novel) was that the process of writing is what’s important. Not the dreams of becoming a best-selling author. Not the certainty that Hollywood would come a-knocking on my door, begging me to let them turn my book into a movie. No, what is important, according to my friend, is the act of creating.
Of course, I did not believe him. I was going to be the next Stephen King, and I was already (figuratively speaking) picking out a tuxedo to wear to the Academy Awards. I was not going to self-publish. I was going to get an agent and get published by one of the Big Five Publishing Houses.
I did everything I had to do. I spent ten hours a day, seven days a week sitting at my computer, writing. When the book was finished, I spent ten hours a day sending out query letters to agents. When the book was rejected because of word count, I wrote another, shorter novel. When it was accepted and published, I spent ten hours a day sending out emails (over 3,000) to book bloggers (each addressed to the blogger by name, and that takes a lot of work) requesting an opportunity to write a Guest Post for the purpose of marketing my book. Then writing the Guest Posts took up another serious chunk of time. To date, I’ve written well over three hundred Guest Posts. At first, the rate of return was not much. But once I worked with a blogger, they were more apt to respond positively when I came to them for help in marketing my next book.
Side note: Even Stephen King has to market his own books. He puts aside $200,000 of his own money to buy advertising for each book he writes.
Now, ten years later, I know that my friend was right, plain and simple.
My agent and I have since gone our separate ways. His client roster included some of the most famous authors in the world who, combined, sell millions of books a month. Understandably, he was more focused on them than me, so I set out on my own.
I love writing. I used to hate editing, but now I like it. And I really hate marketing. This kind of marketing is okay because I’m writing. Before I wrote my latest novel, I came to a decision. I was going to write Mahoney for myself. I had a story I wanted to tell and I wanted to tell it in my own way. I didn’t care if the book sold or not. It’s a long story (171,000 words). I was told time and time again that I should make it into a trilogy. But that’s not what I wanted. I ended up doing it my way and it worked out pretty well.
This post has gone on a little bit longer than expected. So, I better wrap it up. Here’s my advice for all you new or aspiring writers:
- Sit down at your computer and write. Let the words flow. You have to have the fire in the belly. Turn off the TV. Better yet, throw it out the window.
- Write for yourself. Enjoy the process.
- If you want, try to get an agent. But do your homework. Learn how to write a killer query letter. And never approach an agent until your book is finished and 110% edited!!!
- There’s a lot to be said for self-publishing. Here’s an article you should check out.
- Read, read, and then read some more. Read everything you can get your hands on! Reading to a writer is as medical school is to a doctor, as physical training is to an athlete … as breathing is to life.
- NEVER, EVER RESPOND TO A NEGATIVE REVIEW. Do so at your own risk.
That’s about it. Good luck in your endeavors.
In this compelling, richly researched novel, author Andrew Joyce tells a riveting story of adventure, endurance, and hope as the Mahoney clan fights to gain a foothold in America.
In the second year of an Gorta Mhór—the Great Famine—nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney lies on the dirt floor of his small, dark cabin. He has not eaten in five days. His only hope of survival is to get to America, the land of milk and honey. After surviving disease and storms at sea that decimate crew and passengers alike, Devin’s ship limps into New York Harbor three days before Christmas, 1849. Thus starts an epic journey that will take him and his descendants through one hundred and fourteen years of American history, including the Civil War, the Wild West, and the Great Depression.
Available on Amazon.
August 24 & 25 only 99¢
About the Author
Andrew Joyce left home at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written seven books. His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen’s Book Reviews.