Whenever I’m at a book signing, speaking engagement, or any type of author event, the most frequent question I’m asked is how I got a publisher to pick up my first novel (Dark Guardian) when I was 20-years old back in 2013. There’s actually a pretty nice story behind it.
I’ve always loved to write and it’s been a dream of mine since I was 7-years-old to be a New York Times Bestselling Author. During the summer before my sophomore year of college, I got the idea for my first full length novel. I began planning it out, and by September 2012, I embarked on the journey of writing it. It was an superhero/action/thriller story. I loved the characters so much that by December 2012, I’d written out the 400 page book. Before I had even finished writing the novel, I decided that I wanted to share it with the world.
There was only one slight problem: I had literally no idea on how the industry worked. After a little research, I discovered that a good first step would be to start contacting literary agents in the hopes of having one of them pick it up. Using various resources, I wrote out a list consisting of a couple hundred agents who represented my novel’s genre. By mid-January 2013, I had written out my cover letter and was ready to send it out. This would be a cinch, wouldn’t it?
I’m not a very arrogant or egotistical person—although I’m sure there are people who will disagree with that—but one thing I’ve always been confident about is my writing ability. I was under the presumption that the first agent to read the book would love it and pick it up. So I decided to send the first letter out to the best agent I could find—the agent of the Harry Potter series. That was over three and a half years ago. I have yet to hear back from them, so I’m sure it’s a safe bet that they’re not interested!
I soon made the habit of sending out two or three letters a day. In no too long of a timespan, I had compiled ten rejection letters. Then the ten became twenty, twenty became thirty, thirty became forty, and forty became fifty. Before I knew it, I had a hundred rejection letters by the end of March. But one of the biggest things my parents had taught me through their own actions and words was that you don’t quit what you start and that if you want something bad enough, you can always find a way to make it happen.
This is something I learned in sports. I played American football from 7th grade through 12th grade. I was always the smallest and slowest kid on the team—which is a horrible combination in football. But the best thing my dad did is that he never let me quit, even when it got tough. Instead, he taught me to always be the hardest working kid on the team. And even though I was a backup for the first 5 years of playing football, it earned me the respect of my coaches and teammates. Halfway through my last year of playing, the hard work paid off when my coach named me the starter.
I looked at this no different. If I kept going at it and didn’t quit, I knew I’d find a home for my novel. I kept up the habit of sending two or three letters a day. By June, I was at 200 rejection letters. The thing that frustrated me the most at this point was that not a single agent had even read my novel. They were rejecting it at face value. I don’t know if it was my young age, inexperience, or something else that was making them wary.
By this time, I had run out of agents on my list, so I had to go and add names to it. By the time I was at 250 rejections, I came across a medium-sized publisher that didn’t require authors to have an agent in order to speak to them. I sent them my cover letter and after a few weeks, I got a response from them asking to see my novel. I sent them the novel on a Monday evening. 23 hours later, I got an email from them offering me a contract! I guess my theory about the first person to look at the book loving it was true!
All put together, I received 302 rejections. So in hindsight, was it the easiest thing in the world to do? No. Was it always fun to get rejections? Heck no. But was it rewarding? Well, let’s look at the results. The novel came out and had the best opening week in the history of the publisher to that date. It ended up being the second highest seller for the publisher’s 2014 year. Its success led to the publisher greenlighting a series (the second book came out in February 2017 and the third is releasing November 2017). I’ve also had another novel outside of this series published. And now, I DO have an AMAZING agent who I’ve been working with since August 2016!
So, I’d say it was worth it. Chasing any dream is always worth it even if other people can’t see it at the time. I grew as a person. I learned what I was made of. But most of all, I earned my own self-respect.
The thing that I find humorous is when people tell me how lucky I was. There wasn’t any luck involved, in my opinion. It was persistence, self-esteem, and faith that really made it happen. The most rewarding thing about all of this is that now I am closer to my childhood dream than ever before. I can see the path to it and will continue striving forward until it becomes a reality! And now, whenever I meet any aspiring authors, I can tell them with full faith and encouragement that if I could make it, so can they!
Ammar Habib is a bestselling and award winning author who was born in Lake Jackson, Texas in 1993. Ammar enjoys crafting stories that are not only entertaining, but will also stay with the reader for a long time. Ammar presently resides in his hometown with his family, all of whom are his biggest fans. He draws his inspiration from his family, imagination, and the world around him. Ammar is currently continuing to further his writing career.