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An Interview with Noah Beit-Aharon upon receiving an offer of representation.

08/09/2011

Noah Beit-Aharon (hanasich_halavan on QT) has signed with agent Evan Gregory of Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
It is an epic fantasy, a genre that always fascinated me despite all of its literary vices. I thought of it in college, just a month or two before I needed to come up with a final thesis project to send me off into the so-called "real world." Without giving too much of the plot away, let me just say that my flash of inspiration was the concept of reverse money laundering. Money laundering is when you take assets that you acquired in an illegal fashion, and then filter them through a "clean" business such as a restaurant or construction company in order to explain away your possession of those assets. But what if you had a set of assets that you had acquired in a perfectly legal way, but you didn't want anyone to know that you had them? Might you, perhaps, hire someone to pretend to steal them, only to hide them away for later use?
How long have you been writing?
Oh, boy. Since I was nine or ten. All throughout high school I kept telling myself I'd write a novel over summer vacation, and then it never happened. I would write maybe eight pages and then run out of things to say.
How long have you been working on this book?
Since March 2008 or so. Writing the first section became my undergraduate thesis project, and then I just kept going. I completed the first draft in March of 2010, and have been editing it off and on ever since, as I queried.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
There was never a time that I felt like giving up on writing, but I sure felt like giving up on querying! I got more than 100 rejections/no responses, and to this day I have yet to receive a rejection that wasn't a form letter. So that was certainly discouraging. But I just kept telling myself, "this is what you want to do. This is what you've *always* wanted to do. You can't get an MS accepted if you don't send it to people." So while I did take a month or two off from querying every now and then (especially toward the end), I always got back to it eventually.
Is this your first book?
Yes.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I took writing workshops in college, so while my BA just says "liberal arts" on it (because the college I went to has no majors), I was essentially a creative writing major.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
No. As long as I am awake, there is some probability that I will be writing. There is also the much higher probability that I will be eating, working, relaxing, playing tennis, doing some other thing, or just wasting time on the internet.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I edit as I go. When writing chapter 8, I might hit a roadblock and only realize a month later that I had set myself up for this roadblock through some error in chapter 4, so I would have to edit or rewrite chapter 4 before I could write anything new. After I had finally finished writing the last chapter, my MS went through two major revisions before I found representation.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
My wife, my brother, and the rest of my family. A few friends. I was not in any writing groups, so my circle of beta readers was kind of limited to People Who Are Willing To Read An Unpublished Fantasy Manuscript By Someone They Know.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I write from the hip. With this novel, I wrote up an outline that I then proceeded to completely ignore. The only thing that remained the same from the outline to the novel was the existence of the two main characters. The original outline didn't even have any magic!
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Since I finished the first draft, in March of 2010.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
They had to represent Fantasy, but that's pretty much it. I didn't query anyone who did not say they were interested in the genre I write.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
When an agent stated on their website or blog that they had certain preferences for queries, I certainly tailored it to them. For the ones that didn't, I had a standard query that I would send, with just the input of the agent's name and the number of pages their website said they wanted. Of course, this standard query changed every couple of months as I got more practice querying.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Look up Standard Format before you send your first query. I was unaware of the existence of Standard Format until query number 110 or so, and I believe the lack of it was responsible for at least half of my 114 rejections. Apparently, anything that is not formatted properly strikes most agents as unprofessional, and some won't even read your first page if it looks wrong to them. If you want to read a VERY detailed description of Standard Format that also explains why it is so important, try Anne Mini's blog (annemini.com).

Any agents that rejected me based on formatting really didn't do me any favors, because I never once received a note explaining that this (or anything else, for that matter) was why my MS had been rejected. Yes, this includes the three agents (other than Evan) who asked for full or partial submissions, and it also includes at least two agents whose websites and blogs promised outright that all rejected submissions would receive some commentary.

Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure. Here's a fairly recent query that was very similar to the version Evan received:

Dear [Mr. or Ms. ___],

Prince Eran is running out of time. His father is dying, the king's advisers want him out of the way, and he's pretty sure his own bodyguard may turn on him at any moment. He barely even has the loyalty of the troops, whose ranks are split into regional factions. Without anyone trustworthy on his side, Eran's imminent kingship is liable to be very short lived.

Then into the capital falls Devec, a young soldier cursed with a complete inability to lie or break a promise. In a city that runs on deceit, here finally is a man who cannot help but tell the truth. The prince has found someone he can trust -- but can Devec trust the prince? Dangerous games are being played above Devec's head, and he will be forced to choose between his loyalty to king and country, and his desire to do what is right.

A tale of magic, honor and conspiracy, The Kingmakers should appeal to readers of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. It is my first novel, complete at 83,000 words.

As per your agency's guidelines, I am including a synopsis and the first 10 pages as attachments. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Me