For most aspiring authors, the dream is to sign publishing deals with big pub houses and have their works out there as fast as possible, to have the title “Best-selling author” attached to their names. It’s not always easy to hit that fame. Adefemi Fagite shares his experience in the literary world, his struggles and the traps he fell into in trying to get his first work published.
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Adefemi Fagite, a graduate of Crop Protection from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. I am an author and freelance writer.
When did you start writing?
I started writing since my secondary school days, it started as a “copywriting thing”, I would pick magazines and articles and then rewrite it in my version. But I could say that I became an official writer in 2017 when I wrote my debut novel SHADOWS. It was long-listed for the 2018 Quramo writers prize and has received positive reviews from readers.
Have you had any of your books published?
Yes. My debut was published in 2020 as Shadows Also Cry. I have a short story published under 2Tigers LLC Press in the USA. The short story took second place in a competition and was published as part of an anthology. My other works which include essays, poetry, and articles are published in magazines, blogs, and websites.
About the process I went through trying to get a publishing deal, well it was not an easy process, I would spend every minute to query publishing houses, search for presses that would accept my kind of genre and since I was a new author as at that time I couldn’t land a traditional publishing contract on time. But eventually, I got 2.
From your experience, what would you say is the common trap for aspiring authors?
The common trap for aspiring authors is: “I want to get published, I just want people to read my work, I want to quickly reach the height of Chimamanda Adichie and Ayobami Adebayo, I don’t care about the contract”. This should come as a lesson to aspiring authors.
There are lots of literary wolves out there who want to rip you off your hard work, they would come like a sheep and give you sweet and convincing words just to get your work and after signing would do nothing to make your dreams come to pass. They are referred to as Vanity press or Hybrid press but you won’t know because they are subtle like an Adder.
Before signing a contract with any Publishing house, always ensure to let an intellectual property lawyer go through it. I got 3 contracts for my debut novel, 1 was from the UK, USA, and Ethiopia. I decided to go with the one at Ethiopia thinking since he’s an African, he can relate with the story well. I didn’t know that this publisher was a scam who was just looking for authors to rip off their works. I signed the contract after bargaining on the royalties without giving it to an intellectual property lawyer to go through it (my bad), all I wanted was to get my book out there, to let the whole world read and feel my story.
After the book was published, the publisher did nothing on what was stated on the contract. He didn’t provide me with my author’s copies, there was no marketing strategy to boost the book, no advance payment, what he did was just to place the book on e-book stores and even signed to a print on demand package with Amazon which was not what was stated in the contract. I was the one who marketed my book through my social media platforms and after terminating the contract with him based on lies and distrust, he paid me $10 for a book of that potential, a long-listed book for an award. I was hurt but I found solace in my strength, in my ability as a writer.
It’s not just about getting your book out there or landing a publishing deal. You need to be careful and remove the notion that it’s just a book. It’s not just a book, this book you refer to as ‘just’ took days of bleeding and sleepless night so you should be rewarded handsomely (a mantra given to me by my friend Chi).
Do you have any plans regarding your book?
I tell aspiring authors this; your first draft is a mess, a total mess. You need to do a rewrite over and over again then you edit till you can no longer edit anymore. Writing is a job and you need to hone it. It took me 2-3 years to write my debut novel, I did almost 10 rewrites and edited so many times till I got exhausted.
What I did at some point was to send out my manuscript to friends who would beta-read it and then tell me where there are loopholes so I can fix them. My work-in-progress has been rewritten 3 times but I am still yet not satisfied with it, it’s young adult fiction and I need it to make it appealing to readers because it’s something new. It’s a story that fuses Ifa mythology with politics and betrayal.
You shouldn’t get tired of querying agents or sending your work to pub-houses as an author, rejections would come, in fact at a point you will get frustrated but never give up. J. K. Rowling got rejection before she was finally published by a small press then the breakthrough she has been praying for came through.
What is your writing process?
I am not nocturnal so I write mostly during the day. And I am not a kind of writer who likes to plot before writing, I already have a mental picture of what my storyline is then I start bleeding, it just flows and before I know it, a full manuscript is ready. I take coffee a lot also to boost and enhance my brain.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors out there?
My advice to aspiring author is that you should hone your craft, take writing as a business rather than a hobby, and don’t let anyone discourage you or make you feel like “trash”. Own your voice, it’s your story and you should be proud of it.
There is a popular quote “If you visit a store and you don’t find the book you love then you write it.” Writing is beautiful, it’s an art. Find writer friends, join writing communities, go for workshops, and don’t stop writing. Then finally, you can never be a good writer if you are not a voracious reader. Read like your life depends on it, whatever genre your hands find, read them.
Thank you Adefemi for sharing your experience and I hope young authors out there who are so desirous to get their first work published will learn from your experience and be mindful of the “Literary wolves” as you called them.
Adefemi Fagite was born and raised in Lagos State, Nigeria, where he had, his primary and secondary school education before he proceeded to earn a degree in Crop-Protection from the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Ogun state.
“Shadows”, his debut was long-listed under the 2018 Quramo writers prize, his short stories and articles have featured on different platforms such as The Unseen Anthology Volume 2, Medium, Ikike Press’s blog, Green Magazine and others.
You can connect with him on Medium to read more of his works.