It’s still hard for me to believe. Two years ago, I began writing a book proposal. I studied and read web articles about writing proposals. Eighty pages outlining what I envisioned, a few sample chapters, and plans for marketing.
I learned as much as I could about the publishing industry and how it worked. It did not reveal a very optimistic vision.
I absorbed all I could from authors like Steven King, Mary Karr, and Dani Shapiro about their writing processes and experiences with the publishing industry. I found and hired a developmental editor, for less money than you’d think. He helped me shape the book and tell my story in a way that was clear and informative, but also entertaining and light.
Four months later, I finished the proposal. It’s definitely one of those things you could tweak and edit for years. It’s never really finished. Never ever perfect. But, once my editor began responding to my emails with, Haven’t I already read this part six times?, I realized it was time to send it out to agents.
I clearly remember the moment I sent my first query letter. I sat in a little coffeeshop in Appleton, Wisconsin. (This place made THE BEST avocado toast on the planet.)
To find potential agents, I scoured the Acknowledgements Sections of my favorite books and top-selling titles in the self-development field, noting when authors went out of their way to rave about their literary agents. I scanned agent websites, looking for those accepting query letters and interested in work like mine.
Everyday in Appleton, I ate my avocado toast and sent out five more queries. Some agents only accepted a query letter. Others wanted a bio and a sample chapter. Most warned me at the outset I oughtn’t expect any response, as they receive hundreds of submissions and cannot possibly respond to them all.
Slowly though, I did receive some responses. Thank you but this is not for us. Even a few words of encouragement, which surprised me given the rumors I’d heard. After my 50th email, I received my first call.
My developmental editor happened to mention my book in a meeting with a publisher. He wanted to read my proposal! Amazing!!
A few days later, I received another call. This one, from an agent. He was interested in representing my book. He warned me though, because I was a stay-at-home mom-of-four (and not Kim Kardashian), he was fairly certain no big firm would publish my book, no matter how good.
He could get me a $7,500 advance. Since I’d just started to send out my inquiries he told me to wait and see if someone else might offer me something better.
In the end, I received no other calls or offers and felt between my two offers, the first offer was the best fit for me. Contracts were signed and I was free to focus on writing the manuscript. (I also learned that until it’s published, it’s not called a book.)
For the next nine months, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Mostly in coffee shops, sometimes hotel lobbies or airports. I was traveling with my husband and four sons with the touring company of a Broadway musical the entire time I wrote the book.
Before leaving each city, I’d print out the entire manuscript and toss the old one, which felt very strange and kind of like leaving a child behind. Then, on the next flight, I’d begin reading my new clean copy, only to start shaking my head and scribbling all over it with corrections, additions, and deletions.
I also hired a copy editor. She scoured the entire manuscript three times. Removing all the extraneous words and passive language she could find.
Nine months after the signed contract, I sent it all off to my publisher.
But, it doesn’t end that easily.
Nope. Next came five months of line-item corrections, a big debate about cover art, the back cover copy, and the subtitle. I’m sure I can always second guess the decisions I made along the way. I may always wonder what I should have added, deleted, or changed.
But, I’m forgiving myself ahead of time for not being perfect.
Lesson Learned: If I waited until it was perfect, until the planets aligned just so, I would never ever have written and published my first book. And if even a handful of women find it entertaining and helpful, then I will forever be grateful and proud of myself.
Let me as you this my friend, what project or hobby have you dismissed or ignored for fear you won’t “get it right”, you don’t have the time, or you haven’t done tried it for far too long?
What if you just did it anyway?
Maybe right this moment, take one small step in the direction of a dream you thought already passed you by. One. Small. Step.
Good luck and I’m very excited to read your story here next year!