The Evolution of a Debut Author

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A few words about April…

Some of you may have noticed that I never finished writing about my goal in April.  In mid-April, unfortunately, my mother-in-law (Debby) unexpectedly passed away.  Among a lot of the things Debby loved, she was a huge lover of books and reading – she could read more books in a day than I could ever read in a month.  So as we navigate through this difficult season and I begin to get back in the rhythm of writing and sharing stories, I will be thinking of her throughout the month and her love of books.

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My goal for the month of May is to focus on getting my book published.  You may have followed my goal last November where I focused on writing a book and trying to get it published – so I’m going to use this first post of the month to share a timeline of all the things leading up to this point and answer questions that I’m commonly asked (“commonly” means 2 friends and 3 relatives, but let me have my moment).

Here’s the evolution of a “debut author”…

December 2014 – Determine “write a book” should be a goal on this new blog I’m starting with my friend Angela called “Gals with Goals.”  Angela encourages me to make it a goal towards the end of the year so I’d have almost a year of blogging and adventures under my belt.

June 1-4, 2015 – Google “writers conferences in New York City” because I know I’m supposed to be writing a book soon, I want to go to New York City, and I love a good conference.  Find the “New York Writers Workshop” for non-fiction writers in November (the month of my book writing goal!) and tell Chris I have to go.  He agrees.  Read the requirements to be selected to attend and find out I have to submit a 100 word pitch.

June 5, 2015 – Talk non-stop about needing a book idea and hate every idea I come up with.

June 6, 2015 – Come up with a book idea and fall in love with it and keep re-telling Chris the idea until he loves it too.  Decide that after my recent Tedx Talk, “Raising Teen Parents,” (watch my Tedx Talk here) I would do a somewhat humorous take on it and write a series of short stories (true stories about my life) that each open with a quote/piece of advice my mom has given me that seems to be somewhat sketchy – but proves to be valid and true.  Google “book pitch” and spend multiple hours revising until I get my idea down to 100 words.

June 7, 2015 – Email the New York Writers Workshop my 100 word pitch.  Get nervous.  Block days on my calendar in November “just in case they accept me.”

June  8, 2015 – The New York Writers Workshop emailed back and said they’d love to have me.

June 9, 2015 – Realize I’m going to New York City to pitch a book that I haven’t even started writing.

June 22, 2015 – Get “computer glasses” from the eye doctor and ask the receptionist if the frames make me look like an author.  Say for the first time verbally without disclaimers and weird extra words and justifications that I’m writing a book.

July – Oct 2015 – Dedicate 2-3 hours every Sunday to writing.  Realize work and life consume me too much during work days and have to accept I can only write my book on Sundays.  Often spend 1.5-2 hours researching “how long is the average book,” “do you need to have non-fiction books done at writers conferences,” “how long does it take to publish a book,” “what’s the average word count for a book,” “self publishing,” “traditional publishing,” “freelance editors.”  Scribble notes in my journal of stories I’ve written, stories that are baking, stories that seemed like a good idea but feel dumb now.  Gain and lose confidence as the hours change.  Realize I can only write in absolute silence when at home or in crowded noisy areas in public.  Eat 5,000 cinnamon rolls at Fox in the Snow Cafe and deem it my official “writing spot.”

Nov 1-11, 2015 – Chris decides he wants to go to New York City with me.  Book flight, hotel, and continue saying “I have about half of my book done…I think that’s sufficient for the conference….you know…based on everything I’ve researched.”  Spend a week focused exclusively on a 1 page pitch which was the required item to bring to the conference.  Cyber stalk editors and agents who would be at the conference.

Nov 12-16, 2015 – Attend 3 days writers conference.  Revise pitch.  Have stomach aches.  Read my pitch to editors.  Leave without any editors asking for a copy of my (partial) manuscript.  Blog in length about the experience here.  Realize this was an opportunity of a lifetime and love every second and begin to get comfortable calling myself “an author.”

Nov 16, 2015 evening – Receive an email from the conference letting me know the editor I pitched my book to from Penguin Random House was interested in a copy of my manuscript.  Facetime with my mom and cry because I’m so excited.

Nov 17, 2015 – December 14, 2015 – Torture myself by hating everything I’ve written so far but following the self-imposed deadline of December 15 to send a partial manuscript to the interested editor.  Picked December 15 because it was the day Chris and I met and later became the day we got engaged – and it followed the “wait 4-6 weeks before sending in your work so you don’t send unedited crap” guidelines the conference gave us.

Dec 15, 2015 – Make Chris watch me scroll through the partial book I’m submitting to the editor to prove how many words I’ve typed.  Push send.  Pray something comes of it.

Dec 16, 2015 – Feb 20, 2016 – Hear nothing.  Lose hope.

Feb 21, 2016 – Re-send partial manuscript to editor because 60 days is the advised wait time if you hear nothing.  Remind self that hearing nothing is common in this industry.

Feb 22 – Mar 26, 2016 – Decide to focus on just finishing the book.  Stop researching editors, agents, and book launch party ideas and write, re-write, edit, add things, remove them, and focus on calling it “done.”

Mar 27, 2016 – The book is FINISHED!  Email book to beta testing/focus group, BookHive Corp, a company I learned about at the writers conference.  Get stomach ache because it’s the first time anyone except myself is reading it from start to finish, and the first time anyone who isn’t a family member or friend is reading any of it.

Apr 3, 2016 – Shift focus from writing to publishing.  Sit for 2 hours researching the names of agents who represent my genre/style and write down the names of 10 agents I will send a pitch to in May.  Websites say to send pitches (query letters) to 10 at a time…so that is what I will do.

And here I am.  A finished book.  A week or two out from hearing back from BookHive Corp with feedback.  A journal full of agents I will pitch my idea to, pray they will represent me, and hope they will pitch to an editor who will respond that they love it.

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For the scoop if you’re just tuning in:

Title (unless a publishing house convinces me otherwise):  “Do What I Say:  Life as My Mother Predicted”

Fiction or Non-Fiction:  It’s non-fiction, true stories about my life, each chapter is it’s own essay – some humorous, some serious.

Length:  In Word it’s 111 pages which is approximately 31,000 words which could translate to a 200 page-ish book depending upon the dimensions of the book itself.

Readers:  Chris has read the book from start to finish!  This happened a few weeks ago.  My brother-in-law has read it and Angela has a copy too.  My friends Molly and Matt helped edit a number of chapters.

Published copies:  If I get an agent or can secure an editor, this thing could not be in print for another year.  If I exhaust all agent avenues and decide to proceed with self-publishing….let’s say by end of 2016 or before.

More books:  Yes, I want to write more books.

Parties:  Yes, I want to have a book launch party and I want it to be at Fox in the Snow Cafe where I spent many hours writing the book.