Summer Lessons

Summer 2019 has been a crash-course in Life. Here’s some of what I’m learning:

I can be my own mentor.
I read the book The Hero is You by Kendra Levin, which tackles the writer life through the lens of the Hero’s Journey. While I do have writing mentors and coaches in my life, this book encouraged me to be my own mentor. So I created a syllabus for a 21-week “course” that takes my current draft to the next draft by Christmas. I gave myself reading assignments and very short assignments (thanks, Anne Lamott!). So far, so good! I have spent more time in this last week working on my manuscript than I have in the last year, no joke.

Courage over comfort.
I purchased a card deck of prompts that push you out of your comfort zone. The idea is to push your boundaries and become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I just started this– one thing a week– but it’s been interesting so far. I have made plans to visit a landmark an hour away (this will double as writing research!), asked friends to name my strengths, and today I sent five celebrities messages on Twitter. Of course, my celebrities are all people in the book world. One tweeted me back already!

Saying no to shame.
It’s been easier than I thought. I made an actual, conscious decision to quit using shaming language with myself, choose courage and confidence, practice radical acceptance, and– when needed– fake it till I make it. It has been SO FREEING. I don’t do this perfectly, obviously, but wow, has it revealed how much time and emotional energy I spent on shredding myself. Instead, I’ve been following people on Instagram like @huntermcgrady and @drjoshuawolrich.

Grieving a past identity.
I’m in the middle of this one, even after nearly two years of working on my health and energy levels. I’m taking a free online course about Navigating Grief with Humor, and it’s been fascinating and sad and good. In learning about William Worden’s four “tasks” of grief, the one that hit home the most was the fourth: “Help one find a way to maintain a bond with the deceased while reinvesting in one’s own life.” So, for me, my question is how can I honor my former self while also moving forward with my new self? I’m going to try writing a letter to 2012-2013 Jackie, who was at the peak of productivity.

The next right thing.
It helped to read The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman, who also talked about making life decisions in the wake of life changes. I listened to the book on audio, answering Freeman’s questions aloud. Have you taken on a new role at work? “Yes.” Have an injury or illness reduced your abilities or energy? “Yes!” Have you had construction or work in your life that has brought strangers into your home? “YES!” It was good to realize that this summer has actually been intense and full of change AND that I’ve experienced growth in spite of it all.

Interviewing the Shadow.
This was another exercise from The Hero is You. The Shadow represents big, world-shaking people or events that, in this context, stop us from writing. I’m not talking about mere distractions here– lack of focus, household chores. The Shadow is big. It puts everything on hold. It makes us question our identity. The book had me identify my Shadow and then interview it– “What was Jackie’s life like before you came into it? Why did you want to keep Jackie from writing?”– and guess what? I found out that my Shadow was not even anti-Jackie or anti-writing. My Shadow was just anxious and stressed and sad and unsure. In the midst of my own crisis, I could not look beyond myself. But when I finally sat down opposite the Shadow, there was so much insecurity in the Shadow itself that I felt like I was able to feel empathy instead of fear.

Enneagram & Goals
So, the first half of the year, my goals were as such: healthy body, healthy heart, writing & wonder, finances, and investing in others. As I’ve been learning more and more about the Enneagram and my type (I’m a 4!), I switched them around a little bit. Since 4s are motivated by meaning and significance, I made a subtle adjustment. Three main goals– meaningful creativity, meaningful relationships, meaningful growth– and two sub-goals that support them– finances for meaning, health for meaning. It’s a small shift on paper, but a big one in my head.

NCWC Querying 101

To all the new friends I met at the writing conference last weekend, welcome to my little corner of the internet. I’ve linked the querying presentation below, as well as some other posts that may be of interest. Pull up a seat. You are welcome here.

Querying 101

Other posts that may be of interest to you:
Querying: My Story
Thoughts on Writing: 14 Steps to Getting Started
Thoughts on Writing: Query to Contract
Thoughts on Writing: Navigating the Road to Publication

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Art:Faith:Life:Death

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Last night I finished Christian Wiman’s latest book, He Held Radical Light: the Art of Faith, the Faith of Art. It’s a thoughtful, deep, intellectually stimulating book that, in some ways, reminded me of the works I used to read in a writing theory and ethics course, the kind where you don’t understand every single thing but you get the thesis of the piece, and that’s usually enough.

The book is about what do we want when we can’t stop wanting? It’s a mix of theology around art, Wiman’s memories of conversations he’s had with profound writers, and plenty of poetry to back it all up. I loved it.

Wiman’s work always seems to have such a depth and urgency to it, which is due in large part to his living with incurable blood cancer. I happened to be reading his story about meeting Mary Oliver just as I was learning of her death (Mary passed away on my birthday, just 11 days ago). It was exceptionally striking to read this poem of hers in the Wiman’s book just after she passed from life into life:

White Owl Flies Into And Out Of The Field by Mary Oliver

Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings—five feet apart—
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow—
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows—
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us—
as soft as feathers—
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light—scalding, aortal light—
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

 

The Shame That Drowns, an Honest Post

It’s so much easier for me to write about a hard experience after I’ve “conquered” it. I can come to this space and talk all I want about OCD because I’ve had ten years of freedom from and victory over it. It’s exponentially harder to talk about current struggles because there’s no distance from them. It’s not looking back on that time you were in quicksand and boasting how your quick thinking and hard work got you out of the mess. It’s being in the actual quicksand. It’s being up to your chin in the quagmire, having no assurance that you will survive.

Last week, my therapist asked me how I felt around my writing career, and something like a dam broke in me, and the words and tears and shame wouldn’t stop.

Shame?

I usually use the word fear, but there was no confusing my rush of emotions: fear and sadness and stress may have been in the parade, but shame was the grand marshal.

It felt amazing to talk about it and awful too, and even as it was all spilling out of me, I knew that I needed to write about it on my blog. Not because I’ve found any victory, but because healing for me has almost always come about via vulnerability.

I was a high achieving kid, top of my class, Most Likely to Succeed, summa cum laude, hard worker, strong leader, a go-after-it-hard kind of girl. I approached publishing that way too. I spent four years on a novel that never got an agent, and I barely blinked before I started a new story, which ultimately became Truest. I wrote every day for years, threw my time, money, and heart toward writing. I was relentless and driven. I finished the story, then got an agent and a book deal in the course of just four months.

And that’s when the panic came. I was very familiar with anxiety after a lifetime of dealing with OCD, but this was so different. The stress was high, there were deadlines, I wasn’t always on the same page with the revisions expected of me. I battled through it though, and I published a book that I’m still so damn proud of. September 1st, 2015, was like this incredible dream: a hardcover with my name on it, all my friends celebrating with me.

It was only three weeks later that I had one of the hardest and worst conversations of my life– one of the major distributors had not placed a large order for the book, and it was unlikely that sales would be able to make up for it. My book was only three weeks old, and I was being told it was essentially dead in the water. Get ’em with the next book.

Don’t get me wrong: there were so many amazing things that have come from publishing Truest. I’ve heard from the most incredible readers, people whose encouragement will live with me for the rest of my life (shout-out to Kristen!); I’ve met authors, some of my favorites (talking about you, Huntley!); I’ve been able to talk about creativity and mental illness and freedom and stories all over. I have loved connecting with readers, with young writers, with the English majors at my university. I have contributed to discussions and given advice, and I’ve taught classes and workshops and so, so, so many amazing things.

And yet.

I have so much shame around it all.

Like I’m some sort of fraud because the book was never a bestseller. When my friends tell others “she’s an author!” I feel like such a fake. My awareness of my (beautiful, beloved) book’s short reach stings. I let the panic and anxiety and stress get to me. I let myself get ill from it all. I couldn’t get on the same page as the editor I was working with and suggested that we go our separate ways. I can’t seem to follow my own advice and get my butt in the seat and hands on the keyboard. My body went into revolt and it’s been hard and scary to even open my manuscript.

Theoretically I understand that this is not failure. I published a book. Not that many people read it. I will write another and see what happens. Health problems have slowed it all down, but nothing has yet made me STOP. That’s not failure.

But it sure feels like it sometimes. A lot of the times.

Even though I’m no longer under a deadline or signed to a contract, my body seems to not have gotten the memo. It still reacts like I’m under all this pressure. I’ve been told the body keeps the score, and that’s proving very true in my life.

My therapist asked what more positive way I could frame this. I said, “I am at the beginning of a long writing career that got off to a rough start, but someday I will tell stories about these days and encourage other writers.”

I hope that’s true. I want it to be true.

Lately, the desire to write has become more insistent. I want to tell stories. I want to create worlds. I open my manuscript and tiptoe into it for a few pages. I know my characters have important things to say.

I’m still in the quicksand, trying to get on top of the shame and fear and stress. They are like ghosts from a different season, but ghosts can still drown you.

One day at a time. Today I’m tackling the shame head-on by sharing about it. Thank you for listening.

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All the Updates

I started seeing a new doctor, a neurologist, and … I feel SO excited, nervous, and hopeful! I may start a little side blog to chronicle and process my journey to health because, well, I’m a writer and this is how I process life. To make a long story short: I was going to invent my own little trigger point mat but decided to see if what was in my mind already existed … and it did … and the inventor of it was a neurologist known for FIXING (note: FIXING, not just TREATING) fibromyalgia pains AND HE WAS LOCATED 20 MINUTES FROM WHERE I LIVE.

Needless to say, I made an appointment with him right away. He has an entire wall of testimonies of people who found health and relief after years of pain. People come from other states– and other countries– to see this doctor. And here he was in my backyard.

As he said to me, “You’re too young to feel this bad.” YES! I AGREE!

I’ve been writing again! It’s wild to me how much the past couple of years have absolutely BLASTED the confidence right out of me. I’ve been a hard worker, high achiever, intelligent girl for basically my whole life, and that led me to feel pretty confident about anything I undertook. You wouldn’t think that publishing a book (a lifelong dream of mine) would actually lead to having all of that confidence vanish … but it’s true. I am rebuilding slowly.

Online dating still sucks. Basically, all the advice everyone gave me that I chose to ignore came back to bite me. Of course. “The One That Got Away“? I’ve spent the last month feeling lonelier than ever before. But great friends and family and a fantastic therapist and a marvelous God have been softening my heart. I started following Brene Brown on Instagram, and she says that “It’s not fear that gets in the way of our daring leadership. It’s our armor.” So even when fear assaults me, or loneliness, or whatever it may be, I really want to keep myself from the armor.

I want to stay tender and exposed to life.jernej-graj-656657-unsplash.jpg

Dear Diary: Red-Yellow-Green

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Reading. I’ve been in a reading slump. I mean, I’ve been re-reading old favorites like Potter and Narnia but nothing new. This often happens to me when I’m in a fragile state creatively. I tend to compare and get envious. Anyone read anything amazing lately that I just MUST read?

Cleaning. It’s taking me one billion years to get my room clean. I’m legit so messy. Ugh. My friend posted this on Insta the other day, and it is so apt:

housekeeping

YELLOW

Men. I’m crazy about a boy who is less crazy about me. I’m not naive here, and even though he is the sweetest, most fun guy, he is also flaky and has a lot of baggage. (I mean, don’t we all??) It’s hard to explain without giving away secrets that aren’t mine. I have enough self awareness to know that I should probably move on– but also know myself well enough to know that I’m not ready to do that. (Yes, he’s the boy referred to in the One That Got Away poem. I even showed it to him.) He makes me happy.

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Writing. It’s still in the yellow zone for me. It’s a combo of fear and lack of time and energy. I will get there. Yellow means slow, right? 🙂

GREEN

PT. I started physical therapy, and even though I’m only a couple days in, I love it! I’m really excited about it– and hopeful!

Sleep. I love my new mattress! Review of the mattress and of the Sleep Sherpa showroom coming soon! I’m also really jiving with my CPAP. It’s just a totally different world when you get quality sleep for the first time in years. 🙂

Growth. I’m trying to become the woman I want to be. It’s good. Hard. But good.

 

Shrinking the Viewfinder

I was writing the other day and remembered– for the first time in a long while– why I loved it so much.

The joy of creation.

Having everything and anything be possible.

Being responsible for selecting the exact right word to make something powerful.

The wonder.

So many things have been stealing the wonder in recent years: deadlines and contracts, envy, comparing myself to other writers, everything to do with Twitter, anxiety, pressure, loss of confidence.

Somehow I had convinced myself that I needed to write a perfect book. I’m not even sure such a thing exists.

Instead of working on the next sentence or the next paragraph, I’d gotten consumed thinking of the big picture, which is enough to collapse almost anyone.

Anne Lamott always talks about “small assignments,” but I couldn’t shrink my viewfinder to that. She keeps an empty picture frame at her writing desk– I think it’s one inch by one inch. She tells herself to focus only on what can be seen in that frame.

I’ve never known how to write a book besides emptying myself of sentences until the right sentences end up on the page. Then rearranging the sentences until they are in the right order. If there is a wrong way, I will take it first. I will take 400 wrong ways before I find myself and my story pointed in the right direction, and then I’m shocked and amazed.

And yet, I’ve somehow been telling myself not to move until I’m sure it’s the right direction.

That might work for some people, but it’s never been my M.O.

Time stressed me out. Comparison made me miserable. I took all the things that I know work for me and decided they weren’t “right” … and all that happened was that I became paralyzed.

I want to pretend like I’m writing a first draft– where there are no rules and nothing matters except having fun with the story.

I’m gonna re-post my First Draft Manifesto, then cling to it like a life preserver.life preserver.jpg

Email to a Teen Writer: You Won’t Be a Starving Artist

I got a lovely email with thoughtful questions from a young writer today. I thought I’d share her questions and my answers for anyone interested.

Dear Ms. Sommers,

My name is [redacted]. I just finished my sophomore year in high school, and I am an aspiring author. I was given your email by [redacted] who helped me with a mock interview at my high school a few months ago.

If it would be okay, I have a few questions I would like to ask…

1) Do you think running a blog has helped you market your books?
2) Do you use your blog as a marketing strategy, a creative outlet alongside your books, or a little bit of both, and has it helped a lot?
3) I read that you went to Northwestern for creative writing. Are there any colleges that you think have better programs than others?
4) Do you think that taking classes for other writing styles would help my creative writing?
5) As a high schooler, I don’t have a lot of outlets to display my writing. What do you suggest on that front?
6) My family is supportive of my writing, but my parents are worried that I won’t make any money. When you were younger, were you faced with that and how did you overcome that? Did you get discouraged by it and if it did, how did you work through that?

Thank you so much!

Hi [redacted]! It’s so nice to hear from you! You have some amazing questions here.

hannah-olinger-549282-unsplashMy blog has definitely helped with marketing– and to connect with my audience who find my blog after reading my book. The blog is a marketing strategy, a creative outlet, a platform to share about issues I care deeply about (mental illness, faith, literature, underdogs), and a way to be real with readers. It’s a good way for me to keep writing and “publishing” material that while I’m working on a longer piece behind the scenes, if that makes any sense. Sometimes I think of my blog as writing “practice.”
I went to the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, and I loved the program. I think it’s important to learn creative writing from professors with their MFA (master of fine arts) versus their PhD (doctor of philosophy) because an MFA’s specialty is creative writing whereas a PhD’s is literature. Both are tremendously important, of course, but ultimately I think it helps a writer to learn writing from a writer instead of a literature expert. For undergraduate (the first four years of college), you may want to keep your creative writing program supplemented with professional or technical writing classes, which will help you get a great job after graduation. In undergrad, I suggest courses in fiction, poetry (even if you don’t consider yourself a poet– poetry improves your prose!), creative non-fiction like memoir, writer’s style, as well as more professional writing courses like editing/proofreading, technical writing, social media marketing, etc. If you have electives, think about using them for subjects that fascinate you, like history, mythology, science, theology– or maybe those are just my areas of interest. 🙂 Look for a writing program that makes professor and peer critiques a regular part of your coursework, and you’ll especially want to have some sort of writing project– maybe a senior capstone– where you tackle a larger project. Again, this should include a lot of peer and professor critique. My senior project was writing four poems and one memoir piece, and I got one-on-one feedback/criticism from my advisor every week– I also met with the other writers doing their projects every week, and we shared feedback too. At my school, this was a rigorous, MFA-level critique experience. It can be harder to find at an undergraduate school, but for me it was so incredibly valuable. It was what prepared me for later critiques from my agent and editor.
As a high schooler, I think it’s okay that you don’t have a lot of outlets to display your writing. Two thoughts here: firstly, you should find a way to show it off in SOME way, whether that is with your school newspaper, starting a literary magazine at your school, starting a blog, or even just sharing with your friends. You may also want to find others who are interested in writing and form a group that meets monthly to encourage each other and give feedback on each other’s work. Secondly, as you head into your junior year, I wouldn’t concern yourself TOO much with where to show off your writing. Smaller, more intimate experiences like the ones I listed can be so helpful, but it’s too early to pursue publication yet. Focus first on your craft. Publication will follow as your writing continues to improve, and as you experience more of life. This is NOT to belittle the high school experience– in fact, as a young adult author, that’s what I write about! I personally (and many other authors agree) that life experience is just as important in writing as actual writing skills. You will continue to learn and change and grow; you won’t be the same person today as you will be ten years from now, and that’s a good thing! You have meaningful things to say right now about life; you will have different meaningful perspectives in ten years. Fill all ten years with writing. 🙂 (Please don’t misunderstand me here– I only mean that our writing grows as we grow, and as a teenager, you have a lot of that in front of you. I’m 36, and *I* have a lot of that in front of me. Life experiences influence our writing in beautiful ways, so make sure to experience life.)
It can take a while to break into publishing. I graduated from college in 2003, won my first major writing award and was offered a book deal with a major publisher in 2013. Ten years!! So, what do we do during those years? You can tell your parents that I, along with most other creative writers, had no interest in being a starving artist. 🙂 The good news is that every business in every industry needs excellent writers– and those jobs are often very high paying! Before you have a book contract, you will need to work on your first novel on your own time; but while you are at it, you are highly employable. We think that writers must have jobs in places like publishing, marketing, book stores, etc., but writers are needed everywhere. I have had friends write for the corporate offices of major coffee shops, friends write for technical industries, friends write for journals and magazines that are about subjects they may not be passionate about (one friend wrote for an agriculture magazine, haha!). The highest paying jobs, I think, are in technical writing. I had a friend who did technical writing for Boston Scientific– the company was creating life-saving health devices, and she was writing instruction manuals for how to use them. Even as an intern back in the early 2000s, she was making $33/hour– after graduation, they hired her full-time– and this was a girl whose passion was writing fantasy stories about dragons! She would do her technical writing during the day at her high-paying job, then work on her novel in the evenings and weekends. The first novel you write has to be completely finished before you can pursue publishing anyway, so this is honestly the way that most authors write their first book. As for me, I work at a university in the admissions office. I do a lot of professional writing, marketing the college to families, and then in the evenings and weekends, I work on my creative projects. For nearly ALL of my friends in publishing, this is how they began. Please read my blog post about this (https://jackieleasommers.com/2017/01/11/writing-careers/) and perhaps share it with your parents as well. Writers are highly employable and are often the smartest people in any room they are in. 🙂 Yes, it is true that it may take you 5-10 years before you will have a book contract, but you will be working during that time. When people ask, “What can you do with a writing degree?” my answer is “Anything you want.”
I hope this is helpful! Keep writing! The creative life is so meaningful and fulfilling, isn’t it?
All my best,
Jackie

 

 

Thoughts on Writing: Navigating the Road to Publication

thoughts on writing 3So, you’ve sent out your query letters, signed with a literary agent, and secured a book deal. Your dream is in writing, in the language of a contract. Now what?

REVISIONS

The Mighty Scope

I swear HarperCollins purchased my book based on its potential. My editor’s first request was to rewrite the entire ending, beef up a handful of characters, and completely change the chronology of the book. In six weeks. 🙂

The Editor-Author Partnership

Up till this point in my life, I’d had two critique relationship experiences: in college, where if my professor suggested something, it was in my best interest to make those changes; and with my writing group of peers, where I collected ideas and feedback, but it was fully my decision whether to implement them or not. Working with my editor at HarperCollins was different– she was not my professor, though she did have more experience with writing and with story than I did; and she was not my peer, though she treated me with respect and genuine warmth. It was just a new scenario. We were partners in this project, and I had no idea what that was supposed to look like.

Ultimately, I learned to try everything she suggested. Usually I ended up loving it. If I didn’t, I would talk to her about why it wasn’t working, and we’d scrap it. There were very few things that we completely disagreed on, and in those 2-3 things, she let me win.

The Panic

The anxiety that followed my book deal was so intense and unexpected and alarming that I ended up back in therapy.

And so it goes.

COVER ART

I’m often asked how much influence I had on the cover of my novel. I had always heard that an author had zero input— but that wasn’t quite true in my experience.

First, I was asked for my thoughts:

We will fill out a form to share with our designers—who work serious magic and make the best looking books in the industry—but we want your thoughts, too. What sort of design or image do you picture for your cover? Photographic or iconic? Is there anything you absolutely don’t want? Are there other books whose covers you admire? As much info you can give us will help us—and the designers—create the perfect look for TRUEST.

truest-doodlesI was later shown eight choices and asked for my opinion again. They ended up going with my second choice (although by the end it was my absolute #1 favorite!), and let my thoughts guide multiple changes.

To see the detailed evolution of my book cover, click here.

MARKETING

A couple months after my publication day, I made some notes about what I learned:

  • I loved my street team, but I did everything too early and put too much money into it. I tried to come up with enough swag to entice readers to join the launch team, but I think the people who joined it would have joined it for less. In future, I will probably do a street team, but I will a) give them only the ARC plus some exclusive content, b) do everything within a month of the release date.
  • I would absolutely dish out the money to do a couple book tours during the release month. I’ll be doing a couple of those here in November and December, but I really wish I’d had the foresight to do them in September. Newbie!
  • At every event (except maybe the launch party), I would also promote other books that I enjoyed. I really want to give back in this way, plus I want bookstores that host these events to sell more than just my book.
  • I made a handful of promo materials. I probably should have just come up with one incredible idea, made a ton of them, and then given them out EVERYWHERE.
  • Here’s one that might shock you: I would have been more spoiler-y in my flap copy (i.e. the text on the inside flap of the book). A story about three teens in the summer isn’t particularly compelling, but once I mention that one of them has a disorder that causes her to question whether she’s in real life or just dreaming, I see lightbulbs go on. Every time. I’ve been looking at the flap copy of other books, and theirs is open super spoilery … and it doesn’t hurt the experience of the book. I think this was a big mistake of mine.

PUBLICATION

Celebrate Like Crazy

I will never regret having a huge launch party on the day my book came out! It was so much fun and so special to have people I love from so many parts of my life come together to celebrate my book … and to celebrate me. I had heard from so many writers that their launch day was “just another day,” and I wanted so much more than that: a celebratory climax to the day I’d been counting down from for nearly two years (or my entire life, depending on how you look at it). YES to release day parties.

The Magic of Kind Words

It’s hard to explain just how special it is to hear words of praise about your book. In the midst of fear and reviews and silence, sweet words at the exact right moments are each like a miniature rescue.To hear that you’ve made someone rethink things or that your book changed their life or became a new favorite or that they connected with a character or that it gave them hope during a particularly hard experience … it makes it all worthwhile. Please tell authors when you love their work. It’s like fuel, an instant battery-charge, strength to continue. I have an Instagram comment that has taken up permanent residence in my heart, ringing like a little bell.

THEN WHAT?

You get back to work.

This is the writing life.

 

Did you miss the other parts in this series on writing?

Part One | Part Two

thoughts on writing 1thoughts on writing 2

Thoughts on Writing: Query to Contract

thoughts on writing 2In part two of my Thoughts on Writing series, I wanted to share with you the details around getting a book deal.

As a young writer, I thought it went something like write a manuscript –> mail it to publishers –> if someone liked it, they would make it into a book. Voila!

Here’s the reality:

Querying
Very, very few publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts, and you’re told the way to get your story in front of an editor is via a literary agent, who will serve as a liaison between you and the publisher. So you begin your research, looking for agents who represent the kind of book you’ve written and whose brief wishlist on their website makes you think they might connect with your story. You start to think weird thoughts, like maybe you’re making a real connection with someone’s … online profile. Like maybe the matrix is glitching on you as you read this one because this is the one. You make a list of 100 agents, telling yourself that if all 100 say no, then this book is simply not ready for publication.

Meanwhile, you write a query letter, trying to be both professional and creative as you summarize your entire book into one paragraph, then into one sentence. You run hooks past all your friends to see which ones grab them, and it’s really impossible to tell because these same friends are so intimately acquainted with your story already that they are not at all objective.

(I’ve written in extreme detail about querying over here.)

On Submission
You start sending out the query letters– almost entirely via email, though every agent wants something different: query and synopsis and the first ten pages. Or query and chapter summary and the first three chapters. Or query alone, and you hope that one-page letter can find its feet.

It’s an emotional roller coaster. Some are interested, some are not. Some are silent and you won’t hear back from them until six months after your book has been published. Some ask for more chapters. Some ask for the whole manuscript. Some politely say no.

But someone says yes.

You sign with that agent, and– guess what– you get to keep your seat on that emotional roller coaster while your agent pitches your manuscript to editors. Rejection is likely, and you knew that, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still sting.

But then, one magical day, you get a call from your agent saying an editor loved it and has made an offer.

Everything feels surreal. You stand on the veranda outside of your office and call your dad and say, “I got a book deal.”

Contract
The contract comes later, so much later than you’d have guessed. It takes four months before you sign it, and even though you’ve already started on revisions with your editor, inking your signature onto those papers makes everything seem real. Maybe up till now you thought this was a trick or that you’d say something annoying and they’d call it all off.

Now it’s binding. You breathe a sigh of relief.

But relief doesn’t last long …
Next week: revisions, how advances work, choosing cover art, copy edits, ARCs, marketing, and release day!
Also in this series:
thoughts on writing 1
Part one 🙂