The Journey to Becoming a Published Author
The thought of being a writer and author....well a published author...is still daunting to me!! If you would have asked me 2 years ago if I would ever write and publish a book, the answer would have been a resounding NO without hesitations!!! But, as I tell my students...Never say Never!!! In this line of work-School Counseling-we are expected to grow our students...not only socially and academically, but we have a responsibility to challenge their view points on their future and what they want to be when they grow up!! When kids are asked the pivotal question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Many respond with, "Basketball player, Cheerleader, Baseball player, Football player", and I always tell them to have a backup plan...to think bigger!!! But how often do we encourage ourselves to do the exact same thing? How often do we push ourselves to do more in our field and to want more? We are more than School Counselors!!!
Now don't get me wrong-I LOVE being a School Counselor, and I'm sure you do too...there is nothing wrong if this is your dream job and you are perfectly content. My point, is that we are so much more and it doesn't have to start and stop in our perspective school buildings!! To say I fell into becoming an author (by the way-can I say that I've become an author with just one book?) is vague because I believe everything happens for a reason!! Because of my spiritual beliefs, I believe God doesn't make mistake and he puts us in situations when we don't know the outcome. With that being said...this is where it started for me!!
I enjoy reading...always have and I hope I always will. In my down time at home, you will always find me with a book. So one might think it was a natural progression to combine my joy for counseling and reading and one day write something of my own. This notion may have been obvious and not at all surprising to others, but not to me. Well January 2015, I attended The Palmetto State School Counseling Conference (PSSCA) that's held in Myrtle Beach each year. The infamous Julia Cook was the keynote speaker for the conference. In addition to being the keynote, she also facilitated a session...I can't recall the name right now, but I thought it was a session on her books and what she had coming out etc. However, when I got there I found that it was actually a session on how to get your works published. As I was sitting there I thought, hmm...maybe I can do this...if you've ever heard Julia speak, she will leave you feeling like you can conquer world (until you get out in the world and then you're like wait-what?) After that session, I went back to my hotel room that night and started writing. Here are a few tips I left her session with:
1. Ideas & Purpose:
First you have to think about what is you want to write about. What is your purpose and is it something other people are going to want to read? When I started writing that night, I chose a topic that I have a passion for...Career Development. I had a few ideas bouncing around in my head and I knew I wanted a book that was culturally diverse. Career lessons are the lesson I enjoy teaching the most. I like seeing my students learn about different jobs and take personality/interest assessments and see how they react when the assessment is totally off from what they initially want as a future career. I also thought about how many kids have such a limited view of the world and what they want to be...mostly all of the younger kids want to be princesses, cheerleaders, ninjas or professional athletes or (which is great), but there is so much more. So I started with the first letter of the alphabet and went from there!!
2. Allow your work to change and evolve
Read it, Re-Read it, then Read it again!! After you've read it, find someone you trust to give you an HONEST opinion. Not the typical "Oh yeah, it’s great" response! (Even though, we love those!!) I had my draft reviewed by 3 different people. One was a colleague and dear, dear friend of mine. A trusted counselor that I often collaborate with and bounce ideas back and forth when necessary. (It's great to have people like that in your corner...keeps you fresh in the field too). I told her this was something I planned to read to my students (which it was) and she gave me her honest feedback! The other 2 were also colleagues and people I trust for honest feedback!!
3. Mail Your Product
After you have written your personal best work, mail a copy to yourself via certified mail. DO NOT OPEN THIS COPY!!! This is your proof that this book is your book and it was your idea first!! You are sending your manuscript to multiple publishers and you want to make sure they don’t use your work!!
After my final edit, I started searching for publishers. I knew I wanted to go the traditional route and find a publisher! This was my first piece of work and I honestly wanted to see if people in the publishing world thought my stuff was good enough. (Even as adults, a small part of us wonder if our best is enough at some point right?) Julia advised that you start looking for publishers in the back of books you already have. So I went to my book shelf, and pulled out a few books and started looking. Then I went to the handy dandy internet. Company websites have a section for publishers and what to do to submit potential scripts!! I kept my choices limited to companies that specialize in school counseling/counseling related material. You can, of course submit your work to whomever and however many companies you want!!
5. Submitting Your Manuscript!!
I chose 3 publishing companies to start with...Boys Town Press, Marco Products and Youthlight. All 3 companies specialize in school counseling and publish counseling related materials. Whatever company you choose to send your work, make sure you do your research. Look to see what kind of material/content they publish. I knew Boys Town Press was a long shot because that company doesn’t really publish career related materials…they focus more on behavior management so to speak. Either way, they were on my list! After you've narrowed down your choices, you should call each company you are interested in and ask about their policy and procedure for submitting a manuscript. They will more than likely direct you to their website, but some will give you an address to send it to. Make sure you get a name!! You want to ask for the editor’s name or the person who determines what scripts are accepted before you hang up the phone!!! Create an outline for your book and have your resume updated. Most, if not all publishing companies will ask you for an outline or summary of your book in addition to the manuscript. Some will want to know if you are one hit wonder or if you have other ideas you would like developed!! After you submit your manuscript, a day later, call back and ask for the editor by name…use the first name only (you know, like bill collectors do). A phone call can make all the difference! Tell them you submitted your manuscript online or that you mailed it and you wanted to let them know. Ask for a turnaround time on notification and thank them for their consideration.
Now is the hard part…WAITING…When I submitted my manuscripts, I knew it would take at least 30 days to hear back from someone. I have to admit, I was a little nervous. Boys Town Press was the first to respond within the first 2 weeks and I was OK with their “No”. Like I figured, they told me they didn’t focus on career development. Marco Products told me it was going to take up to 60 days before I heard back because the editor was out of the office and it usually took them 30-45 days to reply. After not hearing anything from the 2 remaining companies within the first 3 weeks of my submission, I forgot about it and thought, “whelp, that didn’t work”. However, when I was out on Spring Break, I received an e-mail early that Monday afternoon, and I didn’t bother to check it until late Monday night. And low and behold, there was an e-mail from Youthlight wanting to know more about my book!!! After I was able to get over the initial shock and the fact that an actual publishing company was interested in my work, I called the editor and had a really good conversation.
If and when you do get published…Be flexible with your editor and open to the changes they suggest! The goal is for the best work to be printed!!
In the beginning, this seemed like a very long process. There were times when I became frustrated with how long it was taking. I wanted everything to unroll within the first 3 months, and it didn't happen. I can't stress enough how important it is to be Patient. You are working with an editor and an illustrator that have tons of other projects. When I look back over it, 6-9 wasn't a very long time to get a book published. You have to factor in the revision time. It is worth it!! Don't give up!! If you have something good to say and you get it in the hands of the right people, your work will get published!! Just like Dori says "Just keep swimming"!
Thank you for taking the time to read my babble!!! Hopefully, you were able to find the information helpful. I also listed the "Tips for Publishing" in a PowerPoint format so feel free to check out my Google Drive!! Click Here!!
In the meantime, check out my fantabulous trailer, created my the BEST librarian in the world, Meredith Herchek, for: The World is My Playground-What Should I Be?
If you cannot see the video, Click Here!!
Continue to Be Great!!
Julia Cook is awesome by the way!! I know some of her books are hit and miss, but her work ethic is amazing. She shared with us a hard copy of the Tips for Publishing your Good Stuff,. and a lot of the information shared came from her handout. I followed the suggestions she gave us in the session and I got my first book published. When I e-mailed her and asked her if I could share some of her Tips, she was all for it! So if this ever comes across your computer screen, Thanks Julia for inspiring me to simply WRITE!!!