27 Oct So You Want to Write a Book?
So you want to write a book?
I come from a set of very creative parents – between the two of them, they are writers, painters, photographers, and musicians (piano, bass guitar, accordion). That creative gene is pulsing through my veins, and sometimes I just follow the rhythm to make major life decisions. Two years ago, my photo series, United We Feed, went viral around the world. It was thrilling and quite honestly exhausting. I became overwhelmed with the question that echoed in my mind, my heart, and on the lips of those around me: “What are you going to do with it all?” To be honest, I had no idea! I knew I needed to do something, but what?
As fate would have it, I did nothing.
You read that correctly. I decided to shelf it, focus on other things, and not worry so much about it. Anyone who meditates regularly, or who knows me well, can guess what happened next. I kept the idea in my heart, in my prayers and meditations, and in my journaling. I jotted down ideas that came to me in the shower, and filled a journal with the flow of never-ending “what-ifs” and “maybes”. Normally very extroverted in my daily life, this was an internal experience. I kept it to myself, and did not discuss it with anyone, not even my husband.
1 – Familiarize yourself with the process. With the internet at your fingertips, you can easily start your research from home. Google “self-publishing”, “how to publish a book”, and “book publishers”. I purchased the 2015 Writer’s Market book on amazon, and poured through it. I highlighted, folded page corners, and wrote notes. I took note of who accepted un-agented submissions, and only included them in my list, as I wanted to try that route first.
2 – Research the market. Once you know what you would like to write about, research, research, research. Not only is this important for gauging the size of your potential audience, it will be an important part of your pitch. I was thinking I wanted my book to be about something new, something that was not already written about over-and-over. My editor told me though, if there are already books out there, you can use that as proof that the subject matter is important to readers.
3 – Craft your pitch. I used the Writer’s Market and my friend Google to learn how to write a pitch. You will want to include a sample title page, overview, description, intended audience, an author bio, a list of similar books, a proposed table of contents, and also sample images you would like to include.
4 – Pound the Pavement. Connect with publishing houses. I emailed all of mine. Some will only accept printed submissions. If you do not hear back from them, follow up. I suggest submitting to many, as it will increase your chance of getting a “yes”!
5 – Avoid discouragement. You are going to get a lot of polite “thanks but no thanks” emails. Do not get discouraged! Use it as fuel to keep going. If you receive any feedback, accept it graciously and use it to tweak your approach or your submission. Steadfast persistence is key.
6 – Evolve. Be open and flexible. Chances are, when you do get a “yes”, the publisher will have ideas of their own. If their ideas or changes are just too big and change your project into something that deviates too far from your heart, then you may want to keep looking. Otherwise, be present, remain open. I have to admit, some of the suggestions and conversations I had with my publisher in the early days brought tears, sleeplessness, and uncertainty (I, of course, never told them that), but in the end, I followed my heart. Sometimes this looks like waiting. I would speak to the publisher and we would wait to make a decision. Behind-the-scenes, I would have long conversations with family and friends, and journal, and meditate on them. I tried to be as flexible as possible, but remained steadfast with the pieces that were non-negotiable for me.
7 – Buckle up! Once you and a publisher agree to make a book, buckle up! You are in for the ride of your life! You will spend a lot of time working with your manuscript, going back-and-forth with your editor, and at times there will be a lot of hurry up and wait!
I hope this guide helps you! I have faith in you, and absolutely cannot wait to read your first book!
Connect with me anytime, I would love to hear what makes your heart beat!
Caitlin Domanico is a photographer near Philadelphia, PA. Her first book, Photographing Motherhood: How to Document the Lives of Women and Their Families, a collaboration with Jade Beall, is now available on Amazon.