But that’s the truth. If you’re writing a book for people who are going through adversity—the last thing they need is to cry for you.
People don’t want to read a depressing story. They don’t want to struggle through your struggle.
They want to read your book on the beach, in the bathroom, in bed after a long, long day and they want it to be clear to them. They want it to make sense when they’re turning those pages and the dog is barking, and the kids are screaming, and the doctor calls them into the exam room and they pick up the book again ten days later.
There are so many ways to tell a story about overcoming adversity in life.
But there’s only a few ways you can sell it nowadays.
Let’s do this as a Q&A—since I’ve gotten a LOT of questions about my publishing process and the only thing worse than a sad story? A long one.
Q: How did you get your publishing deal?
A: I got my publishing deal through a combination of things. The first was that I sought it out. That’s right—nobody short of Kim Kardashian get’s literary agents knocking on her door begging them to take them on. Bloggers, no matter how popular their stories are—all have to hustle for a book deal. I always wanted to publish a book and had the “classical training” to write one—as in, I spent my whole life studying the publishing industry, working as a journalist, and working as a book reviewer making the connections with publishing houses, authors, and agents.
After blogging for several years, building a following, building my professional writing career (publishing articles with small, then medium, niche, then mainstream publications) and doing my own PR—I started actually writing a book.
I originally pitched my book to a mountain of literary agents a few small publishing companies. And then I got my first publishing deal with a small health publishing company.
And then the deal fell through and I thought I was going to die of disappointment.
So I sobbed for a few months, then dusted myself off, started querying again, networking like crazy, and finally got a literary agent to give me the time of day.
Together we kissed my book goodbye, wrote up a new book proposal that we felt had a better chance of selling to a big publishing house—and then she worked her literary agent magic and after a few intense week of back-and-forths with different big houses we landed a deal with New Harbinger.
Q: Wait, what? You wrote a book and then threw it out? And then pitched a proposal for a new book instead of an actual book?
A: Yep. Turns out that most publishing companies don’t want to read your book. They want to write it with you. Or at least aggressively work with you to make it a combination of your vision and their vision.
Q: So, basically, you sold out?
A: The book I published is every inch the book I dreamed would make it to market one day. It’s got my heart on EVERY page and I don’t feel like a single word is disingenuous.
I also think the book I originally wrote before I worked with New Harbinger was full of heart…and a disorganized mess. And you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed reading it as much as what we ended up publishing.
Q: But if you had self-published, wouldn’t your book be 100% the book you ORIGINALLY wanted to publish?
A: Sure. It also wouldn’t have been edited by a team of like 20 people for over two years to make sure every paragraph made sense and was funny and still useful and translatable to all audiences.
There is a reason big publishing houses still exists—and will probably always exists: because even great writers need great editors. And I don’t’ know about you, but I couldn’t afford to pay the salaries of a TEAM of expert editors for several years to pick apart my book and make it the best it could possibly me.
Hey, I even got paid (pretty much exactly what you hear first-time authors make) to have my book edited by a team of experts.
Some other benefits of publishing with a major publishing house are: distribution and negotiating shelf-space, an art team to design the cover, and the financial liability if my book crashes and burns and nobody but my mother buys it.
Q: Are you a rich author now?
A: I’m pretty sure you can count the number of “rich authors” in the United States on two hands. And the ones you don’t count? They’re mostly erotica writers (trade secret—or maybe you knew that?) Porn sells. Everything else is a crapshoot.
The book is doing well (knock on wood) and if I sell a few…thousand more copies, so will I. So keep at it and maybe I will be?
But right now I’m not giving up the day job.
But I also kind of like my day job.
Q: I have a book I’m working on and when I’m done will you help me get a publishing deal?
A: Dude. I barely got myself a publishing deal. And they’re not handing them out like candy these days. And until I am a “rich author” I’m pretty sure I have zero clout with anyone who can get you a deal.
I am happy however to:
- Give feedback on your polished book proposal
- Give you feedback on your query letters
- Give you feedback on whether or not I think you’ve got a shot at hell in getting a book deal (from my limited perspective as a FIRST TIME author who has been in the industry for real for about a minute and forty-five seconds.)
Q: Will you ghostwrite my book for me?
I’m not a “rich author” but there are few people on this planet who could afford me as a ghostwriter. The hours it takes to produce a book as a billable project…
Well, Kim Kardashian—you can still give me a call.
Sorry for the honesty here, but I have worked as a ghostwriter and people who are trying to write books who are NOT writers are some of the hardest people to work with and the projects are long—sometimes take years of interviews and rarely produce book deals UNLESS they are by celebrities.
Q: I’m a patient advocate, what advice do you have for me about writing my story and publishing it as a book?
A: Publishing companies are not purchasing manuscripts telling the stories of disease survivors unless they are celebrities. You have to put it in a second category—it can be self-help, it can be humor, it can be children’s books…but memoirs are not easy to sell.
I’ve seen patients with the most INCREDIBLE stories get totally ignored by agents, publicists, publishers—these books are difficult to market. They need to be short, easy-to-read and most importantly they have to apply to a bigger audience then just one disease group (cancer, rare disease, etc.)
Second piece of advice: don’t write the book, write the book proposal on who you are as a person of interest. Why should they care? Do you have a large social media following? Did you have a movie made about you? Are you changing laws/research/the world?
If your answer to any/all of these questions is no: you may not have a future in publishing.
I know we’ve all got heart to our stories—but books, the good ones anyways—are also products. They have to sell. They have to have MASS APPEAL.
Most importantly—they should never be all about you.
I wanted to share my story—but if you read my book, you’ll see it isn’t about me.
It’s about the reader and everything the book will make them want to think, change, and prioritize in their life.
I hope these answered some of your questions. Got more? Message me on Instagram!
Oh..and..you know…still need to sell quite a bit more of these to start getting royalties.
ASK NOT WHAT YOUR BLOGGERS CAN DO FOR YOU, BUT WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR THEIR COMCAST BILL.