I wasn’t planning to write a book.
I’d just begun working as a literacy consultant in Newark, NJ, demonstrating lessons for teachers and conducting staff development workshops. When I met Miles Dean, who had completed his cross- country horseback journey the year before, I thought his story could be a book.
First I wrote an article about him for Education Update. I called my friend Marian Holmes, then an editor for Smithsonian, thinking the history Miles honored would be a great story for the magazine, not thinking I’d write it. She gave me the assignment- a feature about the black jockeys for the magazine’s website.
I embarked on the book project. I interviewed, read, taped, transcribed tapes, interviewed more, and set a goal. By the end of the 2009 school year, I’d complete a sample chapter and a book proposal and begin submitting to agents.
One word describes this part of the process: NAÏVE!
I sent my query to about 100 agents that accepted online, simultaneous submissions. While about 20 asked to see more sample chapters and the proposal, none offered a contract.
I stuck with the project, believing in its story. I researched self-publishing and decided this was the way to go. Here’s where the writer/author side of me realized I was over my head. I lacked the patience to deal with the nitty-gritty of submitting, of creating a quality –looking product beyond the words, and the technological skills to promote via social networking.
I invested in a small and impermanent staff. This is a tribute to them.
I met Marina Bang while on a short visit to Delhi, India. Truly the stars were aligned. Everything that looks good about the book is thanks to her. I would begin my day at 5:30 am as she was ending hers and we’d exchange a flurry of emails. Editing, revising, editing, revising. She created the pdf file and dealt with the submission.
I debated whether I needed a website. I’m still clinging to my personal wordpress blog, cyclingrandma and felt uncomfortable creating a website that really is all about me! But Shaila and others convinced me this was the way to go.
During some idle moments waiting for Marina to send back the 14th pdf file we’d been editing, I entered book promoters in a search. I sent proposals to three. And realized how NAÏVE I was once again. Their fees and contract minimums were beyond what I wanted to invest at this time as a first-time, self-published author. Scott called me on a Saturday and we negotiated a short-term deal. He created the press kit and has gotten the book reviewed and gotten me on a few radio shows.
Then there’s Andrew. No website. He’s a Kenyon College first year student and a tennis player. While watching our daughter play tennis, I bemoaned how I don’t know how to build a following. I’d signed on to Kindle’s Select Plan that offered a five day free promotion. I set an arbitrary goal of 1,000. We reached 795; probably about half are college students who have downloaded the book on their phones.
What’s next? I have to learn to do some of this myself. I created a Facebook page. (Please visit and hit like!) I’m emailing schools and bookstores, offering to talk. And trying to think of the answer to “what is your next book about?”
(Note: I will be continuing to post on this blog for another month or so.)