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Perseverance: An Author’s Best Friend

It’s always a thrill when my clients’ books come out and I get that brown cardboard package from Amazon. When Deb Scott finally announced that her book was here, though, I found it especially fulfilling.

Deb had some huge setbacks in her process…making her a great example for the role or perseverance in the life of an author.

Both her parents passed away within a year. Deb took care of them until their deaths, as sole caregiver. After that, she set her sight on writing and publishing her self-help book, The Sky is Green and the Grass is Blue: Turning Your Upside Down World Right Side Up.

Her inheritance was supposed to provide the security for her to pursue her new dream and career as an author, speaker and trainer–and to provide the funds to launch her book. But in the middle of preparing the book for publication, she lost all her inheritance and savings to the $200 Millennium Bank Ponzi scheme.

Deb saw it as an opportunity to dig deeper into her own message of finding the good in all crazy situations and facing it all with a sense of humor. I’m sure it wasn’t easy! But she did it.

While you probably (I hope) won’t lose your life savings to a ponzi scheme, I can guarantee you that you will meet challenges when you decide to write and publish your book.

Our first book cover and nonstandard dimensions made it hard to get bookstores to stock it.
Our first book cover and nonstandard dimensions made it hard to get bookstores to stock it.

With my first book (which I co-authored), it took seven years from my initial idea to a published book in my hands. Challenges included many rejections from literary agents (and those were in the days where you contacted one agent at a time) and, later,  bookstores refusing to “replenish” the book because of its dimensions (i.e. they would respond to a special order of 1 but would not carry it).

At times I felt tempted to concede defeat. But I snapped out of it and always asked, “What information does this setback carry? What do I need to do to turn this around?” In each instance, perseverance paid off.

Our new title, cover and dimensions turned a challenge into opportunity.
Our new title, cover and dimensions turned a challenge into opportunity.

In fact, the problems with the cover and dimensions of our book led our publisher (with some encouragement from my co-author) to re-publish the book with a new cover, new title and new dimensions.

We were able to use the great press we’d gotten on the new book and ended up with even more powerful national publicity–from USA Weekend to Glamour Magazine to CNN Headline News and much more.
If you want to write a book and get published, the one thing I can guarantee you is that challenges will come up. Here are the three things you need to meet them:

1. Give yourself time to feel disappointed. But don’t wallow there.

2. Ask what you need to do differently and take the first step as soon as you can.

3. See if you can turn the disadvantage into an advantage. For Deb, that meant going back to the message of her book and living it more deeply. That resulted in an authenticity and a powerful story (that makes an impact in her press releases and consequent radio interviews.

Deb advises, “When you get discouraged, want to give up, or find those negative people creeping in to saying, ‘quit’ – visualize yourself holding your book in your hand, meeting someone who says, ‘Thank you for writing this book – it was fantastic and I loved it!'”

I agree. When students in my book writing classes get stuck and stop writing, I remind them to connect with why they’re writing the book and the impact they want to make on their readers and their world. Often it helps to have a vision statement you can read aloud to yourself whenever you work on the book.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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Comments

  1. Nathan Winters says

    Lisa,
    I love reading your blog and the wonderful tips you offer to fellow writers. Recently I rode a bicycle 4,300 miles over 5 months from Maine to Seattle visiting farms of all stripes. From the Amish, organic, urban and permaculture farms to the farmers markets, coops and restaurants I did extensive researched and asked endless questions. Beyond that I had endless amounts of fun and adventurous encounters along the way. In a nutshell if you put Michael Pollan and Jack Kerouac on a tandem bike across America with a periodic check in with Bill Bryson you would have a good idea as to what to expect from the outcome of my book.
    Currently:
    • I have 60k words written and 9 of what should be 15 chapters completed.
    • I have a proposal written following the guidelines and parameters in which I have read and researched.
    • I have been contacted by a literary agency however I decided to hold off on any commitments until I had my priorities set in stone.
    • I have had some interested from a few small publishers
    • Given my technical and marketing background I have been able to create a strong following and have generated a great grassroots marketing campaign and quality press.
    A few of my questions are:
    • Do I need an agent?
    • Should I focus on writing the remainder of the story or should I focus on getting published. With or without getting published… telling the story is a goal and dream and will happen regardless. But I would obviously prefer to share it with as many people as possible.
    • Should I be concerned with the size and or volume of a publisher given I am a first time author? Or should I be happy to simply get an offer?
    • What type of offer would you consider to be fair for someone in my position?
    • Do you have any advice for me?

    • lisatener says

      These are great questions, Nathan.
      If you’re going with a smaller publisher, you may not need an agent (and it may be harder to get one). But it may be worth having an entertainment lawyer look at your contract in that case.

      Do you need an agent? Personally, I think it’s always good to have an agent if you have the platform for a larger publisher to be interested. That way, they will find you the best match for your book, someone they believe will do the book justice, and also, they can negotiate a better deal than you probably can. And the more a publisher invests in the book up front with an advance, the more invested they are in how it does–so they are more likely to put some marketing resources into it, if it’s a large advance.

      Should I focus on writing the remainder of the story or should I focus on getting published? For a memoir, you need to write the whole thing nowadays. Are there exceptions? Some, but generally a publisher wants to see it’s all there. Exception: if your platform (the number of people you reach online and off) is huge, maybe you can get away with less than the whole book.Also, while you’re writing, continue to work on growing your platform.

      Should I be concerned with the size and or volume of a publisher given I am a first time author? Or should I be happy to simply get an offer? It depends how big your platform is and how well they think the book will do. If you have a really hot idea and a very solid or huge platform, it’s possible to land a bigger publisher–and they will have more resources and better distribution into bookstores and other channels–so it’s worth going for this if your book has that potential. It’s hard to say for me without knowing those details You can always try for the bigger publishers and, if they say no, go for a smaller one.

      What type of offer would you consider to be fair for someone in my position? Again, without knowing your platform, it’s hard to say. First time advances are often $3K – 5K. Some publishers are not giving advances, either. At the same time, though it’s exceptional, I have clients who are first time authors getting six figures or a very solid mid-five figure book deal.

      Do you have any advice for me? Get Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal and use his format religiously. Continue to grow your following and fans by offering value and connecting authentically with your audience. And make sure your book proposal has a compelling overview and powerful markets section, competitive analysis, solid book promotion plan, well written outlines and great writing in your sample chapters!

      Regarding your literary agent questions, these blog posts may help you:

      Literary Agents: Worth Their Weight in Gold
      How to Choose a Literary Agent: Red Flags

      Here’s a blog post that helps you choose between a small publisher and holding out for a bigger one:

      Small Publisher or Work on My Platform and Hold out for the Majors?

      Best of Luck with your book. As a CSA member (community supported agriculture), it sounds like a book I’d love to read.

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