OnPoint Podcast Episode 2: So You Want to Be an Author: Dreaming to Book Publishing

Posted on Aug 24, 2018 - By OnPoint Global


Leesa: It’s safe to say that everyone has an idea for a book that they want to publish.

India: I’d like to write a book that talks about wealth disparity in rural America.

Taryn: My first book would be a novel about a coming-of-age story

Abdul: I’d like to write about the South Asian American experience

Samantha: oh I think I would write like a horror story or a something really scary

Meagan: I would like to publish the one that I’ve been working on for the last three years eventually,  but really the kind of thing I want to do is to create a book that has like a fandom.

Gelsey: An LGBT fantasy-esque kind of book would be my dream.

Catherine: I could publish it would probably be the history of food especially as it comes to like American renditions of foreign food and how like those dishes came to be in other countries and came to like gourmet status when most of these things have started in like you know villages where people are poor and they just kind of like make food with what they have.

Pablo: I would like to see a sequel to the Harry Potter books but everyone is gay

Lisa: Hello and welcome to OnPoint pod. I’m Lisa Love

Carlos: and I’m Carlos Olaechea.

Leesa: So Carlos, have you ever had an idea for a book?

Carlos: Yeah, of course. I think a lot of writers have had ideas for a book. Mine was…well I’ve had several. Do you want to hear em all or just my top?

Leesa: What’s your favorite one?

Carlos: Okay. I wanted to create a cookbook, actually, for Peruvian cuisine but for an American audience and how things can be adapted in an American kitchen.

Leesa: That’s a great idea!  What’s stopping you from publishing it?

Carlos: Do you want to hear all the reasons or should I name the top three?

Leesa: Let’s go with the top three.

Carlos: I think number one is I don’t really have a manuscript ready. I don’t really have quite a lot of an audience and mainly I don’t even really know where to start.

Leesa: It does seem like it’s a huge undertaking, and there’s a lot of processes that you have to go through to get to the end product.

Although publishing a book seems like an insurmountable task, we both know people who have made their book dream a reality, despite having full-time jobs and other responsibilities. We sat down with a few of our colleagues to discuss how they did it.

We spoke to Chris Halil our content manager here at OnPoint who published a sequel to a popular children’s book

Chris Jalil: So my book is about the son of Peter Pan Peter Pan the kid who never grew up right so my book is imagining the situation had he decided to grow up and after watching the Disney movie and seeing him part ways with Wendy – her staying London and him going back to Neverland – I wouldn’t say I was dissatisfied with that but I always always convinced that there was another part to that story, that in the end he does come back to be with her after these adventures that they went on, and this would follow: that they would rolled her together get married have kids live happily ever after. But, of course, while things were going great in London they wouldn’t always stay so nice in Neverland. With Peter being gone inevitably something would happen one day that would require some outside help, and with Peter now being unable to go back to Neverland it would fall to his son to basically save the day and that’s where my story is about is this introverted rather dorky not so confident twelve-year-old boy who has greatness thrust upon.

Carlos: We also spoke to Kendall Vanderslice, a food and theology scholar currently based in North Carolina. She’s also quite the talented baker and is currently wrapping up publishing a more academic book on the connection between food and spirituality.

Kendall Vanderslice: Yeah so my book is based off of a three-year study of dinner churches, which are churches that have their services around a meal. So I began this research while I was in my program at Boston University. I was interested in studying commensality, which is the social dynamics around eating together.

I was wondering what happens when we eat together that that helps people that builds community and helps people know one another and also what are the flip sides: when can eating together break down community and how can it keep from establishing relationships. So in the midst of that, I was beginning to think about how does this play out in religious contexts, as well, and I was introduced to a few different communities that their entire church service took place around the dinner table. So I spent three months doing an ethnography in one of those communities studying just what happens – who comes to these churches, what happens to their relationships. It was not a typical crowd that you would find in a church. Most of them had no desire to go into a regular church, and yet somehow at this dinner table they found a really powerful community. And then from there I realized that this was a trend that was building across the country, so I traveled the country and visited churches all across the United States to see what was going on in these in these communities

Leesa: We also had a chance to talk with Myra Rayan, an editor and writer based in Georgia who recently published her first memoir.

Myra Rayan: The book is called Georgia Haven: A Love Story Across States and Time, and it’s based on a real-life experience that I had of a relationship and it asks the question of what are you willing to do in the name of love, what are you willing to sacrifice, what are you willing to endure, and it’s very it’s a very raw book that gets down to the nitty gritty because I think a lot of times we hear a lot of stories or stories about couples who are in love, and you’ll see “hashtag like relationship goals.” I think all relationships have their high sand their lows their ups and their downs and so Georgia Haven talks about that, and it’s a full circle story about this relationship and everything that happened over the period of three years. It’s about how it all came full circle in the end.

Kendall: People tell me all the time that Twitter is dying, and I think that maybe that’s true in every field except for writing. Twitter is full of writers, and it’s where writers connect with one another, so I started by just following every single writer whose work I admired and then from there I started following every single publisher who published work that I admired. And then I started following academics who were in the field that I was in. And so it started with kind of following all the people who you want to hear what they have to say, and some will follow you back, some won’t follow you back. The hardest part is building that first three or four hundred followers because if you don’t have any followers people don’t really feel any reason to follow you, so that was the hardest hurdle to jump.

Myra: It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s kind of like with a movie. You know you shoot a movie and then the director has to cut it, add special effects, edit, and it’s a long process and that’s why usually with movies we only see it out in the theater like a year after it’s been shot. So it’s the same thing with book writing. It’s a long process and you have to be very patient and very committed, and it has to be something you really, really love.

Chris: I remember I was writing this list of ideas as a note on my phone at the time, and I closed it up – maybe I was getting a snack in the kitchen – and I reopened it immediately after that and I noticed that I had to scroll in order to get to the bottom of that list like it was that lengthy. I had come up with a lot of different plot points for this story and you know characters that I might use, ones that maybe wouldn’t make it into the book. Once I realized how many ideas I had down then I decided this was something I needed to pursue.

Leesa: So you have an idea. How do you get over the fear of writing?

Myra: I had to put aside my fear you you know. When we have our dreams there’s always a little bit of anxiety and some fear that comes with it, but I was ready to publish it when I reached that point where I said, “no matter what, I’m going to be okay with sharing this story because it’s a story that’s impacted me so great, and if it can change one person’s life, wonderful! That’ll be more than enough for me.”

But it had to be at that point where I said, “fear is not gonna take over anymore; I’m just gonna do this this has been my dream for so long, and I felt I had already poured my heart into this book and there was nothing more I could add to it.” There was nothing more I could add there wasn’t anything else that I felt needed to be removed, and so in my mind when it was already at its “perfect stage” and a stage that I was very happy with in terms of the the content and the writing and that I was also able to set fear aside that’s when I knew it was time to start looking into publishing.

Carlos: Now that you’ve conquered the emotional side, how do you actually make the time to start writing?

Chris: When I was getting ready to write the book, I don’t remember how we got onto this subject, but they were talking about how it’s important for you to be creative in your field even if you’re writing everyday about a bunch of different maybe more formal topics, it’s important to be creative and to use that outlet. And he just turns around because he wasn’t relief participating and he goes,”guys, you know” – his expression and his delivery were incredible – “guys, if you just write one page a day every day, at the end of the year you have 365 pages.” And I was just like, “well, yeah!” He just turned around and he went right back to work, but you know that kind of stuck with me, and I use that approach to write this novel. I think it was in keeping with that mantra that I could stick with it until the end because you’re only asking yourself to do a little bit per day, so it makes it that much easier to get through.

Leesa: So how did it feel working through a novel like that.

Chris: It was a ton of fun it was challenging because when you’re writing just a page a day, and I remember I used to write during my lunch break at work. So we worked an eight-hour day and we had an hour in the middle for lunch that we could, you know, go out or do other such things, maybe get lunch in the neighborhood. But I decided that since I was already sitting in front of a computer for seven hours, I may as well make it eight. For that one hour every day, I would just make myself write as much as possible and I wouldn’t leave it to the next day’s read to decide whether or not it was any good.

Myra: So the first draft was actually written through the course a week and a half, believe it or not. I was on vacation, and I wasn’t going anywhere. It was the first time I took vacation, and I wasn’t traveling, and I said, “You know what? I’m gonna sit down and write this book.” And it was the perfect time to do it because everything was still so fresh in my head, and there was a lot of raw emotions and feelings, and so there were days where I was literally crying and just weeping and tears were on my laptop as I was writing. And then there were other days where it was very nostalgic and it was so comforting for me to write certain things.  

So I went through all those emotions writing the book, and I know usually for authors who do novels they tend to take on a strategy where they write a little bit of that novel every day – so a chapter here today, chapter two tomorrow so on and so forth. But with memoir writing it is so different because since it’s something you experienced firsthand and you lived firsthand, I wrote my book, I wrote the first draft, and then I had to put it down. I had to literally set it aside for a few months before I decided to revisit it and start the editing process and write the last chapter. I didn’t write the last chapter in the beginning. I waited awhile

Leesa: Once you have a manuscript, it’s time to edit and refine your work to get it ready for publication.

Carlos: Something we found to be extremely helpful in the publishing process is having the community you can rely on for feedback and support.

Kendall: I think whether you go with an agent or not having a community of writers is so huge. I have a group of about five people that I meet with. We meet online on a program called Slack. Pretty much we’re all in and out of there all day. We all work from home so it’s kind of our office if you will, and we edit one another’s works, we know one another’s styles, we know what kind of publications would be fitting, and so we always keep an eye out for one another – here’s a good place for you to pitch, or here’s a good article that you might want to read. And so having that community and that support helped me through the entire book writing process.

So I knew that I wanted to write a book on this topic at some point, and I didn’t really know what the process of getting into the book publishing world entails, so I started out by hanging out on  Twitter and following a few different publishers and editors and some publishing houses. As I started following people, I began to see who is just tweeting to tweet and who is tweeting to start a conversation and when people are tweeting to start a conversation, you just jump into the conversation. I had a lot of moments when I felt like you know I was super awkward in high school and just sometimes would feel like I could just jump into conversations and then once I got into it realized I shouldn’t be here and then other times I was too embarrassed to jump into a conversation where it would have been totally natural. So I had to kind of shirk off some of those concerns in Twitter and just realize all these conversations are public, and so all of them are okay for me to jump into unless it’s very obvious that it’s not one that I should be a part of. But really just starting to converse with people, and then relationships form out of that.

From there I found an online writers conference that was just a series of video lectures and question-and-answer sessions with people that worked in all different areas of the publishing industry. And so from there I gained a better sense of what it might look like to create a proposal and then where I might begin shopping it around with agents. But while I was in that workshop I connected with an acquisitions editor for a medium sized religious and academically focused publishing house that told me that they had been looking for someone to write a book on the topic that I was studying. And so I actually got to skirt the whole agent process, and this acquisitions editor helped me write and hone in my book proposal, and then she pitched it to her publishing team and they offered me a contract.

Carlos: So then how do you take it from something virtual on social media to actual real business connections?

Kendall: In two ways. One, conferences are huge. So I have met a lot of the people that I’ve gotten close with on Twitter in person now, and at writing conferences those are the people who I hang out with and the people who I sit in sessions with. But also you know either directly asking for an email. Some folks will have their emails there or they’ll just send you a direct message saying, “hey I have this possible project that I think you’d be good for. Can you send me an email or can I send you an email?” So the direct messages are kind of the next phase of the relationship where you can start really talking about different different projects.

But there are also a lot of editors who will just tell you what they’re looking for. Someone will say, “I am looking for you know people to write about this topic, this topic, and this topic.” Sometimes they’ll say, “I’m looking for and you know specifically like queer women of color to write on this topic,” and so looking at what are the specifications who are they looking for and then not just looking at who’s who’s looking for something you could write but also who’s looking for something and you know the right person he could write it. And you start networking with people that way and say, “oh hey! I know this person would be perfect to write that article!” and then when they see something that they know you’re perfect for they’ll probably tag you, too.

Carlos: I’ve had pieces published in books but never an entire publication to myself. Kendall fell into the more traditional route when she was approached by a publisher who was interested in her research.

Leesa: But traditional publishing is not the only way to go about the process

Carlos: In fact, certain writers find an alternative approach that better suits their goals. Lisa spoke to Chris and Myra about their self publishing process.

Chris: It was pretty quick I didn’t know too much about publishing so what I did was some preliminary research to see what best practices work, and everything I found led me to literary agents, that the best thing you can do for your book  is to find somebody to represent it and to take your book from company to company talking about its benefits and why it’s right for them to publish. So that was the first thing I did, and I contacted literary agents from one house to another, but I didn’t really find any success there. And I also contacted a few publishing houses, but pretty much the same thing. So that’s when I decided that more than anything I just wanted to have this book published and it wasn’t so much about reaching a wide audience. I think I only told the people that I worked with in my family when I published it.

Myra: It’s interesting. My father was an author, and my father had three self-published books, so I first went to him to get some advice, and usually when you decide to publish a book there’s two routes you can go. You can choose the route of getting an agent and going through rejection letters after rejection letters and sometimes spending years before you can publish that book and it’s accepted by a publishing agent. Like I know JK Rowling you hear the story of how Harry Potter was rejected I think twenty-something times before somebody finally took it on. So even though ideally I would have wanted to go through an agent, I didn’t want to wait possibly another two, three, four, or five years before my book was out there. I had already invested so much time into the book that I was like, “no I’m gonna take this on my own.” And by self-publishing I was gonna have full control over my books.

I did the self-publishing route. I did it through a company called Book Baby, and I actually found out about the baby because a former coworker of mine there he had has his e-book published on Book Babies and I just decided to go full speed and self-published.

But the whole process took a long time because just to do the cover, the graphic artist who did my cover we went back and forth and all the revisions took a long time and everything. The whole thing took about a year. And then once I actually got it through Book Babies – got it through the door – it was finally out, I think that took about two months because we went back and forth, too, because you want to make sure everything is perfect – not just the cover, but the manuscript formatting, the chapters, the indentation, the paper thickness of your cover. There’s so many little details that go into it.

Leesa: Through our conversations with these three authors we learned that there are three important factors that can help contribute to successful book publishing:

  • getting over your fear
  • finding a writing schedule,and
  • establishing a network

So, what do you think, Carlos? Now that you know about these three pillars, are you ready to get started on your book?

Carlos: Well, not right away, but at least I feel I have all the right information to get started when I am ready. At the very least, I’m kind of over the fear of getting started, especially after talking to Kendall, Chris and Myra. I know that publishing a book is actually possible.

Leesa: Thank you for listening to episode 2 of OnPoint pod do you have a book idea you’ve always wanted to have published? Or do you want to learn more about the publishing process? We’d love to hear from you. You can email us at podcast@OnPointGlobal.com and connect with us on Instagram at OnPoint Global HQ.

Remember always keep it…

Carlos & Leesa: …ON POINT!