The journey from idea, ‘pen to paper’, to publication.
“You become what you believe, not what you think or what you want”. Oprah Winfrey
The first steps…
Where do I start? This, I believe, is the biggest question, laden with the colours, shapes and shadows that suddenly burst into the foreground of my imagination. Then it came to me: in the spirit of paradox, this is also the simplest, easiest question to answer… just do it!
Yet, stripped back in the expression of this uncluttered assertion another and probably the most significant question is laid bare. Suddenly unveiled, free of the cloaking haze created by racing thoughts or confused hesitancy, procrastination or even ‘good intention’, stark in uncompromising rawness, the REAL question is, “do I absolutely, really want to do it? Do I feel passionate, committed? Do I believe in what I want to do with all my heart, with a level of conviction sufficient to fuel my tenacity during ‘stormy weather’ as no journey is ever filled with perpetual sunshine?”
Juxtaposed, I stood at a crossroads. The opportunity before me may not ever visit again, putting it off until ‘later’ not an option – “if I don’t do it now, I never will”; there is never an absolutely ‘perfect moment’ (falsely fuelling procrastination, deceptively easing the choice to delay), there are always both reasons to do and not to do. My mind and sensibility fused, the answer not purely logical but passionate too. And so it was, balance tipped, I took my leap of faith.
But this was not a blind leap of faith. I carefully evaluated my situation, reviewed and planned my financial position to ensure sufficient funds. I had accumulated years of experiential and academic knowledge (even so, the journey of research and writing the book itself revealed a rich enlightening and deepening learning curve).
I reviewed the books of other authors writing about similar topics, investigated their publishers, other publishers and even considered self-publication (again, the choices seemed overwhelming). In the end I drew up a list of possible publishers based on their compatibility with my subject genre. But first I had to have something tangible, a ‘product’ to gain their interest beyond an idea or imaginative concept. What would my book offer that others did not?
Everything contributes, is significant, to learning and understanding (good, bad, positive, negative, mistakes, successes). Learning is a perpetual process. Experience, knowledge and information form a web, each aspect a delicate thread connecting, contributing and shaping an intricate mutualistic network that captures the conceptual within its tangible form. Each thread significant in its own right but equally existent by virtue of attaching points; subsequently built on and developed from.
My experiential journey, my intellectual understanding, delving and questioning, my encounters with those I have met along my path, the messages they impart (teachers, experts, other authors, the magazine or journal articles read, conversations and deliberation with my peers or the perfect stranger I share a conversation with sat next to me in a cafe or on a train); spun together, each a thread in the web.
Who am I writing for?
My original decision to write was inspired by my clients and students (their enthusiastic, positive response to essential oils, their desire to learn and ‘grow’ their knowledge and understanding), and my own intrigued fascination as I observed the influence essential oils procure.
I work with a range of people in various contexts: as a therapist providing stress reducing treatments, to facilitating the learning of others (lay person, carer, therapist, healthcare professional). Thus, my objective was to create a practical sound foundation of knowledge aimed at the interested user of essential oils, student, and professional healthcare practitioner, on which they could confidently build and develop their knowledge and experience.
I formulated a plan, a ‘map’ of the book, the topics and subject areas, then integrated a time frame, setting targets and goals. I had to ensure I efficiently maximised my ‘window of opportunity’.
My first goal was to produce at least two or three chapters that would demonstrate the content, genre, and my writing style and skills. Even though I had already tested my writing ability through publication in related journals (the critique received from editors enlightening, invaluable, supportive), I was aware that I needed to remain mindful of my books contextual audience.
Every writer has their own style of creative expression, but facts require delivery in universally understood dialogue. So, finding someone who would initially proof-read for me was my next goal (a friend who enjoys reading themselves is a reasonable starting point, although this needs to be done professionally later on). Objective feedback and critique shed light on ‘blind spots’; we all have good and not so good writing habits, and perform better on some days and not so well on others.
The process of writing…
I love writing or, rather, I love words, their ‘colour’, meaning, the pictures and images they create. But, in spite of my comprehension, imagination and verbal fluidity, writing does not come easily to me. Words and images abound in my imagination, my minds-eye, but get distorted in translation from thought to page.
I did not realise I was dyslexic until I was in my forties; I had simply assumed until then that I was not ‘very bright’ academically, especially as I spent a lot of my early years at school in remedial groups because my spelling and writing were ‘behind’. Consequently, I absorbed a sense of being ‘stupid’ or ‘not very clever’ which affected my self confidence, although I did excel with almost exhausting effort toward the end of my schooling.
Objective feedback and critique sheds light on ‘blind spots’; we all have good and not so good writing habits, and perform better on some days and not so well on others.
Aware I must work alongside my dyslexic trait, I compensate by integrating extra time that allows me space; working in ‘bursts’ and stepping away when my brain is saturated. Words pour forth, scatter on the page and I have to re-read, correct and re-correct the order of my words and flow of language, my spelling and grammar erratic; words omitted or repeated twice, letters missed from the beginning, end or middle and often in the wrong order.
I write by virtue of my ‘word processor’; my handwriting, although quite neat initially, quickly deteriorates into illegible scrawl after a few sentences that even I cannot decipher. The effort required to work through this trait exhausts my brain and sometimes I quite literally cannot keep my eyes open and have to sleep, even just for five minutes. In this context, to write a book at all is at one and the same time inspired ambition and a huge challenge.
Being dyslexic does not impede my awareness, imagination or ability to comprehend or communicate, and while translation into coherent sentences is often problematic, it is not impossible: I love writing.
Finding a publisher…
Once the first chapters were complete, reviewing my list of potential publishers, I resumed my search. In view of my dyslexic trait, self-publication did not seem to be a sensible option. However, scrolling the internet, reviewing the choice of publishing companies, their background details and requirements, I again felt overwhelmed. They were all very similar in their requisite of prospective authors (the information they required, the non-committed assertion that a response could take several months and then with only a slight possibility of acceptance), but with little information about the author’s position. When I telephoned to enquire ‘what happens when a manuscript is accepted for publication’, the only answer I received was ‘it depends’, or ‘I will put you through to so-and-so who will answer your query’, and I found myself endlessly dangling ‘on hold’, my questions unanswered
I discovered that many renowned companies, although maintaining their ‘front cover’ identity, have been taken over by one or two very large corporate organisations who generally only accept manuscripts forwarded by an agent.
None of the information I gleaned or responses I received filled me with any confidence. I could not risk sending my precious manuscript to a publisher who would not respond for at least four months, or even longer; especially given, by their own admission, the high possibility of rejection. Neither could I risk, for obvious reasons, sending my manuscript to several publishers at the same time to see who would accept my work. The time, effort, sacrifice and cost could not be justified through such an approach.
I reviewed the list again. Who could I trust, who would nurture and guide my effort, give constructive support and feedback, progress my book from draft to finished book ready for market?
I discovered a small publishing company who appeared, at the time, to ‘tick all the right boxes’. In deed, their exuberant, slightly over-the-top, sales pitch was persuading. They eagerly assured me they possessed the necessary ‘techno geek’ (their term) qualifications and experience to evolve my manuscript from written word to publication format, producing examples of books they had already published, enthusiastically confirming they would be ‘delighted’ to publish my work. Relieved, believing I had ticked the next box, I completed my manuscript.
However, their over-enthusiastic introduction, boasts and assurances of professional skills crumbled to dust amongst the debris of meetings attended but detail not followed through (their dynamic enthusiasm apparently withering, assertions and promises forgotten, on our departure from each other), the deferred meetings, missed deadlines, unanswered emails and phone calls, the long uncomfortable silences. Then, two years from our first meeting, without consultation, contract implied but still unsigned, flouting professional protocol, they published ‘over my head’, incorrectly configuring my work and making numerous errors in the process. Deeply concerned and upset, I withdrew my manuscript from them.
Choosing to believe their zealous rhetoric (without practical substance this is all it was in the end), I ignored the warning signs, and, although I would not have predicted their ultimate audaciousness, like it or not, this experience forms part of my story.
“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new centre of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”
― Oprah Winfrey
Karma is a simple concept or principle, an objective process; cause and effect, we simply reap what we sow. And so it was (and is) for me. Although I do not take responsibility for their behaviour, I do take responsibility for my own. I did keep my end of the bargain and worked diligently to produce and to promote my work to the best of my ability. But, I learned a valuable lesson about the law of attraction and self worth, about not having the courage to ‘speak out’ sooner, to stand up for and believe in the value of my work and effort. I allowed my self-doubt and sense of feeling small to obscure my better judgement.
Let my lesson teach you something about self-worth and the subtlety of collusion.
Good publishers respect their readers as well as their authors and produce books that people want to ‘own’, add to their collection, read and keep to re-read and lend to friends and family.
Dice shaken and thrown, I had landed on the square that sent me back to ‘go’, and so I had to start my search again, this time, though, seeking a publisher ‘I deserve’ and not one ‘good enough for me’. It is true,
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”
― Oprah Winfrey
I signed a contract last July (2017) with Inner Traditions, Bear & Company, a well established professional American publisher with a proven track record for delivering well presented books in my genre, among others (as their catalogue testifies https://www.innertraditions.com/catalog.html). There is no comparison. Their ‘eco-friendly’ stance is grounded within a sound, proficient, thereby sustainable, business model. Extremely efficient and proactive, with clearly defined guidelines and boundaries, there is no ambiguity. Promises are kept, deadlines are met, communication is maintained, the author becomes ‘part of the team’, each an expert in their own field, nothing is progressed without approval. My experience of working with them thus far is extremely positive, and I have absolutely no reason to doubt that it will continue to be so (the adage ‘actions speak louder than words’ echoes in my ears as I make this statement)
The front cover of my book is already designed and appears, along with background details of the content of my book, in the ‘Coming Soon’ section of their new 2018 catalogue (pre-order facility available – http://www.aromantique.co.uk/apply-essential-oils/). My book will be published 6th November 2018 in the USA, and 13th December 2018 in the UK!
The readers experience of a book is as significant as its academic creative content. Good publishers respect their readers as well as their authors and produce books that people want to ‘own’, add to their collection, read and keep to re-read and lend to friends and family.
Getting a book published is not an ‘overnight’ process; patience and tenacity, clearly, are significant requisites. And, while self motivation and a willingness to proactively promote your own work are a ‘must’, a certain degree of humbleness is also required to manage the ‘reality checks’ along the way.
Publishing is not a journey anyone can make entirely alone and synchronising the right support is as significant as writing the book in the first place (among other things, even for those who self publish, finding a good ‘proof- reader’ is an absolute must, everyone has ‘blind spots’). I have learnt so much, and continue to do so, as I travel through the process – the journey of learning and discovery is ongoing.
My leap of faith has brought many challenges but also many pleasant surprises and, as my publishing journey continues to unfold, I am sure there will be many interesting and exciting encounters, learning curves and revelations yet to transpire.
“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” – Khalil Gibran
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