The journey from idea, ‘pen to paper’, to publication.
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 – this one question, holding all questions, that renders my mind instantly, paradoxically blank! Fused by my sudden sense of feeling overwhelmed, momentarily paralysed, the kaleidoscopic scene of option and possibility plays before my minds-eye. Then it comes 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).
Then it comes to me: in the spirit of paradox, this is also the simplest, easiest question to answer… just do it!
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, 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, 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). My objective was to create a sound foundation of knowledge aimed at the interested user of essential oils, student, and professional healthcare practitioner.
I formulated a plan, a ‘map’ of the book, the topics and subject areasand integrated a time frame with targets and goals. I needed 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 style, my writing skills. Even though I had already tested my writing ability through publication in related journals (the critique received from editors enlightening, invaluable, supportive), it is necessary to be mindful of the contextual audience; every writer has their own style of creative expression, but facts require delivery in universally understood dialogue. 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.
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 sensible. However, scrolling the internet and reviewing the options and requirements of the various publishing companies, 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), with no other 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’.
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.
I discovered that many renowned companies 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 was about to encounter my first huge learning curve, one that would cost me dearly and cause me so much distress, yet also, paradoxically, would provide incredible, if painful, insight. Karma is a simple concept or principle, an objective process; cause and effect, we simply reap what we sow. I allowed my lack of self confidence and belief, my sense of feeling small, insignificant and overwhelmed to obscure my judgement, to skew my lens. I played safe.
Thus, I initially selected a small, local publisher, whose warm, friendly banta implied they ‘ticked all the right boxes’. They enthusiastically confirmed they would be ‘delighted’ to publish my work. Relieved, I completed my manuscript. However, their glossy ‘front cover’ which deceptively promised so much, once turned, in reality revealed an empty vacuum, devoid of oxygen breathing life into words. Pseudo publishers, their over-exuberant introduction, boasts and assurances of professional skills crumbled to dust amongst the debris of deferred meetings, missed deadlines, unanswered emails and phone calls, long silences, meetings attended but detail not followed through, dynamic enthusiasm withered and apparently forgotten on departure, changes made but not discussed. A protracted two years from our first meeting, contract implied but unsigned, editing and final proof-read by-passed, my manuscript, inappropriately and wrongly configured, was illegally hastily published ‘over my head’ without my consent or knowledge – I was informed after the fact! Begrudged correction, for which I was charged a further fee, did not go far enough. I withdrew my book from them. We parted company. I had never experienced this kind of unprofessional behaviour before in my academic experience (hence it took me ‘off guard’) and I have never encountered it since. But it is, none-the-less, part of my ‘story’. I learned a valuable lesson about the law of attraction and self worth, about having the courage to ‘speak out’ and stand up for and believe in the value of my work, my self worth.
I have since signed a contract 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. There is no comparison. They are very efficient and proactive. They provide and communicate clear guidelines about their process and procedures, which they adhere to, thus avoiding any ambiguity. As soon as we signed our contract with each other, they provided me with a ‘publication steps and stages timeline’ that enables me to track progress and know exactly what to expect. The front cover is already designed and appears this month, along with background details of the content of my book, in their new 2018 catalogue. My book will be published in November 2018.
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’).
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, revelations and developments yet to transpire.
Meanwhile, far from being over, my journey continues, my story unfolds as I turn the pages…
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