I wrote a book. Though the information in this sentence isn’t necessarily news to many people in my life, it’s the tense that has recently changed. I wrote a book. Done. Did that. After three years, two moves, three jobs, finishing grad school, falling in love, getting engaged and 102,615 words, I hit save on a full draft of my book, Swedish Lessons, just over a month ago.
It felt amazing. There was rejoicing, celebratory dining, glass clinking and the like. Sure there would still be editing to do, sure I’d still need to figure out how to publish it, but the writing part was finally done.
Once the celebrating subsided, I giddily went to my bookshelf where I’d been keeping an unread issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine that I’d bought more than a year ago. The entire issue was on getting your memoir published, and since I needed that information but a loathe to prepare for anything too far in advance, I bought it and let it sit there until needed. I poured through it. I learned that I should probably begin by finding an agent, and then found the agent that seemed right for me. What would she want from me? A book proposal.
Cool. What does that entail? This was the most depressing Google search I’ve ever done. A book proposal, it turns out, is basically a book about your book. Yup. I’ll need to pitch the book, then pitch myself, then pitch how I’m going to sell my book and then who is going to buy it. That’s just the beginning part. It should include sample chapters, which will be easy enough, but it also must include a summary. Not a page summary, but closer to one line of text per page of the book. Did I mention that I wrote 102,615 words? At 250 words and 25 lines per page, that’s a 16-page summary – in addition to all the other parts of the dang proposal.
I’m sorry – what? I just finished a stinking book. It took all the energy and sweat and heart I had available. It had to, right? That’s what it takes to do something well. You leave it all out I the floor. You give 110%. You exemplify every sports cliche you’ve had the displeasure of knowing. Finding out that there is a whole other project to be fed from the same wellspring of inspiration, well…it was an exhausting realization.
Do I have a whole proposal left in me? I was prepared for queries. I was prepared to format sample chapters and desperately try to pitch myself to intimidating strangers, but I wasn’t prepared to begin a new writing endeavor as a sub-project of this ginormous one.
Learning about the book proposal overwhelmed me in a familiar way. It wasn’t unlike how I felt more than a year ago when I read that the most important thing when pitching a book is to already have a “platform” as an author. This means you need to have an audience. Before you’ve published anything. Because that make sense.
The best way to do this, I’d also read, was to blog. So last summer I begrudgingly started a blog. I had no real direction. It actually started with a rant about how ridiculous it was to write a blog about nothing when no one was listening, but I supposed I had to, so here I go.
Now, my blog is well underway. In act, I have have two blogs, one of which is being written about soon in the Lansing State Journal (exciting, right?). I’m the news editor for a widely read publication in Lansing. I also contribute to publications in Detroit and Ann Arbor – where I’ve been on local talk radio twice to talk about my work – and have professional connections in the Flint area. Without realizing how it happened, I built a writers platform. Albiet a small one, but an OK start considering a year ago, the concept seemed insane. Just like conjuring up the gumption to write a book proposal does now.
And so, I must believe I can do it. It turns out that doing what seems impossible is a matter of making a plan and taking things one step at a time. It took me three years to write this book. It’s an important story to me and it’s one I’m proud to tell. So I guess I’m going to write a book proposal to get it sold. Because I just wrote a book. What can’t I do now?