So, one of the main questions I’ve gotten lately has been, “How did you get your book deal?” or “Why did you write your book?” and especially “How did you find time to write your book?”
There are many parallels between getting a book contract and getting a job, so I thought I’d share what I did here.
1. First, I got inspired to write a book. I had been thinking about writing a book for a long time, and my dad is a publisher author so it wasn’t a foreign concept to me. I went to a conference of Career Directors International, where by chance I met Jason Alba, creator of JibberJobber.com, and got his business card. I followed up to learn more about JibberJobber, and he called me to say, “You Should Write a Book!” I immediately said to myself, “You know, he’s right!” I had been thinking of writing a book for a long time, and had even submitted a proposal for a book about internships to a publishing company but never heard back and had gotten discouraged. Jason inspired me to give it another try.
2. After inspiration came hard work. I wrote up a proposal for a book and sent it to Jason’s publishing company, but I realized that his particular publishing company wouldn’t be quite the right fit for me. So I sat on the proposal for a while and eventually realized I should do something with it.
3. I researched publishers in the field. I went to the library and looked at all the books I really admired in the career category, and wrote down the names of all the publishers. Then I looked them up in the Writer’s Market to see if they accepted unsolicited proposals (I didn’t have an agent and didn’t know how to get one). I kept seeing JIST Publishing on my list as a publisher of books I really liked.
4. I used Linkedin.com. I looked through my contacts to see if I knew anyone who knew someone at JIST, and lo and behold Kathryn Troutman knew an editor there. I got her to introduce me, and she asked for my proposal.
5. I tweaked my proposal so that it fit with JIST’s requirements, and did a lot more research on other books in the public service career field, spelling out why my book would be better and different, what it would cover, and who would be likely to buy it. Eventually, the book was accepted.
6. I then negotiated the contract. As a job search coach, I knew there must be parts of the contract I should negotiate, but I knew almost nothing about the publishing industry so I didn’t know what to ask for. In addition to asking my writer friends Carol Pinchefsky and Jessica Trupin about it, I also took a fantastic seminar by Wendy Enelow on the Author Advantage. Because of this seminar, I successfully negotiated a couple of parts of the contract and then–gasp!–I had to write the thing!
7. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I had only four months to write my book, and wanted to do the absolutely best job possible. I did a ton of research and used all the information I already knew from being a career counselor for 12 years. Some sections almost wrote themselves, and others were like pulling teeth to write.
I never wrote my book while at my job, but I wrote it every day on the way to and from work on the bus. In fact, I can thank the King County Metro Transit System for my book! As someone who lived in NYC for 13 years, I like public transit and am a dedicated, almost die hard transit rider. I had a half hour to forty-five minute commute each way to work and back, and got on the bus early on in the route so I could grab the best seat for myself and my laptop. I downloaded information onto the laptop at night and read and wrote each day on the bus. When I got home, I would write late into the night many nights, and I wrote every single weekend, nearly all weekend. My husband was very patient with me. It also didn’t hurt that I can type 150 words per minute or so. And having a deadline staring me in the face was extremely motivating. I was between 3 and 7 months pregnant at the time… so I had a few big deadlines staring me in the face and it was somehow nice to be distracted from the even scarier deadline of going into labor…
And as I’ve re-discovered since having the baby, I can function pretty well on a lot less sleep than I had thought possible.
8. I tracked my own progress. Each day, I would track in an Excel file all the to-do items for the book, and I would also keep track of my word counts for each chapter. Seeing the words add up made me feel like I was accomplishing something–and it was also good to know when I had gone overboard. At one point I was up to 400 pages worth of content and had to cut 100 pages out of the book to fit the page number needed!
9. I got others to help me. I also got several fantastic people to volunteer to review sections of my book, as well as to write their own career profiles for the book so I wouldn’t have to do interviews and transcribe them. I also got some people to allow me to use their resumes and cover letters as anonymous samples for the book.
10. I publicized the book. After the book came out, it’s all just been about publicity, writing blog posts, reaching out to media outlets, and continually networking to publicize the book. My publicist at JIST, Selena Dehne, is awesome. It’s been a lot of fun. When people ask me if I plan to write another book, though, I tell them it’s a little like asking if I’m planning to have another baby…too much hard work to imagine at the moment!
So that’s it. If you are looking for a job, I’m sure you can follow all the same steps to success.
Get inspired. Do the work. Do the research. Network. Tailor your application. Negotiate the terms. Do the work, again! Ask for help. Track your progress. And when you’re done, promote your own success!