Remember a few days ago when I announced I am a PUBLISHED AUTHOR??
Here’s the thing. Between Each Step has been SEVERAL years in the making, from the time we hiked, to the time I started writing the manuscript, to the time it hit your bookshelf (that’s me happily assuming you’ve pre-ordered it …).
Bottom line, if you want to be an author, you’re in it for the long haul. This post is a reminder (mainly for myself) just how long this book has taken to become a reality.
Justin and I hiked from the top of New Zealand to the bottom, about 2,000 miles, from November 2014 through March 2015. I knew I wanted to write a hiking/travel memoir from the day we stepped foot on the trail.
I spent the better part of 2016 writing the manuscript, starting at a 10-day writing retreat in February and then doing a one-month artist-in-residence program in May. As of May 30, 2016, I had 33,620 words written. I took a bit of a hiatus for a few months, but returned to finish it off at 62,000 words in November.
Writing the manuscript in 8 months was cake walk compared with the rest of the process. In December 2016, I started sending out book proposals—sometimes complete with a book synopsis, chapter summaries, competitive market analysis and a marketing platform, and other times with just a 1-page synopsis and cover letter. Basically, trying to stuff an elephant into a Prius.
Mostly in 2017 and the beginning of 2018, I queried 37 independent publishers. I was pretty pumped about the querying process, convinced and blissful that my manuscript would find a home with a publisher quickly. We even did a Te Araroa Speaking Tour in 2017, thinking a book deal would be right around the corner.
If I could go back in time and burst my own bubble, I would. Because the truth is, the perseverance required in book querying is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration. Sending any beloved manuscript off to publishers usually means you are sending into an infinite black void. By mid 2018, I was burned out on the querying process and remained in a stalled pattern. I understood that it’s very much a hurry up and wait experience, but I was losing hope with every new proposal I sent. I knew I needed time away from it, and turned my focus to other goals and projects. Plus, I was downright busy. In 2019, I half-heartedly sent out a handful of queries (even to 5 agents to try that route).
Overall, I received 20 rejections and 16 publishers straight up ghosted me (meaning I never heard back). And considering publishers pursue less than 1% of submitted work and this was certainly a niche reader segment, I didn’t feel so bad. None of my rejectors said the story wasn’t working. In fact, a lot of them said the opposite, that they loved it. Ultimately, it was a business decision.
I knew there were other publishing paths, like self-publishing. However, I also knew I was too intimidated by self publishing and it was not my jam. I wanted the support and knowledge of an industry professional who could walk me through all those steps that are over my head, like metadata, ISBNs, printing, distribution. Everyone’s publishing journey is unique.
On May 2, 2020, I received an e-mail from Atmosphere Press saying they would like to publish my manuscript. Atmosphere is a hybrid, author-subsidized publishing model. There’s an upfront personal investment, which is prohibitive for some. I justified it for the professional hand-holding I knew I needed. I signed the contract on May 7 and it was full throttle.
Of course I never knew all the behind-the-scenes labors that go into bookmaking, but I learned as I went.
First up, a few rounds of top-quality edits! “Brilliant! Don’t change a thing!” That is NOT what my editor said. At first, I was scared and overwhelmed. I hadn’t read the whole manuscript since 2017!! But after my first meeting with my Atmosphere editor, I was stoked. He asked me to dig deep and work on the narrative arc, especially the part about how I changed on the trail. I spent a good 3 weeks in June unfolding more of the story. Thankfully, the golf course was open then, so I had a lot of quiet solo writing time in our cabin … I ended up adding nearly 2500 words! And I’m really proud of how it turned out.
Designing the book cover was next. That was fun!! I mean, I didn’t do the actual hard work of the design, I just directed the ideas. And I’m in love with the cover.
Finalizing the interior was painstaking. Seriously, if I had to read my book one more time, I was going to poke my eyes out. By the end of the process, I was so familiar with the text, I could hardly register what I was reading. On the other hand, it is crazy to be told, “this is your LAST chance to review the pages and details.” That’ll shake your attention!
So here we are. I couldn’t be happier with my publisher and the process thus far. Some things truly are worth the wait. It took me 8 months to write the book, it’s only natural I had to wait nearly 4 years to publish it, right?
I am ready (I think) to release my book into the world.