Recently, people have been asking about my journey to becoming an author. So, I thought I’d dedicate this post to sharing the rocky but exhilarating road I’ve travelled in order to see a book with my name on the cover distributed all across the country on March 19, 2019.
It took five years (feels more like a lifetime) to strong-arm this crazy dream into reality. However, even in the midst of literary agents ignoring me, publishers rejecting my work and blank pages making me shake in my sleep, I found myself irrationally energized to keep going.
Each time I was defeated, I put that disappointment into a blender and transformed it into motivation. It’s a skillset I developed and honed over time – not because I’m super human, but because I don’t like to lose.
It hurts my fragile ego.
Also, because throughout this process, I believed in my soul that I had a message to share with mothers that would help turn their self-doubt into strength; I would stop at nothing to get this much-needed relief out in the world. Not to shine a spotlight on myself, but to transfer healing to other women.
So, here we go. Five defining moments on this monumental journey.
1. CONVINCING MYSELF I COULD DO IT.
From 2011 – 2013, I began flirting with the idea of writing a book. I was already running The Mom Complex and regularly conducting research with mothers, but I wasn’t sure I could do it. It sounded hard, I didn’t see myself as a writer, and I didn’t think I was smart enough to do it.
I can barely spell, for God’s sake.
However, the tides turned in May of 2013, after I made the decision to leave my advertising career, become an entrepreneur and take The Mom Complex out on my own. The belief that I could be a business owner – something I was also terrified of trying – bolstered my confidence to figure out how to write a book.
A few months later, on a Tuesday afternoon while on board a flight from Richmond to Atlanta, I typed out the cover page and turned my fear and hesitation into momentum.
2. DEALING WITH REJECTION
It took me over a year to craft a book proposal that combined my research on the self-defeating tendencies of mothers with my personal experience of feeling less-than-good-enough for the majority of my life.
The pressure was on because non-fiction titles sell to publishers on 50+ page proposals, not the full manuscript. In other words, the proposal is everything.
It was hard but exciting work. What was even harder, however, was landing a literary agent – a necessity for selling a book proposal to a major publisher. After getting rejected, dismissed or ignored by every agent I reached out to, I eventually landed a literary agent in LA who was a friend of a friend.
His endorsement was a sign that someone in the industry also thought I could write a book – it was no longer my own blind ambition leading the charge.
We were off to the races, and by races, I mean a fast sprint to lots of rejection. My agent shopped the proposal around to 12 publishers and every single one said no. The proposal wasn’t unique enough in the mom space. They’d heard it all before.
Determined more than ever before, I spent the next six months absorbing feedback, re-working the proposal and submitting the improved version to 11 new publishers. They all said no too. That’s right. Rejected 23 times.
Without direct access to the publishers (to wow them in person), I had to allow the words in my proposal to stand on their own and I was growing concerned that my words weren’t good enough. That I wasn’t good enough.
I’m not going to lie and say I pulled myself out of this pity party alone because I didn’t. I relied on the strength of my team at work who knew the power of this platform, the depths of my disappointment and how to cheer me up.
3. STARTING OVER FROM SCRATCH
I took six months off from writing, kept working my day job at The Mom Complex and chose to believe that the stars would align at the right time to help me find a different path to getting a new proposal back to the same publishers.
Eventually, I got the break I needed when my friend Kate introduced me to Kristina – a badass mom editor and author in NYC who helped me land an A-list agent who had tons of connections and a track record for taking book proposals to the next level.
New agent. New day. Let’s do this.
But my new path quickly became filled with doubt and fear when during our first meeting, my new agent suggested that maybe my first book should just be an anthology: a collection of essays from other mothers. In other words, I was advised to use the words of other women instead of my own.
I immediately started sweating. Not sure of what to do next, I excused myself to the bathroom, splashed water on my face (and under my arms), took five deep breaths and returned to his office and stood my ground.
In the middle of a conference room overlooking all of Manhattan, I told him that I had a powerful message to share, much of it personal to my own experience, and I was confident I could turn around a one-page proposal outline that would prove to him I was worthy of writing my own book.
That last part was a lie. Right after the meeting, I boarded a train back to Richmond and cried the entire way home.
Terrified that I couldn’t deliver on my promise, I called friends for reinforcement. Earl, my former boss, reminded me that I’d overcome greater challenges in the past and Lauren, my business partner, pointed out the positive response I’d recently received about my blog. She also reminded me to put on my sunglasses when crying in public. #goodpoint
4. THE THEME THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
With my editor Kristina’s help, I put together the one-page outline I’d promised and held my breath as my agent reviewed it. “Please, God, no anthology,” I begged.
My prayers were answered when he not only liked the themes in the new outline, but matched and raised them by suggesting the dragon slaying theme that changed everything.
It was his idea to personify the self-doubt living inside millions of mothers as a fire-breathing dragon that inhales in everything we do wrong and nothing we do right and blows it back in our faces. Wow.
And this, my friends, is when the tears really rained down. I boarded a plane shortly after getting his text about slaying dragons and cried like I’ve never cried before, at 50,000 feet, all the way across the country.
Everything suddenly made sense. I knew how to write the book, who I would dedicate it to and how heroic it would make women feel. It was time to take the struggles of women everywhere from quiet and embarrassing to brave and bold.
5. SEALING THE DEAL
With new-found wind in my sails, I spent the next six months putting together a stellar book proposal about slaying the self-sabotaging beast (of self-doubt) that lives inside mothers everywhere.
My agent shopped the new proposal around and landed multiple offers for it – putting me in the unbelievably blessed position to choose the publisher I wanted to work with.
To everyone’s surprise, and against the advice of many, I went with the publisher who offered less money but more vision, love and support for my platform. I left money on the table in favor of girl-power and chemistry.
As many of you know, money is not a motivating force in my life. I’ve never believed that bigger is better. I’ve never believed that more money is better. This book deal was no different.
Getting a major book deal with a top 10 publisher made my head spin. To be honest, some days it still doesn’t feel real.
But it is real. And it’s the result of fighting against the odds, never giving up and running with any and every opportunity that came my way. And now, it’s no longer a solo mission, there’s an entire company poised to put this book in a position to change peoples lives.
What I have to say is powerful, I know this to be true. I hear it from women all the time. But this message would never have had the opportunity to change the world if it stayed in a word document on my computer.
The actual writing of the book (which only took seven months compared to the four years it took to land a publisher) is a story for another day and also, of course, includes a lot of crying.
But for now, I’ll express my undying gratitude to all the team members, milestones and hard work that helped turn this crazy dream and into greatest reality I’ve ever known.