On Writing a Book (Part 1: Getting a Book Deal)

On getting a book deal www.abeautifulmess.comSometimes people ask something along the lines of, "How'd you get a book deal?" And although we aren't experts we do have our first book coming out August 13th and we'd love to share our story with you.

Elsie and I started dreaming about writing books together probably about two weeks after we began working in our local shop every day. When we are together for long periods of time we usually start dreaming. We've been that way since we were kids. And, like most dreams, this one felt completely unattainable. In our minds it MIGHT be possible to get a book deal SOME day. Maybe. If we were lucky. I think actually trying for the things you want in life is often the biggest and scariest step of any journey.

We wanted to do a DIY inspired entertaining book. Throwing parties is so fun and fun to photograph plus it fits in well with our interest (crafts, decorating, and recipe creation). We made, what we thought, was  an awesome book proposal. We dreamed of pitching it. We sent a proposal out to a publisher we loved. We received NO response. In fact, the only real feedback we ever heard about that book idea was "entertaining is a dead category" in the publishing world. That was discouraging. We had put our hearts into that idea, not to mention hours upon hours of work, other resources, and we'd even hired  a photographer to shoot the concept. It all felt like such a waste of time.

As luck would have it an editor contacted Elsie. She seemed legit, she was from a big publishing house in NYC. She wasn't interested in doing an entertaining book though, or a craft book, or really any book idea we had been dreaming about. She wanted to do a self-portrait book, tips and tricks for taking your best self portrait. She had been researching self portraits on the Internet and found an old blog post Elsie had written. She liked it, so she called us just to discuss. She was very kind, complimentary and willing to work with us as first time authors who really knew nothing about the book publishing world. I remember we thought the concept of doing an entire book based on self portraits sounded really hard because it was such a limited concept. A whole book of photos of just usβ€”would anyone buy that outside of our mom? But this was our chance to get our foot in the door of the publishing world so we kept a conversation going.

Around the same time a literary agent (also from NYC) contacted us coincidently enough. I remember we talked on the phone with her for the first time while we were out Christmas shopping one day. Lindsay seemed really cool, and we could tell she had read through our blog and knew a little about us. She asked to read through some of our e-courses so we sent them to her. We talked a few more times via email and over the phone, and it just felt like a good fit. She then started joining in the talks with Julie, the editor we'd been talking to.

This was all really exciting, but talking to people on the phone isn't exactly a book deal. We didn't know if a contract was going to come out of all this, but we, of course, got our hopes up and started dreaming up the best possible self portrait book we could imagine. And we waited to hear what would come of it all. We kept working at our shop, and we kept blogging. We just kept doing what we had been doing and just hoping the phone would ring. Even if we didn't end up getting a book deal out of all this, we felt like our new relationship with Lindsay, our agent, had been a positive step in the right direction.

We always worked until 7pm (when our shop closed), and I often had to bake for the sweet shoppe afterwards (the commercial kitchen space I rented only allowed for me to bake late at night). One night, after getting home around 10pm or so I saw I had a missed call from Lindsay. I actually saw it before I left the kitchen, but I didn't listen to it until I got home. The whole drive home I felt nervous and was already trying to talk myself out of being sad if things didn't go our way. In her voicemail Lindsay sounded upbeat, and she said that she would be sending over an email later with all the details but that we got it. We had a book deal! Not only were we signed on to do a photography book but our contract would also get us a second book that we and our publishers could decide on the topic at a later date. And just like that we had a two-book deal with Random House. We were going to be authors! I kind of wondered as I listened to her message that night how often Lindsay gets to tell first-time authors they just landed their first book deal. It must be one of the best parts of the job. The next day, while we were still at the shop, Elsie and I had a short phone meeting with her to go over the contract and connect about the whole deal. We couldn't believe we were going to get to write TWO books.

Soon our photography book concept changed, and they wanted a lifestyle photography book, rather than just a book on self portraits (YES!). This proved to be an even stronger concept for us. We love snapping photos of our lives, so sharing tips and tricks we've learned over the years was a dream come true. Even though we had never dreamed of writing a photography book, it actually felt like the perfect fit.A Beautiful Mess book deal storyA few things we learned from getting our book deal:

1. Dare to dream. Writing a book is just like any other dream you might have right now. It feels crazy out of reach! Just keep dreaming anyway. That's where it all begins.

2. Take small steps toward your goals. We wanted to write a book one day. Big dream. In the meantime we did our best to write quality blog posts and e-courses that we published and shared. It was a blog post that lead our editor to discover us. It was our blog and our e-courses that got our agent interested in our work. We probably wouldn't have a book deal today if we hadn't already been writing and publishing work while we were dreaming about being authors!

3. Be flexible. We wanted to do an entertaining book. No one wanted to publish that at the time (maybe someday!). Our first idea wasn't to do a self-portrait book. But we felt we could take that concept and do a really good job, so we accepted the project. There are times when you have to flexible. There are also times when you have to stand up for your ideasβ€”don't get me wrong. But when you are starting out or working with people more experienced than you, it's a good idea to listen and see where you can fit in, not make demands. We've learned so much from our publisher and agent over the past few years. Their experience is the best crash course in publishing we could have ever received! 

Thanks for letting us share our book deal story with you. Next up we'd like to share more about what it was like writing our first book. Let us know if you have any questions. xo. Emma (and Elsie too)

*First photo by Arrow & Apple

  • You two are such an inspiration! You just gotta dream and work hard to make it comes true.

    I am so excited for your book to come out next month! Keep being wonderful!

    XOXOXOX
    Annie

  • thanks so much for sharing the story of your book deal! can’t wait for the post about what writing the book was like. dreams becoming reality.. i’m majorly inspired!

  • That is so exciting! I’m totally jealous. But thanks for sharing the journey, it sounds exciting and nerve wracking. It would be so exciting to tell new authors they got a book deal! But I think even more fun to accept it πŸ™‚

  • Thanks for sharing your experience, this is such a helpful information. Since some year now I am also dreaming about writing a book, I have even a clear idea of what I want to say in it. May be I need to do the next step now πŸ™‚

    XX Luba

    DonΒ΄t miss today my look with cropped top and boyfriend jeans
    http://www.well-living-blog.com

  • Congratulations ladies!! Thanks for sharing your story. I can’t wait for the book to come out. You two are such an inspiration.

    I’d love to publish a book one day. Either as a photography project, or a novel (I secretly, or not so secretly, think I could write the next great young adult novel.. haha). Just a crazy dream I’ve always had – but hey maybe with some hard work it will come true πŸ™‚

    Alex from http://www.polkadottedpixels.com

  • thanks for sharing with us. Great post! Could you self publish the book you dream of and sell through your site?

    Sometimes when I wonder what I’m achieving in life I focus on accomplishing something ever 3 months, be it photography, crafting, learning something new, hula hoop etc. Sometimes it is a struggle to survive but I always want to move forward, and remember what I have achieved. Like you quoted in an old interview (I just listened to recently) “What doesn’t get done doesn’t need to get done”.

    Barnicles
    xx

  • I’m so happy for you both. It’s such an incredible journey and I can’t wait for my (preordered!) book to arrive πŸ™‚

  • LOVE! I am so excited for this. I cant wait to be able to pick up a copy πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your dreams, and this exciting adventure!

  • You guys are so beautiful & creative! I love it. Congratulations. I’m going to dare to dream! Wish me luck πŸ™‚

  • I got a little teary reading your post, so great to hear that your dream of writing a book is coming true. Congratulations!Can’t wait to buy it x

  • That’s awesome! Thank you for sharing this. You guys deserve this!! I can’t wait for it to come in the mail to me πŸ™‚ I already pre-ordered it from Amazon πŸ™‚

  • I love hearing this story of yours! It’s encouraging. πŸ™‚ I’ve been meaning to propose something for a while, but have never taken the time to sit down and actually develop something enough to send it in – it’s totally scary. But I hope that dreaming about it sends good vibes out into the world and one day I can get her proposed, at least! lol. Congrats, ladies!

  • You know one of the best things I love about your blog? That you *still* blog. I’ve stopped following sooo many blogs because as soon the blogger gets a book deal, or gets a TV appearance or has some amazing stuff happen, posts are few and far between and the content isn’t as authentic. They’re busy being successful, I totally get that, but they’ve forgotten how they connected with people in the first place: their blog. But you guys, gosh! You have new posts *every* stinking day, and I do not know how you do it all. You have great people in your life that help I guess! But thank you guys, for being consistent, because I visit this blog daily to check things out and I appreciate you staying true to your roots πŸ™‚

  • thanks for the tips. i think they can be used towards other things like working on this blog or learning how to cook. its a great reminder of how to approach those big dreams you can’t even imagine will happen. thank you!!!

  • You know what is the best about this? I honestly just assumed you were offered a million book deals and had people clamoring over you to sign you. I’d have never guessed this is how it came to be. Isn’t the possibility that we can literally do anything just the best?

  • Can’t wait for the release date! I would really like to know how you guys went about organizing all of your ideas for the content of the book. Sometimes the hardest part about getting started on a new project is organizing everything that you want to do, so I would really like to know how you guys organized all of your ideas/inspiration without getting too overwhelmed. Thanks!

  • I have been rooting for “A Beautiful Mess” book for years!! So excited I get to see & hold TWO of them soon πŸ™‚
    Sarah M

  • Thanks so much for sharing your book journey with us! I can’t wait to read it!

    I’m almost done with my first book and am submitting a proposal VERY soon! Fingers crossed!

  • I’ve been one of those lucky people who get to hear they have a book deal too. It’s an incredible (and super scary) feeling. I can only imagine how hard you ladies had to work to make not only a book, but blog everyday and make an app too. Whew! It’s so much work, congrats!! Can not wait to see your book. I know it will be so successful too!

  • Thank you for this. So often, when I see people succeed, I sense that they want to hold the secret to their success close. Maybe they’re fearful someone may hone in on it….take it away somehow…. or give them more competition. So it’s very nice when someone takes the time to spell it out for us. Thanks for sharing and congratulations.

  • Thanks for sharing this post! Definitely going to be my favorite lesson.

    Dare to dream, do small steps, and be flexible. Noted.

  • Although I don’t dream of writing a book one day, this was definitely inspiring and it was such a pleasure reading about your journey. I’m sure you’ll inspire hundreds if not thousands of people to get going with their dreams and do what they like! Thank you for being incredible people and congrats on your first book. <3

  • Man, what an awesome story. And the list of things you learned in the process… so wonderful. Bravo, ladies!
    p.s. I think you could get them to consider a cocktail book full of drink recipes from your Namesake cocktails. I’d buy it.

  • Great tips!
    I have also just published my first book (young adult fantasy novel), doesn’t it feel insanely awesome? πŸ˜€
    Just one more tip:
    4. Work hard. Hard work doing what you like best will pay off. Whatever dream that lands at your door without effort, may not be a dream at all.
    πŸ™‚

  • I loved this post! I have wondered how you guys managed to publish it, now I have my answer. Looking forward to reading more information about this topic. Congrats gals! πŸ˜‰

  • How exciting! I am already preordered and SO excited to receive my copy in the mail! So I have to ask, does this mean there might be an entertaining e-course in the works? I would love to see that (and would totally buy that book too… SO not dead to me πŸ™‚

  • Thank you for this great, upbeat post! I appreciate your honesty about feeling like you don’t know what you were doing…sometimes the pressure to “fake it until you make it” can be overwhelming! Still, though, you’re right – you have to do the work BEFORE you get the deal. Excellent motivation to keep writing!

  • Ugh, ladies, this is all so exciting! A blogging app, a book…you two are on FIRE! I’m so inspired by you both. πŸ™‚

  • What a lovely story, I guess I will keep on dreaming! Congratulations guys! I love how open and honest you are on your blog. The book really does look fantastic, I can’t wait to get one.

    Love Nikki

  • A big congratulations on the book deal & fulfilling that dream! I can’t wait to see it in stores. As a new blogger, its truly inspiring to see just how far you’ve come. πŸ™‚
    xo kristen genevieve

    sunnywithachanceoflemons.blogspot.com

  • Can’t wait for your book to arrive and big congrats on making your dream happen! I loved reading about your process so thanks for sharing.

  • How awesome! Long time reader of this blog and it’s been so nice to see you guys do well!
    Just curious, about how long did the whole process take, between being contacted by a publisher to the end product?

  • your journey is always so inspiring to hear. thank you, for always sharing and reminding me to always dream big + work hard. – excited for the new book! πŸ™‚

  • What a great story. The post about how your blog grew has just inspired me so much lately. I love the baby steps that you show and photos of each phase.

  • Perhaps you have forgotten your 52 challenges book? I love that thing still do its the only scrap booking book I still use

  • I love when you write posts like that. Seeing the frustrations, the successes, all the ups and downs that happen behind the scenes adds to my feeling of inspiration when reading about you achieving your dreams. It’s easy to forget that your successes don’t come any easier than anyone else’s – simply because we don’t see the set backs and failures. It’s a good reminder that success comes from hard work, determination, and learning from your mistakes.

  • Thanks for sharing, this is very inspiring! I’ve always dreamed of writing a children’s book and often think this dream is to big. After reading this, I will keep dreaming and writing, hopefully one day my book will be published and hopely it will be good enough to be translated in English πŸ˜‰

    Keep up the good work, I admire your work.

    Greetings from Holland/ The Netherlands,
    Sora

    soralabelle.wordpress.com

  • I love these kinds of stories, and if you ever do end up making a DIY entertaining book, I would love to buy it!

  • So happy for you!!! You are an inspiration! Can’t wait to have your book!!! πŸ˜€

  • I love reading about your journey through life! Thank you for sharing your story. I hope someday you do get to do that entertaining book πŸ™‚

  • Congrats girls! It’s so cool that you are accomplishing this together. What a special relationship. You remind me of my sister and me. We worked together in college for a producer in LA and those are some of my best memories ever. Success is not without hard work and lots of it. Continued success to both of you!

  • these are great tips, and that you for sharing. as someone who is just attempting to get a blog off the ground, i am trying to dream big, but plan small…as in plan week to week, so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. i really look forward to this book!

  • This should be renamed “how to write a popular blog and get a book deal based on that.”

  • Such an informative & inspiring post!
    I’ve recently been thinking about the idea of creating a book one day myself so its really lovely to read about your journey x

  • I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book when it’s out! This looks so awesome πŸ™‚

  • Congratulations to the both of you! Thanks for sharing your journey and what you’ve learned along the way. It’s encouraging to see that working hard and staying faithful pays off! All the best and I will be purchasing your book!

  • This is a brilliant story and (as cheesy as it sounds!) a real inspiration to aspiring bloggers/authors/photographers/artists/anyone out there! πŸ™‚ I’ve just started a blog myself in a pretty niche area (craft projects for men…) so it’s definitely refreshing and exciting to hear how you guys have a achieved such success through persistent hard work and motivation. Well done! I can’t wait to read the book! πŸ™‚
    -Mike (the Crafty Gentleman blog).

    http://www.thecraftygentleman.wordpress.com

  • I love your “behind the scenes” stories! If you do have a future opportunity, I would LOVE to see a DIY or entertaining book filled with your creativity!

  • Very cool. Love it when good things come together for good people! Can’t wait to read the next post about it!

  • This blog is gorgeous! I am in the process of putting together a vintage, Southern, fashion, design and style blog, and appreciate this, as well as all your other fabulous posts!

    Thanks so much!

  • Ohhh! How exciting! Can’t wait to get my hands on it πŸ™‚ Well done on all the hard work…you deserve your success!!

  • As an aspiring author, this was such a fascinating post, thanks so much for sharing it.
    I can’t wait for the next part!

  • Congratulations girls!
    Thanks for sharing your story with us. It’s inspirational, especially for those of us who dream of a book deal.
    Keep up the good work!