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 us—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 ideas—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

  • 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!

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

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

  • This is super interesting! Can’t wait to read more and later, see the finished product!

  • Congrats girls on such an amazing opportunity! You both are such an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your story!
    www.alwaysfashiongirl.com

  • 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!

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

  • Can’t wait to read more on the book writing journey! Dare to dream big, take action and be flexible… sounds like an awesome inspiration! 🙂 xx

    http://www.kaisaphoto.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!

  • This is a brilliant story and (as cheesy as it sounds!) a real inspiration to aspiring bloggers/authors/photographers/artists/anyone out there! 🙂 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! 🙂
    -Mike (the Crafty Gentleman blog).

    www.thecraftygentleman.wordpress.com

  • 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!

  • I found a craft book of yours on Amazon:

    52 Scrapbooking Challenges

    I was surprised to see it lol!

    http://www.amazon.com/Elsie-Flannigan/e/B001K7L3RG/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

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

  • 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

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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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 🙂

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

  • wow really great that you have achieved so much for yourselves 🙂

    xx

    http://fairygobmother.blogspot.co.uk/

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

  • 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 😉

    Keep up the good work, I admire your work.

    Greetings from Holland/ The Netherlands,
    Sora

    soralabelle.wordpress.com

  • Loved this post! Great tips and very inspiring. I can’t wait to grab a copy of your book!
    Nicole
    www.younglovestyle.blogspot.com

  • 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.

  • Great story! Congrats ladies- you deserve it!

    Xo
    Dana Ivy
    www.iadorewhatilove.com – Check out my blog!!

  • Great story- Congrats, lady! You deserve it!

    Xo
    Dana Ivy
    www.iadorewhatilove.com – Check out my blog!!

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

  • 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.

  • 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! 🙂

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Thank you for sharing your tips! I’ve been working on a book for awhile, and these will be great reminders. 🙂

  • 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. 🙂
    xo kristen genevieve

    sunnywithachanceoflemons.blogspot.com

  • Congrats! Already pre-ordered the book and so excited to get my hands on it!

    xo
    Diana
    http://unusuallylovely.com

  • 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

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

  • Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us! It’s very inspiring. I like your final piece of advice.

    http://www.fullbellywornsoles.com

  • 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!

  • 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 🙂

  • sooo excited to see this book in print. proud of you girls!

  • Those were really wonderful tips! Thank you for always being an inspiration to many Elsie and Emma!

    http://annescribblesanddoodles.blogspot.com/

  • 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! 😉

  • Thanks so much for sharing your journey to getting your book published – how exciting! Your entertaining book idea sounds great too – could you maybe self-publish it instead??

    http://atadbitcreative.com/

  • You guys are so right. This is such an amazing guide you guys are fab!

    http://talisatalksbeauty.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/betrousse-glitz-and-glamour-beauty-box.html

  • 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

  • Love the volume of your hair Elsie!

    Thanks for sharing this, it will encourage people to write

  • Great tips!
    I have also just published my first book (young adult fantasy novel), doesn’t it feel insanely awesome? 😀
    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.
    🙂

  • great tips as always!

    Valentina
    http://valentinaduracinsky.blogspot.com/

  • 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.

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

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

  • This is so helpful! Thank you! My husband has a dream to publish his children’s book someday and I keep encouraging him because it’s so great. Stories like yours are so inspiring! A glimpse of his book is here if you want to take a peek 🙂 http://www.jumpstartcity.com/events/big-chicken

  • 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.

  • 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!

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

  • Your blog is being one of the most followed the U.S. in an Italian ranks
    See all about in the link below
    http://www.lescahiersfm.com/it/classifica-fashion-blog-us/308-i-50-fashion-blog-piu-seguiti-negli-stati-uniti-damerica-giugno-2013.html

    kisses 😉

  • This is amazing, and I can’t wait to read your books!

    Mana
    http://fashionandhappythings.com

  • 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!

  • Thanks for sharing!
    I started the 30 day self-portrait photo challenge today! You can find it here:

    http://stateofgracecarounmohana.blogspot.de/

  • 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?

  • 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 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 🙂

  • I love hearing this story of yours! It’s encouraging. 🙂 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!

  • Thank you for sharing! I love hearing how people’s dreams come true! Congratulations!

  • 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 🙂 I already pre-ordered it from Amazon 🙂

  • 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

  • What an exciting time for both of you! Congratulations on this huge accomplishment and dream turned reality! x

  • Really sound advice Emma. Isn’t it kinda amazing they way things work out?! Well done both of ye x

    Cathy
    Turquoise Flamingo
    http://www.turquoiseflamingo.com/

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

  • You guys are such an inspiration. Thank you! Congratulations and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

  • Congratulations on your first book coming out so soon!
    I’m super excited for it and count down the days (26!). I just recently developed a passion for photography and have LOTS to learn – so your timing is perfect for me 🙂

    Love, Miriam

    http://mivasophia.blogspot.ca

  • I just preordered your book, I really can´t wait!
    Congratulations, you lovely ladies!

  • Oh thank you so much for sharing! And thank you for all of the tips. I’m not at a point in my life where book writing is happening, but the inspiration is so wonderful. I honestly can NOT wait for the book. And a second? Goodness! Congrats lovely ladies!

    xoxo
    Juliette Laura
    http://juliettelaura.blogspot.com
    www.etsy.com/shop/InfiniteStyleShop

  • 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 🙂

    XX Luba

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

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

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

  • Congratulations, can’t wait for the book to hit the stores 😉 xx

    www.creativityandchocolate.com

  • Great tips! Thank you for sharing your book journey with us all! I’m super excited about your book coming out! I pre-ordered it as soon as I could 🙂 Well done ladies!!

    Lulu xx

    https://www.luluslittlewonderland.blogspot.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

  • Dreams do come true! And I’m pretty sure that you will be inspiring more people with you books, just as you have inspired many of us reading your blog!

  • 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 🙂

    Alex from www.polkadottedpixels.com

  • you gals are so inspiring! congratulations on following your dreams and achieving them!!

  • so inspiring! can’t wait to grab a copy of my own.

    xxoo,
    nikki

    www.dreaminneon.blogspot.com

  • 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 🙂

  • 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!

  • 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

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