The Road to Publication: A Writer's Journey
Written by
nicole meier
November 2015
Written by
nicole meier
November 2015

There’s a Chinese proverb that says a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This means that even the longest and most difficult ventures must have a starting point. Over the years, I’ve been on a journey as a writer seeking publication and I couldn’t agree more with this philosophy.

For anyone working in a creative field, you can most assuredly identify with this claim. The act of writing (and creating in general) is a wonderfully awful jumble of highs and lows, moments of sheer euphoria followed by epic self-doubt. It’s a time when you desperately seek the approval of others only to scoff at their input if it isn’t what you want to hear. In a nutshell, it’s crazy-making.

But as terrifying as my quest to become a novelist has been, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Let’s back up to that proverb again. It all starts with a single step. On the verge of my fortieth birthday I knew I wanted to revisit what I’d known in my twenties but was afraid to explore; I wanted to be a writer. So, in the spring of 2012, I informed my family I was going away for the weekend and headed to the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. The minute I landed in that large hotel ballroom that was packed with authors, editors and agents I knew I’d found my people.

I enthusiastically attended every workshop, sat agog at author panels, took furious notes and asked lots of questions. I came out of those three days knowing two things: I had to finish my manuscript and I had to start a blog.

“Find your audience!” Everyone told me. At the time, I hadn’t a clue how to go about doing such a thing. And blog? I didn’t really read any blogs, so who on earth was going to read mine? It was a daunting task but I was determined.

Fast forward a year, I found someone to teach me WordPress and figured out how to post a steady rhythm of stories to my travel blog. I gratefully collected about a hundred subscribers. Someone in the community read my blog and offered me freelance work writing stories for my local visitors association. After awhile came more writing gigs. The ball began to roll in the right direction.

In between obligations of work and my family, I quietly spent my days hunkered at the computer in my pajamas, toiling away on my novel. After a year, I felt brave enough to send my work in progress to a handful of beta readers for feedback. I went through rounds of revisions, hired an editor, and started submitting to literary agents (which deserves a whole other blog post). I really wanted a known agent because none of the big publishing houses will even glance your way without one.

After nine months (like a pregnancy!) collecting almost-yes’s from agents, I decided to put my manuscript in a drawer and move on. As a very kind agent told me, “It’s not the writing, it’s the story.” So I did what many other wanna-be authors did; I thanked her, cried a little, ate more than my share of chocolate, and sat down to start another book. I told you it was crazy-making.

I took time to improve my craft, study the industry, and used the lessons I’d learned to start anew. I came across an article in the Los Angeles Times about the sale of Ray Bradbury’s house. The paper described what had been home to the iconic author and his family for over fifty years. Intrigued, I scoured real estate websites for details. The instant I clicked on a string of photos of the home’s interior, I was hooked. I knew there was a story about that house. When I learned a developer purchased the house only to tear it down and replace it with something modern, my heart sank (along with the rest of Bradbury’s fans). So came my idea to write The House of Bradbury. I wanted to imagine a world where the house wasn’t demolished, but instead purchased by an appreciative writer.

When I felt the manuscript was ready, I sent it on submission. I got several bites from agents but nothing solid. Then I did something I never considered before, I looked up small presses. Unlike the “big houses,” small presses don’t require writers to be agented for consideration. I’d been impressed with the growth and list of women’s fiction authors at Sparkpress, so I sent in my work with fingers crossed. The result, I’m happy to say, was a contract and a publication date!

Thus begins another journey. There’s been much to learn; like what’s a tip sheet and how do I go about getting author blurbs? My experience with a small press has been collaborative and supportive. I recognize this is not always the case for authors, who often don’t have a say in their title, cover art or release dates. Now that I’ve been through much of the process, I can’t imagine being denied the fun of receiving cover comps or hearing sales team feedback.

As I march forward towards my publication date of May 10th, I’ll continue to hone my craft, share stories on my blog, and keep up my freelance work. I will never forget that all of these things were made possible because I took a risk and made that single step towards a dream.

What’s your first step towards a dream? Is it still out there waiting for you? I’ll tell you right now, you deserve to take it.

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