Adventures in Publishing

adventure

noun ad·ven·ture \əd-ˈven-chər\

  1. An exciting or very unusual experience.
  2. Participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises.
  3. A bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
  4. A commercial or financial speculation of any kind; venture.

I am not a super adventurous person. I like my trips planned. I like to budget my money. I like to work from a recipe. I like to know how I am getting home at the end of the party. But all of that got thrown out the window when I began my adventures in publishing.

An exciting or very unusual experience.

From hitting send on those initial query letters to agents to having a meeting over the telephone with an editor who loves your novel, the process of publishing is FULL of exciting and very unusual experiences. Unless you are writer that happens to work in publishing, your debut year is one new experience after another. Working with an editor (and being edited!) Seeing your cover and giving feedback. Working with your publicity and marketing teams. It has been a thrilling year of meeting new people and doing new things.

When I sold THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING, I promised myself I would say YES to everything that I possibly could, so when it was suggested that I come to NYC to have my author photograph for the book jacket taken by a recommended photographer, I booked the appointment. I took the train to New York the night before, and stayed in a tiny hotel room across the street from the theatre where Hamilton is performing. In the morning I had breakfast at an elegant café with my agent (even now, typing the words breakfast with my agent gives me a little thrill.) From there I headed to the photographer’s studio.

Louise Miller_select_8744Upon arrival the photographer’s assistant took all of the outfits I had brought along and steamed them until they were perfectly smooth while the make-up artist got to work on my face. Now, I am a pastry chef, which means I am up and out the door by 5 a.m. every day. My hair is always up in a two buns and I wear yoga pants and a chefs jacket everyday. I do not wear make-up, ever. But I sat in the chair for a solid hour chatting with the photographer while Hero smoothed my complexion, artfully applied eye liner (even on the inside of my upper lids! I was removing eye make-up for days) and brushed lipstick on my lips. I was a little more than terrified that I would look overdone, that I would look like an alien, that I would look like someone other than myself. When my face was deemed done, I put on my first outfit, and the photographer began to take pictures.

Four hours and five outfits later I was finished.

It is exhausting to have your picture taken for four hours. I now understand why models always have that vacant look on their face—it’s because someone has been taking their picture for four hours. Maybe more.

From the photographer’s studio I took a cab to my publisher’s office for the first time, where I got to say hello to my editor, and meet so many of the wonderful people who work to make books like mine come into the world. I left the office full of cheer, with a suitcase stuffed with ARCS of upcoming books. I scored a seat in the quiet car on the train and slept the whole way home, exhausted from the adventure. It was a ridiculously glamorous, New York City day—one that I delighted in, but I was so happy to go home, and return to my scrubbed face and snarly bun and chef’s whites.

Participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises.

Having sold a book led to many book-related opportunities this year, and I said yes to all of them. I sat on my first panel at a writers’ conference, at AWP (which also brought me to Los Angeles for the first time.) I gave my first public reading at the Lit Up fundraising gala for my writing center Grub Street, and presented a workshop at the Muse and the Marketplace conference. These opportunities were all wonderful surprises, and fun adventures.

A bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.

Let’s be honest here—publishing your first novel is a risky undertaking. You are putting your tender heart out into the world. First to agents, and then to editors. After the book is edited your novel will then be read internally by the people who will work on it—the art directors and marketing and publicity people, the sales force. ARCS will be made and sent out to librarians, reviewers, bloggers, book group leaders. Week by week, over the course of months, long before your pub date, your book will make it’s way out into the world. It’s both thrilling and scary. I have moments of feeling deeply vulnerable, where I am tempted to ask is it too late to change my mind? The answer is yes. So I do the things I do when feeling vulnerable—meditate, dig in my community garden plot, and watch lots of movies while eating copious amounts of popcorn, knowing that the adventure of publishing, like all good adventures, comes with risk.

A commercial or financial speculation of any kind; venture.

 The act of writing is an art form. A creative form of expression. The act of publishing is a business. There can be some growing pains when you make that transition of seeing your book as a creative project you poured yourself into to seeing it as a product to be marketed and (hopefully!) sold. The leaps that you will need to make to get into that frame of mind can be its own sort of adventure. But the truth is, I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t dream of their book becoming a best seller, who doesn’t want readers, who doesn’t hope they can reach a point in their careers where writing can sustain them. That all takes speculation. Risk. Work. And a good dose of luck.

THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING will be published in just eight weeks. I hope that this is just the beginning of my publishing adventure, and that there are many more to come!

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Louise Miller

Louise Miller is the author of THE CITY BAKER'S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking/August 9, 2016), the story of a commitment-phobic pastry chef who discovers the meaning of belonging while competing in the cut-throat world of Vermont county fair baking contests. Find out more at louisemillerauthor.tumblr.com.

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