How I Got Published — A Guest Post by Author Alyssa Sheinmel
I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Actually, wait – that’s not entirely true. I mean, yes, I spent much of my childhood filling up notebook after notebook with stories and I dreamed about being published someday. But by the time I was in college, what I knew for sure was that I wanted to work in book-publishing; whether that meant being a full-time writer, or working at a publishing house while writing as a hobby, I wasn’t even remotely certain. All I knew for sure was that I loved books. And I hoped that, one way or another, my career would revolve around them.
My first job out of college was at a literary agency. I was an editorial assistant, and among plenty of other things, part of my job was to act as something of a gatekeeper between the aspiring authors who wanted representation and my boss (the person they wanted to represent them). Which meant writing a lot of rejection letters. Which was, the say the least, disheartening, despite all the other amazing aspects of my job. After a couple years, it was pretty clear I wasn’t cut out for quite so much rejection. So I made the move to the marketing department at a children’s publisher, a move that – and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this – changed my life.
For one thing, I loved my new job. There was no more rejection; in the marketing department, we worked almost entirely on books that were already lined up for publication, helping shepherd them to consumers. And, I was working on books that I’d loved for as long as I could remember: I worked on marketing campaigns for titles by Dr. Seuss and Judy Blume and Norton Juster. It was literally part of my job to re-read those books. I was in seventh heaven.
And, I re-discovered YA. The world of young adult books had changed and grown since I visited it last. There were so many more books to choose from, and so many different kinds – fantasy, romance, magical realism, adventure. I ate it up, falling in love with new book after new book after new book. And, the more I read YA, the more I wanted to write it. A year or so after I started my new job, I was sitting on a rough draft of the story that would become my first novel, The Beautiful Between.
Since I’d worked in the industry for a few years at that point – and since I’d done my share of rejecting – I didn’t exactly have high hopes about publishing my first novel. I kind of thought maybe I’d found my career in marketing and writing was just going to be a hobby reserved for evenings and weekends and summer Fridays. Still, a much more optimistic part of me began asking friends and colleagues to read my manuscript. I revised and re-wrote it more times than I can count. I don’t even remember all the titles the book went through. When I queried my agent, I called the book “A Fairy Tale for the Lost and Found”; by the time she sent it out to editors on submission, it was titled “A Different Kingdom.” (Much later, the day before my editor needed a final title, I was still scrambling. I’d narrowed it down to a few names, begging friends and family to vote on their first choice. Come to think of it, I don’t think anyone actually voted for The Beautiful Between.)
An old cover (back when it was called A Different Kingdom), and the real thing.
I’m trying to remember exactly how it felt when I found out that we’d officially received an offer for my book from my publisher. I remember exactly where I was – I was actually on vacation at the time, and read the email in the hotel lobby – and I know that I didn’t jump for joy, or shout hooray, or even just get a little bit choked up the way I’d imagined I might.
But, a few days later, my new publisher sent me an email with the subject line: “It’s Real”; she had processed the paperwork for my book and I was officially going to be published. I still didn’t jump for joy or cry or go out to dinner to celebrate. But, I saved the email. In fact, nearly six years and four books later – my fourth book, Second Star, publishes next month – that email is still in my inbox. I’ve never filed it away or deleted it, and I keep it “marked as unread.” I can’t remember the last time I actually read it. I guess I just like knowing that it’s there.