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.

 

 

Alyssa Sheinmel is the author of The Beautiful Between, The Lucky Kind, and The Stone Girl. She was born in Stanford, California, and still thinks of herself as a California girl even though she moved across the country to New York when she was six years old. Like so many writers, Alyssa grew up loving books, making up her own stories and acting them out when there was nothing to read. Her fourth novel, Second Star, comes out in May 2014. Visit her online at http://www.alyssasheinmel.com/books.html

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Alyssa Sheinmel

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