I was recently interviewed by InStyle Magazine Executive Editor Faye Penn about my upcoming book! We had such a fun chat, went way over our allotted time, and tackled some tough subjects. You can check it out on InStyle.com.
While the interview was super fun, my nerves surrounding this article have been a total party pooper. I think it's tough to let go and be paraphrased in an article, and naturally I want to use thoughtful language, especially for a sensitive subject like this one. (Plus, I have a lot of fear associated with this book in general.) I'm still figuring how to talk about this project, and this was my first impromptu conversation about it, so any grace you can throw my way is truly appreciated.
For reals though, InStyle has been my favorite publication since college - you'll even find me in the April 2011 issue, below. I am truly honored, and a huge fan of Faye Penn - she's hilarious, and so open-minded to seek out a conversation with someone of a different faith about touchy topics. I am trying my best to enjoy the feature and to remind myself the reasons for diving into this subject in the first place - to advocate for finding guilt-free freedom of expression as women, even within the confines of religion.
While we are on the subject of books, though, let's talk about something fun! I've always wanted to write a book, but didn't know much about the publishing world, and it has been nothing short of fascinating. I wanted to preserve the process so I won't forget, and to share with anyone considering writing one themselves. I’ve divided into chronological steps (although some happened simultaneously) and keep in mind that every author's experience can be quite different; this is solely my own book's "birth story."
1. The idea – The idea for my book came from an unlikely place. I wrote a blog post called “Fashion and Faith: Can They Coexist?” in February 2016 and an editor at a publishing house reached out and asked if I would ever consider writing a book on the topic. I tell this story a lot (here and here, and it’s in the Intro of the book), because what a neat way to find an idea for a book right?! I’m so grateful that editor reached out. I never would’ve considered it otherwise – the topic is something I was not eager to tackle (which turns out is actually a great reason to do it - more on that here).
2. The pitch – The idea was a tiny ember, and I had to blow on it to turn it into a flame. I’ve been working with MacGregor Literary since 2013. And by working with, I mean my agent has been patiently waiting for me to decide to write a book. She was stoked when I called her excited about this new idea. I had previously written a proposal for a style book (but never submitted it!), so I took out that template and got to work creating a new proposal. It included summary pages about the author and idea, a list of competing works, chapter summaries, and one full chapter and the introduction written out. I completed it in about two months, then my agent sent it to her contacts at publishing houses. There were some small bites and ultimately we both felt strongly that the offer from Waterfall Press was a winner and we signed the contract, approx. 3 months after the idea was born.
3. The writing part – The contract with my publisher gave me approximately 3 months to write 60k words (the final book is just over 70k). There were no further instructions, and they stressed it didn’t have to be perfect, but man I was nervous! I wanted to do a really good job, but also didn’t know where to start. I can’t remember what I tackled first, but I didn’t write the book in order, instead skipping around and writing different chapters. I also completely tore apart what I had submitted in my book proposal and those became pieces of new chapters. Some ideas for chapters were deleted and new ones were added. I also really started to run out of time. I wrote a chunk in June, then concentrated on interviewing and researching in July. Then I realized in August that there was so much left to do! I wound up asking for a two week extension and spent a good six weeks fully immersed in the writing process. (I joke that if my husband had not brought me food during that season, I would’ve starved to death in the writing chair that I refused to move from.) This last phase is what I often refer to as being a spiritual experience because it was lots of prayer, sacrifice and being really quiet and still (which are difficult for me to do!). Writing this book healed old wounds, forced me to answer tough questions I didn’t want to face, and study Scripture like I never have before. It was really hard and also really awesome at the same time. I will never forget the afternoon I finally hit “Send” on the manuscript. Not a single person had looked at it yet – not even my husband. So I held my breath for the next few days until I heard back from my acquisitions editor.
4. The editing part – About a week later I heard the good news that my manuscript had officially been “accepted” and was ready for the next step! They assigned me a development editor who was wonderful. I asked her to rip into the book and make it the best it could possibly be, but all of the edits we did were actually pretty minor: mostly word choices and giving some sections a little more love and polish. And I was given free reign to push back on any suggestions she had! I didn’t know how much creative control I would have but it really felt like 100%. Also during this time, I had two people (our pastor and a really smart colleague) look it over independently and provide feedback. They each had great ideas I wound up adding to the book, and I so appreciate their contributions to the final text!
5. The book cover – The inside of the book was mostly me, but the cover is the brainchild of the creative team at Waterfall Press. They designed it (color, font) and we had several conference calls in advance of the photo shoot. I contributed some feedback of course, and ultimately my husband snapped the cover image, but the publisher handled most of the cover elements and the name of the book.
6. The fact check, copyedit and proofread – Towards the end of 2016, we moved into a several months long process involving many people, who I mostly know as different color bubbles in “track changes” on the manuscript. The first round was fact checking, where anyone I interviewed had to sign permission forms, and I provided links and attribution for anything I cited. Then it moved into edits on grammar, typos, formatting, and so on. For several rounds they would give the manuscript back to me, I would accept or reject changes, add my notes, and send it back. We probably did this five or six times total, and we wrapped up the last round just a few weeks ago.
7. Marketing and promotions – Simultaneously while we were proofing of the book, the publicity team started working on their publicity plan. They developed a press release and other materials, and sent to long-lead press, thought leaders to review, and mailed out Advanced Reader Copies (ARCS) which are “not for resale” (Advanced copies are created before the proofread for timing purposes so they have errors.) This part is ongoing, with most activities happening closer to the book launch (Oct. 3).
The craziest part - you guys haven't even read it yet! My friends keep asking "Is it done?" but really it feels like we are just getting started. Can't wait to share it with you in October! - J.