As I have embarked on my journey toward certification as a creativity coach, I have been fortunate to encounter some monstrously creative and terrifically interesting individuals, including multi-talented Doreen Poreba, a fellow creativity coach who is also an author, public relations specialist, and photographer, among other things! In this post, Doreen shares her insights about working with a traditional publisher.
~ Editor and Creativity Coach Gina Edwards
by Guest Writer Doreen Poreba
Last summer, I had planned to complete and self-publish my first book, but the universe had different plans. I followed this detour, and like a New World explorer, I ventured into unknown waters.
Alpha Books, a Penguin Random House Company, contacted me seemingly “out of the blue” to see if I would be interested in writing a book about creativity. The request took me by surprise because I had not put out queries to any publishers. I am a certified creativity coach listed on the Creativity Coaching Association’s website and that’s where the publisher found me. Being contacted by a major publisher of a well-known series of books (Idiot’s Guides) seemed too great an opportunity to pass up. I expressed my interest, was put through a series of writing assignments related to the book, and after three weeks, I was notified that I was the writer selected to write this book.
My first reaction was, “Yes!” with my fist clenched as if my team had just won the Super Bowl. My second reaction was, “Holy crap! I have to write this book in three months — approximately 336 pages and 20 to 25 chapters,” a deadline and structure the publisher had imposed. I would soon learn there are pros and cons to working with a publisher as opposed to self-publishing.
I actually saw this deadline as both an up side and a down side. The positive view is that I work well under a deadline, which pushes me to complete the task in a timely manner. The negative perspective is that I often felt like I was writing under an intense pressure that had to be measured and metered to be sure I stayed on track. At times, this felt like I was anything but creative!
Soon I developed a steady rhythm of writing, one that required discipline — writing so many pages every day without interruption — and in a supportive environment. I was given about eight weeks before I had to submit the first 25 percent of the book. The remainder of the book would be submitted in 25 percent increments with two weeks in between.
The second difference between writing and self-publishing a book and working with an established publisher is that the Idiot’s Guide series follows a very specific format. For example, the author guidelines stated that I had to insert a sidebar approximately every one and a half pages. First, I had to establish four types of sidebars, and then, throughout the writing process, determine which type of sidebar would work best.
There were technical style differences as well. With my experience as a photojournalist and a public relations professional, I have been trained to write in AP (Associated Press) style. I thought I was ahead of the game until I learned that this publisher followed the Chicago Manual of Style, so I had to learn new elements.
As for personal style, I did not feel the need to vary my writing. The feedback I’m getting from readers of my book, Idiot’s Guide: Unlocking Your Creativity, is that they love my conversational writing style. One reader said she felt like she was sitting at a kitchen table having a chat with me, which makes the material inspiring and seamless. Fortunately, my writing style resonated with this publisher, because the Idiot’s Guide’s slogan is “As Easy as It Gets.” If you work with a publisher, you may have to adapt your writing style, depending on the type of book.
After I turned in 100 percent of the book, I had about a three-week break before I began receiving feedback from the editor. This back-and-forth author review process was challenging at times. The editor often asked me to expand on certain sections by adding bullet points or sometimes I was asked to rearrange the material in a given chapter. If you self-publish, you can write whatever and however you wish, although my personal recommendation is to have a qualified set of eyes review your manuscript.
Working with a publisher was both a demanding and rewarding experience and I learned that it’s possible to negotiate within reason. For example, during the author review process, if I didn’t agree with the editor on a certain point, I expressed the reasons why and offered an alternative, which was usually accepted. I also found my editor very accessible if I needed to discuss the situation by phone rather than just email.
I also asked for a one-week extension to submit the first 25 percent because of travel plans I had made prior to our publishing agreement.
There are more considerations, but I’ve covered some of the finer points in my experience of working with a publisher. My advice to you, my fellow writers, is to recognize that if you do work with a publisher, demands will be placed on you that you might not put on yourself if you are self-publishing. Understand them early in the process, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. This was a tremendous learning opportunity and it resulted in the publication of my first book. Whether you decide to self-publish or seek a publisher, I hope this article provided you with insight into your writing journey!
Doreen Marcial Poreba, APR, is a certified creativity coach and the author of Idiot’s Guide: Unlocking Your Creativity, published by Alpha Books, a division of Dorling Kindersley™ Limited, A Penguin Random House Company. In addition, she is an award-winning, accredited public relations practitioner, and professional photographer, freelance writer, public speaker, singer-songwriter and recording artist. Friends have often referred to her as a “Renaissance Woman,” due to her sense of adventure, individualism, and interest in multiple cultural endeavors — mainly writing, photography and music — but she has dabbled in many different artistic and creative ventures along the way. She strongly believes everyone is creative. For those who may feel stuck, she is more than willing to help! Contact her at email@example.com.
Gina Edwards is a retreat leader, a certified creativity coach, and a book editor. She is also a writer, so she’s intimately familiar with the challenges and elation that come with being one.
She supports all writers—published and aspiring—who want to write as an act of courageous and necessary self-expression.
Walking the writer’s path hand-in-hand with her clients and students, she helps them establish a writing practice and define a creative life on their own terms.