Becoming an author

Getting a book published is possible. Author Rachel Grunwell shares advice and her journey to getting a publisher to say “yes”.

Words: Rachel Grunwell. Photo: Alice van Schaik

I’m on the edge of a dream. I’ve published my first book Balance: Food, Health + Happiness. You can buy it in actual, real-life bookstores, or via my website inspiredhealth.co.nz. I’m. Beyond. Excited.

The coolest part of the journey? The day a publisher said “yes we’ll back your book!” I jumped for joy. And cried. I didn’t do the jumping or joyful sobbing in front of the publisher. I did wait until I got home to unleash that! Promise.

I also got emotional when someone bought my first book. Yeah, that got the tears out too.

The worst part of writing my book? That was half way through the project. I was so overwhelmed by the mammoth task that I almost gave up. I wrote it on top of juggling a wellness business and my family.

I’ll be clear: Writing a book is no easy task. But if I can do it, you likely can too. By sharing my journey, I hope you’ll learn some lessons from my mistakes and hurdles along the way. After all, everyone has a book in them, right?

I’m often asked: “how hard was it to get a publisher?” My first piece of advice is to expect knock backs. Even a lot of successful authors experience this. So, never give up on the dream. Just listen to advice closely that you get on the way.

I’ll be honest that my first book idea several years ago never got off the ground. Two publishers considered it. This included a big publisher in New Zealand, and another in America. Not enough people voted for it when it came to the crunch at a board meeting in New Zealand. While, in America, it got past the first pitch and to a skype chat with a team member, but no further. The rejection was humbling. But now I look at these hurdles as an absolute blessing.

My book Balance ended up being a way better book idea and much better offering for readers. It was two years ago that I did an online submission to Beatnik Publishing, asking to pen a wellness book. They didn’t know me and I did it out-of-the-blue via their website. Anyone can do this.

I reached out to Beatnik because I loved their beautiful, professionally designed books. I wanted my book to look like it came from them. When they read my online book pitch they asked to meet me in a café. I pitched three book topic ideas to them. They skipped over the two highly-detailed book pitches. They instead went for the third book idea I mentioned, which was a single paragraph long. So that goes to show that you shouldn’t hold back on small ideas. That could be the idea that the publisher loves.

I then went away and came up with 27 chapter headings. The Beatnik team then shaved that back by less than half that number of chapters.

A reason why I never self-published is because I value input from others. The team at Beatnik helped to edit and refine my book so it was way better than just my idea. I’ve been a journalist for two decades. So, I’m comfortable with the editing process and love it. I don’t have a big ego around my work being fine-tuned, or hacked back if needed.

My book was actually supposed to be in shops a year ago. But it took me two years to get my s*** together. It took me longer than I expected to get all the tasks done around my business and family life.

I set myself a task of interviewing wellness experts who lived all over the world. So this meant convincing experts to talk to this wellness geek in little old New Zealand. That took time. I’m a former investigative journalist, and so adept at negotiating. So almost everyone I approached agreed to be on board. Then came arranging skype chats often at crazy hours to sync with people overseas. There was more than one occasion where either I, or the person I was interviewing was wearing pyjamas. Don’t ask me about the expert I interviewed who was in a glamorous dress at the time I wore my bunny PJs. I must have looked like a homeless person with my hair in a messy topknot and no makeup. She did look twice at those bunnies bouncing around on my PJs. What was I thinking? So I decided to be more presentable while interviewing global experts after that! But then someone I interviewed showed up in her PJs on skype one day. I told her “I love you!” I thought it was awesome she was so chilled out.

Then there were months when the book stalled because of my confidence crisis. I’m an award winning journalist with 20-years’ writing experience behind me. What was I thinking?

So if I can have moments of lacking confidence, anyone can. I was so lucky to have the team at Beatnik who continued to believe in me.

Then there was preparing all the recipes for the book. I used many I created for and were published by Good magazine. I design the smoothie/juice recipe page every issue for this stunning magazine – as well as writing the wellness column. Beatnik then commissioned a photographer to shoot the rest of my recipes I created and footed the bill. The recipes have been taste-tested by the Good magazine team and readers, plus my kids. My three sons are handy for (brutally) honest feedback which was useful.

There were many times along the journey I felt overwhelmed about the number of words I had to write. But I slowly ticked the tasks off. I finally handed over my 60,000 words to an independent editor (via the Beatnik team) to check and give feedback. I held my breath.

She didn’t make me re-write any chapters, or the entire book. Phew. She’s actually done that before, she tells me! She made grammatical and style tweaks and fine-tuned the book. She said she loved my tone and voice in the book and gave it the tick of approval. I again felt joyful and teary all over again.

I then put the chapters in front of those I’d interviewed to get their approval too. That took time as these people are busy and live all over the globe. But it was important to me that they were happy with my work.

Actually, it has taken a lifetime of refining my writing to get to this point. I was a journalist for 20 years and so this meant I could pen my own book with ease from this perspective. Some people get ghost writers, or credit expert writers for doing this task, instead. If you are not an adept writer, then this can be a good idea.

There have been times of tears, doubts and fears about putting a book out there into the world. Thank you Beatnik and Good magazine for backing this writing geek. I’m so incredibly grateful. I’m also proud to now have my book Balance unleashed in stores. I put this book out into the world to be of service. If even a single reader applies the ideas in their life from these pages and feels healthier and happier, then they can flourish. That’s my ultimate dream.

Meanwhile, if I’ve inspired you to write a book, good luck. You can do it. Don’t give up half way. And prepare the tissue boxes…

Tips for becoming an author:

  1. Come up with a book title, synopsis, chapter outline, and write a short biography.
  2. Familiarise yourself with the publisher you are approaching. Do they produce books in your niche? There’s no point approaching a publisher with a crime novel idea if they produce recipe books.
  3. It can take weeks to hear back from a publisher. That’s normal. Appreciate that they consider each submission carefully and this will take time. That’s a good thing.
  4. If you get turned down by the first publisher you approach, don’t give up. Try another. Many authors were not successful on their first pitch including me.

Inside Balance: Food, Health + Happiness you’ll find business leader Theresa Gattung sharing with an open heart how to be more resilient when you feel overwhelmed emotionally, right through to information from global happiness researchers, neuroscientists, psychologist and lots of other wellness experts who can help you to uplift your body, mind and soul. Get a copy of the book from beatnikshop.com

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