As I was finishing my book last winter, I did quite a bit of research on how to get it published. I decided that I would first send it to agents and publishers and try to get a publishing contract. This would mean handing them the manuscript and letting them format it, design the book cover, edit it, and market it, leaving me with a very small percentage of the royalties. It was the most traditional route and I thought it would result in maximum exposure for my book. However, I knew that agents and publishers received thousands of book submissions each month and could only accept a small number of them, so I was prepared for rejection.
I sent my book pitch to about 25 agents and 3 publishers. Of all of these, there was one particular agent and one particular publisher who I thought were really great fits for the book. I decided to wait until I had received feedback from the other agents and publishers before sending to these last two, so that I could incorporate any feedback I received. I wanted to make sure I was putting my best possible foot forward when I reached out to these two organizations.
It wasn't long before the publisher and the agent replied back with rejection letters. The publisher was rather vague, saying that the book did not fit into their lineup. The agent, however, sent me a very detailed response. The agent had run the Boston marathon herself (which is why I thought she would be a great fit) and based on her feedback, I realized that if I wanted the book to be published, I would have to do it myself.
So I published the book myself, not really knowing what to expect. After all, what was the worst that could happen? Well, maybe nobody would buy the book and I would lose the money I spent on getting the book cover designed. Oh well, at least I could say I published a book! And the best case scenario would be that people would buy the book and they would find it helpful in their own journey. I had no idea if the book was objectively good since the only people who reviewed it were friends and family. But as I said, what did I have to lose? The book was already written.
So I put it out there on May 15th. And the feedback I've gotten from readers totally goes against the feedback I received from the agent.
"I'm afraid this is not something I could successfully represent. I think pretty much any even mildly competitive runner is aware of the negative role that over-stressing can play in their racing. So I'm not sure there's enough of a take-away in your personal story."
Many readers have expressed that they "took away" a great deal from this book:
"When an acquiring editor is evaluating a project s/he looks to see what the story/message boils down to and whether s/he feels this will sustain the reader's interest for 300 pages. . . a project really needs to have a stand out hook and be something that just keeps the reader glued in their seat because they can't stop turning the pages."
I agreed with the agent on this point-- I did not think Boston Bound was a "page turner." I did not expect readers to be glued in their seats. After all, self-help books are not supposed to be page-turners-- people read them because they want to get something out of it. Much to my surprise, countless readers have said that they could not put the book down.
"As more and more people get into running, there are more and more running book projects circulating and editors have become incredibly picky. They are all looking for the next "Born to Run". Elite runners can usually get a deal. But nothing much else impresses them."
This made no sense to me. If there are already so many books out there about running, written by elite athletes, wouldn't a book written by a non-elite be a refreshing change? Can everyday runners and readers relate to olympic athletes? I think that part of what makes a book good is the ability for the reader to relate to the main character or narrator.
I've also received numerous messages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even LinkedIn from readers telling me that the book helped them, they couldn't put it down, and/or that they found it relatable because it wasn't written by an elite runner.
Lesson learned, if you truly believe in something, make it happen. I honestly wasn't sure if the book would be a success or not, but I figured I had nothing to lose.
Book sales have already exceeded what I ever thought possible, and it seems to have a life of its own. Initially, it was up to me alone to get the word out. But now it seems like people are hearing about the book from all sorts of channels! I will likely blog more about the book in the future and my "journey" in getting it on the best-seller's list for the "Running and Jogging" category!
I haven't read the book yet. We're going on vacation in a few weeks. I'll most likely buy it and read it on the plane. But I have read a lot about your book on Amazon. Also, a few weeks ago a running friend came to stay at my house- and both of us were reading First Ladies of Running, then she commented that she wanted to read Boston Bound because she'd heard of it. Word gets around :).ReplyDelete
I think you appeal to a subset of runners that don't "get" a lot of the other books. Let's be honest, training books and information are everywhere for someone who wants to run a race. You can print off a plan or read a book- what people NEED is motivation to put in those runs each week. They need to see that in the end, those runs will pay off. Maybe not this week, this month, or even this year- but they will pay off. I'm not particularly religious, but I'll be the first to admit that distance running takes a TON of faith. If people see someone else who stuck with this whole running thing until it paid off, then they will get the motivation to stick with it as well.
As someone who knows how it feels to run a 33:15 5K and a 20:53 5K, I love reading anything from someone who has improved (particularly your blog as well as Teal Burrell, who is an elite runner and qualified for the OT marathon, but whose first marathon was over 4 hours). Thank you for sharing the message of improvement in a running culture that is permeated by "my race my pace", "turtle runner", and people who simply choose not to believe.
That's so cool that your friend had heard of the book. I definitely did not anticipate it to sell as many copies or become as well known as it is already! I do think that many runners out there simply do it for fun and have little desire to get faster. Some people do it just to experience different races, to keep in shape, etc. But for the ones who decide that they want to have goals, get faster-- yes, it's good to know that with hard work you can realize your full potential!Delete
Confession: I haven't read the book yet but hopefully I can read it before going back to work. I too hope to one day qualify for Boston but I still have a LONG way to go. I am not giving up just preparing myself and making my way there.ReplyDelete
I love reading about the positive feedback about your book! :-)
Thank you! I have been following you for years and you are certainly a dedicated runner. You will make it to Boston!Delete
Well you showed them! Takes courage to get it out there and like you said, the book was written so what is there to lose? I loved it and I know a couple people who I recommended it to who have bought it as well. Congrats!ReplyDelete
Thank you for being such a great "ambassador" of the book. I appreciate you recommending it to others, and I think that these recommendations are what's fueling the book's success. :-)Delete
You must be so proud :) What a great response and what a success! Awesome work.ReplyDelete
I personally think that reading a running book from an elite would actually not interest me. How can I relate that to myself? These seemingly superhumans are in no way comparable to me - they live and breathe running and make their living from it. To me of course running is a huge passion but it's a big step away from how an elite would view and live it. It's why I enjoy reading blogs so much and tend to avoid any elite blogs.
This is awesome! Way to get it done and believe in yourself. One of the things that I liked about your book is that it WASN'T written by an elite athlete! It was very relate-able!ReplyDelete
Great post, Elizabeth, thanks for putting this up!! I'm a process geek (as you know!) and I wondered just how you got this published. I DID read the book, loved it so much and feel like I know you in many ways now. I'm thrilled to hear the book has legs (no pun intended) and continues to please you.ReplyDelete
The book publishing business has it's own world. And now technology lets individual authors bypass the barriers and say what he/she wants to say. Your story resonates...your transparency is contagious.
Was thinking about you earlier today, hoping you can get back on the road soon!!!!
This is amazing, Elisabeth. Another tribute to the fact that sometimes you can't rely on the "experts" but have to trust your own gut. I can't wait to read!!ReplyDelete