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Guard The Books [How I Became An Author]

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I’ve been writing stories since I was nine years old. My first dozen or so tales starred a particularly familiar character named King Kaleb, who had a penchant for explosions and was friendly to aliens. My parents would dutifully print these out, draft after draft, and let me pile them in my room.

But by the time I was ten, I was over the Microsoft Word double-sided printout booklets. Normal printer paper does not fold into the same width of an actual book book, and this wrecked the realism when I signed these booklet prints for my imaginary audience*. And besides, as anyone who’s tried this knows, it’s impossible to get the staple in the exact center of those pages.

Growing sick of this cruel sequestering of my obviously superior storytelling skills, I eventually decided it was time to be published, and let them deal with the folding and the stapling. I figured being twelve years old would give me some credit, because I was only one year away from being a teenager, and teenagers were practically adults.

So, I dug up the number of the senior editor of a giant publisher, and called her office.

I was prepared. I had a pitch ready for my amazing story about a town of elves being invaded by evil flying wizards, loosely based upon a city of Legos I had built (with photographic reproductions on hand in case my future publishers needed them / my little brother smashed my enormous buildings). The title: Enchanted Memories. If you can judge a book by its cover, this would be the cover:

The editor was not enchanted by any of my memories. Somehow, my call was immediately routed to the security guard downstairs.

This might seem like a rather depressing turn of events, but the guard ended up being instrumental to me. In the process of telling me I could not simply call the head editor’s office, he informed me that there was a process to publishing. For some reason, I had thought books were published simply by calling the biggest and most powerful name in the list of editors you could find, and convincing them you were awesome sauce. But here was something new: revising and querying and researching and never, ever phone-calling.

As the guard hung up, he encouragingly said he hoped he’d get the chance to guard my books one day.

After that first rejection, I didn’t want to be naive to the publishing world any more. I refused to let myself be forwarded to security again. So I read every single book I could find on the publishing business. I went to the library, searched for any books under the categories “Authorship” or “Publishing”, and then unloaded as much of the shelf as I could carry. My mom had an educator’s card that allowed up to 100 books checked out at once. We’d cart a van-full home each trip.

In fact, I was so eager to see my book in print that by the time I turned sixteen, I knew ALL of the major publishers, their head editors’ names, the names of their assistants, their mailing addresses, and the top selling frontlist titles at each house. I would go into a library and pick up books based on which publishing house’s logo was at the bottom of the spine, until I learned exactly what type of book each company seemed to like best. Years before my first novel was even completed, I had compiled a database of agents and a dossier of New York literary bigwigs to almost-creepy proportions (Liz Szabla: in 2001, you had an assistant named Jennifer, right? RIGHT?! Of course you did…**).

To some people, this might seem like a very desperate dream at that age. But it was a big dream, and I knew that if I wanted to reach it, I couldn’t put it off until I was older. I had to start aiming for it right then, before I was thrust into the world and lost myself in a job or college or the important things that the big scary adults did all day. I knew that if I skipped my chance then, it might be years before I could devote time to becoming an author.

I had my first book signing for my first novel on my 21st birthday: a grand birthday gift to myself for nearly half my life of hard work and big dreams. I’m certainly not a literary genius like John Green or JK Rowling. But, I wanted it, no matter how many years of improvement it would take me to get published. I didn’t want to settle with talking to the guard downstairs.

For anyone who wants to write, and anyone who dreams of becoming an author: reaching for the dream is the best first step you can take. If you want something enough to work for years with no promise of any concrete reward, you will find a way to make it happen. My first stories were abysmal. The first ten drafts of my first published novel were abysmal too. But when you want something so much that you’re willing to go after it despite the rejections, you’ll eventually get an editor who will call you on the phone instead.

There’s a happy ending: the publishing house who sent me to security is now one of my publishers. Guard the books well, Mr. security.


*I have been practicing my autograph since I was 9 in preparation for the time I knew I would become an author. This is why my signature now takes .045 seconds.
** Liz Szabla was once an editor at a giant publisher. This is an example of my creepy publishing spy work.

Back From Chicago!

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The trip to Chicago and Naperville to meet my publishers went wonderfully! So many things happened in 48 hours that I can hardly list them all here. Suffice it to say, from the photos above, that everything went even better than I expected, and this book release is going to be awesome!

Here’s the rundown of the trip. I left Dallas around noon, and arrived a few hours later after a flight filled with turbulence and The Dark Knight on my laptop. When I arrived at the Chicago airport, I was immediately picked up by a sedan. I’ve only been picked up by a sedan once before — this new one was quite different. There was a remote control built into the arm rest that would allow me to change the radio and the temperature of the car, as well as move the driver’s seat forward without even asking — clearly built for those who wish to avoid speaking with the peasants . Also, the car was stocked with magazines one does not normally see. The one I read had an article aimed at those who make over $50 million per year. One listing was selling a jet (yes, a full featured, private jet) and another was a $39 million vacation home in France (note the word vacation).

Bathroom Mirror TV

Bathroom Mirror TV

As evidenced by the photo I brought back, the hotel was wonderful. I got a big screen, HD TV in my room (Norbit was on, ha ha) plus, the infamous Television-In-The-Bathroom-Mirror my Twitter followers have so enjoyed. Whilst brushing my teeth, I managed to catch the news. I don’t know how I would have survived otherwise (I might have been forced to watch the news while not brushing my teeth — the horror!).

The first evening of the trip, my publishers, agent and I met at a wonderful restaurant to discuss plans for the next day’s meetings. I got to talk with my publishers for the first time in person, and meet most of the core team that will be managing my book. They have so many wonderful and exciting ideas coming up, especially with the release only about six months away (this Fall!). It was very odd, since it seemed that nearly everyone in the company had read The Farfield Curse already! I can’t even begin to say how thrilling it was to see how everyone was behind the book.

The Book Cow

The Book Cow

I got a tour of the offices of Sourcebooks while I was there. The most interesting thing of all was the Book Cow, which is covered in writing and stacked high with books on its back. Notice the drum on the left: as my editor explained, it is company tradition that anytime someone has big news, they must immediately dash to the drum and pound it until everyone comes out of their offices to find out what happened. He told me it will get a good beating the day my book is released đŸ˜€

Most of what we discussed will be slowly released via my website here and (which will be receiving its new design soon!). However, there are some things I can say. First, the Kaleb Nation Facebook Page (which is being run by the same people who manage the Twilight Facebook with 2 million members!) is now the official page for me on that site! I know many of you have been adding my personal page, but I only add people I personally know: if you join the official page, I check in a lot to see what people are saying.

Another thing, since we have such a short time until the release, I will have many big updates coming up, including things like the release date, the cover art, preorder times, etc. We are planning something at least once a month, so be sure to check back or follow me on Twitter so you get the latest  (the cover art, I will say, should be here VERY soon!). I’ll keep everyone updated!

ADDED: I just realized that I had the meeting with my publishers on March 6 — exactly 1 year after I got the call from my agent saying Sourcebooks was interested in my novel! Fate is a funny thing…