For years, people have told me I should write a book. I’d love to, but I never really felt I had one in me, so I blogged (and blogged and blogged). Then, around August 2016, when a publishing agent got in touch and said he thought I should write a book and he’d like to rep me, I figured I should give it a crack.
When you start out on this journey, you’ve no idea what actually goes into it. First you have to come up with an idea for a book (then you realise that authors like Jilly Cooper who’ve written a zillion of the bloody things are actually next level geniuses). So, I came up with a loose idea, sent that to my agent, he helped me narrow it down and refine it, then I had to write a proper proposal.
A book proposal is, on average, around 20,000 words.
Yeah, it took me a while to pick my jaw off the floor when I was first told that too. It’s not just the book idea, it’s all the preamble. This is what’s presented to publishers, so you have to make the case for a) why this book should exist and b) why you should be the one to write it.
You do a general summary of what your book’s about, then a bio of yourself and a breakdown of your social media following and any influencer connections you may have. You outline who the reader will be, compare it to other books currently on the market in that sector and how yours will differ/measure up. Then you do a summary of each chapter and write at least five of the chapters out in full.
It’s a veritable shit ton of work.
I wrote my proposal, rewrote it, sent it to my agent, we went back and forth, fine-tuning and refining it.
It’s a process.
From the time my agent initially approached me to getting my first meeting with a publisher, a year had passed.
My agent sent my proposal to around 20 publishers. Three of them came back and said they wanted to meet me. Without an agent, I wouldn’t have even gotten that far. Of the ones who passed after reading the proposal, I’m told the majority said they were familiar with me and my work and really liked it but my social media following wasn’t big enough. Frustrating, but we pressed on.
The First Meeting
The first meeting was good. I was very aware of the fact that I’d basically waited for this meeting my whole life – I was visibly sweating the whole way through it. The editor I met with had some suggestions about ways she’d like to see me refine the idea a little. After the meeting, she emailed those ideas through and said for me to make the changes and she’d take the updated proposal to the rest of her team.
Every day for two weeks, I sat in front of my computer, with my cursor blinking at me and I couldn’t write a word. I went over and over her suggested changes, then one day I realised, ‘oh, they actually just want a different book!’ And it wasn’t one I could write. Not only that, I could put all that effort into making those changes and there’s still no guarantee they would’ve bought it. Or worse still, they would’ve bought it and I’d be stuck writing a bullshit book I wasn’t really into. So, I politely bowed out of the running.
Meanwhile, my agent is saying we have to ramp up the sections about my social media and influence in the proposal, ’cause publishers are really looking for that now. So I add additional information where I can, feeling pretty uncomfortable about the emphasis being put on this, ’cause while I understand, this is the world we live in now, shouldn’t this be about the writing?
The Second Meeting
The second publisher meeting went so well, I came out of there convinced they would be the people to publish my book. They were a smaller, independent outfit, totally my kinda vibe. I loved everything about their approach. The editor was super complimentary about my work and absolutely loved my proposal.
But after the meeting, we waited and waited and waited and didn’t hear anything back.
But your social media….
During this time, I had more conversations with my agent re publisher concerns about my social media following. So I had a brain wave; if what they’re looking for is proof that people want to buy my book, I’ll go right to the source. I decided to ask my followers on all my social media platforms if they’d mind helping me out. If I’d motivated them in any way and they’d like to read a book written by me, would they mind writing a couple of short sentences about why. I’d include all the quotes in my proposal.
The day I made the request, I had over a hundred people respond to me. While I asked for short quotes I had over 65 people sent me straight up ESSAYS about why they’d want to read my book. It was an incredible outpouring of support. People wrote amazingly touching things. I sobbed as I read most of them.
I sent the updated version of my proposal to my agent, including all the quotes from my followers. ‘This is brilliant!’ he said.
The Third Meeting
The third meeting was just before Christmas, with a publisher that seemed really into my idea – we even got as far as talking about production schedules, what the book would look like, how long it’d be, how long it’d take me to write it etc. But then came a stream of questions about their concern over my lack of social media following.
Deep, heavy sigh. What publishers are looking for now are the InstaFamous. If you have over 100K Instagram followers, publishers will roll a red carpet out for you. I don’t think it really matters what your book’s about or if you have a flair for words particularly, that level of following, from a publisher perspective, indicates a guaranteed purchasing audience. And they do need to know they’re going to get a return on their investment, I totally get that. But, it goes without saying really that social media numbers can’t really be trusted.
I made that point to the publisher. I kept referring to them to the pages of quotes from my followers in my proposal – followers of all ages, from London, Germany, San Francisco, Canada, Ireland and many places in between. I have 13K Twitter followers, around 7K on Instagram, a loving and loyal blog readership and literally hundreds of people who ride with me at Boom Cycle every week. All of those people are long time, loyal followers, dedicated to and invested in seeing me succeed.
I left the meeting feeling a little deflated.
In January, my agent told me that publisher had decided to pass and that it looked like we’d run out of road with this particular project. He’d approached every publisher he could and no one wanted to bite.
My agent worked his ass off for me. His advice, leadership and guidance have been incredible. He was gutted when he was delivering the news, ’cause he really believes in my project.
Before he even finished his sentence, I’m pretty sure I was already declaring ‘Fuck it! I’ll self-publish!’ rather defiantly.
Doing it My Way
I took to my social media to relay how upset I was and everyone rallied to support me – ‘Self publish, I’ll buy it.’ ‘Where can I pre-order?’ This supposed lack of social media following I have, really had my back.
One of my Twitter followers saw the post and tagged someone who’s fairly senior at Unbound, a self-publishing company. I asked if I could email him, he agreed. I wrote to him explaining my situation and asked if he wouldn’t mind taking a look at my proposal. He said he would, so I sent it over. ‘This looks great!’ he said. ‘Let’s talk next week.’
My initial post about it had gone up on a Thursday, by the Sunday morning, I’d already made more progress than I had in a year of trying to tout this thing around to mainstream publishers.
So, where things stand now, I’ll be publishing through Unbound. For those who are unfamiliar, it’s basically like Kickstarter for books. I have to raise the production cost of the book and then from that point, it acts as a regular publisher, with in-house designers, editors etc. I have a lot more control over my book this way and the finished product will be exactly how I envision it.
What’s your book about Bangs?!
Let me give you my official blurb:
The goal of this book is to take the focus away from fitness being about losing weight and trying to fit into whatever body ideal has been deemed acceptable for us. It’s to get us out of this decades long obsession with the scale, the idea that if you’re 2lbs heavier, your day is ruined. It’s about reclaiming your power, owning your body, deciding for yourself what jaw-dropping, head-turning awesomeness should look and feel like.
Whether you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, you’re considering giving up or you’ve lost your fitness mojo altogether – The Pocket Cheerleader: A Positive Guide to the Life-Changing Power of Movement will get you back on the right path.
This book is about celebrating your body through movement. It’s about keeping you motivated, inspired and interested in the sweat life. It’s for anyone who needs a cheerleader, someone to hold their hand or give them a kick up the ass. It’s for those who think ‘f*ck it’ and want to take a chance and see what happens when they dare to try. It’s a reassuring voice, a high five, a nudge when you don’t want to train. It’ll help you find, nurture and love your inner badass.
I need you
I’ve been blogging for 11 years. I set foot in a boxing gym for the first time in 2010 and it changed my life. I started running, I shared my struggles, somehow managed to get other people running. I blogged about it, I trained as a spin instructor, dedicated every moment of my time to becoming not just good, but exceptional, to understanding what makes people tick, how to build them up when they’re broken. I’ve been named Best Instructor in London, I was the Fitness Editor at ELLE Magazine. Every single one of those steps has lead me to this moment right here.
Ultimately, it’s always been about this book. This is such an essential part of my journey right here and I cannot wait to share it with you.
So stay tuned. In a couple of weeks, my crowdfunding page will go live on Unbound. I really hope I can count on your support. I won’t let you down, I promise.