Happy Herbivore Blog

December 12, 2011

How I Got My Book Deal

I get a lot of emails from people asking about book deals -- specifically, how I got mine, how someone can get theirs --- what's my story?

It was 2009. I'd been blogging for about two years and Happy Herbivore had a modest, but growing audience. I contacted my now publisher about The China Study. I loved the book so much that I wanted to promote it, and I asked if they'd mail me a copy to giveaway on my blog. They graciously gave me a few copies and I hosted a giveaway. During this period, I became friendly with the contact I had at the publisher. We had some common interests, and emailed a few times. A little while later, I asked her if she knew anything about cookbooks. I wasn't even sure if I wanted to write one (yep, admitting that out loud), I was mostly just curious about the process. 

They didn't do cookbooks there, so I didn't feel like my question was inappropriate or crossing any lines. She wrote back that she knew nothing because that wasn't their industry, but she'd ask around the office to see if anyone knew of a book I could read or an old colleague I could talk to. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I expect the publisher himself to contact me asking for a proposal!!

Turns out he'd wanted to do a cookbook for a while, he was just waiting for the right person with the right book idea. That was me, it was fate. 

I stayed up all night with my friend Lisa putting a proposal together -- not even knowing what a proposal is supposed to look like or be like. (I still have the proposal and maybe someday I'll be brave enough to put it on this blog, typos and all). 

I figured it was a long shot, and I still didn't even know if I wanted to do it IF it worked out. I knew what writing a book would mean: lots of hard work, lots of hours and money, with little to no return on my investment. I figured, "cross that bridge when I come to it" and two and a half months later, the bridge appeared. They offered me a book deal. 

I debated long and hard with myself about the opportunity... I decided to do it because it was something I was so passionate about. I wanted, more than anything, to show how easily, affordable and delicious low fat plant-based eating can be and I knew that writing a book was the biggest and best opportunity to accomplish that, even if it meant having to quit my job, move into a tiny apartment, and scrape by for the next year -- all the while working harder than I have ever worked. (Bless my sweet, sweet husband who agreed to letting me do all this -- he gave up our comfortable lifestyle so I could chase my dreams).

Little did I know, it takes a year to put a book together when you count all the revisions, edits, final proofs, pictures and so on. What I thought would take a few months, took many months. After three months I had to go back to work so my family could survive financially, and so I was literally working 40hrs a week at one job, while spending every waking free moment on my book. And we were still barely getting by. There was so much sacrifice that I often felt guilty -- my husband and dogs had given up so much for me. I'd given up so much for me. But I was chasing my passion. It was something I HAD to do, whatever the cost. 

And even once the book was finished, I realized the challenge and journey had just begun. Getting a book published is a tiny, tiny first step. We had absolutely no idea whether the book would sell, or not sell. So many books fail and flop. I had no idea what would happened to mine and what it would mean for me. I felt like I'd spent a year holding my breathe.

Thank god, with the help of my wonderful and supportive fans (and their word-of-mouth campaign) my book made it. 

But it wasn't a grand solution. I've mentioned a few times before how there is very little money in writing books, even if your book is a best seller. The reality was, I wasn't out of the pool, I was still swimming and splashing around hoping to find shore, or at the very least, a life raft. I spent another year scraping by and working like a mad woman while trying to write another book. 

There were more than a handful of moments where I laid sobbing on the bed saying I couldn't do it anymore. I'd worked so hard for so long and I was so tired of being so broke. That yes, writing healthy recipes was my passion, but gosh darn it, how much longer could I go on living like this? Working like a mad woman? Barely being able to pay my bills? I was 29! I was more financially stable in college!

So then, on some particularly bad days, I'd think about quitting.... just deleting Happy Herbivore and moving on. Going back to being a lawyer and stop working so hard for pennies... but I could never bring myself to do it. 

The universe always seemed to know I was on a ledge, and just then I'd get a really nice email. or a tweet. or a message on Facebook that saved me. It was always innocent, as simple as "Thanks for your great recipes Lindsay!" and suddenly, I would remember why I did what I did. It was for you, for my fans. I did it all for you. It was all worth it because I had you. 

I couldn't quit because it was my passion, it was my passion to help others eat healthier and I was doing it. It was my mission to show that eating healthy can be realistic, approachable, affordable, and delicious. I had to keep going, keep doing, whatever the cost. It didn't matter, I couldn't not do it. I HAD TO DO THIS.

and that's my single advice to anyone who wants to run down this path: it has to be about passion. Chasing the dream, whatever the cost. 

Read More: How I Make a Living (Hint: It's Not Blogging).

and Herbies, Thank you.

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