Getting Published: From Idea to Reality
by Olivia H. Miller
This is a story about getting published, complete with the usual twists and turns, along with some life lessons I hope you’ll find helpful and inspirational. Getting published can be a discouraging, lonely business. Sometimes it’s easier to give up. Don’t!
This story is about The Yoga Deck. Over the years, I’ve had many ideas; most of them curl up and die on the vine. But when the idea to create a deck of yoga cards came to me one day, it refused to go away.
After kicking the idea around in my head, the deck started taking shape. This was the “easy” part: writing content, drawing the poses, editing and fine-tuning. I could have worked on those cards forever. I eventually stopped tinkering and began the dreaded task of selling the idea to a publisher.
Leg Stretch illustration from the Warm-Up Cards
Miracles, however, do occur. The first publisher I contacted, Chronicle Books, made me an offer! Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good offer. I talked to trusted friends who were split between two schools of thought. The first was: “Get your foot in the door, take the offer.” Diametrically opposed was the second: “If this is the best idea you’ve ever had, don’t settle.” I did think it was the best idea I ever had so after some tepid negotiations, I turned the offer down (ouch) and began looking elsewhere.
My beginner’s luck turned out to be just that and rejections started rolling in. Fortunately, I got some really positive rejections and, no, that isn’t an oxymoron. Many offered thoughtful reasons why they wouldn’t or couldn’t accept the cards. I kept trying.
I also received enthusiastic responses from people with whom I shared the idea. One friend offered to front me money if I wanted to self-publish. With this kind of support, I found it easier – although not easy – to continue.
I came closest to throwing in the cards, so to speak, when another deck of yoga cards was published. Although I knew competition would appear eventually, I was crestfallen and figured the window of opportunity had closed.
Ohm illustration from the Ohm Cards
I shared my dismay with a woman who was a book packager. “That’s a good thing,” she said. “You want more decks out there. It creates an energy that will help your deck sell better. One book on the shelf about Princess Diana,” she explained, “won’t sell as well as it would with 30 books on the shelf about Princess Diana.”
Buoyed with that advice, I kept on trying but with no luck. A year and a half had passed since Chronicle Books had made the offer I couldn’t not refuse. I was tired of the process and decided it was time to find an agent or representative to sell the idea for me.
I contacted a friend who knew a well-known literary agent in Boston. Although I didn’t think the agent would take on the deck, I hoped she might point me in the right direction. My friend encouraged me to call. I planned on calling as soon as I worked up the nerve.
Meanwhile, I procrastinated for weeks. I finally decided to send the agent a letter and follow up with a phone call. I spent the better part of a morning writing the first draft – by hand – explaining who I was, what the yoga deck was, the history of trying to get published…all in 150 words or less. Finally, I put the pen down and turned to the computer to type the letter. Before fingers met keyboard, the phone rang.
It was a woman who said she was from Chronicle Books (the publisher whose offer I had turned down, for those keeping score). I believe I said something witty like, “Chronicle Books??” She was calling because someone approached them with a proposal for a yoga deck. “Oh, goodie,” I thought.
She continued. “We didn’t like the idea and turned it down.” Now she had my attention. “But it made us wonder whatever happened to your deck?”
I’m here to tell you that the Universe does work in strange ways. Her timing was impeccable. I told her I was about to contact an agent.
She asked if I wanted to resubmit my deck. I hesitated for, oh, a nanosecond, and agreed. The deck came out a year and a half later. It has since sold over 400,000 copies.
Downward Dog illustration from the Posture Cards
What kept me moving toward the goal of getting the deck published after five years of trying? Why didn’t I give up?
Three lessons stand out.
First, follow your instincts. Ask for advice but listen to your gut. I’m glad I didn’t listen to those who said, “get your foot in the door” because if I had, I would always have wondered if I could have done better with a different publisher. After trying unsuccessfully to find another publisher, the deck ended up where it started…and where it belonged.
Second, don’t give up. Get support. This is hard to do alone. “Isolation,” says author and motivational speaker Barbara Sher, “is the dream killer.” Join a writer’s group or other professional network. Feedback and encouragement are crucial.
Third, trust that things happen when they should – not when you want them to. It’s very Buddhist and can be an extremely helpful philosophy when you push and push with seemingly no results. Trust in the process…and proceed with conviction.
Olivia H. Miller lives in Marstons Mills. She is the author of eight health and wellness card decks and ESSENTIAL YOGA, a comprehensive guide to the practice of hatha yoga, published by (Chronicle Books)
She is also the editor of Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Headaches? (Beacon Press) and teaches workshops on the first steps to getting published.
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