Wednesday, October 6, 2010

33 WOW Wednesday: Elana Johnson on the Many Steps to Pub

This week's WOW Weds is an incredible story of perseverance by the amazing  Elana Johnson, who has (while waiting for publication) already made a name for herself for her incredible generosity in helping other writers learn and grow. Her debut novel, Possession, will be published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster) in June 2011. Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for download. School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or her website. She is a co-organizer of the popular online children’s conference WriteOnCon, a founding author of the Query Tracker blog and a contributing author of the League of Extraordinary Writers. In addition to that, Elana is a member of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, a group of successful YA authors, and The Elevensies, a group of 2011 debut authors. Elana is represented by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary.

Publishing: A Journey of Many Steps
by Elana Johnson

Okay, so I was asked to share a little bit of my journey toward publication. Dude, I could go on and on about this, but I won’t. And hopefully, you’ll read something to help you take the next step, whatever it may be.

Step 1: Write a book. Or if you’re me, you write 12. That’s right. I’ve written 12 novels. Only 2 of them don’t suck. And even that’s debatable.

Step 2: Query a book. Realize it’s a lot of waiting and frantically checking email. Who knew?

         Step 2A: Repeat step 2 for 6 months. Too many queries to name. Want to die.

         Step 2B: Shelve book. Ouch. Yes, it hurts. No, it won’t kill you.

Step 3: Pick another novel to de-suckify.

Step 4: Revise/Edit/Rewrite the thing.

Step 5: Enter the ABNA contest.

Step 6: Move into the quarterfinals.

Step 7: Gain much needed confidence.

Step 8: Query the book. Get ready to wait it out.

         Step 8A: Repeat step 8 for 8 months. 189 queries.

         Step 8B: Beg, plead, pray, hope that this book is “the one.”

         Step 8C: Make up mantra: “Work hard. Don’t give up.”

         Step 8D: Revise twice BEFORE an offer is extended.

         Step 8E: Field 5 agent phone calls BEFORE an offer is extended.

         Step 8F: Get “the call.”

         Step 8G: Cry, laugh, scream, cry some more, grovel in gratitude.

Step 9: Sign with dream agent. After 188 rejections, this feels goooood. Up next: take over the world.

Step 10: Or, uh, revising. Yup, again.

Step 11: And…then again.

Step 12: Wait. Taking over the world put on the back burner while gnawing fingernails to nubs.

Step 2385: Get an offer from a dream publishing house.

Step 2386: Scream, eat a lot of bacon, laugh, smile until face hurts.

Step 2386B: Wait.

Step 8939: Announce the deal!

Step 8940: Wait.

Step 12,094: Edit novel—again.

Step 12,095: Wait.

Step 18,306: Release cover. Freak out.

Step 18,307: Wait. June 7, 2011 can’t come fast enough.

My best advice through all the steps is simply to remember this: Publishing a book is not a race where the winners come in first. It’s not important WHEN you finish, just that you DO. Oh, and one more thing: Your journey is your own. It won’t look or feel like mine. It shouldn’t. Don’t compare journeys. Just be grateful you can take one more step.


  1. WOW -- this is an AMAZING story! And everyone (especially Elana) my apologies for the publishing snafu this morning!


  2. Love this post Elana. I al soglad I got to take those steps with you. You deserve all the goodness coming your way! HUGS!

  3. I love Elana and can't wait to read her book.

    Phew, that was a lot of steps. Too bad they don't burn calories. It would be great if they did. At least to compensate for all the chocolate we eat while dealing with the rejections. *rushes off to store to stock up on dark chocolate*

  4. Elana, I just <3 you. You are one of the most genuine souls I've ever had the pleasure of interacting with. I only hope that I can have the courage to FINALLY grow into and be comfortable with myself as you seem...oh, and that I don't quit this writing thing. I seems every time I make some headway, life comes in a kicks me in the face. Reading your post makes me realize that you can relate. Thanks for yet again sharing yourself.

    And M & M, thanks for having Elana. Great job, ladies.

  5. Thanks for sharing! I agree when we start comparing journeys - it's not a good road to travel!

  6. Elana, I just discovered you via Twitter and am So Glad I did. This is such an honest and heartfelt post. I'm going to hang this above my desk. Thanks so much, and can't wait to read your book!

  7. Elana, you know how much I respect you!!! Thank you so much for sharing your journey.

  8. Yes, thanks for sharing, Elana! I can relate about the practice novels; I have 15 of them and only perhaps 2 or 3 are half-decent. It's certainly a long process to publication, but congratz on your persistence and talent to get there!

  9. Congratulations! I just read Elana's blog post on writing her query letter. And whoa! That query letter got me. I. must. read. this. book.

  10. Thanks for sharing your path to publication, Elana. I have been following your blog since I started out on my own pursuit of publication earlier this year, and you generously answered my questions with a personal reply (I used a different name then; I'm using my pen name now).

    Best of luck to you and CONGRATS on Possession. I'll definitely be first in line at the book store on June 11!

  11. I might have a writer crush on you after reading your post ;) great story, Elana. You show the reality of all that waiting - patience, must develop patience.

  12. I knew I loved you, Elana!! You are awesome. And hysterical - I nearly spit my coffee out my nose when I read "and even that's debatable." :D I can't wait to read your book that most certainly will NOT suck.

  13. LOL, thanks, Elana! That's a lot of steps!

  14. Awesome post! It's nice to be reminded that the writing-to-publication process isn't a fast one. I think we all get a little stir crazy at times wanting everything to happen immediately, even though obviously, that's *so* not how it works. Great reminder that patience is the key!

    Thanks for sharing, Elana!


  15. Great post, Elana! I like how you say it's not WHEN you finish, it's just that you DO.

    Thank you.

  16. Awesome post Elana! I still am just struck by how much I love your cover too. Every time I see it, I just think how awesome it is. Yay!
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

  17. Elana is so easy to love! She's AMAZING and inspirational! Great post, love hearing more about how it all happened!

  18. I love your incredible honesty Elana, and undying determination. When I grow up I want to be just like you. (Said the girl who's probably only 3 years younger than you. I'm just immature.) :)

  19. Yay for Elana. I love the honesty...and never giving up. I agree with Shannon, I want to be like Elana when I grow up. :)

  20. Great post. Determination and patience is so completely necessary in this industry. And chocolate.

  21. Oh Elana, you always know how to make us feel human (which is why you're *so* uber popular) :D

    So happy for you xo

  22. Awesome! Always inspiring to hear how someone actually did it!!

  23. Great post Elana. You always inspire me so much. And you are so generous with your time. I can't wait to read your book. I'm so happy for you.

  24. Love it, love it, love it! I can't wait for June 11th either! I can't wait to read it!

  25. Simply Perfect, Elana. LOVE this and it's SO true: Don’t compare journeys. Just be grateful you can take one more step.

  26. I just adore stories like this.

    Congratulations Elana, and thank you for sharing your journey.

  27. Elana, you are the goddess of all that is positive, funny, and strong. I love your honesty with the whole process, and you give the rest of us piles of hope. Thank you!

  28. Elana is an incredible person - so supportive of everyone and so SMART!!! I'd advise anyone querying to download her book - it's so helpful :)

  29. Thanks, everyone! I was traveling yesterday, but every chance I got, I came to see if I could post a comment here. Apparently I am slow with my phone, because I could never get it to work.

    Thanks to everyone! *hugs*

  30. Amazing Elana, well done! I can't wait to read your book.


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