It’s Spring break here in Utah, and my family and I spent a lovely weekend glamping (glamorously camping) at Zion park. Now, our style of camping veers from that of a hardcore person, like dramatically. But it’s something that works for our family of several kids and aging grandparents. According to my youngest kid’s words, it was the most epic vacation we’ve ever been to, and the memories we made will only become sweeter with time.
Which made me think of the path to publication because I’m an author, and I’m always thinking about the stories I’m working on, the ones I cheat with because I won’t have time to write them for a good couple of years, and the paths I took to get to this point in my career.
Now, I’ve been writing aiming for publication for more than a decade, and my first books will come out next year, one in January and another one in the spring.
This doesn’t mean that I haven’t been able to share my writing with my readers before then. Last year I had an essay published at Uncanny Magazine, which was the highlight of my year. I’d been submitting short stories to Uncanny for a long time, but it was a personal essay what finally opened the door to this amazing publication for me.
A friend of mine introduced me to an educational products company that bought several of my short stories for young readers, both in English and in Spanish, and developed them in multi-media, including audio and educational software. Teacher friends often messaged me to tell me they’ve come across one of my stories at school, and that was always a thrill that kept me motivated to keep writing for children.
Like I stated in the title, the writerly destination looks different for each author, very much like the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter.
My main goal was always the possibility to connect with at least one reader, and I know that even when being published in the educational market wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I stated this wish, the purpose of my writing was fulfilled, even if it was through a trail I hadn’t even anticipated when I started writing.
Still, I wanted to see my stories in a printed book.
For years and years, I worked on middle grade and young adult novels, but the first piece of writing that got me a publishing contract was a poem I pitched as a picture book¾which eventually went to a multi-house auction and earned me two-book deal with HarperCollins. The wish of seeing my name on a book is coming true next spring!
I’m so grateful for the unexpected blessing, and true to my Slytherin nature, I still wanted more. I wanted to sell a novel, but selling wasn’t much in my control. Although I was very close to selling a novel several times (Revised and Resubmit by editors, going to acquisition meetings for a couple of my stories), this goal kept eluding me. Until my agent came to me with an opportunity to write a book by a very well-known publisher¾a dream house! The editor provided a concept, and I auditioned for the opportunity to develop it. By auditioned, I mean, I wrote a full synopsis, and a partial, and we sent it off. To my surprise, we got an offer! I wrote that middle grade novel in record time, and I just sent off copy edits last week. I even saw a potential cover a few days ago, and I’m still reeling with happiness.
Now, although I didn’t come up with the original premise of this story, it still came out of my heart. When I reached out to a friend of mine asking if she thought I should make the main character a Latina girl, she reminded me to stay true to myself, and I did, and my character is one of the dearest to my heart. Although I was working with an already established concept, I had the liberty to literally color it at my pleasure, and I’m so happy with the results!
I’m excited to share more about this project that releases in January when my editors give the OK.
I never expected my first novel to come out of an in-house need, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity to take this different path that will lead me straight to my main goal: connect with readers.
When my novels didn’t sell although my writing received great feedback, I researched on different options, and I was surprised at some alternate paths I had never considered before. Besides self-publishing, with which a lot of authors find much success, I came upon the concept of book packagers.
A book packager is a company that develops ideas, often high-concept, and find an author to execute them. Then, they sell it to publishers. The book packager retains the rights to the piece, and the author often receives a flat fee for writing the story, but the author’s name often appears on the book cover. Take a look at your shelves. A lot of favorite best-sellers were conceived by a packager who worked in collaboration with an author. Sometimes the author is already established, but many times, this kind of collaboration can catapult a debut author’s career. Some book packagers to note are CAKE Literary (founded and directed by industry powerhouses Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton), Glasstown Entertainment, Alloy Entertainment, Working Partners, Etc.
Other authors work with I.P. (intellectual property), that is, they’re asked to write a story in an already established world, like Star Wars or Marvel.
The more I looked, the more I realized there are many paths to my main goal I had never considered before. Of course, not all paths will work for or appeal to all writers, but if you don’t know about them, how will you know if they’ll appeal to you?
I encourage you all aspiring and established authors to look at all the options you have to share your writing with the world. You never know what will spark for you.
When my family was in Zion’s, the best views and greatest experiences didn’t happen while driving on the paved highway. It wasn’t until we ventured on the trails, that we discovered views we could have never imagined before.
Yamile (prounounced sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is an immigrant writer and reader, a dreamer and fighter, a Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA graduate, a 2014 New Visions Award Honor Winner, and one the 2015 Walter Dean Myers Inaugural Grant recipients. Born and raised in Rosario, Argentina (cradle of fútbol), she now lives in Alpine, Utah with her husband, five children, and three dogs, but her heart is with her family scattered all over the world. Find her on twitter: @YamileSMendez and online: yamilesmendez.com.