Calling All Aspiring Authors


I can't believe it, but in one week, my book Engagement is Not a Unicorn (It's a Narwhal) will be available on Amazon! One of the questions I get asked a lot is how I came to write a book. I thought I'd use my post this week to take a walk down memory lane in the hopes that you feel inspired to publish your own book...

In truth, from the time I was a child, I'd always wanted to write a book. When I was younger and thought about becoming an author, I thought about writing fiction. As I have come to know about myself, I am not a fiction writer.

Fast forward to around 2015, when I saw a poster in a bathroom that identified Philiip Schlechty's Levels of Engagement. Around the same time, I had been receiving a great deal of professional development (PD) from Dr. Paula Bevan who was working with the Danielson Group. This PD drew our attention to the impact of engagement on learning. Long story short, I started thinking about Schletchy's work and developed my own Engagement Continuum which eventually morphed into my Engagement Matrix. As I told people around me about my ideas, they often responded with, "You should write a book!" Their earnest endorsement of my thinking was encouraging so I started to think that maybe this is what I should finally write a book about.

I began formulating my ideas and getting them on paper. Then, in February 2017, I went to a full day PD session with George Couros, on his book Innovator's Mindset. Here was this former teacher and administrator who had written a book and I saw that his publisher was someone who I hadn't heard of (Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.). I liked the idea of working with a small publisher because (a) I knew I was an unknown and (b) I really love my day job and I'm not looking to start a new career. I reached out to Dave Burgess via his website and held my breath. Dave contacted me in no time and we set up a video conference so we could meet. Dave was incredibly supportive and generous with both his time and advice. He told me that there are really 3 general publishing paths and talked about the pros and cons of each.

  1. Self-Publish: Pros=You have 100% control over your work on how it is produced and all the profits go to you. Cons=Your ability to market your work is limited to your own abilities and connections.

  2. Major Publishing House: Pros=This is all they do, so they're experts in all aspects of publishing including marketing, etc. Cons=You can become a cog in their wheel and it can feel like the work is theirs, not yours.

  3. Small Publishing House: Pros=They tend to be people like you who want to support people like you and the work you've created. Cons=They don't have the same power or name recognition as big publishing houses.

Dave encouraged me to keep writing and let him know when I finished. So, I got to work.

I decided that I would dedicate myself to finishing the book in 2018 and I would self-publish. Like I said, I am not looking for a new career and self-publishing is very easy these days. As I got towards the end of writing the book, I thought, "What the hell. Why not try to see if someone will publish it since even though I'm not looking for a new career, I am looking to share my ideas with as many people as possible and self-publishing will limit my ability to do that."

I don't know what I was thinking trying to finish writing during the holidays, so rather than being done by December 31st, 2018, I finished in early January 2019. Close enough. I reached out again to Dave Burgess to see if he might be interested in publishing my book, which at that time was titled, The Engagement Framework. Once again, he was generous with his time. We had a video conference and he agreed to read the manuscript. It was during that chat that I shared the idea regarding engagement in schools at the highest level being a narwhal, not a unicorn. Dave loved that analogy and encouraged me to find a way to include that in the book's title. I sent him my manuscript and I held my breath.

In a few weeks, Dave got back to me and said he was going to pass on my book. I was disappointed but not discouraged. I started to send out my manuscript to big and small publishing houses--maybe about 10 or so. Here's what I realized that you should know if you ever want to write a book. You do not need to have a fully written manuscript to get a publishing deal; in fact, many/most people do not when they contact a publisher. What they have instead is a well-thought-out concept. The publisher wants to understand what the book will be about and how it's organized. They ask for samples of what the chapters would be, but they often are not interested in the full manuscript. Who knew?!

Eventually, I got several bites. One publisher even sent my manuscript to real educators to get feedback and shared the feedback with me. It was so scary to think that people who didn't know me would read what I wrote and such a relief that the feedback was so positive! Unfortunately, the person who I was working with accepted a new position and couldn't take me on. She referred me to someone in a competing publishing house who she used to work with. We spoke via email and on the phone and, again, this new person was interested in moving my work forward to her colleagues. Ultimately, they rejected the work because they claimed they had nooks already that my book would completed with.

Then, two things happened around the same time. The first was that I saw someone tweet about their book being picked up by EduMatch Publishing. I hadn't heard of EduMatch so I had never sent my work to them for consideration. I looked into EduMatch and thought, "Why not?" At the same time, I also received an email from another publisher who I hadn't heard from since I applied months earlier. The woman who contacted me was so kind. She said she read the manuscript and really liked it. We spoke on the phone and she made me an offer to publish my book!!!! The next thing I knew, EduMatch contacted me and also made me an offer to publish my book!!!! To say that I couldn't believe it is an understatement! I was gobsmacked!

I ended up comparing the contracts, which were quite different. I'm