What happened with my book deal: Over the summer, I published my second book - Balance and Your Body: How Exercise Can Help You Avoid a Fall. I was really happy with how it turned out, and I’ve gotten great feedback.
I’ve almost sold out of my first printing her in Ottawa (but I can order more at any time, if you’re interested in purchasing a copy!), and it’s selling steadily on Amazon. It was time to move on to my third book.
In early September, I received an email through my website about Balance and Your Body. An editor at a New York-based publisher had found my book on Amazon and wanted to know if I was interested in updating it and re-releasing it with them, or writing another book on the same topic for them to publish. I asked around about this type of occurrence — i.e., a self-published author being headhunted by a publishing company — and although it is rare, it does happen from time to time.
I hopped on a call with the editor to find out more. From the first contact, I had always been willing to walk away if the proposal didn’t work for me. We exchanged many emails while she prepared a pitch for the larger editorial team. Then we hit radio silence. I figured her pitch had been rejected, so I moved on with my own writing/self-publishing timeline, and more or less forgot about it.
Fast forward to October, when another person from the same publisher reached out, explaining that the first editor had left for another job. Was a I still interested in producing a balance/exercise book with them? Sure!
More emails and phone calls, as they outlined how the book would look different coming through their publishing house. This included me producing and sending to them lots of sample photographs of the exercises (I had used illustrations in my book, to keep costs low, and to make the exercises seem more approachable to all).
Again, another lapse of time after their pitch and an eventual follow-up with me. I honestly thought I was being ghosted for a second time by the same company.
Late last week, I finally received an offer and a contract to review. I already had the names of several literary lawyers to contact, should this day arise. Yesterday, I spent one hour on the phone with one of these lawyers, going through the contract line by line. At the end our call, I had five pages of notes: sections where she recommended I have them strike portions, amend others, and have frank discussions with them before signing.
The advance they were offering was going to be chewed up by a photographer that I would be hiring to do photo versions of all the exercises. There were also a lot of restrictions around publishing other books—and I currently have three more in progress—as well as ownership and rights around the book I would be producing for them.
The original “Balance and Your Body” was meant to be a small book, so I was happy that it came in just under 120 pages. As my future collaborator, Dr. Barry Franklin, said, I’m writing “little books with BIG impact.” I love that sentiment, and I love that my books are accessible. Balance and Your Body is 16,000 words, while they wanted to update it to a tome of 40,000 to 45,000 words. And part of the deal would have meant delisting Balance and Your Body.
I was on the fence during the call with the lawyer. But deep down, I realized that I’m happier carving my own path at the moment. So I told them thank you but no thank you; that I wanted to stay self-publishing my books and being in charge of my catalogue.
And they were really gracious when I turned them down. Here’s part of her response to me: “If anything changes in terms of your scheduling preferences or you come up with another idea that you think would be better suited to more traditional publishing, please feel free to circle back with me, as we’d be open to talking.”
Never say never, who knows if I’ll come up with an idea that I’ll want to publish with them. In the meantime, I’m chugging away on my first novel, and the germ of an idea for my next novel popped into my head as I walked to work early this morning!
A few days ago, my book cover designer sent me the cover roughs for my upcoming fourth book, I Can See Your Underwear: My Journey Through the Fitness World. It was a set of four options on the design for my cover. In less than 24 hours, we were back and forth twice more, and I had my final design. (And if you keep reading, you’ll see it for yourself.)
We had actually started the process a few months ago, but I asked her to hit pause on the design. You see, I thought I was fine with the title and subtitle, but I was having second thoughts. No point having my designer go through a full round of editing if the text was liable to change!
And that’s a key part of the creative process, especially when you’re a self-published author: having a catchy title that’ll will be noticed, but that also includes multiple keywords. You know, the words someone might type into a Google or Amazon search bar to find a book. In the case of my fourth book, I jumped the gun on naming it. Luckily, I realized my error before I had spent money on the cover design.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I unpaused the cover design, asking my designer to continue with this project. We again had a few back and forth emails, and in one she asked about font.
“I trust your design expertise on the font front.”
Well, that was probably the best response I could have sent, because she replied along the lines,
“If you trust my design skills, can I give you feedback on the image you chose?”
When planning my book covers, I browse stock photo websites and purchase images there. In this case, though, my cover designer felt the image I had chosen was of lower quality than my other cover images. Basically, it wasn’t the right look for the overall theme of my books. She then recommended I hire a graphic artist to create an image that worked with my other covers.
Thus began a multi-day search for a suitable artist. I vetted half a dozen artists and settled on one who, it turns out, lives about 15 minutes away from me! I was speaking with artists from around the world, and found the most suitable one very close to home. Small world indeed…
What a fun process it was to have a talented artist create the image that I would eventually use! First round saw him send me a black and white image for approval:
Next up, he filled in the colours and sent me several drafts over the course of a Saturday afternoon and evening. By the fourth draft, I was pleased with the final product and signed off on it. So that was the image I sent to my cover designer, along with a mockup of my cover—this time, with all the right words in the title and subtitle.
Would you like to see the cover of my next book? Keep scrolling down this page…
What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment below.
Over the summer, I made the difficult decision to put my mobile fitness business on hold and return to the paid workforce. As with any loss, I cycled through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. But I was surprised with what happened when I arrived at acceptance. I felt like an incredible weight had been lifted off my shoulders; I felt relief with my decision. A huge relief, actually.
This relief, though, was coupled with an incredible sense of failure. Like, I couldn’t make it as an entrepreneur. That I had failed because my business wasn’t bursting at the seams. That I had failed because I was relieved to be putting it aside.
My job search was then another source of emotional turmoil. I had a wealth of experience, in both breadth and depth. And yet, I wasn’t even getting called for interviews. Well, that’s not exactly true. I did complete phone interviews for a pair of jobs. In one case, I advanced to the next stage: a video interview with my potential new boss. In the other case, I hadn’t impressed them enough to move forward in the process. And in both cases, I was dropped from the candidate pool.
Was it because of my age? I had turned 50 a few months earlier, and wondered if ageism was rearing its ugly head. But deep down, I again felt relief, because I knew I didn’t want to go back into an office full-time. Heck, I even clung to not being available full-time by scheduling a Friday morning class for 12 weeks.
And then I decided that I should relax my job search criteria, open myself to part-time opportunities. I still have a house and family that require care and feeding. Roles that require time and effort, and which I take very seriously.
My frustration mounted when I was even being considered for part-time roles. Was I now over-qualified? I went for a walk to clear my head and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Heck, I was still joking that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
But on that walk, a thought popped into my head: “I just want to write!” It was a bit of an epiphany, and I started reflecting on how much I had accomplished in the past 18 months, since I first decided to write and self-publish a book. Shortly after my first book was published, I was invited onto a Facebook Live broadcast to discuss my book and my journey of self-publication. The interviewer asked me if I had always known I wanted to be a writer.
At the time, I didn’t have a clear answer for her. Since then, though, I’ve thought about it and realized that yes, deep down I always wanted to be a writer. I’m reminded of an elementary school project. I must have been in grade four or five at the time. Each student was required to complete a personal coat of arms. Included in the four quadrants were the past, present and future.
In the future section, I had drawn a book. I can’t recall the title of the book, but the author was clearly me. The by-line was “Mandy Joab, Ph.D.” (That’s my maiden name, in case you’re wondering. And yes, I used to go by Mandy instead of Amanda.)
So I guess the answer to the question, “Have you always wanted to be a writer?” is “Yes!”
And that’s why my website and social media presence evolved from Amanda Sterczyk Fitness to Amanda Sterczyk - Author. It’s my fourth career and it fits really well. Especially since I finally found a part-time job that works for me and my commitments. I’m still a mom with kids at home, so running our household is still near the top of the list. But the other thing that ranks pretty highly now is writing.
The priority this month is my first attempt at fiction. After all, it’s NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is an online community of writers, a virtual support group to encourage you to write the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I’m not officially registered on their website, but I am working towards a daily goal of writing 1,000 to 1,500 words.
A few months ago, I first came up with the idea for a novel. It was after posting an excerpt from my upcoming fourth book, I Can See Your Underwear: My Journey Through the Fitness World. I had several people tell me that I’m a great storyteller and I should consider turning my skills to the world of fiction. An idea for a story started germinating right then and there.
I’ve always had a very active imagination, and I love making up stories in my head. As I researched novel writing, one clear rule emerged: you must engage the reader. If you write a compelling story that keeps the reader engaged, anything is possible. And so, my creative juices began flowing.
I read about plot and character development. I went for lots of solitary walks and daydreamed a lot, because that’s how my brain creates. I started a new file in my writing software (I use Scrivener and I love it), and began creating parts, chapters, sections, and characters.
Last month, I began filling in the sections. And yesterday, the first day of the month, I wrote 1,400 words in the manuscript for Selfried and the Secret. This morning, I’ve produced only 300 words of fiction. But this post will come in at over 1,000 words. And after a walk, I know I’ll have more inspiration to continue on my novel. I’ll hit my 1,400-word target with room to spare. And if I’m on a roll with writing, who knows where I’ll stop today.
I am a writer. I am an author. And I love my new career.
Amanda Sterczyk is a Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor. She offers in-home personal training in central Ottawa. Amanda specializes in helping older adults maintain and increase strength, flexibility, and mobility. No fitness goal is too small, in her opinion.