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Why Publishing Your First Novel is Like Running For Student Body President

Picture being a new student at a high school where you don’t know anyone (writing your first novel). And now picture dementedly wanting to run for school president . Lord knows why you want to run for school president (publishing your first novel), but maybe you think you’d make a terrific president. You have really good ideas and if people would just give you a chance you could make this school the greatest school the world has ever seen (it is possible that your novel doesn't suck). You know it’s a long shot but it can be done, so you set out to do it. GIVEAWAY: Michelle is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: 13sgelda won.)

(How many agents should you contact at one time?)

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Guest column by Michelle Haimoff, writer and blogger whose
writing has appeared in The New York Times, The
Los Angeles
Times, The Christian Science Monitor, PsychologyToday.com and
The Huffington Post. Her first novel, THESE DAYS ARE OURS
(Feb. 2012, Grand Central, starred review from Publishers Weekly),
is available nationwide. She can be found blogging on genfem.com
and on Facebook and Twitter.

Picture being a new student at a high school where you don’t know anyone (1). And now picture dementedly wanting to run for school president (2). Lord knows why you want to run for school president, but maybe you think you’d make a terrific president. You have really good ideas and if people would just give you a chance you could make this school the greatest school the world has ever seen (3). You know it’s a long shot but it can be done, so you set out to do it.

1 - writing your first novel
2 - publishing your first novel
3 - it is possible that your novel doesn’t suck

You start making signs (4) and trying to get student groups (5) to let you talk at their meetings . But nobody knows you so they tell you that they don’t have time for you to talk at their meetings (6). The kids on Yearbook (7), Model UN (8) and Debate Team (9) won’t even look at you (10) when you approach them. The ones in Band (11) and Chess Club (12) say no way, but the Community Service Committee (13) says they’ll think about it. You make sure to say hi to all Community Service Club members in the hallways (14) anytime you pass them. They never say hi back.

4 - writing emails
5 - newspapers and magazines
6 - review your book
7 - The New Yorker
8 - New York Review of Books
9 - The New York Times
10 - respond to your emails
11 - Daily Beast
12 - Salon

13 - The Atlantic Salmon Journal
14 - retweet their tweets

Your signs (15) are made out of loose leaf (16) and graph paper (17) because you’re paying for them with your own money and you can’t afford oak tag (18). But you notice that other candidates, the jocks maybe, have signs (19) that are professionally laser printed (20) and hang as banners in the hallways (21). You look at your dinky graph paper sign and then at the enormous sign in the hallway and you wonder how you’re ever going to get anyone to vote for you (22). Also, you wonder where they got the money for those signs. But you shrug it off and keep your head up because you’re an optimist (23). An unrelenting optimist (24).

15 - publicity
16 - Facebook status updates
17 - tweets
18 - a publicist
19 - personal websites
20 - really fucking well designed
21 - come up first in a Google search
22 - buy your book
23 - an idiot
24 - an idiot with an inflated sense of self

Every so often you stand at the entrance to the cafeteria (25) and take an informal poll to see how many students are planning to vote for you (26). One day two students tell you that they’ll vote for you (27)! But moments later the captain of the football team trips you (28) causing you to run and hide (29).

25 - go on Amazon
26 - check your ranking
27 - you were ranked lower than #400,000
28 - Amazon recommends that you check out the Fifty Shades Trilogy
29 - close all tabs

At this point you have a moment of sanity and wonder what the hell you were thinking running for office. There’s no way you’re going to win (30), you should just be focusing on your homework (31) and graduation (32). It is at that moment that French Club (33) tells you they want you to speak at their next meeting (34). You have tried so hard for so long and you are overjoyed by this minor victory. You come out of the meeting knowing that you got more votes.

30 - make any money doing this
31 - getting an office job
32 - saving up for retirement
33 - a blog you’ve never heard of
34 - is going to review your book

The election comes and goes and you don’t become student body president, but you don’t get the least number of votes either (35). The kids that voted for you (36) wish you better luck when you run next year (37). And now you actually have some friends in this school, or at least more people to say hi to in the hallways (38). And because you really don’t know when to quit, you think, “Hmmm. Maybe I will run again next year (39)… maybe I will (40)…”

35 - some books aren’t even in the top #400,000 on Amazon
36 - your readers
37 - tell you that they’re looking forward to your next book
38 - Twitter followers
39 - there is this other book idea I have…
40 - and my second novel will definitely sell better than my first…

GIVEAWAY: Michelle is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: 13sgelda won.)

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