How an Average Person Like Me Got a Book Deal and Became a Published Author

Average is the New Awesome by Samantha Matt

Hello! I’m the founder of Forever Twenty Somethings and this is the story of how I got a book deal based on the articles I wrote for this website. You can order Average is the New Awesome now from Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble, your local bookstore, and more. Thank you for all of the support—now and over the past nine years!

While I was doing research for the book I had just been offered a decent amount of money to write, I asked my friends and followers on social media to take a survey.

One of the questions was: What has surprised you the most about money throughout adulthood and why?

Everyone had great answers to this question, such as “It does not grow on trees” and “There is never enough and it doesn’t go very far.” But there was one answer that stuck out:

How you’re so mediocre and still got a book deal

This person was not wrong. I am one mediocre mother fucker. I grew up in an average suburban town. I have a degree from a college, as most do. I have a good job, but it doesn’t stand out as crazy impressive amongst all of my peers. I have big dreams I’m not sure I’ll ever reach. I have debt that drains my bank account every month. I suck at going regularly to the dentist. I struggle to fold and put away laundry after it is clean. I still scream every time I see a bug. I have friends. I have enemies (the above person also said their occupation was “Please kill yourself you no-talent hack” in the survey, so there’s proof!).

So how did I—the mediocre, talentless hack, lol—get a book deal? Let’s dive right into that, shall we?!

First: How I came up with the idea to write a book

Just about nine years ago in March of 2011, I started a blog called Forever Twenty Somethings. For the next couple of years, I wrote about pretty much anything on it—and people read it. From things I wish I knew after graduating college to reasons wine is better than a significant other—to thoughts everyone has during Pure Barre to signs you were a basic 90s bitch (and 2000s!), no subject from my life was left untouched.

It felt great that people were interested in reading what I had to say, and it felt even better that this many people related to me. But my website wasn’t as popular as top websites. Although some stories went ‘viral’ and received millions of pageviews, it didn’t get as much site traffic as other top sites. The blog had a decent amount of followers on social media, but not as many as bigger publications, and I wasn’t making enough money from it to quit my job.

I often wondered why I was doing this. Why I was spending every waking moment outside of my 9-5 job that I wasn’t out with friends hustling to keep this website alive. But I would always remember: I was doing it because I loved being a voice for the people out there who were just like me—and because I loved giving people like me a voice, too (the website, at its peak, had over 100+ contributors located around the world writing for it). We were not experts. We did not have connections. We did not all live in big cities. We were all the same. Just a bunch of average folk trying to feel less alone as we navigated life in pursuit of our dreams, whether we would one day reach them or not (my dream was—and still is—to write a hit TV show; I’m not there… yet… but I’ll never stop trying).

So in 2014, I decided to write a book for us. For those who didn’t know that this ‘we’ existed yet. For those who didn’t know that their feelings about life, work, relationships, and their bodies were normal. For those who didn’t realize they were doing just fine in life. For those that needed to become okay with being average.

Okay. So I knew I was going to write a book. What did I do next?

When it came to writing and publishing a book, I had no idea where to start. I had gone to school for television production, worked in news, and knew nothing about book writing. So what did I do? I googled the fuck out of how to get a book deal and publish a book.

What I found was that if I didn’t want to self publish, I had to ‘query’ agents (meaning pitch them my book via email) and sign with one before even thinking about getting my book in front of potential publishers. And before I could query agents, I needed to write a proposal for the book. (Because I was pitching non-fiction, I read that I didn’t need the full manuscript, but if I was pitching fiction, I would.)

After looking at a few literary agency websites and blogs, I learned that a book proposal should consist of the following: an overview, author bio, target audience info, competitive analysis, basic marketing plan, table of contents, and the first 25 pages of the book. (I later learned that this setup can be different for every agent, but as long as you have a decent structure and a lot of information in it for querying, you’re good.)

After a few months of putting my proposal together, I started querying agents. In fact, I sent 15 emails pitching the idea for a book I had come up with titled Help Me I’m Average: Tales from My Quarter Life Crisis. Before sending the emails, I researched different agents. I used AgentQuery.com to search for agents currently accepting non-fiction memoirs, self-help books, and ‘blog to book’ concepts (I later also used manuscriptwishlist.com and mswishlist.com). Then I looked up the agents on their websites, company pages, and social media to see the types of works and authors they already represented. Finally I made a list of ones I wanted to reach out to—and off I went.

Out of the 15 queries I sent, four of them received responses from agents that were interested and wanted to see more. Guess who just so happened to be one of those agents? My current and wonderful agent, Erin! But I didn’t sign with her until almost three years later. Here’s what happened.

On actually writing the Full Manuscript

After sending the proposal I had for Help Me I’m Average to the four agents who requested more material, three ended up passing. But Erin, my now agent, requested the FULL MANUSCRIPT.

But I didn’t have a full manuscript. I only had the proposal. So I set out to write the entire book (which I probably should have done beforehand as I was an average person with a mediocre blog and so-so follower numbers, but you live and you learn!!!)—and two years later (yes, TWO YEARS LATER), I emailed Erin back with the finished book.

It took two years to complete because I was doing it on the side of the side. I had my full-time job—and then I had my website (the one you’re on right now!) that at the time, I was running at 300%. There were tons of writers, a couple editors, and a few interns. I had help, but it had basically become a full-time job that I was waking up to work on at 6am and staying up until 1am to continue writing, editing, and scheduling content. And on weekends, I would set aside half a day to power schedule articles and all the social media feeds for the week.

But I got the book done, and I send it to Erin in January of 2017 hoping she would still be interested. But I also knew that she might not be anymore. Two years is a long time, and her interests in clients and projects could have changed.

Between the months of January and April 2017, I queried 57 more agents. Out of these 57 agents, only seven responded asking for the proposal and manuscript. The rest sent rejections or nothing at all.

Most of the rejections I got didn’t give much insight into why my project and I kept getting passed over, but a few did:

  • “It’s a great title and a very comprehensive proposal. The problem I see is that, while entertaining, many if not all of your audience will be going through the same things you went through. I’m not sure that reading about someone else’s experience will be that helpful to an age group that is for the most part very hyper-self aware.”

Yes, well, that’s the point of the book. To help people like me feel less alone and better about where they are in life. This was one of my favorite rejections.

  • “Promising work, but the editors we work with in New York increasingly insist that submissions be written by authors with preexisting, wide national media access and name recognition.”

Ah, yes. The “you’re too average to write a book about being average” rejection. Of course.

  • “You have an astonishing platform and a great message, but I’m not convinced that your audience will buy a book or that there is enough for a book.”

Because ‘millennials’ don’t buy books and average people don’t have enough interesting thoughts and experiences to fill one with, DUH.

How I finally signed with my agent

After eight months of querying agents and receiving rejection after rejection after rejection—after two years spent writing a full manuscript—after a few months of sending some initial pitches and trying to figure the business out—I was close to giving up.

Each rejection and unanswered email made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. I wondered if this was normal and questioned whether my writing and manuscript were actually good. I started working on ideas for a new book, but was nervous that nothing would ever happen from that either.

But then in August, seven months after I sent the full manuscript, I heard from Erin. She was still interested, so we set up a call, and on that day, September 5th, 2017, I finally found myself an agent.

What happened after I found an agent? How did we sell the book?

Erin, her assistant, Cristina, and I spent the next couple of months building a fantastic proposal to hopefully sell to a publisher. Leaving most of the full manuscript I wrote behind, we devised a proposal for a new book based on what would really make it appeal to publishers.

Once the proposal was complete, Erin sent it off to potential editors. Then we waited.

After a few rejections, there was eventually interest—from multiple editors. I will never forget receiving the first email stating that a publisher was interested in the book. After four years of working on this ever-changing project, I was finally close to the dream.

We scheduled a phone call with one of the interested editorsI Her name was Laura and she was from Seal Press, a Hachette imprint. She enjoyed my writing and unlike some of the other people we had heard from, she really understood the message of the book. In fact, she understood it so much that she felt it applied to people of all ages—not just my own peers. She had a vision for the book slightly different from the proposal we had put together, so I would have to switch gears again, but I loved her ideas. So I told her so—and then it came: the offer.

I finally had a book deal.

What happened next? 

The verbal offer came in June 2018 and the formal, legal one came a few months later. The first draft of the book was due in January 2019, and the edits came in a few weeks later before being due in March. None of this process was easy (I had to give up a lot to work on this project over the years), but this was by far the hardest part for me. When making the edits, I decided to cut, rewrite, and add material throughout—all in the span of one month, while working a full-time job. I could have half assed it, sure, and done the bare minimum, but this was my child. I had to do what I felt was necessary.

After many sleepless nights and migraines, an edited book was born. I sent it over to my editor, she made some tweaks and cuts, and then it was sent to the copyeditor for all things grammar. A few months later, before I knew it, the book was off to the printers.

During that time, the title of the book was changed to Average is the New Awesome: A Manifesto for the Rest of Us, the cover was designed by the publisher, and I had to abandon this website because I could not possibly do everything at the same time. But because I had embraced my average, I was okay with that. I would get back to it eventually. (and I did! here I am guys!!! 31 and still THRIVING in the most average way possible).

I should add: During this time, I was still posting to and growing the website’s Instagram account, @20somethingproblems, which ended up growing to currently have over 85,000 followers, with many of my tweets and memes getting reposted by big name accounts and some celebrities. You can’t abandon all of your platforms while writing a book, or you may have trouble marketing it when it’s done!

Where is Average is the New Awesome now?

Six years after deciding I was going to write a book, my first one is TWO DAYS AWAY from being released on January 7th 2020.

Average is the New Awesome is not about my struggle to become a published author. But never have I ever felt more average than when I was in pursuit of that dream. In fact, I almost gave up that dream because I started to think I was too mediocre to achieve it—just like that person wrote in their survey answer.

But I was good enough. I ended up getting the book deal after all.

If you’ve ever felt behind in life or too average to pursue a certain dream, like me, this book is for you. Average does not mean failure. Average means you’re doing just fine. It means you can still go after your dreams, but if you never get to all of the places you’ve wanted to go, that’s okay too. You just need to keep taking the steps there, acknowledge all of your accomplishments—big and small, and remember to be happy on this journey to wherever life is taking you next.

You can’t control how things end up, but you can make the most of whatever life hands you. That’s certainly what I, a mediocre, talentless hack, did to get a book deal. It might not have been the biggest book deal, and it definitely won’t end up being the best book anyone has ever written, but that’s okay. You don’t have to be the best to be successful. You just have to keep going.

Order Average is the New Awesome now from Amazon, TargetBarnes & Noble, a local bookstore, and more!

Average is the New Awesome is a celebration of ordinary awesomeness, for all of us who were told “You can do anything!” and then found out we actually can’t. Be sure to add it to your Goodreads account if you have one! I hope you enjoy it, and I very much appreciate all of the support!

Samantha Matt

Hi I’m Sam. I made this website in 2011 and it’s still going. My first book, AVERAGE IS THE NEW AWESOME, is coming out in January (you can buy it right now on Amazon or from your fave bookstore!). I like pizza, French fries, barre, spin, more pizza, more French fries, and buying clothes. Writing is fun. Follow me on twitter & Instagram at @samanthamatt1... and on this site's meme account on IG at @20somethingproblems. OKAY GREAT THANKS BYE.

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