2016 Is My Year to Get My First Book Published

What defined 2015 for you? What was the overarching theme, or most major life change you experienced? For me, 2015 was the year roller derby changed my life. And, if all goes according to plan, 2016 will be the year I publish a book about it.

I started skating in Chicago last January, and it felt great to be actually be good at something athletic. I am not a strong or graceful person in my day-to-day life, but I’m both of these things on skates. On top of the morale boost skating has given me, it’s also introduced me to a wide world of bad-ass women on wheels, and given me something at which I actively work toward improving.

I don’t remember exactly when it occurred to me there needed to be a book about roller derby changing my life, but after I moved to Portland, I spent a good chunk of the latter half of 2015 working on the first draft.

My memoir is about learning to play, getting to skate with amazing women of all skill levels in both Chicago and Portland, and how the experience changed me. It’s also about what it’s like to operate as a hard-of-hearing skater, and the ways in which roller derby has brought confidence into other areas of my life, including my career, my relationships, and my personal safety.

I’ve never written a book before, and I have no idea how to get one published. Regardless, here’s the rough plan I’ve mapped out for myself. Sharing it with you sure makes it feel real, which is both exciting and terrifying.


This past fall, I took a big step and reached out to a writer/editor I admire to ask her to read and edit my manuscript. We agreed on compensation based on this being my first book and her first manuscript edit, and we set a deadline. I have to get my completed draft to her by February 1, 2016, and she’ll work on it for three months.

I picked this editor because I love her writing style and feel like her sense of humor and personal brand are very much in line with my own. Women like her are my target audience, and she has the ability to point out what’s missing from my draft — and to identify parts that might be less interesting than I think they are.


While my editor is working on my draft, I will spend three months sending out query letters and book proposals to at least 20 literary agents. Since it’s nonfiction, I don’t need a completed manuscript for this part, which means I can do it while I wait. I will need one or two sample chapters, so these will have to be ready and polished by February. Based on my research, a lot of agents want to know who you are, that you write well, and that you have a compelling story to tell. They also want to know how you’re going to market yourself and your book, so I need to have a solid plan to share by then.


This is the stuff I’m really good at. In a way, I’ve been promoting this work-in-progress for months. I started an email newsletter back in April, in which I email my followers every two weeks with links to what I’ve written for the internet, what I’ve been reading, and what I’ve been enjoying. It’s a link round-up with color commentary, but it’s also at times slightly promotional. At the top of every email I talk about what I’ve been doing, and that often involves roller derby practice, talking about my home team winning the WFTDA championship, or the process of writing the book.

Every time something I write gets published on any of the sites I write for, my subscriber base grows, little by little. By the time this damn book comes out, I’ll have a built-in email list of people who know about it and, hopefully, are interested in reading it.


This step of my plan is just one giant question mark to me. My completely arbitrary goal is to secure a publisher by Fall 2016, but I have no idea if this is realistic or not. It sure would help if I get a resourceful and determined literary agent before May, when my draft gets back to me from my editor. But in the meantime, I still need to do a lot of research on the publishing world.

A year might not be enough time, but I’m going to do everything in my power to make it happen. Cheers to a productive 2016.

This article is part of The Billfold’s 2015 end-of-year series, “Our Best Selves in the Coming Year.”

Meryl Williams is a Chicago journalist who recently moved to Portland. She loves roller derby, upbeat music with depressing lyrics, and shamelessly ordering the Kids Pack-size popcorn at the movies. Sign up for her awesome TinyLetter.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.