For 15 years, Adina Gewirtz has been helping struggling writers get organized. Trained as a journalist, she spent her early career freelancing, and then created her writing system, “The Writer’s Roadmap,” based on techniques pioneered by her mentor, two-time Pulitzer prize-winner Jon Franklin. Those techniques were designed to help professional writers structure and execute a well-crafted piece of writing. By translating them into tools even non-professionals could use, Ms. Gewirtz quickly discovered the vast need for such a system by those struggling to write for work or school.
By the mid 1990s, she was teaching writing seminars for accounting giant Arthur Andersen LLP. After 2001, she returned to her own writing and again worked with high school and college students. Her recent book, How to Say It: Business Writing That Works (Prentice Hall, 2007), is available at Amazon.com or area bookstores. You can visit her website at www.writersroadmap.com.
Welcome to Beyond the Books, Adina. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published? Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?
This is my first book – How to Say It: Business Writing That Works. I’ve freelanced and taught writing for years, but never did anything book-length until now.
What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
I’d say this is my first real book. I’d been writing articles, essays and the like for years, plus teaching. And while teaching, I’d designed mini-textbooks for my students, whether they were individuals or companies, but this is the first “real” book I’ve put out there.
For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
I’d say I had twenty or more rejections before Prentice Hall took it on. And that was once I’d found an agent, which was a process in itself!
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
Well, they didn’t feel great. But my agent was encouraging, and she had high hopes for it. I kept hoping too, and when I got impatient, I tried working on other projects, which did help.
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
Prentice Hall, which is a division of Penguin, published How to Say It: Business Writing That Works. I think anyone would be thrilled to have Penguin as a publisher, and I know I was. They chose me, really, because my book teaches a unique system for business writing that I think they saw would appeal to people. It’s easy, straightforward, and it takes a lot of the fear out of writing everything from a memo to a report to a proposal.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
I felt wonderful. As for celebrating, friends and family sent me flowers, and that was terrific. It felt like a real step forward in life.
What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I expanded my website at http://www.writersroadmap.com and I began writing a blog. You can find it at http://www.thewritersroadmap.blogspot.com. I’ve always loved writing about writing, and I spend a lot of my time as a writing coach, helping people figure out what’s gone wrong with what they’re writing, so this was a natural for me.
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
Absolutely not. I think I’d have just tried to write the book a few years earlier than I did – it took a lot of encouragement on my husband’s part to get me believing anyone would want to read about business writing. But in fact, they do! People so often struggle with writing at work, they need help understanding that with a step-by-step process, the task gets much easier.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
The book only came out last October, so I haven’t gotten a new one out yet. But I’ve definitely grown as an author. The whole process gave me confidence that even in this difficult publishing world, it is possible to sell a book. I also have a much more realistic idea of what it takes to write a book and get it published.
Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
It took me a long time to believe that selling a book was possible, and then an equally long time to understand how much time the process of selling a book takes. I wish I had known earlier that, like anything, selling a book takes a lot of concerted effort. I’ve always been focused on the writing; now I’ve learned you have to spend at least as much time getting your work out there.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
I’ve become much more business-minded about my writing. I realize now that, just as in the writing process itself, if you see the goal, you can move toward it. I enjoy being a writing coach and editor, as well as doing my own writing, and I’m dividing my time between those three things.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
I can’t think of anything I’d like better than writing, though I do love teaching, as well, especially one-on-one and in small groups.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
I think with writing coaching, I’m combining the best of both worlds.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years I’d like to have published many more books!
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Remember that it’s a business, and you have to treat it that way. You have to set yourself a time to work on the administrative/marketing aspects of writing, in the same way that you give time to the writing itself.