Guard The Books [How I Became An Author]

I’ve been writing stories since I was nine years old. My first dozen or so tales starred a particularly familiar character named King Kaleb, who had a penchant for explosions and was friendly to aliens. My parents would dutifully print these out, draft after draft, and let me pile them in my room.

But by the time I was ten, I was over the Microsoft Word double-sided printout booklets. Normal printer paper does not fold into the same width of an actual book book, and this wrecked the realism when I signed these booklet prints for my imaginary audience*. And besides, as anyone who’s tried this knows, it’s impossible to get the staple in the exact center of those pages.

Growing sick of this cruel sequestering of my obviously superior storytelling skills, I eventually decided it was time to be published, and let them deal with the folding and the stapling. I figured being twelve years old would give me some credit, because I was only one year away from being a teenager, and teenagers were practically adults.

So, I dug up the number of the senior editor of a giant publisher, and called her office.

I was prepared. I had a pitch ready for my amazing story about a town of elves being invaded by evil flying wizards, loosely based upon a city of Legos I had built (with photographic reproductions on hand in case my future publishers needed them / my little brother smashed my enormous buildings). The title: Enchanted Memories. If you can judge a book by its cover, this would be the cover:

The editor was not enchanted by any of my memories. Somehow, my call was immediately routed to the security guard downstairs.

This might seem like a rather depressing turn of events, but the guard ended up being instrumental to me. In the process of telling me I could not simply call the head editor’s office, he informed me that there was a process to publishing. For some reason, I had thought books were published simply by calling the biggest and most powerful name in the list of editors you could find, and convincing them you were awesome sauce. But here was something new: revising and querying and researching and never, ever phone-calling.

As the guard hung up, he encouragingly said he hoped he’d get the chance to guard my books one day.

After that first rejection, I didn’t want to be naive to the publishing world any more. I refused to let myself be forwarded to security again. So I read every single book I could find on the publishing business. I went to the library, searched for any books under the categories “Authorship” or “Publishing”, and then unloaded as much of the shelf as I could carry. My mom had an educator’s card that allowed up to 100 books checked out at once. We’d cart a van-full home each trip.

In fact, I was so eager to see my book in print that by the time I turned sixteen, I knew ALL of the major publishers, their head editors’ names, the names of their assistants, their mailing addresses, and the top selling frontlist titles at each house. I would go into a library and pick up books based on which publishing house’s logo was at the bottom of the spine, until I learned exactly what type of book each company seemed to like best. Years before my first novel was even completed, I had compiled a database of agents and a dossier of New York literary bigwigs to almost-creepy proportions (Liz Szabla: in 2001, you had an assistant named Jennifer, right? RIGHT?! Of course you did…**).

To some people, this might seem like a very desperate dream at that age. But it was a big dream, and I knew that if I wanted to reach it, I couldn’t put it off until I was older. I had to start aiming for it right then, before I was thrust into the world and lost myself in a job or college or the important things that the big scary adults did all day. I knew that if I skipped my chance then, it might be years before I could devote time to becoming an author.

I had my first book signing for my first novel on my 21st birthday: a grand birthday gift to myself for nearly half my life of hard work and big dreams. I’m certainly not a literary genius like John Green or JK Rowling. But, I wanted it, no matter how many years of improvement it would take me to get published. I didn’t want to settle with talking to the guard downstairs.

For anyone who wants to write, and anyone who dreams of becoming an author: reaching for the dream is the best first step you can take. If you want something enough to work for years with no promise of any concrete reward, you will find a way to make it happen. My first stories were abysmal. The first ten drafts of my first published novel were abysmal too. But when you want something so much that you’re willing to go after it despite the rejections, you’ll eventually get an editor who will call you on the phone instead.

There’s a happy ending: the publishing house who sent me to security is now one of my publishers. Guard the books well, Mr. security.

FOOTNOTES

*I have been practicing my autograph since I was 9 in preparation for the time I knew I would become an author. This is why my signature now takes .045 seconds.
** Liz Szabla was once an editor at a giant publisher. This is an example of my creepy publishing spy work.

AUTHOR

Kaleb Nation

Kaleb Nation is an author, TV personality, and entrepreneur. Kaleb and his projects have been featured by Entertainment Weekly, CNN, HLN, Mashable, The Daily Dot, TIME.com, The Huffington Post, and more. His online videos have been viewed over 60,000,000 times.

All stories by: Kaleb Nation
20 comments
  • Caryn
    REPLY

    Wow, I'm glad that you stuck through thick and thin to accomplish what you have now, if it weren't for all your hard work, research and dream you would not be where you are today. Nationeers will always support you =)
    Ps. My friend's really interested in novel writing so I always recommend her to read your posts about publishing and writing, you're a great inspiration =D

  • Karen
    REPLY

    You are so wonderfully inspiring!! I've always enjoyed this story, but to have the details makes it so awesome!

    YES!! The length-challenged stapler issue is frustrating! We gently bend the page to get the proper placement, but it makes the page wonky. We have a bunch of wonky-paged books. πŸ˜‰

  • Bledsoeariel
    REPLY

    Ah! I'm so proud of how far you've come Kaleb!! Like you said before, I've been with this mini fandom family for a while and so much has changed. I remember following kalebnation.com long before you started your ventures into Twilight-dom and its so strange/exciting/tear jerking to see all that has happened.

    I know a lot of younger viewers may know you as The Twilight Guy, some may know you as Kaleb Nation, but some of us just know you as Kaleb. That one author-to-be with the Beiber hair BEFORE Beiber existed, who once had a crush on the Cheesecake Factory girl, who had to hide his food from the Lasagna Burglar, and has a gnome collection.

    But we wouldn't have you any other way. πŸ™‚

    @ariel_bledsoe

  • hedwig290
    REPLY

    Omg! Can u be my teacher on this stuff? Cause I'm writing a book right now and everything just kinda comes to me at random moments! I don't wanna wait forever to get it published so I need someone to guide me!

  • Nationeer 7.1
    REPLY

    I'm only 13 but I've wanted to be an author since I was about 8, I haven't actually written a book yet but I've always wanted to. I'm told that I don't act 13 since I know that I want to go to College and take English Literature and Language as well as Triple Science, Maths and ICT (ambitious I know). But thanks to your inspiring words of wisdom I have decided to start writing a book. And I probally won't ever be a J.K Rowling or Stephenie Meyer but I'm going to have a go! πŸ˜€

    From,

    A Nationeer in England who is extreemly tired because she has stayed up VERY VERY late trying to have inspiration for a Fan Fiction she is writing. I hate writers bock!!

  • Abby
    REPLY

    Comforting to know I'm not the only one to tried to contact a big publisher when I was younger. I was around ten when I emailed a editor–not sure who she was but I think it was the highest person on the totem pole that you could still get their email off the website–from Scholastic.
    I got a very pleasant email back from her saying that they didn't take unsolicited work. She even gave me a list of magazines that would publish work written by children. I think I was mad at them for a while but I don't remember. Apparently not enough to boycott all their books–harrypotterharrypotterharrypotter–. Looking back I'm really quite surprised she emailed me back but it was very thoughtful of her and it may have been a rejection but it made me work even harder towards my goal. πŸ™‚

  • Audrey L-Brassard
    REPLY

    Hey Kaleb really inspiring Blog , after that I truly start maybe think about my writing so much I can't stop… You're my inspiration and you have a you have a special thanks on my book πŸ™‚ . Good luck to bring the old Kaleb Nation Video back πŸ™‚

  • Nick
    REPLY

    Wow, Kaleb. I just read this after watching a couple of your writing videos, and it made me remember how much I love writing. And now my heart beats fast as I dream of the future.

  • JP Cabit
    REPLY

    Ha ha ha ha!!!! Luv the “Enchanted memories” memory. (Sweet cover art…) I have a similar storyβ€”once as a kid I had this fantasy (cough, delusion, cough…) that I could write a book, and get published, and have my friends checking the book out of the library and tell me about it, all before the evening was out. YAH. Biiiiiiiiig imagination. πŸ˜€

  • Daisy
    REPLY

    How do you do it? You manage to inspire and make me laugh and remind me of my own dreams (that constantly get lost in this “big scary adult” world — how did your 16 yr self know about that?) all in one post. Thanks for being you! I've read BH 1&2 and you're a great writer. But I'm guessing that's not what will propel you into greatness (well, not the only thing…). It's your ability to encourage and inspire and give people back their dreams so effortlessly that will make you famous beyond what your writing will. I'm convinced that in a few years the stories will start to come in of how “some person almost didn't write that book, but then she read Kaleb Nation's blog and he spurred her into action and now she's famous and her book is a best seller…” Yes, I'm sure of it.

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