I did not set out to actually write a book; instead I was keeping a food journal, which is really important for sufferers of IBD, both young and old. For an entire week, my naturopathic doctor suggested writing in a journal all the symptoms my body had and everything I was doing and eating during that time. I was told to be sure to record all symptoms, from the most minor crick in the neck to low back pain, to headaches, to diarrhea. By doing this, I began to learn how my body was trying to communicate to me: I began to listen to my body more and more, and then it became easier for me to notice these connections.
In 2006, after coming home from my bowel resection, my food journal began more as a note to my surgeon that was somewhat humorous and sarcastic (for example, “Well, Dr. H, you told me to keep a food journal so here goes . . . this is going to be really boring since I now eat practically the same thing every day!”). Later on, as my food journal progressed, I began to explore how and why I started to have symptoms and how disease was affecting my life, and the so-called journal took on a life of its own.
My publishing story is not unique: I wanted to buy a book that would help me as a lifestyle guide for the Inflammatory Bowel Disease I suffered from. I searched for a book that would incorporate both the knowledge that comes from Western (i.e., high-tech, science-based) medicine, along with a naturopathic approach that could readily be integrated into a healthy, active life.
That is the book that didn’t exist in 2006. What sets this book apart is that it’s not so much an attempt to explain the disease as an attempt to help sufferers to live with the disease, both by understanding it better and also, more practically, by providing lifestyle strategies (e.g., yoga, recipes, etc.).
I talked to one of my clients about my frustration at not being able to find a good book. This client is the publisher of Hatherleigh Press, a respected medical publisher with a CME component as well, and Random House distributes them. When I look back on our phone conversation, I realize now that I was in fact making a pitch for a book contract! He then asked me to send a proposal by email and I had a book contract – without an agent I might add – in less than a week.
By the spring of 2010, I had already enrolled in Dr. Silver’s course and had written a first draft of the book, working with a wonderful team of editors at Hatherleigh. I did not tell anyone I had an actual book contract, for fear of sounding like I was bragging; instead, I took copious notes, attended all the lectures, listened to the pitches and attended two wonderful writing workshops—one with the terrific Regina Brooks, the other with Karin Hill Craig. I also loved Katherine Russell Rich’s lecture on magazine writing, and Rusty Shelton’s public relations talk. The course gave me all tools to give my book a life of its own—I went back to my book with renewed vigor in honing my writing skills and I put together my own author-based marketing plan with which to increase sales and build my own publishing platform.
Random House has been a good distributor, and Hatherleigh Press is a wonderful small publisher—I felt as if I had the best of both worlds. What I have learned from the course, however, is what is actually selling the book: How to present and pitch yourself, as an author who has built a successful publishing platform and is a knowledgeable source in the medical world.
A writer for Prevention magazine’s story “4 Screening Tests Women Fear” interviewed me and the article was reprinted widely; another article is in the works from Yoga Journal, and my co-author Dr. Jessica Black and I have been on numerous radio shows. I built a website and started a blog and began a Twitter and Facebook page, which has increased exposure and book sales are growing with the book now in its second printing. The marketing and PR I learned from the course was invaluable and gave me the edge in terms of how to promote the book across the board, and not in the traditional “bricks and mortar” bookstore way, but in the on-line and “pitching-yourself-as-an-expert” approach. I am so grateful to Dr. Silver for what she does and how she encourages and empowers authors from the medical community to express themselves, and sell their books.
Ultimately, for me, although the book that emerged is mainly about disease and recovery, it is also about confronting pain courageously and living life to celebrate it.
This book is my story, but it is also a way for me to aid others who are either newly diagnosed with these lonely and debilitating diseases of the bowels, or who have a loved one who is living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease—the book is also a wellness guide and my co-author, Dr. Jessica Black, offered the perfect balance to the patient story by offering a comprehensive naturopathic approach to achieving and maintaining health and longevity.