Getting Published at Age 17
Will Kostakis | The Children’s Book Review | October 30, 2017
How, What Went Wrong, and What Did I Learn?
I signed my first book deal in my senior year of high school. Some people can have their wildest dreams come true at a young age and remain level-headed…I learned very quickly that I was not one of those people. I would introduce myself as “Will Kostakis—Ihaveabookcomingout” and Google image searches of my name will forever be haunted by the smuggest author photo ever taken (–>). So how did I get a book deal so young, what went wrong, and what did I learn?
I sent my first novel to a publisher in the seventh grade. I was in the eighth grade when I received a letter from Penguin. Anticipating good news, I invited my entire family around the dinner table. Mom hovered, whispering, “Are you sure you want to be a writer? You could be a doctor,” my brothers sat there, bored out of their minds, and my grandmother had driven across the city. She had half of Greece on speed-dial, ready to call them and go, “My grandson’s better than yours.” I opened the letter. It was not good news. Mom was convinced I’d become a doctor, my brothers laughed, and my grandmother cursed.
I wasn’t deterred, I rewrote the book and sent it off. By the middle of the ninth grade, I had a response, and having learned my lesson from the last time, I invited my entire family around the dinner table, because if you’re going to get rejected, you want an audience. Mom was now trying to tell me to become a lawyer, my brothers were pre-emptively laughing, and my grandmother was crying and eating and being Greek.
I opened the letter. It was another rejection, but attached was a list of things I could improve on. I took on their feedback, kept reworking and kept resubmitting until my senior year, when I found myself in my school library with twenty minutes to spare. I guessed every major Australian publisher’s email address, and pitched the book from that really embarrassing email address I thought up in the fourth grade but inexplicably kept using into adulthood. But while I pitched the story, I changed the concept. I figured they wouldn’t reply for six months, like always, and that would give me enough time to write the story I’d pitched.
Two publishers expressed interest within six minutes. They said they wanted to read the book immediately. The book I hadn’t written yet. I swore. This attracted the attention of my school librarian, who wasn’t big on loudly shouted expletives in her library. I explained my predicament. She swore (softly), cancelled the rest of my day’s classes and coached me through writing a perfect first chapter.
I sent it off, and a publisher bought it. So the moral of my origin story is: lie and cheat, and you too can achieve all of your dreams. Oh, and also, persevere. If there’s something you can’t imagine living your life without doing, you’re never too young to start working towards it. The odds are, the first time you try, you won’t be very good. The second time, you’ll be a little bit better. Keep working at it, take on feedback from your friends, family, teachers and professionals, and keep improving…They always say a locked door is never opened unless you knock, and you’re never too young to start knocking.
The thing is, getting published was my goal, and when I achieved it, I saw it as an end-point and not the beginning that it was. I had the ego of a New York Times bestseller who’d just signed a contract to turn their trilogy into four Hollywood movies. I burned bridges and then the novel flopped. I went from “Will Kostakis—Ijustreleasedabook” to “WillKostakis—who?” I was devastated, and it forced me to realize how naïve I had been. I rebuilt bridges. I worked on myself and my craft, and I became the person and writer I am today because I wasn’t the breakout success I thought I’d be.
With some distance, I can say I’m glad it happened how it did. I have an appreciation for what I do that I didn’t have before. I’m grateful for every opportunity, and successful or not, I am so lucky to do what I love for a living.
So to every aspiring artist, dream big, but don’t rush. It will happen when it happens, and whatever shape your journey takes, enjoy it.
Live, love and be remarkable.
Written by Will Kostakis
Publisher’s Synopsis: Ryan, Harley and Miles are very different people—the swimmer, the rebel and the nerd. All they’ve ever had in common is Isaac, their shared best friend.
When Isaac dies unexpectedly, the three boys must come to terms with their grief and the impact Isaac had on each of their lives. In his absence, Ryan, Harley and Miles discover things about one another they never saw before, and realize there may be more tying them together than just Isaac.
In this intricately woven story told in three parts, award-winning Australian author Will Kostakis makes his American debut with a heartwarming, masterfully written novel about grief, self-discovery and the connections that tie us all together.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Harlequin Teen | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0373212620
About the Author
Will Kostakis lives in Sydney, where he writes books for teens and the adults who like to read about them. In his native Australia, he’s a critically acclaimed and award-winning author having won the Gold Inky Award, and was shortlisted for both the Prime Minister’s Literary and the Children’s Book Council Australia Book of the Year for his sophomore novel, The First Third. The Sidekicks is his American debut. Find him online at www.willkostakis.com or on Twitter: @willkostakis
Will Kostakis, author-illustrator of The Sidekicks, wrote Getting Published at Age 17. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Australian Authors, Friendship, Grief, Loss, Self-Discovery, Writing Tips, and Young Adult Fiction.