The Hard Part Isn’t Writing a Book

Susan Kelley
3 min readFeb 6, 2022


Publishing It Is

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

There are so many useful articles and tidbits of advice out there in the world about how to hunker down and write your first book.

There are literal hundreds. Thousands.

I took classes on book writing in college. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry. Well, the poetry class wasn’t on book writing, it was on poem writing, with the presumed notion that if we were good enough to write enough decent poems, perhaps those poems could all be bundled together in something book-sized one day. A collection of poems. Wouldn’t that be something?

There were many students who then went on to struggle with the notion of writing a whole book. Some dabbled in short fiction. Some were already headed toward teaching high school, as they had been predestined all along.

I was aiming for a gig in tech writing, and had already been aiming toward a graduate degree in rhetoric, but I also had my eye on long-form creative nonfiction.

I was one of those people.

I became an essayist.

And then I did it.

I wrote a book.

Photo by Olga Tutunaru on Unsplash

I wrote a whole book. I had no real trouble writing the book. I had the subject matter laid bare right before me. A memoir of sorts came to me so easily it was like falling off a log. I had struggled with writing fiction, but creative nonfiction was my jam. The pages came together, the sentences splayed out before me, wiling themselves into revision and reworking, letters reorganizing and lining up like good soldiers.

To me, it was indeed not so difficult to write that first book.

I even have the skeleton, or at least some of the bones, of the second book, beginning to create an organized form.

But publishing. Therein lies the challenge.

The story I have, see, it can’t seem to find a home.

I send query letters and although I think this tale is a real humdinger, I have no pen pal. Not even the editorial version of a “Dear John” comes my way.

And there we sit.

What’s interesting to me is that I have earned about as much in the past twelve months writing short-form essays — memoir and creative nonfiction — as I think the book would earn in a year if picked up by a small press.

Now, of course I hold tight to dreams of a bigger market, one like The Tender Bar or Beautiful Boy, because I think my story is every bit as compelling. If I didn’t think so, I would have kept it all to myself.

Funny, because so far I actually have it all to myself.

Because writing a book isn’t the hard part.

Publishing it is.



Susan Kelley

Susan is a runner, a mom of 3 grown children, and an avid traveler. She writes about humans, and wrote a book about false accusations of sexual assault.