History of the Essay Planner

In my final year studying social work at uni, I worked in a restaurant most nights, had a full-time subject load and as part of my degree, spent two days a week in a hospital on prac. I don’t remember having a day off all year.  

My major assignment that year was a massive essay and I knew that I’d have to get really organised if I was going to pull it off. So, I made myself a very basic version of an Essay Planner. It was awesome! I took it everywhere and chipped away at the essay whenever I could. I felt in control and organised all semester. And, I got a HD; if only I’d come up with the idea for my first essay instead of my last! 

Then, one depressing weekend – after years of dutifully turning up to the stressful jobs my degree afforded me – in the basement of my parent's house, I decided to clean out my old university filing cabinet and get rid of the dusty, mould-speckled paper files still cluttering my life.  I sat on the floor sorting paper, fragile and lost in the overwhelming thought of needing to do something else with my life, when, (and I’m serious, this really happened) that beaten-up Essay Planner fell out of my filing cabinet and landed squarely in my lap: “That’s it! I’ll write a book”. 

Unfortunately, writing a book doesn’t provide you immediate financial relief from your scummy existence. For those of you who’ve written a book, you’ll understand just how far away your original idea is from the actual finished product. In my case, it was six years away. In that time I changed jobs five or six times, moved house four times, got married, blew up one car, two fridges  and a computer (yes, I lost the manuscript I’d been working on all those years) before the book was anywhere close to being published.    

After working 14 hours a day for a couple of months on the manuscript, writing and rewriting the entire book, I decided to try and find a publisher. 

I felt about as comfortable as a vegan in an abattoir cold-calling publishers and agents with my one minute spiel. I read all the “how-to" books and followed their advice like an alcoholic follows the party. But it would have been just as fruitful to call and open with: “Hi, I’m Bronwyn Hall, I’ve never written a book before or published anything, I don’t have any testimonials, my manuscript isn’t quite finished and I’m questioning my authority on the topic. Would you like to consider my proposal?” It was hopeless. 

The rest of the journey happened like this:

  1. With a critical and faultless editors eye the manuscript was professionally spat on and polished. 
  2. The design and layout were artfully put together by Moving127.com – an amazing German designer.
  3. Copies were given out for review and I received some great suggestions and testimonials for the back cover.
  4. Drank a bottle of champagne.
  5. Self-published and printed six hundred copies from the USYD Publishing Service who bought a pile themselves to sell in their Copy Shop. 
  6. Negotiated with the University of New South Wales Union to have a stall at their O-Week event and sold over 100 books.
  7. Drank another bottle of champagne.
  8. Let the UNSW Bookshop know about the book and started supplying for them.
  9. Visited a number of Co-op Bookshops and started supplying for them.
  10. Made ‘Window Display Kits’ including posters, a coffee cup and specially designed Night Before Essay Planner coffee bean blend to encourage bookshops to do an in-store display.
  11. A manger from Fairfax Books saw the Night Before Essay Planner on a coffee table and called to ask if I’d be interested in the book being published by them.
  12. Another bottle ... or maybe two...
  13. Had an lovely and well-known agent for two weeks before she decided she wouldn’t be able to represent me because education wasn’t her area of expertise (didn’t charge me for what she’d done, even though she started negotiating the terms of my contract - a consummate professional).
  14. Alone. Switched to red wine.
  15. Represented myself and negotiated the final contract.
  16. Within a number of months the Night Before Essay Planner was in major bookshops and newsagents across Australia.
  17. Pop... back to the bubbly...