How One Writer’s Instagram Scored Her a Book Deal

Alicia Cook was one of the very first people we interviewed for Dear English Major, and less than one year later, she's got herself a book deal! Entranced—her book of poetry—will be available for purchase on February 17th, 2015 by Underwater Mountains and will be carried by 13 retailers (including Barnes & Noble) in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. 

Alicia was kind enough to take the time to tell us all about her upcoming release, what led to it, and more:

Entranced  features four different covers, all designed by Alicia. 

Entranced features four different covers, all designed by Alicia. 

Thank you for taking the time to share your upcoming poetry book with us. Why don't you just start out by telling us a bit about your book Entranced.

Alicia Cook: Thank you for even wanting to hear about it! It's very surreal. If you told me less than two years ago when I started sharing my writing publicly that I would have a book deal today and be a contributing writer with two major online blogs, I wouldn't believe it. It has always been a dream of mine, but I thought it was more of a pipe dream. I have been writing creatively since I was eight years old and I studied English in college, so it's a dream come true.

I recently signed a book deal with Underwater Mountains Publishing, an independent publisher based out of Los Angeles. They are a force of nature. They took on a lot of “Instagram writers" and have really been amazing during this whole process. Entranced is a book of poetry comprised of 100 never-before-seen poems as well as a bunch of my favorite pieces that I have already shared on Instagram.

I named it Entranced because the definition of the word is "fill someone with wonder and delight, holding their entire attention." And I really hope my words hold that power… to captivate someone, to SPEAK to someone. I don't want someone to read my book, and just put it down after without taking at least one special thing away with them. The best part of my day is when a complete stranger messages me and "thanks me" for writing something that they "needed" to read at that very moment to help them through whatever they are going through. That means the world to me.

What inspired you to begin sharing your work on Instagram?

Alicia: In 2012 after Hurricane Sandy, I wrote "An Open Letter to the Shore Kids" that went viral. At the bottom of the article, I just happened to include my email and Instagram name, @thealiciacook. Next thing I knew, I had strangers from all over the country emailing me to share their shore memories and following me on Instagram. The piece had resonated with them. I responded to every single email and comment I received on the piece.

One of the people who emailed me was a hip chick from Oregon (Hi Lindsey!). For some reason, I took to her and she really pushed me, whether she knows it or not, to begin sharing my work more regularly… and the rest is history! This boost in readership and confidence has led to other writing opportunities like contributing to Elite Daily and Thought Catalog, as well as my upcoming book.

How did your book deal come about?

Alicia: Basically, Underwater Mountains started signing deals with some popular Instagram writers. One of those writers suggested they check me out. After I heard from them, I formally submitted my work for their review, and I got a call later that day that they were interested.

What tips do you have for other writers who want to share their work on Instagram or other social media platforms?

Alicia: Social media is a powerful tool. I only have Instagram, so I don't want to speak to sharing work on other social media platforms. But when it comes to sharing creativity, be it writing, drawing, singing, calligraphy—you name it—my advice is just to be yourself, be sincere. Do not just try to replicate what "worked" for other artists out there on social media, because it won't work for you, and no one likes a rip-off. Bring something to this creative community that is different, and you will stand out.

Once you start gaining momentum, try to respond directly and personally to every person who may reach out to you. It becomes time consuming, but that interaction and human connection is my favorite part of all this. Stay true to your own voice while still being supportive of other's work as well. Hashtag appropriately. And for God's sake NEVER, EVER steal someone else's creative property.

What has the pre-publishing process been like?

Alicia: I am actually in the pre-publishing phase still! It's been exciting, but also nerve-wracking. I know that when my deadline comes I will need 100+ poems that I am actually PROUD of and stand behind. And I am a perfectionist at times. Every day I re-write the poems, even if it is just changing a word or two. I am having fun titling them. My publishing company has given me freedom to express myself, which I am grateful for. The editors are top notch. I even drew/painted all four of my book covers myself!

What's the plan once your book is published? What will you do to promote it? Will you go on tour?

Alicia: I won't be going on tour. But through Instagram I plan on letting people who might be in the area know when I am going to go to a store and geek out over seeing my book on a shelf. I have some ideas up my sleeve about how to make this even more fun.

Also, most of the other writers signed to Underwater are supportive of one another. We write together, we share one another's work. So their "readers" will occasionally see my name or work on their pages as well, which is awesome. The publisher is the reason the book is even getting put anywhere, physical or online, so I am grateful for whatever they decide to do to push my book as well. Right now I am on their website and Instagram. We will see what the future holds come February 17th!

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Alicia: The more I "get to know" other writers on social media, the more I realize that some of the people closest to them—friends, family—do not even know they write! The realization that not everyone has a support system for their passion around them made me take a step back and realize I was taking my family and friend's support of my writing for granted.

My parents never once told me I couldn't achieve my ultimate goal of sharing my words. They bought me my typewriter when I was ten. They supported me when I decided to major in English in college. They never once discouraged me. My mom still prints out all my blog articles and basically forces the neighbors to read them as she stands right next to them. My dad doesn't always "get it" but he gets that other people do. My sister, Kellie, and best friend, Renee, are two of my biggest fans. I could never imagine hiding such a huge part of my being—my existence—from the people I love the most. What I am trying to say here is that the more I travel down this road, the more grateful I am for my family and friends and their unwavering support.


Posted on January 19, 2015 and filed under Social Media, Publishing, Poetry, Writing, Featured Articles.