Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nicole O'Dell on how she got published

I'm so excited to feature Nicole O'Dell today. Nicole is talking to us about her journey to publication. I was especially fascinated by how she landed her first contract without an agent.

And because she's awesome, Nicole is giving away a copy of her latest, Swept Away, which is 2 of the Scenarios for Girls books in 1.

In High Stakes, seniors and best friends, Amber and Brittany, are neck and neck in a good-natured competition for a car being given away by a local business. In Essence of Lilly, sophomore Lilly Armstrong is always looking for ways to escape the confines of her unhappy home. She “invents” youth group activities just so she can hang out with her boyfriend, Jason—the only one in Lilly’s life who makes her feel special. What happens when Amber and Lilly are faced with making difficult choices? Readers help Amber and Lilly make the difficult decisions by choosing between alternate endings, and then see how their choices create consequences with life-altering results.

To get yourself entered to win Nicole's book, leave a comment either asking a question or saying something you found interesting about her journey to publication. (US Residents only, contest closes Tuesday, April 12th.)

Who is Nicole?

She writes. She talks. She reads. She changes diapers. Nicole O'Dell is a mom of six--including a set of toddler triplets who may or may not be potty trained sometime in 2011. Jury's still out on that one. She is the author of a bunch of YA books, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the upcoming Diamond Estates Series, 10/11. She's also the host of Teen Talk Radio at www.choicesradio.com. You can find her books and links to all the fun social stuff at www.nicoleodell.com.

Nicole O’Dell, Author. How did that happen? It has always been a dream of mine to work as a full-time writer, but I don’t think I ever really believed that it would happen.

When I was in elementary school, I wrote a children’s book for a literary contest, and I won. My book, The Girl on the Runaway Pogo Stick was published and put in the school libraries throughout our district. Wow! I knew even then that something really cool had happened, and I was hooked!

I actually remember my thought process while writing that book. I remember the white pages and the markers I used to draw the pictures of the girl hopping through town on her run-away stick. I remember thinking that as she hopped through each store and past the towns people, she’d have to do the exact same path in reverse order to get home. I knew to have other characters, but not too many. I knew that she had to wear the same clothes on each page and that the end had to make sense. It struck me, in those moments, that books are works of art. Nothing in them is there by accident. It was a great experience and probably biggest reason I’m doing what I’m doing today.

But, I put writing on hold after that. Oh, I still had school papers and things like that to write, but there were no books immediately following that wonderful experience. Wait, I take that back. There were plenty of books, just not ones that I wrote. I became a reader–a book devourer-er, actually. I read so often that I would run out of books and read the same ones over and over because sometimes it wasn’t even about what I was reading, just that I was reading. There was this book-exchange store that my mom and I frequented. We’d take brown-paper sacks full of paperbacks and exchange them for new ones quite often. It got to the point where I was consuming a full-length novel in one sitting.

I remember fashioning crazy devices that could hold my books open so I could read while I did other things…like cook! I love the scene in Disney’s The Beauty & The Beast where Belle is walking through town with a book in her hands, completely oblivious to the things going on around her and even some dangerous near misses that she encounters. That was me.

Along the way, life weaved itself in and out of my books. Somewhere between the teen mysteries series, the young-adult romances, adult literary fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction study books, Bible study books and parenting books, my life unfolded. I married, had six children, bought several houses (one at a time) moved across country and back, had health scares, said goodbye to loved ones, etc. All of those experiences and many others too countless to mention, worked together to fill me up with words.

So, I wanted to write, and I did. I started writing Bible studies and devotionals. I also began several fiction and non-fiction projects over the years. Some of them are closer to completion than others; some will never be touched again. But that’s okay. That’s the process of fleshing out an idea and seeing if it has legs.

Over time, I decided that I didn’t just want to write, I wanted to be an author. But, I had no idea how to go about doing that. The publishing industry was such a huge unknown to me. So you’ll never guess what I bought. I bought The Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published. I read it cover to cover and followed its advice to the letter–well, most of it.

I was asked to submit sample devotions with the possibility of being a contributor to a devotional book that Barbour Books was about to publish. I submitted my three samples and waited. Over the next several weeks, I was asked to participate in SIX devotional books. To some of them I contributed upwards of 30 writings and to others it was closer to 15. But, I was PUBLISHED in SIX books and my resume’ began to grow and so did my dreams.

Plus, I now had access to the eyes and ears of a major publisher, without an agent and was then able to propose an idea for a fiction series for young girls that I had been playing with for a while. That series was contracted before I even had close to a finished product. So, on top of those six devotionals, I had two Jr. fiction books being released and several other proposals on the publisher’s desk.

I don’t write this to toot my own horn, because I don’t believe this was my doing at all. I believe with my whole heart that God made a way for me. I believe that He had His hand in this process every step of the way and I give Him the credit for making it happen. But, I know that some of the steps I took were vital to the process.

Since 2007, I’ve contributed 201 devotionals to various books with Barbour Publishing. I’ve also seen eight books release and am looking forward to the twelve additional titles that will be releasing between now and 2013.

What a ride!


  1. Hi Nicole! I love Beauty & the Beast too as well as the scene you mentioned! I also really like when the beast shows her the library & it has the lady that rolls along
    How did you decide to write YA I instead of womans fiction?

  2. Sound like really neat stories. Would love to win for my granddaughter!

  3. That is so cool that you got a book published when you were in elementary school!
    I would love to win this book!

  4. I love your writing story. It is like a roller coaster! But it sounds like a blast.
    I love your book covers. they are really cool and they attract the readers/lookers attention right away!
    What made you sure that you wanted to be an author and make it your life career and not something that could make more money or something?
    Thank you for taking the time to write and talk to teens. You never know how you may change our lives.
    I would love to be entered for your book!!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this! I've got a question... What is the main thing you want readers to get out of your writing?

  6. Oh, so I'm not the only one who's ever read her books over and over and over again? It's good to know I'm not alone.:P
    Haha, I have the Idiot's Guide to Creative Writing glaring at me over there on the bookshelf. I don't pick it up, because I sorta feel like the books bagging me out, you know? ;)

    But that's awesome! I really loved reading this, Nicole.


  7. Hi everyone!

    I love all of your comments and questions! Wow--what a great group of readers you have here, Stephanie!

    Would you mind if I pull out the questions and answer them in a guest post?

    I could give it a day or two to see if any others roll in and then answer them far better there than I could in a comment box.

  8. what helps you write on days when you are feeling uninspired? ssmith10101 at gmail

  9. It's so encouraging for me as an aspiring writer to hear how you walked the same path I'm currently on! And I love how you give God all
    the credit for it!


  10. nicole, thanks for the opportunity to read your latest novel...i'm interested in how you select the names for your characters?

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  11. Amazing story!


  12. Toddler triplets and a total of six kids. You must write to keep sane.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  13. I love how you are a bookworm lol, I love reading... its really fun and I get so attached to the characters. One book that was particularly good that I read, I was so attached to the characters that I started crying when a tragic death happened to one of them. lol!
    And i love how your so devoted to writing =) And how you found your way into the publishing business without an agent!


  14. I'm working on answering these questions...so if you have more, now's the time to ask! ;)

  15. Wow, great learning more about an author I'd never heard of. Her books look great! Please enter me!!


  16. I love that she started off writing Bible studies and devotionals!
    junegirl26 at hotmail dot com

  17. A life full of adventure!

    niastrong21 at gmail dot com

  18. Hi Mrs. Dell,

    Have you (or will you) publish any non-fiction books (besides devotionals)? How does writing an interactive book differ from writing a regular novel? I think it's cool that these are interactive books! I'd love to win :).


  19. I love that you view yourself in Belle when she is walking through town reading! I love to read and have done that many times - I even use audio books on my MP3 player so I can listen to books I have already read while I do yard work!

    Thank you for this offer!

  20. With 6 kids God would have to have made a way for you. Carmen sent me.

    true_sheila at yahoo dot com

  21. Wow! Six kids? You go girl!! Potty training 3 at once has to be a challenge, hang in there!! I think this book sounds great! I would LOVE to win a copy! Thanks for the chance.

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

  22. Our winner is Faye! Congratulations!

  23. Wow, Nicole! Thanks so much for your ministry. You are one accomplished lady...very inspiring to read how God is using you to make a difference.

  24. i have read the swept away book and it is #amazing!! i will be getting the risky business soon. i am trying to get the dare to be different book. Awesome job Nicole. Keep practicing to write more books.