It hit me...

On June 14, 2017 I got to sign books at my alma mater, UNC Chapel Hill!

On May 8th, 2017, my dream of publishing a book became a reality.

It’s always interesting to look back and see where a dream began. The dream of writing and then publishing a book began for me on a couch, in my house, in Valdese, NC. What’s even funnier is that I didn’t know what that meant. That’s usually how goal setting goes. We know we want to do something, but we have no idea what achieving that goal/dream actually means.

For me, writing and then publishing a book took much longer than my impatient self wanted, but as I’ve learned, patience pays off.

When I began writing in June 2012, the ‘book’ wasn’t what Orientation to Graduation is today. Then, it was a journal/blog that misused the words “to”, “there,” and contained a lot of Valdese slang that few understood.

Some have asked, “What inspired me to write the book?” I’m still not sure what the exact moment was that I realized that I wanted to write a book, but I do know that the encouragement from my family, friends, and the lottery winners (aka the students I gave tours to during my time at UNC) made getting to the finish line that much sweeter. In the five years I was writing my book, I received more support than I could’ve ever dreamed. The people inspired me more than anything, and it’s the people that made the story so meaningful.

Following graduation in 2016, I began the pursuit of publishing my book. At that time, I had 58 chapters of an unedited manuscript, a few bucks to my name, and realized really quickly that a professional editor or designer wouldn’t talk to me if I couldn’t pay the price. This required more patience, and anyone that knows me, that killed me. I just wanted it to be complete, I thought all the ‘work’ was finished, but it was just beginning.

When I finally hired my editor (off of, it was September 2016, three months later than I had expected. My editor quickly provided me with a content edit, which is simply the most basic edit to see if your book is worth being published. “Austin, I love what you have done here, but you’re not famous. You need to re-write the entire book.” She told me. I hung up the phone, dumbfounded, confused, and realized that I had gotten myself into something I didn’t truly understand. I had to re-write a manuscript that I had been working on for the last four years, and I had a full-time job, but for some reason, I knew it would be worth it.

The original manuscript was 80k words, and after hours and hours after work of re-writing, I had reduced it to 30k words of essentially the same content. But… I still wasn’t complete. My editor had informed me that I ‘might’ want to hire a proofreader or two.

I hired 15.

Friends, friends of friends, you name it, I had them to read my manuscript. The key to this was to get as much feedback as possible to produce the best product I could.

When I finally finished the manuscript in March 2017, I hired a designer, who was also from, and began the final phase of publishing. Cover, back cover, spine, and the interior design was by far the coolest part of the entire book publishing experience. It was at that point that my book began to look like a book. However, like anyone with OCD, I wanted it to look perfect. Every angle, every page, it had to be perfect. Luckily, I had a very patient designer, and he created a product that you all see today.

Orientation to Graduation: Stories & Advice from a Real College Student officially became a completed product during mid-April. It was in that point that I set a publish date of May 8, 2017, and knew that was the day I would become a ‘real’ author.

May 8th, 2017 came and was incredible. I sold more than 75 books, and hit Amazon’s Hot New Release page on a number of different categories. It was a dream turned reality. I received numerous texts, calls, and emails from folks that have continued to support my ‘journey,’ but I still felt like the same ‘kid from Valdese.’ There wasn’t anything magical or special about it.

That was until I got an email from the mother of a student I had given a campus tour to three years prior. Following each campus tour, I would hand students and their families a business card with my contact information and a blog link. It was my attempt to build an early customer base for my book, but to also serve as a resource for potential students. The mother’s simple email of her telling me that she had followed my blog, and even purchased a book, made my day.

And it hit me.

No, the email didn’t punch me, but it hit me that I had accomplished a dream of mine and that dream of mine was helping other students. And…I was now an author.

What can we do? Where can we go? Who can we impact?

Everything, anywhere, anyone.

My faith in Jesus has continually shown me that ‘anything is possible,’ so don’t be scared, don’t worry, and don’t sell yourself short.

If a kid from Valdese, NC can become an author, then anybody can do anything. Today is the beginning of the pursuit of a new dream, and I hope it’s one that makes me say ‘oh my!’

Austin Helms

Check out my book! I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

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