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Category Archives: The business of writing…
Five Non-financial Rewards of Publication
It took me seven years to reach the point where my work attracted the attention of an agent, and another seven to get from the agent to the publisher who finally cut the advance check. Spread over fourteen years, the proceeds of my writing career have been sufficient to feed one goldfish once a day. Obviously, I am not in it for the money. The secret, I am convinced, is to write faster. But until I get up to speed, I make a point of enjoying the many non-financial rewards of published life. Instead of getting paid:
I have been signing books for a month now and want to go on record to say that signing books is not as easy as it looks. Several times I messed up and had to start over with a clean book. Sometimes I get carried away and gush. (New nightmare: reading old inscriptions in resale copies at Half-Priced Books). But my all-time worst fear is that a friend will present a book for signing and I won’t recall their name. Even if we rode to the event in the same car, book signing dynamics cause names to disappear faster than a teenager with a driver’s license. This is why sticky notes and pens and lines were invented.
My book will be available in stores on March 29 and I am hyper-focusing on that date as I have not obsessed on a date since the labor and delivery of my sons. March 29 will come and go without much notice for the rest of the world, as it spins through spring break and on to Easter. Only for me, does everything come to a screeching halt on March 29. Life as I know it will cease.
Taking a picture of myself that is worthy of a book cover is nearly impossible. The only other process that comes close to requiring perfect sync of so many variables is the miracle of conception. Yet the world is full of author photos, and agent and editor both neeeded mine yesterday. On a day when hair, weight, and attitude were momentarily aligned, I called husband and invited him to lunch at the arboretum. We took 200 pictures. Upon review, not one was a keeper. In case we were being too picky, I sent a batch to my good friend for her honest advice. She said, “Do you have any shots that look like you?”
My book launches exactly nine weeks from today and the first question people ask is, are you going to do a book tour? The answer is: I did it last weekend. My book tour consisted of transporting high school textbooks from the dining room to teenager bedrooms so that extended family could celebrate a birthday dinner around an actual table. Turns out, ten city book tours only happen to celebrity authors and fictional protagonists. According to my publicist, appearances do not sell books. According to Guerilla Marketing for Writers, the average number of books sold at a book signing is…four.
Here’s the scoop on author blurbs: start early. Obtaining endorsements for a book is an author job they don’t tell you about in Writing 101. When my ARCs came in, (Advanced Reader Copies made from uncorrected proofs), my editor asked me for names of authors to contact for blurbs.
My book club includes husbands. Which means we don’t serve quiche at our meetings or read angsty books by writers like Hemingway or Franzen. We read gnarly non-fiction every other month and during fiction months we brace ourselves for discussion hijackers who take the first exit possible into business or politics. Short novels are good. Novels with a film in current release are better. Imagine my concern when Amy Bourret, author of Mothers and Other Liars agreed to visit My Book Club. What was I thinking? The very suggestion of the nurture/nature debate would send half of our group on a terminal field trip to the beer cooler. An email went out to all husbands two months prior to her scheduled appearance: You Must Read This Novel.
Five years ago, I listened with 500 unpublished writers in a huge hotel ballroom as a panel of literary agents introduced themselves to the Writer’s League of Texas. We were there because we all wanted one thing: a literary agent. But who among us had what it took to be signed by one of these? Even newbies understood the supply side of this dynamic. But I wasn’t a newbie anymore. I’d been around long enough to ditch my first novel in a drawer along with a pile of rejection: thankful agents stepping aside so that other agents who will feel differently about my manuscript can wish me all the best with my writing.
The first time I saw my book in the Harper Collins online catalogue (which happens surprisingly early in the publishing process) was like driving down the street and seeing one of my sons, driving their own car. I struggled to place the grown-up novel I’d last seen in a three-ring binder on the shelf near my desk.
What are you doing here?
I beheld my own creation, out in the world–no longer accessible for me to correct, revise, or completely rewrite entire sections. But apparently managing just fine without me, nonetheless. And then I noticed my novel sporting something I hadn’t created. A subtitle. Hmm. Like discovering someone new in the passenger seat.