Monday, August 31, 2009

In Celebration of Writer Appreciation Week

A special thanks to agent Nathan Bransford for creating Writer Appreciation Week.

It soon becomes apparent to an author that if you’re writing to be published, you can’t just be an artist, a creator, a master of your craft. You have to have stealth-like moves, brain power in the gigahertz range, and the ability to thwart all impending doom. When you get knocked around, you have to pretend it doesn’t hurt, get back up in stoic form, and like Bruce Willis’ character on Die Hard, make extraordinary feats look easy.

So when determining which part of the publishing process is most difficult, you’d have to take into account the following:*

a) craft the to two years, if you’re snappy
b) revise the story until you’ve rewritten and subsequently memorized all 330 pages
c) obtain an agent...most agents reject 99% of submissions. Now remember, you were once the fastest swimming sperm out of millions…
d) sell it to a publisher
e) build a platform...oops, you were supposed to have done that two years before you started writing your book
f) exploit yourself online
g) create a brilliant viral marketing scheme including book trailer so funny or dramatic it rivals an MGM creation
h) ensure your book gets into bookstores...gotta get a blurb by a NYT bestselling author. Dig deep with those connections
i) sell enough copies so you can keep writing...remember those Bookscan numbers? They can bite your rear in half. One chomp.
j) blog three times per week, keep your tribe happy on FB & Twitter while keeping up with book #2
k) obtain a coveted national TV spot or a rave review in a major newspaper
l) a dose of luck that would be akin to winning the $1 million PowerBall always helps
m) stand outside Rockefeller Plaza at 4 a.m. to secure a prime spot with your book poster. Then when Al Roker does the weather, pump it up and down above his head.
n) If you’re lucky enough to get a fantastic agent, editor, and publishing team like I did, the C-N will be delightful. Kinda like eating a fluffy piece of chocolate cake with hot fudge in the middle...with a side of vanilla bean ice cream.

Would I do it again? Abso-friggin-lutely. It’s an obsession love like none other. Your spouse may hate you, your mother may block your calls, any word related to the publishing industry may become banned in your own home and even your neighborhood, but the love of the craft is more potent, more pining and unrelenting, and more dangerous than Shakespearean prose.

So to those writers ready to shred the manuscript and become an organic farmer, I beg you to reconsider and instead ride on this for awhile. Kathryn Stockett who wrote my favorite book to date, THE HELP, was rejected 45 times. Well actually, she said she didn’t really know exactly how many times she was rejected because the fact of the matter was, she stopped counting at 45. Now she's #4 on the New York Times bestsellers list.

As one New York editor put it, “People think publishing is a business, but it’s a casino.”

I do like the bright, flashing neon signs.

* This is to be squeezed in somewhere between your full-time job and raising your children

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Seduction on Aisle Five

The other day during breakfast, Sean casually suggested we create a separate budget item called, “Target book budget.” I looked at him like he had just poured orange juice over his cold cereal. I refused to believe I had ever actually purchased books at my Oasis, the Omnipotent One where the price is always right. After all, I really try to support our local indie bookseller in SLC, The King’s English (see below for proof).

I have never set out to buy a book at Target, ever. It’s just that on my tri-weekly trip, I inevitably pass the aisle of beguiling literature where all the covers are face out. As I pass the said aisle, I see a delicious cover with three cute birds dotting the center. “Quick, cover the eyes,” I remind myself. Then I swear I hear one say, “Hey baby, come look over here.” Then I think I hear, “Hot stuff, you look good in those jeans (the same jeans I thought made my rear double in size when I put them on that morning), but you’ll look even better if you read this. You know you want to.” Before I realize what is happening, I’m stuck with my nose buried deep into some book called, The Girls From Ames, which by the way, was telling me it had some Lindt excellence white coconut chocolate hidden somewhere between the covers.

How does one resist?

One doesn’t. I grab it from the shelf and flip right to the acknowledgments page (weird ritual), then the author bio, and finally I partake of the first square of white chocolate – Chapter One – and it reels me in like a rainbow trout stupidly chomping down on the fluorescent pink power bait (even though it knew better).

Bobby Banjo can sense my book point-of-no-return like a bird dog sniffing out the course. And he intends to exploit me at this vulnerable time in my life. “Mommy, I’ll be right over here…”

“Yeah, okay Judd. Whatever, just…”

“Mom!” he says. “It’s not Judd. It's Judd the Stud.” I look at him over my book. “Okay, whatever, Judd. Uh, Judd the Stud. Just stay close,” I say, as the bubble above my heads shows my hands rubbing together in the glee of 10 minutes of solitary book reading. When I realize I’m finished with the first chapter and he hasn’t tried to interrupt me at least five times, I throw the book in my cart.

Whoops? Did I just do that?

I head around the corner. Not there. I cruise down a few more aisles until I finally find him here. "What? Why here, Judd?” I ask. “Judd the STUD, Mom.” He says poking his head out.

I still have no idea what he was doing. But it reminded me that I needed something on that aisle anyway. And, that I had forgotten to check out that book called Sarah’s Key