Short Saturday: Literary TED

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m a TED fan. TED, according to Wikipedia, is “a global set of conferences owned by the private nonprofit Sapling Foundation, under the slogan ‘Ideas Worth Spreading.’ TED was founded in 1984 as a one-off event. … [Now] TED events are also held throughout North America and in Europe and Asia … They address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture … The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas.”

I can lose hours of prime work time if I get caught up in exploring the TED site. My favorite is Sir Ken Robinson’s talk, “How schools kill creativity” and my second is Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Your elusive creative genius” (you may detect a theme here). Both are available if you click on “The most popular talks of all time.”

So I’m cautious when I approach TED. And that’s why I really appreciated this summary of “10 Best Literary TED Talks of the Year” from BookRiot. (That’s 2014. Here’s 2013.)

If you’ve got some time to relax over these holidays, check it out!

Tweet: I can lose hours of prime work time if I get caught up in exploring the TED site.
Tweet: I don’t know about you, but I’m a TED fan. “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in Uncategorized |

The Voices in My Head

In this week’s guest post (we’re still operating in the Read Play Edit Blog Recovery Plan), author Norma Horton discusses character creation.

The Voices in My Head

Authors use a variety of tools to develop characters. My mentor, a Christy-Award-winning author, uses a complex questionnaire. Another author friend creates characters from a pastiche of people she knows. I combine both approaches, although my characters evolve with my manuscripts, and their final incarnations sometimes surprise me when the files head to the publisher.

The element that really sets apart each character isn’t his or her physical description. (I prefer to let readers sketch their own likenesses of my protagonist, antagonist, and supporting cast.) Or even the way my characters interact. The voice of each character defines the individual, and I’ll admit right now that I hear their voices in my head.

My protagonist is a very well-educated, half-crazy, middle-aged woman with a wicked sense of humor. She’s working to save her thirty-year marriage to a man she’s recently discovered worked for the CIA. A dash of espionage, a tablespoon of danger, several cups of international suspense, one son and daughter, and a liberal handful of ancient theologians comprise my recipe for these characters.

Dialogue binds these ingredients. It creates cohesive relationships. It propels the story. It conveys tension and reveals insecurities. It allows the characters to speak for themselves in a way narrative never could.

I work to make dialogue believable, and do silly things, such as sit in our small valley coffee shop to eavesdrop on twenty-something duuuuudes and snow bunnies so I’ll know how they talk. I review podcasts from the seminary from which I took a graduate degree, noting speech patterns of vibrant, joyful octogenarian professors.

I am mindful not only of the vocabulary differences in demographics, but also of tempo shifts. Tempo is critical! Our speech patterns aren’t just words, but each individual’s tempo is as different as the beats of a spicy tarantella and a Bach fugue.

While I’m drafting a manuscript, my characters’ voices keep me awake. They argue. Cajole. Banter. Freak out. Love or hate or are indifferent. But they convey emotions in unique, characteristic ways that are true to themselves.

I challenge you to listen. To learn the uniqueness-of-voice each character uses to express thoughts, feelings, or actions. Then I challenge you to read your entire manuscript before you send it to an agent, editor, or publisher. If you get the voices right, your story will be vivid and true, and readers will engage with your characters, caring about them and wanting more.

NLB Horton returned to writing fiction after an award-winning career in journalism and marketing as well as earning her Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. From her home in the Rocky Mountains, she writes, cross-country skis, gardens, and researches ideas for her novels, including When Camels Fly and The Brothers’ Keepers; her third is due fall 2015.

Tweet: Voice—revealed in dialogue—really brings characterization to life.
Tweet: How to create unique characters—let them speak to you!
Tweet: The element that really sets apart each character isn’t physical description—it’s voice.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in Guest Posts, The Writing Craft | Tagged as: , , , , , ,

Short Saturday: Not This One

There are days when I think I should send you all on over to the Books & Such blog and just close up shop. Because, honestly, they’ve got great content and they’re all smarter than me. But … I kinda dig my blog. :) So I’ll just keep bringing these posts to your attention.

In this article, agent Wendy Lawton explains the myriad reasons why your agent might say, “Not this one. What else ya got?” It’s all about the current marketplace. There’s a variety of reasons your manuscript might be turned down, but this one really struck a nerve with me:

Let’s be brutally honest here—if your book makes the reader feel guilty or feel pressured, it’s not going to work, no matter how much we think it should. Especially fiction, which is largely entertainment. In other words, if you write about child abduction, horrible physical or sexual abuse, evil in the world—it’s going to make your book a harder sell.

Why did I highlight this one? Because I have seen so many—so stinkin’ many—manuscripts with agendas so dark I can’t imagine me or anyone else reading them for pleasure. (Human sex trafficking seems to be a hot topic at the moment.) Agenda or mission (as in I’m-on-a-mission) fiction is never a good idea, in my opinion.

Lawton goes on with suggestions for how to react to the not-this-one comment, and here’s the best one: styles and tastes change. What is out of fashion now may well be in fashion a year from now. So just keep writing!

Tweet: The myriad reasons why your agent might say, “Not this one. What else ya got?”
Tweet: There’s many reasons your MS might be turned down; it’s about the current market.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in The Book Biz, Your Editor Says … | Tagged as: , , , , , ,

Don’t Be Trolling: “A Typo Is Just a Typo”

Every so often I read something one of my friends has written and think, Man, I wish I’d written that! Which is exactly how I felt when I read this one from writer/editor Beth Bates. :) And with the Read Play Edit Blog Recovery Plan still in effect, I had the perfect excuse to borrow it from her! (Be sure to follow the links, y’all.)

Don’t Be Trolling: “A Typo Is Just a Typo”

I have raised two lovely literary citizens. My teenagers appreciate literature and love to read. They enjoy attending author readings, and the boy’s favorite place on the planet is the public library. My son and daughter care about precision in the usage of English grammar in the written (and spoken) word, and though they are still in the process of learning, they pay attention to rules of punctuation and other matters of style.

The downside: I have raised two grammar-rule snobs pained by a grammar-oblivious generation.

Jack and Grace gasp at every offending “alot” and noun-verb disagreement they encounter in emails, web articles, and Facebook posts. The nightly news is a heckle-fest. The boy corrects his family members, Brian Williams, and POTUS for the most minute infractions. The girl has been known to correct (boy)friends’ grammar in their texts. In training them in the way they should go, I have ruined them. I have burdened two innocent children with the belief that the people who start their sentences with “Me” (as in, “Me and my buddies are going to spend the day playing Halo but none of us are ever going to read books, ever”) are the Huns who will destroy civilization.

It’s all my fault, but I can’t help it. I cringe when I read a friend’s blog and see her misuse of “none” (None IS! None is singular!) and “I” used in place of “me.” I admit it: I used to be one of those people who publicly corrected people’s misspellings and typos on Facebook. It burned my eyes. I couldn’t let it go. Ick on me. I am thankful my friend John-not-Jon Stewart called me out one December, lending me an epiphany that my habit was the height of cyber-douchebaggery. That January 1, I resolved not to edit my friends, not even in my mind, especially on Facebook and even in emails.

Still workin’ on the “in my mind” part.

So when my friend Susan recently gifted me with my very own subscription to Creative Nonfiction, you can imagine my excitement over the promise of an article with the tease Think you can be a copyeditor? It’s more complicated than it looks in the first issue in my mailbox, Mistakes. The article would exonerate me and justify my righteous indignation and panic over the online storm of messed up jots and tittles. As a writer whose job also requires occasional copyediting, with great anticipation I dove into to the article titled (not entitled, hear me?) “The Correctors,” written by Carol Fisher Saller, the Subversive Copy Editor and editor of the Chicago Manual of Style’s online Q&A. (Squee!)

To me, Ms. Saller is a rockstar. As cool as Clapton, more hep-cat than Sting. As authoritative on writing and editing as Strunk or White, but updated. Anything Saller says, goes. Deep down I expected her to confirm my concern that the grammar hacks of the world will crumble life as we know it … But she didn’t.

She did one better. She corrected me, and chastening never felt so good.

“It’s not all that clear,” Ms. Saller says, “even to the experts, what’s ‘correct’ when it comes to great swaths of language and grammar.”

Whaaa?

Yeah.

This is the queen bee of correctors we are reading here, the corrector of correctors, calling out correctors (including yours truly) for thinking we’re all-knowing.

Copyeditors themselves are not always current on the issues. People who haven’t studied history or engineering or biology since high school or college naturally assume that their knowledge is outdated—that the subject has evolved and changed over time. They wouldn’t dream of passing themselves off as professors or engineers or doctors.

When was the last English class you took? When was the last English class I took? Not this century.

Never mind that whoever taught us in 1992 was probably using grammar she learned in 1972, which very likely came out of a textbook published in 1952: we still believe that only barbarians could question the rules of English we learned in our youth.

Though they may sting a little, these words are the most incisive and insightful I’ve heard or read on the subject, from an ultimate subject matter expert:

First, have a heart. A typo is a typo, not a sign that the barbarians are at the gate. Second, educate yourself. Read the fun and informative posts at Language Log or Lingua Franca or Grammar Girl. Third, if you’re a writer, work kindly and collaboratively with your editor. And finally, resist the temptation to post those “gotcha” comments online, pouncing on every its for it’s. While you’re busy fussing, you’re failing to read for knowledge, inspiration, or pleasure.

“That,” says Saller, “would be the real mistake.”

Listen up, my beauties. Do as Saller says, not as your mother does: “resist the temptation to post those ‘gotcha’ comments online, pouncing on every its for it’s. While you’re busy fussing, you’re failing to read for knowledge, inspiration, or pleasure.”*

* Especially when reading your mother’s work, including this here blog (but also remember the the impotence of proofreading)

Beth Bates is an ardent mother and wife; a reader who writes, a writer who edits, a creative nonfictioner who dabbles in fiction; a lover of fresh air, grass, plants, dirt, sand, waves, mountains and, in some cases, the serial comma. She holds an MFA from Butler University, lives in Indianapolis-ish, and can be found, also, on Twitter.

NOTE: In spite of her delight in this article, Your Editor would like to remind you that she is not even paying attention to how you word your Facebook posts. Honest.

 

Tweet: There’s a little corrector in all of us. :)
Tweet: Sometimes a typo is just a typo, so don’t go looking for trouble.
Tweet: Resist the temptation to post those “gotcha” comments online!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Guest Posts, Your Editor Says … | Tagged as: , , , , ,

Short Saturday: Books and Christmas

Earlier this week I took three packages to the post office and shipped them all at the ultra-cheap “book rate.” (It has its origins in the Founding Fathers’ belief in the freedom of the press.) Actually this rate is called Media Mail now:

Small and large packages and thick envelopes can be sent domestically using Media Mail. Contents are limited to books, manuscripts, sound recordings, and certain other educational materials. Formerly called “Book Rate”, Media Mail cannot contain advertising, except eligible books may contain incidental announcements of books.

The clerk questioned me (read: gave me the stink-eye) because clearly it’s Christmas and she assumed I was shipping gifts. And I was.

“I work in the publishing industry,” I told her, feeling very righteously indignant. “I’m an editor. Everyone on my gift list gets books.” And so I was allowed to ship everything—and I was careful not to include anything but books—at the low-low Media Mail rate.

All that to say this: you, too, could be shipping all your gifts at the Low-low Media Rate. Books always make good gifts, even for people who aren’t necessarily capital-R Readers. Books come in all shapes and sizes and categories. As you know.

It’s been awhile since I wrote a gift-giving idea post, so today I’m just going to recap posts I’ve written in years past.

The Twelve Books of Christmas (suggestions for guys, gals, everybody)
Giving the Gift of Imagination (some books are just magic)
Some of My Favorite Nonfiction
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (Christmas books for kids)
A List of Epistolary Novels (stories told in letters)
The Circle of Life (books for the very young)
OverLooked Irish Novels (I’ve now read them all)
Magical Realism (a list)
Finding the One Magic Book (great reads for nonreaders)
My Favorite Book This Year
My Favorite Book v. 2013
The Christmas Book
The Way We Were (memoir)
Movies for Writers (not books but …)

This should be enough to get you started. :)

Tweet: You, too, could be shipping all your gifts at the Low-low Media Rate!
Tweet: Books always make good gifts, even for people who aren’t necessarily capital-R Readers.
Tweet: I work in the publishing industry. I’m an editor. Everyone on my gift list gets books.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Books You Might Like | Tagged as: , , , ,

Editing From Both Sides of the Desk

A while back, editor Ramona Richards suggested she and I do a tag-team sort of post … and it never ran. That was a blessing in disguise, because now I really need it for the Read Play Edit Blog Recovery Plan! Here’s a look at a freelance editor and a managing editor, working together.

Editing From Both Sides of the Desk

JAMIE:
As a freelance editor, I maintain relationships with acquisitions/managing editors at many publishing houses. By that I mean I touch base with them (er, nag) every so often. Whether that’s a Facebook comment or an email, I make sure they know I’m around, because if I don’t ask for work, I won’t have work.

On good days, the work finds me. “It’s contemporary fiction, 90,000 words, by Author’s Name. Needs a content edit. You interested?” Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, a content edit or a copy/line edit, I’m interested. I don’t take all the indie work I’m offered, but I rarely turn down already vetted work from a publisher.

Unless I can’t meet the deadline.*

The important question for me is when the managing editor would like to have the project back. The due date. Since editing is give-and-take, I usually have three or four projects in progress; some will be in (on my desk), some will be out (in the author’s court). I keep a detailed production schedule so I know where I have time available, to be sure I can make the deadline. Once we agree on that, we can get started.

Most of the in-house editors I work with send me the manuscript, put me in touch with the author, and turn us loose. (I’ve blogged about what comes next.) I take this trust very seriously, and I am in touch with the managing editor if I have questions or concerns.

Other in-house editors prefer that I simply provide the editorial notes and they handle the relationship with the author. Either way, I get to do what I love best: deconstruct and “solve the puzzle” of a new novel.

RAMONA:
I work with Jamie a lot, and I’m one of those editors who seldom turns a freelance editor loose with an author. There are a number of reasons for this, primarily that I’m a bit of a control freak where my authors are concerned. Many are my friends, and I’m ultimately responsible for what goes on in their books. After all, I brought them into the house.

The other reason is to give my freelance editors free rein to be blunt with their edits. I want them to talk to me, not the author. Our house (Abingdon) has always welcomed new authors, and we’ve launched a number of debut folks who’ve gone on to bigger houses. But new authors are not usually prepared for what a blunt edit looks like or how specific an editorial letter can be. I want to know exactly what an editor thinks; my job is to soften it so the writer understands the requested changes without thinking their baby has been savaged.

Which they often do.

I don’t usually have to change much. I chose editors carefully, and they are knowledgeable and professional. Otherwise, I wouldn’t hire them. But I do want them to feel free to say, “This prologue’s useless and here’s why.”

However, once an author is established and has seen comments from a particular editor several times, I tend to let the two of them work it out. I try to match one editor to one author, with the hopes of putting them together again.

Bottom line? A relationship between the in-house editor, the freelance editor, and the author is a fluid one, geared toward developing a book that’s the best it can possibly be. The triangular relationship is all about guidance, support, and feedback—so if it’s relaxed and easy, it will be fruitful.

* Unlike some indie authors, though, publishers tend to plan months in advance.

 

Ramona Richards is Senior Acquisitions Editor for fiction at Abingdon Press—and a writer too. She’s the author of nine books and numerous short stories and magazine articles. As an editor, she has worked on more than 350 publications and won numerous awards for her writing and editing.

Tweet: Editing from 2 sides! An in-house editor & a freelance editor have a chat.
Tweet: An easy relationship between the in-house editor, freelance editor, & author is helpful.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Guest Posts, The Book Biz | Tagged as: , , ,

Short Saturday: Giving Thanks

As I write this—the Saturday before Thanksgiving, to run the Saturday after—I have been on fire writing blog posts I’m excited about in anticipation of taking up the Blog Beast again at the first of the year. (And I don’t mean that the way it sounds. I love this blog. I love writing for it. I love the thinking I do and the research and the playing with the words until I get them just the way I like them.)

You know what I mean. You write too. It’s not always easy and it’s certainly not always quick.

In fact, right before my hard drive failed and I lost a lot of that writing and almost all of my notes for future posts (hundreds of pages, no kidding), I was in a period of writer’s block. All those notes … and nothing I wanted to write. Nothing. It had been going on for some weeks and I was nervous until one of my authors said, “Write about that.”

Sometimes things are so obvious they just plumb elude you. :)

And then things fell apart and the center couldn’t hold and I seriously considered giving it up.

The reason I didn’t—aside from the fact that I enjoy this creative outlet—is the flood of encouragement I received from so many people who took time from their busy schedules to write notes of cheer and inspiration.

They sent me guest posts for the blog too. :)

And it occurs to me that it wasn’t just hardship that provoked this outpouring of compassion and encouragement. I am blessed all year long by my relationships with my husband, my family, my friends, my authors, my editorial colleagues, my readers (I know you’re out there) … You feed me ideas, you catch my errors, you listen to me rant, you trust me with your manuscripts, you read over my WIPs and offer editorial guidance, you suggest books, you let me quote you, you talk me off the ledge. You encourage me in ways large and small, public and private.

Thank you so much.

Tweet: You encourage me in ways large and small, public and private. I am thankful.
Tweet: I have been on fire writing blog posts! Where does inspiration come from? You.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Uncategorized |

Product Planting for Writers

I am learning so much from my friends! This week author Michelle Weidenbenner helps keep Read Play Edit ticking over while I recover from that nasty hard drive failure—and brings a new way to think about book marketing. Read on!

Product Planting for Writers

Who wouldn’t like to sell more books? But how?

Maybe the answer isn’t something you work on after the book is written, but is actually in the plot planning, from the moment your start writing. Maybe you should partner with a local company and build your story around it.

Let me explain.

First of all, raise your hand if you know what product planting is. It’s sometimes called product placement. (Okay, you can put your hand down now.)

Just in case you don’t know, here’s the definition: “A form of advertising (usually not involving ads) in which branded products and services are noticeable within a drama production with large audiences.”

Think about the last movie you saw. What type of car did the protagonist drive? Did the main character wear Marie Claire stilettos? In the movie Gone Girl, Ben Affleck sits at the bar and orders a shot of bourbon from his sister. What was the name on the bourbon bottle?

Products in movies are deliberately planted. What about product planting in novels? Have you thought about this concept?

One author’s successful idea.
Melissa Foster, a contemporary romance author, created a character who is a jam maker and lives on Cape Cod. When she was writing her book Love in Bloom: The Remingtons, Melissa partnered with a jam maker on the Cape and developed a jam label with them. The jams are now being sold in stores, restaurants, and on Amazon—Luscious Leanna’s Sweet Treats. The jam company has followed the protagonist into the rest of the series (Seaside Dreams, Seaside Hearts, Seaside Sunsets, and so on).

Isn’t this brilliant? I haven’t read these books, but reviews are great—and the exposure she gets through the jam company is timeless. Both her brand and the jam company benefit. My guess is that she’s selling more books.

My personal brand idea.
When I found out that geocachers have trackable swag they carry from one site to another I wondered if I could make my book, Cache a Predator, a trackable?

A geocaching trackable is a tag number you attach to an item. Most trackables have a mission. You can follow the mission at Geocaching.com, where the item becomes a hitchhiker that is carried from cache to cache (or person to person) in the real world, and you can follow its progress online.

Since my novel is a geocaching mystery, I decided to ask friends at a Facebook geocaching page if they would be interested in planting my book in geocaching sites in their states.

Guess what? I received 650 responses. I never expected that! Out of those responses, I chose 50 people from varied states and provinces and mailed books to them. First, I purchased tracking codes to include inside the book. And I gave them all a mission to help spread awareness of child abuse (another theme in the book) by carrying the book to all 50 states and Canadian provinces. Some books have traveled over 5000 miles. Others have been to six different states. (And the journey only began a month ago.) The best thing is sales of the book have skyrocketed; a few weeks ago I sold close to 4000 e-books.

What’s even better? The books are bringing awareness to how child abuse affects victims, families, and communities.

What’s your idea?
As you’re writing your next novel, think of a local brand you can partner with to help you promote your book. Focusing on a local company will bring interest to your community. Think of how you can promote the brand in your book—but make the marriage genuine. If the “planting” feels forced, readers might revolt. It needs to be a win-win situation for both parties.

If you have ideas you’d like to bounce off of me leave a comment below. I love to brainstorm this fun approach!

Michelle Weidenbenner calls herself ordinary, but her novels are anything but. Check out her website for more about Cache a Predator and other works-in-progress. Michelle and her husband live an “ordinary” life in the Midwest, near their grown children and grandchildren.

Tweet: Who wouldn’t like to sell more books? But how? Here’s an idea.
Tweet: Products in movies are deliberately planted. What about product planting in novels?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Guest Posts, Miscellany | Tagged as: , ,

Short Saturday: Slang for the Ages

Oh, how I love slang. It’s fun, it’s inventive and interesting. Used in your fiction, it helps set a milieu or a characterization and is a source of incredible imagery. I love it as parts of speech and as syntax (because … amusing). See?

So I enjoyed this piece from the New York Times, in which the origins—and current usage—of some slang words you may know are discussed. (Including swag. There are several definitions here, none of them the one I know, which is “the freebies given to attendees at trade shows, conventions, and other events, usually donated by large corporations as a marketing ploy.” This sort of swag often comes in a reusable briefcase or bag, which I’ve heard called a swag bag.)

It’s an interesting article, showing how even slang morphs from one generation to the next.

Slang often falls prey to what linguists call the “recency illusion”: I don’t remember using or hearing this word before, therefore this word is new (often followed by the Groucho Marx sentiment: “Whatever it is, I’m against it”). At the heart of the illusion lies a misbegotten belief that English is a static and uniform language, a mighty mountain of lexical stability. Upon this monument, slang falls like acid rain, eroding and degrading the linguistic landscape.

It’s the wrong metaphor. English is fluid and enduring: not a mountain, but an ocean. A word may drift down through time from one current of English (say, the language of World War II soldiers) to another (the slang of computer programmers).

We’ll come back to that acid-rain metaphor in a few weeks. For now, check this out and have a good laugh.

Tweet: I love slang as parts of speech and as syntax (because … amusing). See?
Tweet: Oh, how I love slang. It’s fun, it’s inventive and interesting.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Words & Language | Tagged as: , ,

The Book Deal That Wasn’t

Welcome to the Read Play Edit Blog Recovery Plan! This is how it works: while I’m writing up new posts and trying to replicate the ones I lost, my friends are standing in the gap with original and repurposed posts to keep me going. (I’m planning to be up and running by the new year.) This week I have a fabulous post from a friend of mine, writer April Line.

The Book Deal That Wasn’t

I am either extremely lucky or extremely talented. I have a much easier time accepting that I am damn lucky. I’m not sure I believe in talent. I believe in sweat and blood and hard, hard, hard work; in dedication, doggedness, the will to go on despite all the elements in the universe banding against you.

The first time I sent stories out into the world, there were six of them, I was just finishing undergrad, it was 2005, one of them was published in Fall ’06 Sou’Wester. The first time I sent essays into the world, about a year ago, there were six or so of them, and I received three personal notes from editors saying, “We like this, but it’s not a good fit for us at this time.” The first time I composed a #CNFtweet, it got published in the ever-so-prestigious pages of Creative Nonfiction. And the first time I ever gave my manuscript to an editor who was not a friend or someone who was being paid to read it, he offered me a book deal.

The editor, who I met because I waited on him and his ladyfriend in one of my sixteen jobs—darlings, Jamie keeps telling you and I’m here to affirm it, most writers (even incredibly lucky ones who work very hard) do not make any money writing—gave me his email address which I wrote on the back of my order pad and I sent him my manuscript the next morning.

He replied quickly (within weeks) and with high enthusiasm. He said he had some people to talk with on his end, but he Wanted My Book!

I got this news while I was at one of the residencies for my low-res MFA program. I told my two best friends and swore them to secrecy. “Don’t jinx it!” I told them. “It’s not a sure thing yet!” One friend bought me a drink. The other friend gave me a high five. We writers are an energetic bunch.

Two months later, I was still waiting to hear whether he’d talked to the people on his end.

As I sat down to write him a gloomy (but hopeful, I’m an optimist!) email thanking him for his time and asking for an update, I got one from him. It said, “So sorry, I’ve been dealing with this flood at my parents’ house, I have no Internet, I still want your book, the interns loved it, I’m waiting for my boss’s go-ahead. Then we can get you a contract and get started editing in earnest.”

It wasn’t until the next residency, four months longer still, that I got the news he had the official go-ahead from his boss. He said, “The official contract language is on his desk. Waiting for him to approve it, then we can get going.”

At that point, I stopped feeling excited. I began to believe that these people were messing with me. Not the editor. He was never anything but lovely and apologetic. But the company, honestly, is not the kind of publishing company I want for my breakout book. It’s the kind of company that will publish you in eBook for free, but asks you to go halvesies, then sell the books yourself, if you want a print run. The kind of company who puts up notice at its old website that the new one will be up by a date that comes and goes and comes again before the new website is operational. The kind of company that has no professional affiliations and no paid employees. The kind of company that’s run by a professor as a hobby, and a hobby that retains very little of his persistent affection.

I changed my mind a lot about whether to take this deal. My mentor and friends kept saying things along the lines of, “You can do better. You are so talented!”

But my long-term goal is to be a professor, and my thinking was, that will be tons easier if I have a book from any source. Not that becoming a professor is ever easy. Not that it’s even realistic to do obtain a tenure-track professorship with only an MFA anymore.

Finally, because I am hard at work finishing my MFA, doing an internship, working two (and often three) part-time jobs, being a mom, partner, and laundry-doer extraordinaire, I just wanted this one thing to feel like it was easy.

Eventually, though, after another several months of waiting, and after having some of the above-mentioned good luck, I decided maybe my friends and mentors were right. Maybe I can do better. I wanted to begin re-circulating my essays and add some new ones to the collection. I decided to end my relationship with the strange house. I avoided doing so for several weeks—I really hate confrontation—but finally, when I couldn’t delay it longer, I wrote to the dear editor, who by then I thought of as a friend, “I’m really sorry, but I don’t want to wait anymore. I’m withdrawing my manuscript from your queue.”

He was nothing but kindness and understanding. He writes, “It’s been fun, Line. Let me know what happens next for you. I have no doubt you’ll be successful.”

And you know what? I shed zero tears. I don’t even think of this as a setback. I think of it as the universe holding out on me so that I don’t give in to the temptation to settle, to be lazy, or to rest on my laurels, as they say. I know writers, however, who would’ve been devastated, who would’ve held out despite their better judgment alarms going off because book deals are rare like Ghost Orchids. Who would’ve let this dumb thing that happened keep them from writing, at least for a time.

Talent is meaningless, luck is fleeting. Write your butts off, ladies and gentlemen. And do it without the expectation of lucre, kudos, or anything other than self-congratulation. Write for the love of it, and then book deals that fall through won’t stop you.

April Line is an adjunct English professor at a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, and freelance writer/editor, a blogger, a mom, and, oh, about to finish her MFA. You can learn more about her at her website.

Tweet: Write for the love of it, so book deals that fall through won’t stop you.
Tweet: The book deal that wasn’t — read it and weep. Or laugh.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Guest Posts, The Book Biz | Tagged as: , , ,