Tuesday, June 19, 2012

So, you wrote a book? Part 1.

For some people, writing their own book is something that is a dream of theirs.  For some, it stays that way, they say "I'll write a book one day" but never do. Most don't even put the first "pen to paper" so to speak, but they talk and talk about their idea that, of course in their mind, everyone will want to read. A smaller percentage actually put their words down and then that's where they hit the wall. An even smaller....I mean very small, like tiny tiny tiny miniscule percentage are the ones you see when you visit your local bookstore.

Yes, when you look around the bookstore and you see thousands upon thousands of books, you would probably think the percentage is much higher than it really is, however, reality and statistics say, you would be wrong. The harsh reality is that, at least by my experience, writing the book is the easy part. So for those who can't even do that....

Before I go any further, let me say that I'm not an expert in the true sense of the word. I've had one, count 'em one, book actually go from start to finish and end up in a Barnes and Noble and on Amazon etc.. I was part of a collaboration on another, but due to timing and other factors (including some of the people that were involved in it) we were able to skip a few steps and to be honest, that thing turned out to be a disaster. I've also had contracts for two other books to be published, one I never finished and one I never started. That is my complete and total resume of experience in the book publishing world. However, it is more than most and like they say..."if it were easy, everyone would be doing it."

When you pour your heart and soul into something that is tens of thousands, if not a hundred thousand (or more) words, it becomes a part of you. You take it personally, you're protective. Depending on why you're writing this book, the best advice I can give you is to not do any of those things. Don't let it become a part of you and don't take anything personally. Unless you're one of the lucky few (an even smaller percentage than those that actually get published) you are going to have to fight, scratch, claw, beg, plead, borrow, impress and do everything but steal to get your book published. Yes, there are those that write it, send it and next thing you know they're doing book signings at the Virgin bookstore in NYC and raking in the dough....that probably ain't you.  It wasn't me, that's for sure.

When I typed the last period on my book, I assumed I'd just send it off and because the story was so good in my mind, I'd have editors tripping over themselves, fighting to get a piece of my...masterpiece...Guess what....they didn't.

I did enough research to figure out that I needed to send what's called a query letter....so that's what I did, I sent query letters. And I waited....within the first month I had sent out about ten query letters and received nine "nos." Well, what the hell is wrong with these people? Don't they know this is a book that will make a great movie and be worth millions? Nope. They read my letter and thought the exact opposite.

So I did more research. And upon so I found out that instead of going directly after book publishers, I should have been going after literary agents....ahhhh....well that should be easy, right? I'm in sales, they're in sales, so I'll just sell them...right?  Well, this is the part that really screwed me up, because in this case, I was right. After sending four revised query letters, I eventually received two offers of representation. I, of course, went with the one who saw the same vision I did. MOVIES...HOLLYWOOD...BIG SCREEN!  Yeah......

This agent did what an agent is supposed to do, she convinced me of everything under the sun and that she was an up and comer that was making things happen (in her defense, she had hit a bit of a hot streak when I signed with her) and that me and my book were going to be the things to help put her over the top. Well, these were all the things that I myself thought in regards to my book, so of course this was the smartest woman I'd ever met, because she thought that too!  Now that I had an agent, it was only a matter of time before I would be walking red carpets as the "creator" of the hottest movie of the summer, based on the book by me!

Weeks went by....then more weeks.....then months. I asked for weekly updates and I heard anything from "I actually had someone at Disney ask about it" to "I'm waiting for an answer any day from one of the big houses." 

Unfortnately, when I am waiting for something, I'm not very patient. I also want to know as much as I can about what's going on. So I continued researching, I made some contacts in the "book world," and I learned that all of the things that you're never supposed to do....I was doing. All of them. Including falling for the agent with all the promises. I had done everything wrong. And now I had wasted nearly a year from the time I had finished writing my book. I was in denial for a few months, saying "no, that's everyone else, but I can be successful this way." Finally it was time to face facts....I needed to start from scratch. The very beginning.

I backed my agent in a corner and gave her a certain time frame to prove to me that she was having correspondence with the people she was saying she was in regards to my book. When the time passed, I gave her a short extension. When she didn't produce the desired results, I terminated our contract. And I started over.

Instead of blindly shooting for anything and everyone, I devised a nine month plan. I also decided that if, at the end of that nine months, my book still wasn't purchased, then I would print it out, put it in a box and show it to my kids when they got older and give up on this dream. So I started at the top, with the publishing houses and agents (some houses won't even look at a submission without an agent) who represent the Stephen Kings and John Grishams of the world. The elite. Sure, it was a long shot, but it was for those guys at one point too. I gave them three months and at the end of three months I would either have "no thank you's" or just flat out no response (the most common form of communication on the publishing world) and I would move on the middle of the road, they represent your people that you may or may not have heard of, but you've probably seen one or more of their books...the "non-celebrity" authors. Same rules applied. Then, at the the end would be the small houses. Essentially, barring a miracle, these would be the places that the most I could hope for would be to have a published book in my hand, in a bookstore. No other expectations.

With three days to spare on my self imposed nine month deadline, I finally received my yes. A small company based out of Louisana absolutely loved my book, had big plans for it, but wanted me to know their budget was limited, but they would do what they could. Finally, it came true.

That should have been the happy ending, Chris got his book published and lived happily ever after.....well....not so fast...

*there may or may not be a part 2. I may decide to write about something completely different next time, but I will, most likely, at some point, finish this, as I actually feel it is a very valuable "reality check" for someone if they ever thought about writing a book. Maybe I only feel that way because the whole damn process took at least five years off my life...*

1 comment:

  1. Chris,

    I feel your pain. In case you ever want to go down the book road again, you MUST become a reader of J.A. Konrath's Blog - if you are not already: