Author Topic: Authors' Thread (New! Improved! Now With 10% More Questions!)  (Read 27828 times)

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jgmacg

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     A new thread for craft questions and discussions about books and the writing of books.

     If there's interest, we can try to get some board members and guest authors in here to chat about their work.

     I'll start.

     Turns out they're much easier to read than they are to write.

     
     
« Last Edit: June 19, 2007, 05:01:30 AM by jgmacg »

Offline dawgpounddiehard

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Re: Author Thread
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2007, 05:04:09 AM »

     A new thread for craft questions and discussions about books and the writing of books.

     If there's interest, we can try to get some board members and guest authors in here to chat about their work.

     I'll start.

     Turns out they're much easier to read than they are to write.

     
     

I'll follow...

Where does one start once you have these essentials?
-Computer with a word processing program.
-A topic.
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Offline Msaint

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Re: Author Thread
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2007, 05:49:00 AM »

     A new thread for craft questions and discussions about books and the writing of books.

     If there's interest, we can try to get some board members and guest authors in here to chat about their work.

     I'll start.

     Turns out they're much easier to read than they are to write.

    
    

I'll follow...

Where does one start once you have these essentials?
-Computer with a word processing program.
-A topic.

You next need to develop opposable thumbs and/or a partly functioning central nervous system. Then you have to be nailing, or have blackmail photos of, a high-powered acquisitions editor at a major publisher. What you do between those two crucial steps, God only knows.

I'm by no means an expert, but I do have two books under my belt that several relatives and a girlfriend in the, um, Niagara Falls area have read. So, joking aside, I'd be glad to chime in with whatever answers I can provide as to the writing/publishing process, at least as I know it.

One major hurdle I had to overcome was the "Wait, this sucks, what the hell am I writing here?" syndrome, in which I'd furiously write for 3, 4 chapters, all excited about the prospects of this original topic, just loving it, but then I'd start second-guessing and overthinking. I'd flip back to Chapter 1 and start editing, tweaking, nitpicking. And pretty soon I'd be mired in the middle of Chapter 1 with no earthly idea how I'd even gotten to Chapter 4, let alone how I'd get to Chapter 5, 13, 22, etc.. For years, this produced piles of half-/quarter-written manuscripts on a variety of topics that, to this day, I have no idea how they even entered my head. Personally, I think you have to just plow on through until you're finished, THEN go back and start hacking away at it. Get a complete first draft under your belt, no matter how many plot holes, under-developed characters or run-on sentences there are, just to prove to yourself that you can actually see a manuscript through from start to finish.

And then you have to craft the absolute perfect agent query letter/email to get the post-writing ball rolling...and then craft the absolute perfect proposal for editors...and then work with your editor to, well, edit...and then sweat out the production process...and then, pre- and post-release, fight and scrape until your knuckles are bloody for even a shred of publicity...but those are other mystifying subjects for another time. And while some of the above sounds a little glass-half-empty, I can honestly tell you that it's been one of the most rewarding (not financially, mind you), enjoyable, fascinating, downright enjoyable experiences of my life.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2007, 05:54:45 AM by Msaint »

Offline friend of the friendless

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Re: Author Thread
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2007, 05:53:57 AM »
Sirs, Madames,

I'll jump way ahead on this one (since it was my bright idea).

My publisher, Doubleday/Random House Canada, has suggested to me that I commit to a daily blog in the hopes of gaining marketing and publicity advantages. I've started it up--which is to say that I'm throwing it against the wall and seeing if it sticks. I go into it sorta sheepishly. No expectations. And really, I'm doing this in large part because I want to be a model citizen in the publisher's little world (did one book for them last year, doing one this year, and in talks about one down the line). I don't remotely imagine that this will get snakes on a plane / blair witch buzz. Has anyone done something like this? Or aware of something like this working? Thoughts?

YHS, etc
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Offline Msaint

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Re: Author Thread
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2007, 06:07:37 AM »
Sirs, Madames,

I'll jump way ahead on this one (since it was my bright idea).

My publisher, Doubleday/Random House Canada, has suggested to me that I commit to a daily blog in the hopes of gaining marketing and publicity advantages. I've started it up--which is to say that I'm throwing it against the wall and seeing if it sticks. I go into it sorta sheepishly. No expectations. And really, I'm doing this in large part because I want to be a model citizen in the publisher's little world (did one book for them last year, doing one this year, and in talks about one down the line). I don't remotely imagine that this will get snakes on a plane / blair witch buzz. Has anyone done something like this? Or aware of something like this working? Thoughts?

YHS, etc

My agent is often pushing blogging as a way to build an audience, and I was lucky enough to blog on fantasy football for NY Times this season (they started a new section on the sports page called "The 5th Down"), which was a lot of fun. That said, it didn't exactly send sales through the roof, so blogging can be hit or miss. If anything, it just gets/keeps your name out there a little more than usual. But 5th Down was a blog site someone else had created, which was good because I personally don't have a ton of extra time right now -- between work, family, writing more directly book-related stuff -- to dedicate myself to updating a blog every single day, or update it well. And you might not, either. That said, I have heard of bloggers gaining an audience through their sites, which can only be a selling point when pushing otehr book projects (i.e. you have a "built-in" audience), and if you can find the time to update daily and make it fun/interesting, by all means, go for it, certinaly can't hurt, and it keeps you sharp.

And there are other ways to "please" your publisher: try to drudge up reviews/press on your own through online book review sites like bookgasm.com or mediabistro, through your local paper, anywhere, everywhere. Offer to send people complimentary copies left and right. Just my experience, but my editor/publicist is always happy when I bring them leads or do legwork for them -- and the author, as you no doubt know, has to do a TON of legwork on his/her own. There's a misconception that once a book is out, the author just kicks back as they roll in wheelbarrows of money. Um, yeah, not true. Publicists, if you get one, are overworked, often working on 10 other books besides yours, so expect nothing, and be happy for anything, is the motto.

Good luck. Post your blog URL here when you can, I'd love to check it out.

Offline friend of the friendless

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Re: Author Thread
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2007, 06:48:06 AM »
St.

That's reassuring to read about your blogging. It sounded at the start like the publisher's idea of a snipe hunt.

I hear what you say about publicists--I've tried to take it on myself. I know my publisher can't knock me for what I did on my own for promotion. Two hockey books in the last two years ... I built up my own network of radio contacts, everything from drive-time sports talk radio in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver, right down to game broadcasters in Swift Current. Yup, that was me on the broadcast of the Red Deer Rebels and the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Sudbury Wolves. Plus, for the next book, I was in Sweden at the world under-20s and ended up doing a radio interview (on the Canada-wide broadcast) about my current book during the second intermission of the final. I've had comp copies sent out to bloggers hither and yon--waiting on reviews from them. The NHL Network did a piece about the subject matter of my book during the world junior tournament and plugged it. The upside is that I have it all in place to do again next fall.

Re: blogging. Long and short, I don't have a clue, so here's what I've been able to come up with.

http://garejoycesgames.blogspot.com/

Clearly it's a work-barely-in-progress. It will be tricked out in a few weeks. Any suggestions appreciated. Well, almost any.

YHS, etc
2007 SJ.com British Open pool champion:
Ourselves Alone (atop the leaderboard)

Offline Msaint

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Re: Author Thread
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2007, 08:04:30 AM »
St.

That's reassuring to read about your blogging. It sounded at the start like the publisher's idea of a snipe hunt.

I hear what you say about publicists--I've tried to take it on myself. I know my publisher can't knock me for what I did on my own for promotion. Two hockey books in the last two years ... I built up my own network of radio contacts, everything from drive-time sports talk radio in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver, right down to game broadcasters in Swift Current. Yup, that was me on the broadcast of the Red Deer Rebels and the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Sudbury Wolves. Plus, for the next book, I was in Sweden at the world under-20s and ended up doing a radio interview (on the Canada-wide broadcast) about my current book during the second intermission of the final. I've had comp copies sent out to bloggers hither and yon--waiting on reviews from them. The NHL Network did a piece about the subject matter of my book during the world junior tournament and plugged it. The upside is that I have it all in place to do again next fall.

Re: blogging. Long and short, I don't have a clue, so here's what I've been able to come up with.

http://garejoycesgames.blogspot.com/

Clearly it's a work-barely-in-progress. It will be tricked out in a few weeks. Any suggestions appreciated. Well, almost any.

YHS, etc

No worries. Again, I was probably telling you stuff you already well know, but I always like sharing war stories with other authors. Speaking of, a good site for chatting about writing, publicity, agents, etc. is www.writers.net., in the "discussion"  links. Was a good place to get some unbiased criticism of query letters early on, especially.

Fun reading on the blog. I'm admittedly not a big hockey fan, even though I played hockey goalie in high school, in a pretty solid prep league in CT (played against Brian Leetch, Craig Janney, among other future NHLers). Well, played is a stretch -- I warmed up prior to games in which Brian Leetch and Craig Janney happened to be playing, for I was merely the backup goalie, although I did get some action against Deerfield Academy, Janney's team, and stopped a shot of his (read: he misfired and hit me square in the top of my left pad). That was my hockey apex; been all downhill from there. That said, once you've been hit square in the face or the nuts by a screaming slapshot, other sports activites don't inspire too much fear, and honestly, I feel my early goalie experience helped me be a (slightly) more confident football kicker.

Having grown up around Boston, I was a huge Bruins fan as a kid and into my teens and post-college -- from Orr and Espo to Bucyk and O'Reilly to Bourque and Neely -- but I gotta tell ya, there couldn't be less excitement for NHL hockey here right now, which is sad, considering its Original Six status. I have no idea how they'll turn it around, either. They showed signs of life after finally spending some money to bring in guys like Chara (when, before, cheapo absentee landlord Jeremy Jacobs would Krazy Glue his wallet shut), but as big as that signing was in hockey circles, it paled in comparison to, say, the Sox signing Dice-K. In December. Celtics are suffering from the same indifference on the part of fans. Again, it's sad, because the Boston area has been such a tremendous hotbed of hockey talent, but the NHL is flatlined. All the losing doesn't help, but the B's are over .500 in a pretty tight division, so there's hope. What do you think the NHL can do, if anything, to get back on the sports fan radar?

Have lots of hockey-crazed friends and will pass on the links for your books. Maybe I'll even be lured back into the game by reading them. ;)

« Last Edit: January 25, 2007, 08:17:26 AM by Msaint »

jgmacg

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Re: Author Thread
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2007, 05:50:30 AM »

     I crawled out from under a 16,500-word story yesterday. It's like tunneling your way out of solitary with a spork. Took the whole of ten weeks. And the edit/rewrite/edit/rewrite process will extend another two weeks at least.

     It won't run at that length of course - but was the kind of piece that needs to be written in full before it can be figured out. You write the block of marble (or cheese, depending), and the edit becomes the chisel (or parallel implement for State Fair-caliber novelty cheddar sculpture).

     So I haven't posted much lately, but wanted to ask our bloggers how the blog thing is going.

     I have a website that went up prior to the publication of the first book, and have been very pleased with the internet presence it creates. It's not particularly interactive, though, nor am I sure I want it to be. People can write in if they choose, and I'll generally answer if such is required, but blogging (at least blogging well) seems like work. And I am a lazy, lazy man.

     There's a book idea right there for anyone who wants it: Blogging Well.

     Or perhaps just the transliterated name of a village in Wales for your next collection of pastoral short stories.

     Both Seth Mnookin and Warren St. John have very stylish, very effective web operations for those looking for further inspiration.
     
     

Offline friend of the friendless

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Re: Author Thread
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2007, 08:05:03 AM »
Sirs, Madames, Mr macg

16G--that is one massive draft. (Consider the source: I once gave a 6,000 word query for a 3,000 word mag story.)

The book-related blogging venture has had some decent traffic and shout-outs by others in the niche. Jeez it's time consuming. That said, I guess it's no different (or at least not that much different) than journal-keeping. Stuff that you can mine for story/book ventures later on. I'm just hoping that it might be a networking outlet--that maybe stories/sources might come to me through it (within the hockey niche). But it is ridiculously time-consuming. I must be doing it all wrong.

YHS, etc
2007 SJ.com British Open pool champion:
Ourselves Alone (atop the leaderboard)

jgmacg

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Re: Author Thread
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2007, 08:07:54 AM »
This book is kicking my weak, scrawny, not-quite-smart-enough-to-master-the-material ass. This morning in particular.

Just had to say it somewhere.

Offline friend of the friendless

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Re: Author Thread
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2007, 08:59:37 AM »
Mr macg,

Sympathies. Handing in 25k first installment on next title. Cross-eyed. The significant other--Only Friend of the Friend of the Friendless--sent in her ms (18 months in the making) just after breakfast. B-tch.

YHS, etc
2007 SJ.com British Open pool champion:
Ourselves Alone (atop the leaderboard)

jgmacg

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Re: Author Thread
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2007, 09:24:41 AM »
Thanks for stepping into the confessional Fr. FotF. I send warm ecumenical regards and congratulations to you and your mighty Significant.

jgmacg

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2007, 02:17:07 PM »
I'm bumping this back up the board for our latest attendees. Welcome!

Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.

Just kidding.

Offline friend of the friendless

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2007, 02:29:06 PM »
Sirs, Madames,

I wonder about blurb etiquette. Two matters:

1. Mr macg kindly blurbified my last tome -- is it kosher to use the same blurb on the next cover? If so, should it be as a reference to the author rather than the work? Or should it reference last book?

2. I'm on a ridiculously short deadline (July 1 for full manuscript, because much material ties to an event in late June, publication to come in October, quick turn-around). Is it okay to send out a half-manuscript or even three-quarters for blurbation?

YHS, etc
2007 SJ.com British Open pool champion:
Ourselves Alone (atop the leaderboard)

jgmacg

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2007, 02:34:22 PM »
Sirs, Madames,

I wonder about blurb etiquette. Two matters:

1. Mr macg kindly blurbified my last tome -- is it kosher to use the same blurb on the next cover? If so, should it be as a reference to the author rather than the work? Or should it reference last book?

2. I'm on a ridiculously short deadline (July 1 for full manuscript, because much material ties to an event in late June, publication to come in October, quick turn-around). Is it okay to send out a half-manuscript or even three-quarters for blurbation?

YHS, etc

1) I'm certainly okay with that blurb appearing again. It's the blurb that keeps on giving.

2) I'd check with your agent and publisher to see what the protocol might be here. I'm sure there's no rule against it. It also might make a lot of sense to send a partial mss. if you're looking for a quote from an expert in the field who understands the nature of the late June/early deadlne event.

Offline rdeitsch

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2007, 12:20:54 PM »
Mr. macg-

As someone who hopes to join these ranks sooner than later, I can't tell you how helpful this thread is. Thanks for starting it. 
No questions at the moment. Plenty later.

jgmacg

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2007, 04:52:52 AM »
Thanks, RD.

Some days this place can give you goosebumps.

http://www.sportsjournalists.com/forum/index.php/topic,41286.0.html

Offline Double J

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2007, 08:39:48 PM »
I have a question related to using quotes in a book.

I understand you can use "so-and-so says" rather than "that guy said" if you have personally interviewed so-and-so. But do the rules change at all if you have interviewed someone but it wasn't in person or over the phone (ie. by fax or e-mail)?

To clarify, I'm 100 per cent sure of the identity of the person in question.
"I don't care how bizarre Debbie Gibson looks sometimes. She is still Debbie Gibson. If you were a teenaged boy from 1987 thru 1989, she is still on the perpetual list of five." - BYH

"If rock and roll were a sport, it would be hockey." - Michael Ontkean

jgmacg

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #18 on: May 13, 2007, 05:33:40 AM »
I have a question related to using quotes in a book.

I understand you can use "so-and-so says" rather than "that guy said" if you have personally interviewed so-and-so. But do the rules change at all if you have interviewed someone but it wasn't in person or over the phone (ie. by fax or e-mail)?

To clarify, I'm 100 per cent sure of the identity of the person in question.


J2 -

     I don't think there's a strict stylebook answer here. Books are odd ducks, and reflect the idiosyncracies of their authors, editors and publishers. The rules are anything but hard and fast.

     Seems to me the attribution "wrote/written in an e-mail" is becoming more and more common. Or, in the case of a fax, "the subject answered in a written interview" or "in response to a series of written questions."

     Or, if you're doing endnotes, chapter notes or footnotes, identify the mechanism for the quote there.

     My general guideline on quotes and attributions is to get as much boilerplate information as I need into the first citation - without destroying completely the rhythm of the sentence. I think, too, that you have to make some of these decisions based on the size of the quote, and how often that source is going to recur in the text.

     Let's see what some of the other booksters say, though.
 
     

Offline JR

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #19 on: May 16, 2007, 09:11:02 AM »
Here's some advice for authors wanting to help out their cause in the marketing of their books.

The marketing plans for most books are done prior to the official  in-house launch of the book at sales conference. That means if your book is being published in October, the reps will be out selling the thing in the spring/early summer.

Ask for a meeting with the publicity director, the publicist who will be assigned your book and the sales director shortly after you deliver final ms. Just say you have some "suggestions" for the marketing of your book--if you do.

Bring along ideas but more importantly bring along a list of contacts that you might have in the sports media. Publicists by nature are generalists so they may not know, for example, that one of the best hockey blogs around is James Mirtle at the Globe & Mail.

There's a fine line here between helpful and pushy. Last thing you want is getting a reputation in the publishing house as "author from hell". Your book will die a very quick death.

Remember this meeting is a double-edged sword. If the PR department has never met you before and find out that you mumble, haven't washed in five days and look like a serial killer, they may decide that an author tour isn't going to help sell your book

If you're charming and eloquent, ask if you can come to the sales conference to pitch your book to the sales department. Remember: these are the people that are going to place your book in the stores and you're much better off with a stack at the front than two copies shelved in the sports ghetto.

Booksellers are your friends.  Never forget that.

If you're on tour, have your publisher carve out some time to do "drop-ins" on chain and major independent bookstores This is a chance to chat up your book with those on the front lines. And don't just talk to the manager. Say hi to the cashiers and the clerks on the floor. Make small talk. If they do any handselling, they'll be sure to remember your book because they'll be able to say when talking to a customer, "Oh, Joe Blow, told me a funny story about his book....." People love shit like that.

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n8wilk

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #20 on: May 18, 2007, 08:59:26 AM »
Can someone help me with what is included in a book proposal?

I'm putting one together for my Master's project. I left the business to teach in an inner city and I have some whoppers to tell. I think my book could sell.

From what I understand, a proposal should include a few chapters and some research about other books in the genre and how mine is different/better. Is there anything else I should include to give myself a better chance? Is there anything else I should know?

Thanks for all the help. This thread offers the perfect blend of expertise and encouragement for me.

Offline Double J

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2007, 02:46:26 PM »
Question about literary agents - although this might not be fair because it's asking for a general answer.

Are agents primarily interested in representing a particular work, or an author? (assuming there's no reason to believe the author may be just a one-book wonder)
"I don't care how bizarre Debbie Gibson looks sometimes. She is still Debbie Gibson. If you were a teenaged boy from 1987 thru 1989, she is still on the perpetual list of five." - BYH

"If rock and roll were a sport, it would be hockey." - Michael Ontkean

Offline JR

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #22 on: May 19, 2007, 04:31:50 PM »
Question about literary agents - although this might not be fair because it's asking for a general answer.

Are agents primarily interested in representing a particular work, or an author? (assuming there's no reason to believe the author may be just a one-book wonder)

Double J, any good agent wants to represent an an author.

They'll take a chance on a  young novelist because they see that the person can write and may have a couple of dozen potential books in them.

It's an investment in the future and although every publisher wants to publish the next Grisham, they also need midlist authors who can become annuities.

Mayor Rob Ford's brother Doug:  “You can be racist against people that eat little red apples, you can be racist against people that have a drinking problem, you can be racist against people that are too fat.”

English is fun!

Offline Jones

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #23 on: May 22, 2007, 06:51:56 PM »
I have been absent from the blessed Workshop for a while and thought, now that my latest book ride has entered the cruising stage, I should finally try to balance the posts-to-reads ratio on this little number.

Anyway, as honestly as possible, I’m going to relate my recent (and not so recent) experiences in the marshmallow-and-lollipop land of books, and hopefully some lessons will surface out of the murk.

Okay.

I wrote my first book -- it was also nearly my last -- in 2000. At the time, I was a sportswriter, covering boxing mostly, for the National Post, a newspaper in Toronto.

I decided it might be a good idea to write a book, kind of like a memoir, about my time as a rookie fight writer, ringside.

Across the street from the newsroom, there was a small Canadian publisher named House of Anansi. They had recently published a book -- Hard Core Roadshow, by a guy named Noel S. Baker -- about a rookie screenwriter that I liked very much, so I thought I’d give them a try, just out of the blue.

I emailed the publisher, a woman named Martha Sharpe. We had lunch at a Japanese restaurant nearby. I complimented the Baker book and said that I wanted to do the same thing for boxing. She said that if I wrote it, and if it was any good, she would publish it. But she couldn’t give me an advance, on account of my never having written a book before.

At this juncture, I should point out that I did not have an agent, and I didn’t shop the idea anywhere else.

Martha’s encouragement was enough for me. No proposal, no outline, no deal, I took a six-week unpaid leave from work, buried myself in my girlfriend’s apartment -- and by “apartment,” I really do mean apartment, not vagina -- and banged that shit out. I wrote around 1,000 words each day, some days more, never less, and ended up with around 60,000 words. It came pretty quick, because it was mostly my memories of a string of fights I covered. I went back to work after my leave was up, continued to edit, and added another 10,000 words probably. After, I stopped by and gave it to Martha, who was shocked that it was single spaced.

She decided to publish it, which made me ecstatic. In my giddiness, I then did the stupidest thing I’ve ever done (did I mention that I didn’t have an agent?). I signed a TWO BOOK DEAL FOR WORLD RIGHTS. I got around $16,000 -- $10,000 for the first book, and $6,000 for the mystery second book that I surely had in me. In my mind, that guaranteed that Anansi would publish whatever I might want to write about -- I thought it was security for me, that I would be able to write another book no matter what, plus I was getting more money upfront than I would have for a single book. A sweetheart deal!

Of course, in truth, it was security for the publisher and the publisher alone: that if I hit it big, they had their hooks into me. This is a business of art, but never forget, it’s still a business.

Anyway, pretty quickly Anansi sold the book -- originally called BOXING SUNDAYS, it became FALLING HARD -- to an American publisher, Arcade, and a British publisher, Yellow Jersey, a division of Random House. Arcade was to pay $5,000; Yellow Jersey the same in pounds.

Some percentage of that was applied against my advance, but not all of it.

The book came out in 2001. They had a nice launch party for me. The National Post ran a big excerpt. I was very excited.

And then, pffffffft.

CON'T.--
« Last Edit: May 22, 2007, 08:34:39 PM by Jones »
Son of Bold Venture.

Offline Jones

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Re: Authors' Thread
« Reply #24 on: May 22, 2007, 06:52:46 PM »
--CON'T.

Anansi’s parent company, Stoddart, went bankrupt just before the release. The book was late in stores and publicity was virtually nonexistent.

Arcade never paid the advance they owed, and still have not to this day.

Yellow Jersey paid the advance, and the book did surprisingly well in the UK -- there was a second trade edition, which didn’t happen anywhere else.

But I never earned out my advance -- I never made any money above the initial payment. In Canada, I sold 991 copies, which I’m reminded of every six months, when I get my royalty statement.

I also recently got a letter saying boxes of the book were cluttering Anansi’s warehouse (they printed 5,000 copies) and that I could buy them for two bucks each.

That’s a comedown, believe me. Also, it’s probably the future for ninety percent of authors, especially first-time authors.

Now, mea culpa, the book is not very good. 70,000 words is a short book -- around 200 pages. It also reads rushed, because I wrote it quickly, and the Canadian edition has several (like, a couple dozen) glaring typos. You really do get out of these things what you put into them, and I wrote an entire book the way I’d write a newspaper story. It’s not the same task. You need to outline things; you need to take your time; you need to polish the shit out of it. Writing a book is nice because it feels more permanent, like it might be your legacy; but that makes them ghosts that haunt you, too.

The experience was such that I vowed never to write another book.

Fast forward to Masters golf tournament, Augusta, 2004.

At this point, I’d been at Esquire for a couple of years. I had an agent, a very good agent, named David Black. (He is also Mitch Albom’s agent, slappy might be interested to know.) He became my agent almost by default -- because he’s the agent for a few of us at Esquire. It just sort of happened.

I bounced a few ideas around with him, but very half-assed, because my heart wasn’t really in it. Falling Hard had sucked the booklife out of me. But David was encouraging and good to me -- as well as very tough on ideas. If I got an idea past him, I knew I was gold. That’s a good agent, right there -- no leading on, no false promises. If David said he could sell something, he could sell it.

So my new vow was to find the right idea.

When, in the press room at the Masters, my email blinked: “Your life just changed. Call me.”

I called David, and he said I had a book to write. “About what?” I asked. I really had no idea.

At the time, I had submitted a draft story called HOME about three astronauts who were on the space station when Columbia was lost. My editor-in-chief, David Granger, had lunch with Bill Thomas, an editor at Doubleday, and mentioned the story. Bill asked if he could read it. He did, contacted David Black, and they came to an agreement. All without my knowing about it.

The advance was for a ridiculous sum of money. (Forget about David taking his deserved fifteen percent, and Canadian taxes, and the pressure that comes with that kind of coin -- it really does give you the sweats.)

At the time, there was just a pure, unfettered euphoria. I called my wife and screamed into the phone. All these golf writers must have thought my marriage was ending. It was a great moment.

Then came what I thought would be the hard part. The writing.

But first came what would prove to be the hardest part. THAT FUCKING TWO BOOK DEAL I SIGNED IN 2000.

The next few months were probably the worst of my professional life. Yelling, lawyers, nastiness. Very often, the deal looked done.

At last, it was agreed that Anansi would publish the book in Canada, but would relinquish world rights to Doubleday. In exchange, I got $20,000 less from Doubleday -- which means, in essence, I ended up writing Falling Hard to lose $4,000. That’s hard arithmetic. (Did I mention that I would never, ever sign a contract without an agent so long as we both shall live?)

But, finally, the writing. NASA didn’t cooperate. That made things tough. (Almost give up tough.) The curse of non-fiction, of course, is your reliance on your subjects -- or, in some cases, your subjects’ employer.  But a few things fell into place, and a few people helped me out when they probably shouldn’t have, and my real work began.

I took my time with it this time around -- nearly two years, all told.

Bill Thomas was as good an editor as I could have hoped for.

I didn’t take a leave from Esquire, but my editors there were supportive as well.

I worked on the book mostly at night, after my day job was done, and the house was quiet. I tried to practice good desk discipline. I sweated. Looking back, though, I kind of treasure those gas lamp hours, the head games you play with yourself, watching the word count number lift into respectability. It’s like a round of golf. You don’t think about anything else. If you do this, prepare to be consumed. Even unhinged.

In the end, I came out with 104,000 hard-won words...

CON'T--
« Last Edit: May 22, 2007, 08:36:03 PM by Jones »
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