Friday, January 19, 2007

Part Three on Writing: Things They Won't Tell you in Famous Writer School

And finally, as promised on Wednesday, Part Three in my Three-Part Series on Riding the Gravy Train to Fame, Fortune, and a Lifetime of Neuroses by Becoming a Best-Selling Author. It's probably in your best-interests to ignore most of this, because as I mentioned on Wednesday, my book isn't even out yet. So what do I know? But let's continue:

Step EIGHT: The magical day has arrived! An agent wants to sell your book. Unfortunately, in the course of your research, you’ve learned that he is a former felon and can’t even vote in 13 states. He also has several pending lawsuits against him and wants you to pay him $5,000 for a detailed critique. Despite this, consider signing his contract anyway. In a fit of reason, tear up the contract. Feel relieved when you learn he has been sentenced to prison for tax evasion, fraud, and first-degree murder. He is now out of your hair.

Step NINE: An even more magical day arrives! A reputable agent claims to love your book and wants to represent you. Manage to work your elation into a fit of neurotic panic. Grow convinced that friends and foes alike will now eye you with suspicion. It’s hard to be successful.

Step TEN: Fall on the floor and clutch your heart, because your agent has managed to interest not one, not two, but as many as three editors in your book! Enlarge the front door so your head can fit through. Scream loudly and often.

Step ELEVEN: The offer comes. You sign a contract. It is for less than you imagined, but it will be enough to do some remodeling. You can not quit your day job, but this is okay because this entire experience may give you a heart condition, and it’s good to have health coverage.

Step TWELVE: Begin obsessing about promotion. Have your author photo taken and feel self-conscious about your muffin-top the whole time. Based on your editor’s suggestions, make many changes to the manuscript. Realize that your first version contained some pretty gagtastic scenes that contributed nothing to the overall story. Feel relieved that despite this, people saw potential in you.

Step THIRTEEN: Learn your editor is changing publishing houses and realize that you are this close to becoming what you’ve read about in the how-to books, what you’ve heard spoken of in hushed tones at conferences: an orphaned author.

Step FOURTEEN: Something swoops in to save the day. This something is the wonderful agent you signed with. Send her and her assistant handmade soap and chocolate for Christmas.

Step FIFTEEN: Begin fielding questions about how to publish a book. Answer with confidence, though you are an expert on nothing. Grow comfortable with public speaking if “grow comfortable” = learn to suppress a jackrabbit heart, red face, sweaty pits, and sheer terror when the situation demands.

Step SIXTEEN: Somehow, you’re moving with your editor to her new home. Nearly vomit with relief. Your book won’t be released for another 16 months, but feel dim relief because that equals 16 more months during which you won’t have to speak in public. It also means 16 months in which your book hasn’t yet received any scathing criticism from reviewers and readers.

Step SEVENTEEN: Start writing the next book. Continue reading and taking notes on funny things friends and family say. Blog about people for cheap laughs, but get permission first. Don’t blog about your spouse much because you don’t want to lose half your stuff. Or your spouse, of course. They've been a saint to put up with you through all of this, and that kind of tolerance is hard to find.

Some of this is true, much of it is not. I don’t yet know the next steps in the process, so I’m stopping here for now. I left out the part about building a solid portfolio of magazine features, articles, short stories, poetry, or other related writing, because this post is about the fast-track to success, and nobody wants to hear the hard-work one. Also, I left out the part about writing contests because I got bored with my own post.

Disclaimer: book publishing experiences may vary. Riley’s Ramblings assumes no responsibility for fits of rage, panic, annoyance, or despair that result from reading this. Void in Delaware.


  1. Anonymous10:20 AM

    Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese -Cheese cheese cheese cheese
    Cheeeeese Wonderful Cheese.

    New Rose Seas :)

    Kisses, Jess Riley

    P.S. For some reason I keep coming back.

  2. I've got enough panic and self doubt in my life without trying to publish a book and making it worse. I'm glad things are working out for you...except for the panic, of course.

  3. i do believe i would have a hard time with the waiting game. i'm way too impatient.

    and there is something to be said for good healthcare, not that i would know anything about it anymore.

  4. Anonymous12:32 PM

    Void in Delaware...hee!
    What a great post!
    I've been asked to speak later this month about getting your book published, which leaves me wondering what on earth I'll say other than, "I'm all for it, but I too have little idea how it happens!"

  5. Anonymous1:35 PM

    Hmmm, "Little Orphan Author". Maybe you could write a play based on that!

  6. Anonymous1:38 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Anonymous1:42 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Anonymous1:47 PM

    D'oh! Your comment thingy is playing tricks on me!

  9. You make it sound so glamorous. :?)

  10. Even if more than 70% of it is false, I'm amazed that you're still walking and coherent.

  11. You've just scared the shit out of me.

    I'm considering tearing up my contract with my agent.

    Oh wait, I didn't sign one.

    A handshake is valid, right? ; )

  12. Anonymous11:29 PM

    I think the most important part is a good agent, Jess.

    At least then you can say that somebody in the publishing business recognizes your brilliance.

  13. I'm just glad to say that I knew you when....

  14. What a process! Thanks for the insider's view of what REALLY goes on ;-)

  15. You *are* brilliant, Jess. I can't wait to read your book and I believe everything in your post :)

  16. Jess, you slay me. I can't see how your book will be anything less than brilliant. And if you ever find anyone who says different, just let me at 'em.

  17. Stephen King in On Writing said that when he got his first advance he and his wife said nothing. They just hugged in the middle of the room with tears streaming.

    Granted, his was a little more than most advances, but even publication can be emotional.

  18. Anonymous10:31 AM

    Holy cow. That's scary. Contracts are scary period.

  19. I'll look for your appearance at Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City and come see you so you can sign my book!

  20. And here I am thinking about moving to Delaware. Shoot.

    You know, this series could be a great gift-giving opportunity. Why not turn it into your next-next book?

  21. Anonymous7:25 AM

    This is all so very funny and I can't wait to read your book!

  22. Is it okay if I just scream often and randomly anyway?

    I hope so, 'cause girrrlllll...I been doin' it fo years... shhiittttt....

  23. Okay, so when does it come out now? I want to read this fucking thing already. Damn. Oh, how are you?

  24. Love the blog. Hate short-oversimplifications so much I almost didn't tell you.