Thursday, March 6, 2008

Well If It's On a Soap Opera...

I come from a small town, not Mayberry small, but there are very few published authors around here. While most of my friends and family are supportive of what I do, they don't really get the publishing process. This can lead to some funny moments. Here's an example:

My friend BB has been my biggest cheerleader, editor and general sounding board for whining as we both worked to finish our respective novels. She is 10 kinds of awesome. I just happened to finish Book One before we started working together. I have every confidence she'll be announcing her own publishing deal any day now.

Anyhoo, BB's mom calls her yesterday because Kendle Kane on All My Children has written a book and it seems like the easiest thing in the world to get published. Apparently, Kendle Kane wrote a book, the manuscript was discovered by a friend and without Kendle's knowledge the book was accepted by a publisher, signed, sealed and ready to hit the presses within a week's time.

Just the idea of getting through the process without working to find a fabulous agent, find a publisher, wait for the contract to be settled, go through revisions, then wait for galleys, cover designs, etc.- oh, OR BE INFORMED OF ANY OF THIS HAPPENING- I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my cheeks. But these are the same soap writers who allow children to age 15 years in less than six months, so I guess I shouldn't be shocked.

How to Tick Off a New Author

"I would write a book, if I had the time," sniffed an aquaintace who'd heard through the grapevine (my mother) that I'd sold Single Undead Female.

Feeling the blood whistle through my ears at the dreaded phrase that irks all writers, I said as politely as possible, "Well, it's hard work. And it is difficult to find the time between work and marriage and family. You just have to make time. I wait until everybody's in bed and usually write until midnig-"

Former acquaintance rolled her eyes and sighed, "Well, I guess I'm just busier than you are."

Yeah, because I'm sitting on my butt, eating bon-bons every night just waiting for the muse to strike. This post is not meant as a whine or a rant, I'm just trying to keep you (the collective you) from getting punched in the face by a new author. A new author who has had conversations like this dozens and dozens of times. Conversations that minimalize the work and sacrifice it takes to write. Conversations that will probably lead to you becoming a character that gets violently bumped off in the author's next book.

These conversations usually start with the following:

"I would write a book if I had the time."

As far as I'm concerned, that's like me saying, "I would go to the gym more, if I had time." Which is a total lie. If you care about something, whether it's writing, cooking, or interpretive dance, you make time for it.

"When are you going to give me my free signed copy?"

I only get a certain number of free copies from my publisher. I plan on giving my free copies to my local library, members of my immediate family and friends that have actually cheered me on through the writing process. Not to my dentist's receptionist or the lady I see at the gas station on Wednesday mornings. And I'll be danged if I'm going to buy you a copy so you don't have to pay for it.

Also, giving away free copies to every person I know isn't exactly going to help my sales figures. When I've pointed that out, some people have gotten indignant and responded, "Well, I guess you're just in this for the money."

Um, yes. Yes, I am.

"Why would you want to write about that?"

I know that Southern vampire romantic comedies are not everyone's cup of tea. I wrote this book because it was something I would want to read. I'm sorry you don't want to read it. Please don't suggest that I write a cookbook instead, because you would read a cookbook.

"You need to give me your agent's address. If she likes your book, she'll love my magnum opus historical spy thriller romance that's been sitting unfinished on my shelf for five years."

It took me three months of careful research to find my wonderful agent. There was letter-writing, sweating over synopsi and revisions, and no small amount of nail-chewing and crying. But I found the right person for me. Your knowing me doesn't mean you would work well with her.

I'm more than happy to direct you to agent databases or help you with your query letter, but you need to do your own homework. Your telling me that if my agent likes me, she'll love you, is like telling me I'm the aging has-been and you're the fetching understudy who's about to step on my throat on your path to the stage.

Ultimately, you need to remember that writers are neurotic, highly sensitive over-caffeinated people who should be approached with caution.

To quote the Immortal Joss, a vague disclaimer is no one's friend.