Adventures in Publishing

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Don’t be fooled by that title. There’s no publishing. Yet. But, I sure can tell you how soul-sucking the process is.

A year ago, I decided to write a book. It’s not the first time I’ve had such a lofty idea: When I was 5, I was going to be Wonder Woman.

Every day after school, I would go outside in the yard, glance around to make sure no one was looking, and spin — just like Wonder Woman did to shed her boring civilian clothes and magically be dressed in her shiny costume. Things never quite panned out like I thought they would, but I did end up with some cool bruises from smacking into the mulberry tree. Cracking the publishing industry is even harder (and only slightly less dizzying) than transforming into a superhero.

The thing is, you don’t just go and send your book to a publisher, unless it’s a small publisher who accepts unsolicited submissions, because that’s not how those big dogs work. No, you have to attract a literary agent’s attention. Then, the agent must fall in love with you, OK, your idea really, and pitch your book to a publisher. If it sounds kinda like Tinder, it’s because it kind of is. Except it has a seedier feel to it, so maybe it’s more like Ashley Madison. You don’t flat-out sell an agent on your book, first you have to do some sucking up, show that you have taken the time to research previous titles the person has shepherded through to the printing presses, show that you know something about the person, like he or she enjoys drinking pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. It’s basically stalking.

Imagine doing this more than once.

It gets old. And exhausting. So, I just started being really brazen about the whole thing. My query — that’s what you call the initial contact that is supposed to hook someone on your idea — is pretty good* but no bites. I’ve done some goofy stunts, like tweeting directly to big-time agents, which is probably the social media equivalent of walking around with the back of your skirt tucked into your underwear. I’ve tried reaching out to authors I admire and one actually wrote me back — the Bloggess — which was amazing… but she didn’t find me charming and wonderful enough to set up a meeting with her agent, which honestly, was my hope. I even tried to wage a Twitter campaign to get David Harbour to help me out. That guy will do anything. Turns out you need more than three people to retweet you to really grab his attention.

So… Now what?

I think, actually, I might try another, simpler route to publishing… I am going to work the comedy circuit for awhile, wait some tables to make ends meet, land my own late-night talk show, poke endless fun at our jack wagon president, write a joke-y fake book about the astonishingly dumb things he says and then have a real publisher actually publish it. That would be soooooo much easier.

 

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*This is one of the queries I sent out that actually got a near-immediate response — because the guy wanted to know why I called him a hard ass. Alas, while it generated some back-and-forth emails — and he insisted he wasn’t really a hard ass — turns out he was because he turned my book down. He said “I appreciated your brio and candor but unfortunately I didn’t connect to the voice on the page in the way that an agent must.” I don’t know why that stings — I mean I don’t know him, why should I care? — but it kinda does. Also, I didn’t know “brio” is actually a word — I thought it was just the brand of those lame doctor’s office toys.

Dear XXXX,

Gotta be honest, I wasn’t sure I should query you at first. I was scanning your website and thought, ‘This guy’s a real hard ass.’ But then I read some more and saw that you’re not just a dad, you’re a soccer dad. You *are* my people. Allow me to momsplain:

As a former award-winning features writer for the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson’s metropolitan paper with 238,000-plus weekday readers, I tackled everyday topics in a regular column (taking away my daughter’s cell phone and then forgetting where I hid it, needing but having trouble admitting I need reading glasses, the rigors of driving carpool). I wrote about life’s little things that really aren’t that little.

Then, as I watched my teenage daughter tackle college applications and the excitement of a fresh beginning, I began to realize my time at the paper had grown stale. I had slipped into this safe, boring complacency. But, here I was telling her to take chances while I remained at a place I’d worked since I was in college. So, I did the bravest (and probably dumbest, economically speaking) thing a parent facing six-figure college debt can possibly do: I quit. 

My resignation letter — which, in a Jerry Maguire-ish move I posted to my Facebook page — struck a chord with people and drew enough attention on social media to go, well, not quite viral but definitely bacterial, and was published in the Columbia Journalism Review. Oh the irony — I spend 26 years in journalism and get published in the grande dame of publications only after I leave the biz.

Since then I’ve been writing. And writing. And writing. I have a draft of a book (humorous but with heart) made for readers with 21st-century attention spans and precious little free time. The short-ish, breezy chapters cover a wide range of topics from that time Bobby Flay (yup, that Bobby Flay) tried to poison me to the weirdness that is CrossFit to just general life as a mother who suffers from high cholesterol and an obsessive need to always find the funny. I am like David Sedaris — if he’d experienced (and survived) childbirth. Three times. 

Star readers referred to me as Tucson’s Erma Bombeck, a humbling compliment, and I like to think she’d approve of my modern-day take on finding the ha-ha in the humdrum.

My work may not be exactly what you described you are looking for (although, I would argue nothing is more dystopian than three teenagers in your house), but I do have chops. I can write. I strike that balance between funny and sweet. You asked for two chapters, but I threw in a few extras. My draft so far checks in at about 44,000 words. It’s bookended with my personal story (introducing readers to me and the cast of family characters I poke fun at) and contains a creamy filling middle of musings about parenting and life that are separated by quick, humorous “buttons” that serve as segues.

And, in case you’re wondering if there’s an audience for this kind of thing, I have hundreds of people pledging – in writing on Facebook – to buy any book that I would write. I’m pretty sure that would be legally binding in a court of law.

Thank you so much for reading this far.

 

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