What It Takes
I’m going to try something new over the next few months. Remember, a few weeks ago, we commandeered this Writing Wednesdays space to post a series called, with apologies to John Steinbeck, a “A Writer’s Journal of (Finishing) a Novel?” I was, then, in the final writing throes of a book I’d been working on for the past three years, and I posted a blow-by-blow account of that adventure.
Well, now I’d like to do that for the next stage: the editing, publicizing and marketing process. This doesn’t mean the end of our regular Writing Wednesdays posts, I promise. But we will intersperse them with the publishing saga as it unfolds. It’ll be a window, from one writer’s experience, into what’s happening right this minute as the publishing biz gets turned on its head by the meteoric takeoff of eBooks, print-on-demand, “platform promotion,” not to mention the near total demise of the newspaper and magazine book review (a catastrophe for all writers, including me), and thrashes around wildly, trying to figure out how to keep its head above water.
I live in Los Angeles but I’m in New York now. I’ll be meeting today, as this post goes up, with my editor and publisher, marketing execs, etc. for the first time on this new book. Next week I’ll go into detail about exactly what’s happening in the process—the old way, the new way and the new-new way, whatever that may be.
There are three primary people on my little team, and each one will contribute posts from their specific perspective and expertise. Shawn Coyne is my manager; he was my original editor at Doubleday; he left there to launch his own publishing house, Rugged Land, in 2001. He published The War of Art. Without him, I’d be nowhere. He knows the publishing business inside and out, and he’s a bit of a black Irish wild man. His posts will probably be crazed rants on what’s wrong with the book biz, how to fix it and what the rest of us, at all levels of aspiration, have to do in the meantime if we want to survive. A lot of his thoughts will be right-on, I’m certain, for artists and musicians, filmmakers, designers and entrepreneurs of all kinds.
My publicist is Callie Oettinger, who works out of Washington, D.C., and whose primary beat has been the Pentagon and the military, but who is expanding rapidly into many other areas. She’ll post about the publicity and promotion aspect of this process. They say the difference between advertising and publicity is you pay for advertising but publicity is free; you just have to figure out how to get it. Again, I’m certain that what Callie has to say will be of interest across the board to any artist or entrepreneur who’s trying to get the word out about his or her projects.
Jeff Simon designed this site. He’s a little shy verbally, but I think I can prevail upon him to write a bit about design and blogging and some of the tech stuff that we all have to know these days.
If you’re reading this, here are a couple of questions I’d like to ask you. First, does this area sound like it might be of interest? If it is, are there any specific issues or questions you’d like to see addressed? I’m figuring we’ll do ten posts at least in this series, maybe more if it gets an energetic response.
Now: a little bit about this new book and where it stands in the long process from inception to publication and beyond. It’s a novel, a contemporary military thriller titled The Profession. I started it three years ago under contract to Doubleday. But as has happened again and again over the last three years, Doubleday’s corporate parent (German behemoth Bertelsmann) decided to radically “restructure” their American empire in 2008. They kicked Doubleday’s publisher upstairs, let go a number of people to shrink their overhead, and put Doubleday underneath Knopf Publishing, another one of their American publishing houses. My editor was caught in the fray and was transferred to yet another Bertelsmann-owned publishing house—Crown Publishing. I followed him when my contract with Doubleday was transferred to Crown.
Payment for my novel comes in three equal installments—on signing the contract, on “delivery and acceptance” of the manuscript by my editor, and on publication. We’ve just passed the second stage. And between now and publication, which is in late June 2011, we have to figure out what to do to get the word out.
I’m a big believer that writers and artists have to participate all-out in this process. The days of mailing in the manuscript and sitting back are long gone. You’re dead meat if you do that, unless your name is Grisham, King or Roth. This blog is a big part of that effort on my part. So is having a manager and a publicist and a webmaster. When I first started fifteen years ago, I would have considered such an arrangement outrageous, narcissistic and bordering on megalomania. Now it’s indispensable. It also happens to be fun.
So that’s where we stand. Please let me know if this stuff is interesting or a snooze. Or if there are specific areas of the process that you’d like me to focus on.
More news to come. Stay tuned.
[The first “What It Takes” post is up and running. Thanks everyone for your comments.]