Posts Tagged ‘agent’

I’ve written a book

August 17, 2012

For more than two years now, “I’m writing a book” has been my job title, my obsession and my reason for being.

On Monday I sent 474 pages of words—95,800 of them actually—to an experienced book editor to see what a professional person thinks of all this research on women’s sexual desire.

While I recognize that revisions—perhaps major ones—are part of the process, I’m naturally thrilled to be done. There’s undoubtedly a line I’ve stepped across; the book is whole now, a complete work. It’s permissible for me to shift over and say “I’ve written a book.”

Though I’m elated and proud and even incredulous about this achievement, I’m a little surprised at how quickly I’ve moved on. The self-congratulatory period was frankly shorter than I think I deserved. I thought I’d linger awhile in the fog of self-satisfaction once I hit that SEND button.

Instead, I immediately began thinking “OK, what’s next?”

First off, I’m way behind on day-to-day tasks and appointments, so I’m scrambling there. More importantly, I have several freelance writing assignments due before the end of the month, so no dilly-dallying in that arena either. In addition, I want to spend some time on marketing and social media (for example: do better at blogging!). And I definitely need to perform major research on the next phase of self publishing. I’ve collected numerous articles about the process and must absorb them in order to determine the best way to go about hiring a designer to pull the book together for publication.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Whelihan wrote a very nice letter to Victoria, our New York agent, and terminated our relationship with her. We received seven rejections (from Perseus Books, U.S. Penguin Group and others), which didn’t discourage us that much. We believe women’s sexual desire is a subject that needs to be addressed in all age groups; New York publishers seem to think we need to narrow the focus of the book and only appeal to smaller slices of the population.

We respectfully disagree. And since Dr. Whelihan is the expert (and after my research, I’m getting there!), we decided to trust ourselves and publish the book that our heads and hearts tell us is what readers want.

At this point, if a publishing house in New York suddenly offered us a contract, we’d say no. It would be 12-15 months before the book was for sale if that happened. With self-publishing, we hope to have copies of Kiss and Tell in hand by Thanksgiving.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to download the book. You will, of course. And we’re even hoping to make individual chapters available online, in case you truly just want to read about sexual desire for women in one decade only. (That’s another perk of self-publishing; you get to do what you want!)

It feels like everything is moving much faster now. Hopefully the momentum will continue and we’ll see our dreams realized of a book to sell by the holidays. Such a brave new world. Scary, but exciting.

Just look what happens when you hit the finish line … when you can truthfully say “I’ve written a book.”

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A dash to the deadline

July 13, 2012

Exactly one month from today, on Aug. 13, my book’s manuscript is due to the editor.

This is NOT an editor hired by a publishing house; we didn’t get a book deal for Kiss and Tell. It’s an editor Dr. Whelihan and I hired privately, although she also works for all the big New York publishing houses. I mentioned her in an earlier blog, and was impressed with the sample edit she did on the intro to my chapter on the 80s Ladies. (Plus I met her in Austin when I was in Texas for two weeks enjoying an annual girls’ weekend and celebrating my mom’s 84th birthday. Her name is Tiffany Yates Martin; she’s 6 feet tall, gorgeous and extraordinarily charismatic. Yes, you’re detecting a bit of a girl crush.)

Kiss and Tell‘s book proposal has now been officially turned down by seven publishers. It’s a little bit discouraging, sure. But the reason they are saying no to the book still strikes Dr. Mo and I as just being off. They seem to think readers will only care about the sexuality of women their own age; that our focus is too broad and no one’s interested in the passion of women in other age groups.

I realize everyone is super savvy up there in New York, of course, but I think the suits in the city maybe don’t know as much as they think they do about women’s sexuality. I mean, did they completely miss the uproar over Fifty Shades of Grey? Why don’t they see that women—of ALL ages—who read about desire in the form of fiction will also read about it in non-fiction form?

And believe me, the book is going to be erotic.

I know this because our agent told me after reading the sample chapters that I needed to mention the material’s steaminess in the proposal. “You’re missing the turn-on factor,” she said. I hadn’t really planned that effect, but I was quick to follow through on her suggestion.

And it makes sense that when women talk about what stimulates their desire, and those scenarios are faithfully transferred to words—reading them might indeed stimulate desire.

I digress!

The breaking news to share here is that I have committed to finishing the book’s first draft in one month. I was terrified into paralysis at first. I spent two days assuring myself this was impossible. For so long I’ve been saying, “I’m writing a book.” I still can’t quite grasp what it will mean to say, “I’ve written a book,” since the process itself has defined me for so long.

But then the soldier mentality took over, and I just started marching. I’m digging in every day; I figure it’s a six-day-a-week proposition from now till the deadline. I have to read every single word I’ve written so far and try to drag them all under the umbrella of one voice. As the project unfolded, the narrative shifted, and now it’s time to solidify the chapters under a unifying voice.

I’m also having to finish up certain chapters, which I left undone purposely, waiting for closure on other decades in order to come back and wrap up earlier chapters with more expertise and authority. The overview chapter, which explains what trends we found and sets the stage for the whole book, is proving to be a gigantic time suck. I’m wrestling with whether or not to break it into several chapters, because some of the (juicy) stories that accompany the overarching trends are lengthy.

But big picture problems like that aren’t enough. I’m also doing meticulous copy editing as I go, since there’s no point in ignoring it as I do a final read. Tiffany was kind enough to provide me with some style tips, which is a good thing since it turns out that journalism’s AP style isn’t at all what book editors are looking for. Oh joy. Live and learn.

This final push toward the deadline is a microcosm of what the entire book process has been. If I look up and survey the landscape of what still has to be completed, I become overwhelmed and frightened. If I keep my head down, and put one foot in front of the other, one paragraph after another, I can hold on to the hope of finishing.

Here goes!

A little help here, please

May 27, 2012

The solitariness required to write a book is a given, and I’ve learned to be content with the alone time necessary to make that happen. But as I embark on the final chapter, I find myself looking forward to a point in the near future when I can begin working with an editor to make this exciting book the best it can be.

I’m eager to dig into the structure, find the flaws, rearrange whole chunks of content if need be, polish the prose, make my voice consistent. I have both specific questions and more general concerns I’m ready to discuss with an editor, someone who’s really passionate about this material like Dr. Mo and I are. Someone I trust.

I actually have someone in mind and I’ll of course name her if our relationship becomes official. Meantime, you might be wondering why we’re looking to hire our own editor instead of waiting for a publishing house to assign one. If you read about the process of signing with an agent, you know we contracted with someone in New York who’s been sending out the ‘Kiss and Tell’ proposal for a couple of months now.

But we’ve had a snag and a bit of disinterest, so rather than stewing in any disappointment, we’ve decided to push ahead on a couple of self-publishing fronts, in case that turns out to be the path we take. So at last week’s work meeting, (after which I polished off the health chapter!!) we split up tasks to accomplish in the next couple of weeks. Dr. Mo is researching a loan to cover the cost of self-publishing while I gather exact estimates for what those costs will be.

Fortunately, I know people who’ve written books, and early on I got a recommendation for a very experienced editor who has worked with both fiction and non-fiction. I like her flexibility because, although the book is non-fiction, it’s written in story fashion and utilizes many fiction-like touches to increase its appeal.

I emailed the editor and she got back to me quickly (despite being out of her office), which I took as a good sign. She had heard about ‘Kiss and Tell’ from a mutual friend and finds the concept intriguing. Woo hoo! First hurdle overcome; no prudes need apply.

Like some others I saw online, this editor offers a free edit of 1,000 words of your book, so you can see how she works and whether you’re a good fit. I think this is an excellent practice, because anyone will tell you that finding a person who gets what you want to do and helps you say it in the best possible way is a writer’s dream. Serious writers all long for the partnership of a caring editor.

I perused my decades chapters and decided to submit the first 1,000 words of my chapter on the 80s Ladies. Remember them? I adored those gals and also felt they brought out some of my best writing, so I’m curious to see how much this editor wants to change up what I’ve done. Good editors don’t rewrite everything a writer creates in a bid to insert their own voice; instead they make the writer’s voice truer and stronger.

That’s what I’m holding out for.

Naturally we wouldn’t move definitively to hire an editor until we formally sever ties with our agent. And it may not come to that. In the world of publishing, something unexpected can always happen.

We’re just trying to stay smart, stay flexible and make the best decisions possible for ‘Kiss and Tell’s’ success. Fingers and toes crossed!

Snug and signed

February 25, 2012

While I continue to chastise myself over the speed at which I write and the ability I have (or have not) to focus on the tasks at hand, somehow things keep moving ahead at a decent clip.

Case in point: The proposal for Kiss and Tell has now been sent out to a handful of publishing houses!

Yes. Dr. Whelihan and I signed an agent’s contract with Victoria Skurnick at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency in New York. Victoria’s a pro with decades of experience, and wasted no time dithering (as I am constantly wont to do). She and I emailed back and forth a few times while I tweaked the Kiss and Tell proposal to her liking and in no time she had forwarded it to several houses, along with an introductory letter that made our team sound sexy, smart and sell-able. Gotta love it.

It’s been just one day since the call went out and we’ve received a response already: a very polite turn-down from an editor who assured us the idea was appealing, but that it wasn’t the right fit for her publisher. I realize a turn-down is supposed to make you feel all rejected and stuff, but instead I’m encouraged. The editor read the information quickly, was clearly engaged by it, responded in a positive way and even signed off with a comment about how sure she was we’d land a publisher in no time. So excuse me for being excited! I can’t help it. We’re another step closer to the brass ring of a good contract with a publishing house.

By the way, I do realize it’s a brass ring. Horror tales abound from writers who’ve seen their precious work treated poorly by publishers. The promise of national marketing is the carrot held out to get you to sign on, despite a paltry advance. But follow-through on those promises to get your book wide exposure is far from a given. Disappointed writers with legitimate reason to feel resentful are everywhere.

Still, we decided against self publishing at this juncture. So far, Victoria makes us feel confident and optimistic. And though Maureen and I both know how to sell this book locally, we have to get a publishing house to really push it if we hope to jump to a broader platform.

Putting the polishing touches on the final proposal hasn’t deterred me from my sessions with the 50-something women. I have completed six in-depth interviews and have another four scheduled for early next week.

I’ll stop at 10 interviews, even though I yearn to interview all 290 women in this decade who completed a survey. I’m 57. This is my decade. Though their stories don’t mirror mine, I feel a kinship with each woman. She feels familiar to me almost as soon as we sit down to talk.

And the stories! Ah, the stories. They are priceless.

I promise I’m putting them down with all the ability I can muster. And I can hardly wait for you to read the book!

Wherein ‘Kiss and Tell’ acquires an agent

December 23, 2011

It’s shaping up to be a very Merry Christmas and not just because I’m in Texas taking a break from my usual routine and enjoying family and friends here in the Lone Star State.

It’s also merry because my spate of query letters sent out around Thanksgiving drew several responses — and an offer of representation!!

Yes. We are one step closer to publication for Kiss and Tell.

If this does not strike you as exciting news, then you are not familiar with the ins and outs of acquiring an agent — and lucky you, by the way. I had heard from more than one reliable source that I should expect to contact anywhere from 30 to 100 agents before receiving an offer of representation. In fact, the process of agent hunting was described as every bit as arduous as writing a book. Say what? I did not want to believe that.

Which is why I was pretty much in denial about the difficulty of the task. Back in the summer, I emailed a New York agent about flying to an Agent Fest there to pitch her on our idea. (Agent Fests are events where you have 5 minutes to deliver your book concept and snag a potential agent’s interest, sort of like speed dating.) Anyway, this agent, Andrea, who I decided was perfect for our book, said not to fly to New York but to send her a proposal.

Which I did. And then I waited 2 weeks. And then sent a ping to see if she’d even received it.

She had. She was swamped. No time for my proposal yet.

More weeks of waiting. Like maybe 12 weeks … I wrote another chapter. And another.

In early November, Dr. Whelihan was featured on a 4-minute clip on a local TV station — I was even on-camera with one quote about the book! —  so I sent Andrea a link, thinking our astounding media savvy would entice her to read my proposal. I got a bounce-back email saying she was on maternity leave.

Ouch! Hard lesson.

I’d put all our eggs in her basket, not realizing her basket was already spoken for. Here I was foolishly hoping we’d have an agent by year’s end.  I had no time to lose.

The next week, which was the Thanksgiving holiday, I gathered up names and agencies I’d heard were “right up our alley” or with whom I had some sort of connection. Each agency’s requirements vary, so I spent a half day or so per submission. At week’s end, I’d sent out just four — enough to know that sending out 100 was likely to be the death of me.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving I received an email from a wonderful woman at Levine Greenberg (who was recommended to me by Jeannette Walls of Glass Castle fame) saying she found the proposal most interesting and would love to represent it.

Yep. Just like that.

My pal who is books editor at The Palm Beach Post called an acquaintance in the publishing biz to find out the agency’s reputation, and discovered it was stellar. We had a conference call with the agent and are thrilled with all she’s told us, and satisfied with her ideas and input.

I composed the requisite “Offer of Representation” emails to other agents I had queried; it’s a courtesy that allows them to look over your proposal quickly and jump into the fray should they choose. I received valuable feedback from two additional agents this way, though neither offered representation.

So now we’ve progressed to the contract stage with Levine Greenberg. (Contracts are standard proceedure for many literary agencies.) Dr. Whelihan’s lawyer looked it over and made a few small suggestions, which is nice because all the legal stuff is a tad scary, truth be told. We got the last changes ironed out just before everyone left for the holidays, so we’ll be signing something right after the first of the year.

Call it a Christmas miracle. Despite my novice mistakes, despite the dire predictions, despite the odds — Kiss and Tell has acquired a wonderful agent dedicated to selling it to a publishing house.

Happy 2012, indeed.

Book? What book?

July 28, 2011

Yes, I realize it’s been some time since I blogged. Believe me, if I had amazing progress to report, I would have, you know, reported it.

Instead it’s been an unsettling, unproductive, nay depressing 4 weeks. Not to put too fine a point on it.

However! In the good news column: I finally got on the phone earlier this week and set up interviews for the chapter on 30 year olds. You just know the 30something ladies are going to have fascinating stories about desire and how the process of having a family figures into things. I feel eager to reengage with the book — and that’s a huge relief after my month of inertia.

Plus, I have a meeting with my book partner this Sunday, where I have pledged to have a revamped book proposal ready to show her. With Mo’s sign-off, I’ll send it to an agent (yes!) in New York who expressed interest in reading a full proposal.

This agent thing is quite an exciting little side story, actually.

I found this (well-known!) agent’s bio in a post about ThrillerFest, a summertime New York event which had an agent fest component. I showed it to Mo and she agreed the woman was a great fit with our book and suggested we consider flying up just to meet her. Because of the cost involved, I emailed the agent to ask if she was going to be appearing at any events closer to Florida or ones that were more up our alley than a gathering of thriller writers. (Not that our book won’t be thrilling, of course.) In that email to the agent, I included 3 or 4 sentences sketching the premise of our book.

Well, the agent emailed back quickly to say we shouldn’t make the trip solely to meet her, but that she’s interested in taking a look at our proposal online!

Awesome, yes? Very exciting.

Unfortunately my proposal needed massive revising and all this occurred just three days before my trip to Texas for Mom’s birthday, girls’ group gathering and a special memorial event I’d been planning for a while. Also, it happened about two hours before I got the phone call letting me know my friend Clarence was in the hospital with a stroke.

And that’s pretty much when things went off the track.

Dealing with my friend’s unexpected death was truly bad enough, but layered on top was Dental Nightmare No. 718: the dreaded cross-angled rubber band configuration the dentist delayed on my previous visit. At least I was prepared with a few days worth of pain reliever prescribed by my migraine doctor. (Guess what he ordered? Oxycodone. Yikes!)

Nevertheless, the pain was still so bad from the sharp hooks (which serve to “catch” the rubber bands), that I was pretty much unable to function for five days. By function I mean I couldn’t eat, couldn’t talk, couldn’t swallow — because all those movements require you to move your tongue, and each time I did that, it felt like a wasp was stinging my tongue. Truly awful. I finally returned to the dentist for an emergency visit, told the sweet young assistant on duty that something was terribly amiss, no one could possibly intend for me to be in this much pain and to please HELP ME.

She carefully studied my situation, restored the offending hooks to their neutral position and instead pulled out a different hook from the opposite side of the tooth, and then angled it downward in such a way that it didn’t pierce my tongue with each movement. I quit taking the oxycodone the next day (which had not alleviated the pain anyway) and began to feel like life was worth living again.

And those cross-bands on the back teeth weren’t the only bad news; I was assigned bands on my front teeth as well, encompassing two teeth on the top and two on the bottom on each side of my mouth. The rubber bands I wore at night on these teeth were so unyielding that I was almost unable to open my mouth while wearing them. Daytime bands were lax enough to allow speech. For this I assume I was to be grateful.

For anyone who’s counting (I was!), this all meant that a total of 12 of my teeth were constantly being adjusted by rubber bands for an interminable 4 weeks. I was not a happy camper.

Fortunately, that particular era of torture ended yesterday; I am now back to two fairly standard rubber bands in a new configuration. Even so, I feel marked by the previous miserable month, perhaps because I was simultaneously experiencing grief over my friend’s death. I feel like a soldier who’s too wrung out to offer any further resistance. My last impulse to fight has drained away. I can’t win against these braces and nothing I do seems to make it easier. I just want it over with.

From here, six months feels like a long time, ya’ll.

One decade a month

January 17, 2011

If I’ve talked to you recently about my book, you understand this post’s title. If not, here’s the quick version.

Every month this year, my goal is to write a chapter about one of the decades in women’s lives and what affects her sexual desire during that time period. It shifts with every decade, to no one’s surprise, and we want to chronicle the major influences (love, feelings of security, stress, children, exhaustion, physical impediments, etc.) and track them throughout a woman’s lifetime. The survey provides statistics and trends, but the interviews will give the book its stories, its characters, its life.

I started with the teens: Our youngest survey respondent was 15, but we began collecting surveys a year and a half ago, so all the women are older now that interviews are actually occurring. I chose the teens because only 27 filled out our survey — it’s a small number and I can get it done in this short month. (Short because I didn’t get home from Texas till the 4th and then didn’t get my routine put back together for a week after that.)

When I told an astute journalist friend I planned to work my way on up through the decades, he wryly commented that I needed to interview the 90-year-olds next. Point taken. February shall be the month for the oldest of my ladies. And won’t that be an interesting juxtaposition for my overtaxed little brain, struggling as it is already with surprise from the teens’ revelations? In fact, I’ve decided to interview additional teenagers in order to determine if the few I’ve met are typical or atypical. (No, I am not going to spill everything right here. You shall be required to BUY THE BOOK.)

Meanwhile, I struggle with questions of whether to renew my search for an agent or just keep plugging away at the actual book. I fully realize that an agent is crucial, that it’s a seminal relationship for a writer. I know it will take trial and error to find a good one. So I shy away from that work because I’m trying to really plug into getting chapters completed — lock, stock and barrel. Why can’t I be better at multi-tasking? It doesn’t seem like making both things happen would be impossible if I’d just apply myself.

The other thing looming for me is to do more than a cursory search for women’s conferences in this part of the country and then make myself available to the people who book them to talk at said conferences. A well-connected, book-world friend told me recently that publishers love writers who’ve already spoken publicly about their work.

Well, it’s easy and fun for me to talk about this book, so I figure I’ll make some inroads in that direction this month as well. If women at conferences react like my Mom’s book club did over the holidays, I’ve got it made. I sat down to share with the ladies some of the findings from the survey and within three minutes, the 65-year-old woman on my left exclaimed, “This is WAY more interesting than book club!”

Ma’am, you have no idea.

An agent weighs in

January 19, 2010

People much more experienced in the book world than myself assure me that one needs a good literary agent in order to get a good book deal.

Since my fondest wish is to get a good book deal, I have taken heed of the wise counsel of the published writers I know and have been seeking out names of literary agents to approach with my book proposal. I say ‘my’ proposal, but my partner in the book, a local gynecologist and sex therapist, is hardly silent. Her clients are providing the surveys that will provide the research base for our book. But I’m doing the actual writing, which is why I keep saying ‘my this’ and ‘my that.’ So forgive me; I’m not trying to diss my worthy partner. I just feel solitary in the writing process a lot and thus gravitate to the singular pronoun.

Anyway, I’ve already sent my proposal to three established agents willing to read it, and one of them quickly sent back wonderful, smart comments on how to sharpen it up. She told me exactly what’s missing that a publisher will surely want included.

Is this great, or what? Every time I turn around, I’m receiving amazing help from generous folks.

A well-known writer friend at the newspaper read my initial stab at a book proposal as early as the middle of last year and helped me get it ready to even submit to agents. For instance, he clued me in to the fact that I’d need a sample chapter. I had no idea; that’s how little I knew.

Now with this agent’s help, I have more excellent suggestions to incorporate, which will take some time, but won’t be a problem because my doctor friend has now collected 950 surveys! Our goal was to have 1,200, so we’re gaining ground. I’ve been working with just 450 of the surveys, but now, with all the additional data, should be able to draw some conclusions for the book proposal that will whet publishers’ appetites.

Lots to do, so thankfully, my workspace is finally ready! The painting project from last weekend was a huge success, and though the yellow was a bit brighter than I’d imagined, its cheerfulness is undeniable. I met the cable guy on Friday and have wireless capability throughout the condo—not that the place is large, mind you. Check the picture above if you don’t believe me!

Coming soon! War stories of organizing the reams of surveys we’ve collected!