design and lottery what?

To date, I've sent twelve agent queries.  Begging in high literary fashion.  They know I'm begging.  They know how many writers can fit through the eye of a needle.  I can sense it in the voice of their response or even worse, in their lack of response.  I sense it as I sit here with my head in my hands, staring at the query files in my macbook at three in the morning.

So far then, of the twelve, everyone in rounds one and two have rejected or never responded.  That leaves four without a heartbeat.  The ones that did respond from round two all sent the most pathetic form letters, as if they have no personality whatever.  They break every rule for the "bad news letter" that I teach my college students in Tech Writing class, bad fonts, no salutations, no formating and such.

One thing is consistent. They all wish me good luck.  What the hell is luck if not chance?  Some say getting a book deal is like winning the lottery.  It's not.  It is not a fortuitous transaction.  My manuscript is not drawn from a hat.  It is decidedly by my own design and skill that I attract an agent that in turn decides to use his/her skill to convince an investor to put it on a press.  The agent and publisher both decide that the book can turn a profit.  So the good luck nonsense is just a patronizing way of saying run along, swim in the sea of writer angst and pathos.

I'm not waiting on a respond from round three.  On to round four in a few days! They say not to draw conclusions before fifty "begs."  I doubt I'll last that long before a real lottery ticket seduces me.  But in the meantime I'll be celebrating my designed manuscript with a premier reading on the 28th.  I hope to see you there.

Thanks for staying tuned,


waiting for heels..

I waited for three weeks to send out my next batch of queries.  I was busy, lazy, and wasn't looking forward to more rejections.  I'd already queried my top three choices.  I reasoned it as, okay, maybe there'd be someone great underneath a vague website.  And I shouldn't hold the cheesy titles they sold against them either.  So I got busy again.  More research.  Verifying info as current.  Agents move around often.  I look for current interviews too, whatever I can find.

I dropped three queries on a Friday.  I never heard from two of them.  I heard back from L in five days.  That was a good sign.  Maybe because I'd mentioned M had read my manuscript.  M sold the late Frank McCourt's memoir for big cash.  Anyway, L sold the late George Carlin's book.  She wanted my first 35 pages.  I hate that.  I know the drill though from the music business.  If the first three seconds doesn't hit subjective pay dirt, you suck.  That person thinks so at least.

Even though she had addressed the email to "Mr. Balkin," I emailed the first thirty-five pages.  I heard back in six days.  She said it was "an interesting glimpse into a quirky life, but considering how many manuscripts I see and the kind of competition already on the memoir shelves, I really have to fall head over heels in order to want to take it on."  

Head over heels?  I would deduct massive points on a student essay for that cliche.  And anyway, I thought that selling a book was not about orgasm and emotion.  Isn't sales about judging the marketability of product?  Objectivity?  Not sure I even want a business partner to think in terms of emo.  Once, I saw on an agent's blog; "I am not interested in anything that contradicts a Christian worldview."  I doubt she'd lift a heel either over my Chapter 10: Gay Dude Gets Gay Demon Cast Out Ha Ha!  And as far as I remember, a Christian world view is, fuck it, God's gonna burn it up in fire soon anyway.  

It was a depressing weekend.  Next up.. Round three..

Stay Tuned.. Hope to see you on November 28th!



first trip to the PO..

I was on my way to a reading.  Convent Station, NJ was on the way.  I'd mail my first query letters from there.  For newbies, a query letter begs an agent to, in high linguistic fashion, please love my book idea so much that you run to the biggest publishing house and prostrate yourself in front of their mahogany desk until they promise to print a million copies and line them up in the windows at Barnes & Noble. And while you're at it, make them promise a fireside chat with Oprah. Oh, movie rights and a Sarah Palin advance too.  

So then, traditionally, an agent gets the author a book deal.  I picked three.  I'd read interviews with the agents. I'd combed their websites.  I'd hashed and mashed my query letter to what I thought was perfection.  One day for each paragraph.  Three paragraphs, one page.  No more.  I'd printed on fancy paper.  I arrived at the post office with three minutes to spare.  Is this the way it would be, I thought.  Four years in the making and I was rushing and had cramps as I wrote my return address on the Priority envelopes.

I plan to frame the receipt.  Credit card numbers on a strip of paper meant I was crossing over.  I was now a risk taker.  The whole thing could fail.  "What ever happened to that book you wrote," they'll say.  Or I could, some day, be framing a page of the NYT.

My first choice agent was M.  She'd sold a memoir for the most famous memoirist.  My favorite memoirist.  The query landed on her desk on a Monday morning.  She emailed compliments to me the next day.  She said she'd love to read my manuscript.  Holy shit. One of the most well-known agents in the world wants to read the very thing that I sat at this very table working on for four years.  I felt naked, too.  As if I were allowing someone into my head, free to inspect all my private brain cells. Regardless, I had chills. I jumped up and down on the back porch.

I rode that feeling out of anxiety and depression for a week.  Food tasted better.  I played jazz.  Even my old Volvo rode smoother for a week.  But I couldn't take it anymore.  I sent her an email.  "Just want to keep you in the loop," I said.  "I've sent off two more manuscripts."  Seven minutes later she returned.  "I was just getting ready to write to you about FRYING SPAM."  She found my voice charming and the project appealing but didn't think it was "quite right" for her.

The other two queries? G returned a half sheet of paper that read something of the sort, "Due to the current market, we are not taking on memoir projects at this time." J ask for the first thirty pages.  I never heard from him. Nothing. 

Query round two?
Stay tuned,


in the beginning there was a manuscript..

I don't want to roll back to the real beginning. Childhood experiences. They're horrific. I'll start with being riddled with anxiety, thinking of readying the manuscript for agent shopping. Would they laugh? And I don't mean because Frying Spam was funny. I imagined agents wondering who the ass is that thinks he's a writer. So I worked the manuscript over and over until I thought I could get "naked" and still keep my composure. I have a lovely line editor, so that helped a bit.

Still, fearing the inevitable onslaught of rejection slips, I put off researching for the right agency. And that's the thing. I had nothing to compare it to. I'd tried not to read too many memoirs. I didn't want to cop an auto-voice from another writer. But with what I know is on the shelves, humorous religious abuse themes didn't show up. Who would want to advocate for Frying Spam, even just read it? And nobody was there to prod me either. I had to muster on my own. It's lonely, folks.

I settled after twelve drafts. Fuck it. It would be thirteen chapters. Not for any unlucky number-voodoo reasons, please, I just thought it was enough. And I have a short attention span. I'd been pecking at it for four years on and off. Besides, there's probably plenty of readers that can't sit still for long either. So I figured I was ready to buy postage. Either way, publish or pass out, my life would change, at least my view of it. I could very well end up having a very depressing year, or worse, life. Compression or depression, I had to move on it. I was in the way of me. Around then, a copy of Poets and Writers landed on my writing table.

Next up.. First trip to the Post Office..
Stay Tuned..