Saturday, May 02, 2009
A Million Words
I've been quiet for awhile here, and there's a reason for that: I've been waiting for the go-ahead to share with you the details about a surprise new book I'm working on. It's hard for this blabber-mouth to stay quiet this long. So even though I haven't yet received said go-ahead, I simply have to share with you what I can.
I received an email about three weeks ago from the publishing director of a medium-sized house in Portland, Maine. The company is Sellers Publishing, and they are among the fastest growing publishers of their size in the U.S. They specialize in gift books, and you might have heard of their series of "500" cookbooks or or the 50 Things to Do When You Turn 50, etc. series. This nice woman wanted to know if, even though I publish all my own work, I would be willing to consider writing a title for Sellers.
She shared the idea with me and it was absolutely superb. Not only that, I felt like I have spent the last 25 years of life preparing to write such a book. We discussed it further, I put together an outline, and the project was greenlit with much eager enthusiasm by all parties. An early 2010 release was planned. This past Wednesday I signed the contract, which included an actual advance, which I assure you is one thing a person never sees no matter how successful their own little publishing company may be.
A friend of mine likened this situation to when a starlet is discovered sitting at the counter in a Hollywood soda fountain. That made me smile. Did I expect such a thing could ever happen? Well, I've learned you can never predict what life may bring, that's for sure. On the one hand, I've always thought it unlikely that publishers roam the world looking for authors; that business is generally one where the authors scratch and claw and pray for attention.
But on the other hand, I estimate I have put a good million words up on the internet in the past ten years.
This is how Sellers found me: Their publishing director wanted to find the right person to write this dream title of theirs, so she Googled some related terms, and found an essay of mine from 2006. The style and content of the essay was just what she was looking for. She visited my Web site, investigated me further, became convinced I could be the one for the job. She emailed me, and here we are.
You could say this book deal was a heckuva lot easier to accomplish than the route I used to try before 2004: sending manuscripts over and over to various publishers till I got a hit. And that's certainly true. I decided in 2006 I had established a big enough readership that I was done with that approach, because it can be exhausting and discouraging and 25 years of that was quite enough.
But on the other hand, getting this book deal wasn't easy at all.
I've believed for a long time that regardless of an author's approach to his or her career, you have to get yourself out there. I've had one or more Web sites for over a decade, with new content all the time. I've placed essays with other sites, put out press releases, posted entire books online for free, blogged and done columns, etc. Was it a hardship? To be honest, sometimes I didn't feel like it, but I did it anyway. But the majority of the time I enjoyed it, because above all things I love to write. Well, about all things, I love to be read, and that's why the Internet is possibly my favorite thing in all the world.
I do feel very, very fortunate to have this great opportunity. Mostly I am grateful to Sellers for being so creative and so willing to turn over their fantastic concept to me to execute. But at the same time, this experience has confirmed to be my long-held belief that the best way to realize your dreams is to work really, really hard.
This past week I did an interview with a local weekly here in Milwaukee, on the subject of self publishing. The reporter asked me what advice I'd give to aspiring publishers. I told her the same thing I would tell an aspiring author. It's this: Success is based not so much on having a dream, but on being smart, working hard, and staying the course.
I started writing the new book this week and it's almost scary how it flows out of the keyboard. But then, like I said, the last 25 years--and those million words--have definitely prepared me for this moment.