Skip to content

Month: December 2012

“Getting” is to “Book Deal” as “Jumping” is to “Hoops”

Like most introspective, creative people, my least favorite form of communication is the phone. Sure, I enjoyed it plenty when I was 15, but I’m now 15 x 2 so I would much rather just email you, thanks very much.

When I began writing Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook, it was fortuitous of me to do the project for National Novel Writing Month, because I was on a time crunch. It also meant I couldn’t procrastinate picking up the phone and calling people to talk about their tattoo stories, and ask them if they’d be willing to let me write about them for this project. That was nerve-wracking, since I basically felt like I was asking them to bear their souls to me just so I could write another book. Still, they were my friends, and I appreciated their candidness and willingness to let me write about it. I was on a 30-day time crunch, so I couldn’t let people equally un-phone-y as me dodge my calls for long.

After I finished the project and started sending it around to publishers, I got a bite. The publisher asked that we have a – you guessed it – phone call. It was a good phone call, I learned a lot about what they were willing to do for me, but in exchange, they wanted me to do something for them: get all the friends whose tattoos I wrote about to sign a legal release form saying that when the book makes it big they won’t sue me for royalties, and to get all the tattoo artists who drew their tattoos to give consent to use the images. Which meant… 23 phone calls.

I also now had to ask my friends to sign a legal document saying they wouldn’t sue me and yes, I felt like a total dick. Pretty much without exception, all of them were totally cool about it; after all, they are my friends and they were as excited as I was about the prospect of me getting a book deal. I also had to ask them who did their tattoos, and call up their shops, leave messages, call back the next day, leave another message, explain myself several times… lather, rinse, repeat.

But this is what you do when you want your book to see the light of day, so I’m gladly doing it. But you can bet your britches that my next book will not bear any likenesses or have overlapping copyright implications that make me chew my nails down! Also, I refuse to make any phone calls over this long holiday weekend, so if I am waiting on you for your signed release form or tattoo image consent, you get a whole 4 days of me not calling to remind you.

Leave a Comment

In Which I Reflect on Christmases Past…

It’s a week before Christmas, it’s 80 degrees outside, and I’m enjoying a nice cup of spiked hot cider with a real cinnamon stick. It doesn’t sound like that reflective of a moment, but it is for me. When I was a kid, I thought both liquor and real cinnamon sticks were something only rich people buy. My fiance picked up a couple baggies of cinnamon sticks last night for a hot buttered rum recipe we decided to try. I have never bought cinnamon sticks before because I always assumed they were a luxury item for fancy people. Turns out, they are less than 99 cents.

It’s odd to think of something that costs 99 cents as a luxury item, but Crayolas are only a couple bucks more expensive than less-than-crayola crayons, and I never go to have those as a kid, either. Christmas time was always a very tense occasion in my family. They usually involved my parents getting payday loans and putting things on layaway, things that because I went to college and worked hard to get a good writing job I could stroll into the store and buy even on the last day before payday. There was always more fighting around Christmas as money got tighter, and I got more and more complacent about the holidays as the years went on.

But that’s Christmas past, not Christmas future. I don’t buy Christmas presents with payday loans or nearly-maxed out credit cards. My fiance has revived the Christmas spirit that I thought died in me a long time ago. We make Christmas our own – with liquor and Nutella-stuffed cookies and our wall of Christmas lights, Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and silly Texas Christmas cards.

And this might just be the best Christmas ever.

Leave a Comment

The passive-aggressive breakup: It’s not you, it’s me.

When an acquisitions editor for a publishing house emails you saying he or she is interested in your book, it’s hard not to get your hopes up. When FOUR (yes, capital FOUR) editors email you saying they’re interested, it gets even harder.

Then comes the day one of them says they’re offering you a book deal, but the deal never mysteriously arrives in your inbox, they don’t return your calls, and you start obsessively checking your spam folders.

That’s not how it’s supposed to happen, but that’s how it’s happened for me. Late last summer, I started talking with a publisher who expressed interest in my book. They gave me a list of edits they wanted me to make; I made them. I emailed them, they responded. We talked format, marketing, tattoos (it’s what the books about), and they were incredibly responsive. Then they told me they’d have the contract to me on Tuesday. Tuesday came. Tuesday went. Another Tuesday came and went, and suddenly it felt like my emails were going straight to a fax machine that spit directly into a recycle bin (which we all know is what all fax machines really do, otherwise people would claim they actually receive the faxes I send).

Naturally, I didn’t want to be the pushy, needy author who demands to know where her contract is, lest they decide to pull the plug on the project, but still – I am a person, with needs! I politely sent some “followups”, but then something happened that made me back off a little…

Another editor emails me to say “they’d love to publish my book.” We start talking, over the phone (even though I abhor the phone due to the fact that I suck ass at it), over email (yay!). They begin putting up the hoops I need to jump through, I begin jumping like a good little author. They say they’re going to give me an advance and offer me a deal that’s quite a bit better than the one the aforementioned (but nameless)  publisher was offering, so I keep in constant contact with them with each hoop I jump through, until they say they’re ready to move forward.

Then… AGAIN! My emails start going into oblivion. My phone calls start going straight to voicemail. Weeks go by, I maintain polite follow-up protocol, and nothing. Now, I’m even politely crawling back to the first publisher who ignored me, hoping they’ll notice this cool new thing I did to my hair and take me back, or take me, to begin with.

I find myself wondering… is it me? I feel like Cher in Clueless (who, if you didn’t know, was based on Jane Austen’s Emma) after Christian shuts down her sexual advances. What did I do wrong? Did my hair go flat? Did I stumble into some bad lighting? What’s WRONG with me?
… and then I remind myself that if the book’s good enough to get the attention (despite losing it later) of four publishers, it’s probably good enough to get the attention of one that will follow through.

Leave a Comment