Last night I did something brazen. I sent out a mass blog advertisement to every possible Yale panlist I had ever been a part of in four years. I broke the yalemail rules. The possibility of my dignified and dapper Master Haller browsing a slapdash post about curry & cunnilingus wasn't even enough to dissuade my triggerhappy click finger.
And I did this for two reasons. Firstly, I think it's important to start steeling myself against critics, and I don't know anywhere with a higher density of socially frustrated elitists who get their self-aggrandizing kicks by pointing out pedantic imperfections in other people's work (myself included) than at Yale. Secondly, my Yalemail expires in about 3 days and I was more than happy to bid the buggy system goodbye in a spam-tastic flurry of self promotion.
Encouragingly, despite this caveat I included at the end of the email:
If you are FUMING because you received this email three times in a row then either get a better spam filter, or take this as serendipity and see if one of my posts doesn't tickle you. That, or write derogatory sarcastic comments on my blog to vent your anger at me while soothing the pains of a pathetic life in which email decorum takes up 1/3 of your mental energy while STILL supporting the career of a struggling artist.
I have still ruffled the feathers of people who don't seem to understand sarcasm, like the Grammar Gestapo, who is quick to tell me that “I think if you're going to write a book, you should learn how to use punctuation with quotations…” and, helpfully, "...you know it's spelled Tandoori, right?"
I apologize guys. Although I too used to extract meager droplets of self worth from making sure English papers footnotes were formatted exactly perfectly, I am now a Yale graduate and this is a blog, so I am no longer beholden to the ALL HOLY MLA FORMAT. Witness a daring rebellion as I cavalierly leave this sentence totally un-punctuated
Also- that's what I have an editor for. Do you have an editor? No? Then I guess it's a good thing you can use punctuation marks correctly. Well done. Gold star!
The ones that I won't admit stung a little more included: "Jesus h christ you're not funny" and the thrilling "you are not funny and I hope no one buys your book." Well I don't think you're particularly funny either.
But I do think it's funny that you may be stuck at Yale writing 10-12 page papers which will be scanned for 4 seconds by a manic depressive TA playing guitar hero with his free hand while I get to sort through comments about writing that people are actually reading. People including you, funnyman.
My alltime favorite comment was "The least you could've done is facebook friended me first, you trollop." Consider it done Chris. Anyone who can combine 21st century telecommunication and 17th century prostitution in one swiftly condemning quip is ok by me.
I was really tickled to read that one person had already heard of my blog when a friend told him something along the lines of "believe it or not, someone we went to Yale with is doing something better than turning other people's money into more money or doing coke off of toilet seats."
I am humbled by this compliment and hope I will live up to it. In fact I am resolving here and now before all and BlogGod only to turn other people's money into my money and do coke off of strippers' elbows nowhere near toilet seats.
He promised "I will read your book cover to cover when it comes out, tell my friends about it even when I lack an appropriate conversational segue, AND read your blog...if you tell me about the process you went through to get to this point" which I think is a pretty legitimate deal seeing as I claimed to be writing about professional writing. You're on AC. So here's a little intro which will be fleshed out over the coming weeks:
How to get a book deal.
First, have a unique idea. Do research into your target demographic and be familiar with the hooks of bestsellers in your market. See if you can find a niche for yourself amongst them, and once you do, start writing a killer chapter sample.
A lot of people I know slaved away writing entire books before shopping them around, but the truth is that most book deals are sold based on a proposal which includes, generally, a compelling summary, 2 sample chapters, a chapter outline, marketing info, and a bio. That's it.
Then you get an editor to help you figure everything out, and an advance to bolster living expenses while you write for a few months, so sometimes it's better to concentrate on a killer proposal that gets you in the door than driving yourself nuts writing the perfect completed novel which people are going to want to change anyway.
There are two ways to go after you assemble this stuff, and please ask questions if you want more details on any of those specific proposal elements.
First, send emails to a gagillion agents. Agents will help you craft a proposal and shop it around to the big buyers. There are tons of listings on the net, one of which is here: http://www.ebookcrossroads.com/agents.html.
Do your research and figure out which agents specialize in what. Don't send your slasher murder mystery to a children's book agent. If you have a favorite series or an author you want to pattern yourself after it wouldn't hurt to find out what agency they work with.
Calls are generally considered creepy, so write a short but intriguing email about your book, attach your summary or chapter, and hope for the best. Be enthusiastic and appeal to their mentorly side (Having a yale.edu email address really helped me out here). I sent about 50 emails and got 6 or 7 responses, two of which resulted in meetings, and one ended up with a contract. Still, even the contractless agents offered me tips on how to make the proposal more industry-ready and I think I ended up with a much better product after hearing so many 'no's.
However, this is where things get tricky. Agents are basically professional leeches no matter how nice and competent they are, and it's a big commitment to give 20% of your career to someone before you even have one. You don't need one right away.
I actually got this book deal without my agent through contact with the publishing company, which can be established through more emails, tenacity, and personal contacts. If you know a friend of a friend who is interning at Random House, get them your proposal. Often interns our age are the ones sorting through submissions and can make the difference between a proposal winding up on an editor's desk or in the garbage.
Also, blogs are the new frontier in publishing, and if you get a lot of traffic and fill a niche you'll be able to attract attention from publishers while honing your writing chops.
And you may even get a bunch of your former classmates anonymously accusing you of hackery.
My advice is to write a lot, even when you don't feel like it, because if you wait 'til you feel like it you'll be that 80 year old guy still working on his first and only novel. I don't like writing. But I do like having written.
What do you guys think? How have you managed to motivate yourselves beyond the realm of GPAs? How have I endured my first official Ivy-avalanche of troll posts? Keep me posted, keep smiling, keep the faith.