Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How To Get Published--Backward

Will Clarke came to speak to my writers' group last night. He's the author of two books, Lord Vishnu's Love Handles and The Worthy: A Ghost's Story.

Will himself admits he's a great example of how to do everything wrong and still end up in the right place.

He wrote his first book ten years ago and immediately found a well-known agent. She primarily represents self-help celebrities like Dr. Phil and Stephen Covey. Although she loved his first two books, she couldn't find a publisher for them.

Will decided to self-publish and went through AuthorHouse. He said the experience wasn't a good one, and he eventually asked for his money back.

By then, he had figured out that he could self-publish through Lightning Source cheaper than he could through AuthorHouse (if he were going to do it again today, he said he'd use Lulu) so he created his own publishing company, MiddleFinger Press, and started selling his book from his website.

A New Zealand screenwriter got his hands on Lord Vishnu and convinced Will to sell him the film option for a dollar. The screenwriter then talked Michael London (who produced House of Sand and Fog and Sideways) into joining the project. London, in turn, convinced David Gordon Green, the director, to come on board, and the three sold the project to Paramount.

Now Clarke had a movie deal, but no broad distribution for his novels. Paramount's book division--Simon & Schuster--made him an offer for Lord Vishnu and gave him a list of agents who might help him negotiate the deal. He went with Jenny Bent, who likes quirky books (and Vishnu certainly qualifies as quirky). Simon & Schuster has now published both his books in hard cover and paperback.

Will gave all the members of my writers' group free autographed hardback copies of Lord Vishnu. I started reading the book last night. According to the Dallas Observer, it's "about a shallow, golf-loving, booze-swilling Lakewood dot-commer named Travis Anderson who is cursed with being able to read and influence minds even as he loses his. It's Kurt Vonnegut by way of Alfred Hitchcock, a screwy comic thriller." The first three chapters were hysterically funny, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest.

The New York Times did a double review of Will's first two books. Read it here.

Here are the lessons Will says he's learned from his ten-year journey:
  • Learn everything you can about the publishing business. He recommends a subscription to Publishers Lunch and the book Putting Your Passion Into Print: Get Your Book Published Successfully! by Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry.
  • Be sure you find the right agent--the one who is the right fit for your book. The wrong agent will shop your book but not sell it and leave you in a worse place than when you started. Will says this is because, once a New York publishing house has turned a book down, it will very rarely take a second look at the same book.
  • Focus on viral marketing, selling your book by word-of-mouth. He believes this is far more important than a good book review.
  • Be creative in your marketing efforts. He gave free finger puppets to booksellers, which helped them to remember him and his book.
  • It's never too soon to start a blog or an account on MySpace.
  • Enjoy the actual writing process. It will be the most fun you will have on your path to publication. From then on, it's hard work.


Laura Vivanco said...

"It's never too soon to start a blog or an account on MySpace."

I recently read that MySpace and its competitor, Facebook have got different populations. I'd only ever seen MySpace mentioned and I'm not on either of them, but it got me curious about whether some authors might find it advantageous to market themselves in both or make a choice about using Facebook. Anyway, here's an excerpt from the article:

Social networking websites are increasingly splitting along class lines, according to one prominent academic.

In recent years networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have seen remarkable growth and become some of the most popular destinations on the internet. But Danah Boyd, a researcher at the University of California and internet sociologist, said populations of different networks were now divided on a rough class basis.

Her evidence, collected through a series of interviews with US teenagers using MySpace and Facebook over the past nine months, showed there was a clear gap between the populations of each site.
(from The Guardian).

Maya Reynolds said...

Laura: I've read Boyd's article and am ambivalent about it. I suspect she is describing "what was" more than "what is" or "what will be." While I'm not a sociologist, my understanding is that social networks are living entities, constantly changing. We can look at a snapshot in time, but the minute the photo is taken, it begins to become a part of the past.

Because the history of the two sites is very different, it's natural that their growth patterns should have been different as well.

MySpace began only three months before Facebook did, but has four times as many members as Facebook has. This is mainly due to the fact that, from its inception, MySpace was available to anyone with an email address.

Facebook began in the spring of 2004 at Harvard as a "university" networking site. For more than two years, you had to have an "edu" email address to get onto Facebook (or be invited aboard by an existing member).

However, about nine months ago, Facebook was opened up to anyone with an email address. Many of the existing members were outraged by this move.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the demographics now that both sites are available to anyone wanting an account. I expect the "exclusivity" label of Facebook will gradually diminish under an onslaught of outsiders.

Interestingly enough, when the US military banned MySpace, they did not ban Facebook. Boyd says that this is because the officers used Facebook and the enlisted noncoms used MySpace.

Since these networking sites are vital to communication with family, my guess is that the noncoms will simply shift to accounts on Facebook, further diluting the university-only feel of the site.

Americans tend to resist attempts to classify our society by "class." More importantly, commercial enterprises seeking to promote their services/wares will continue to advertise on both sites, raising the stakes.

MySpace sold to Rupert Murdoch last year. Rumors keep circulating about the potential sale of Facebook. If a large media company either buys Facebook outright or partners with them, the push will be to increase membership to increase the advertising rates. I suspect the market will win out in the end.

Thanks for raising a really interesting point, and one that is not often openly discussed.

Warm regards,