Monday, November 19, 2007

EDITING ON DEADLINE OR CLOSE ENOUGH: Chew Toys for the Lonely


(NOTE: For a number of reasons, none of them true, THE DOG has been on temporary leave. Mr. Detroit is lying when he says the major cause is laziness. Only a quick brown fox would jump over a lazy dog. The first healthy royalty check came in and a trip to the Grand Caymans was necessary to fill an offshore account and price island getaways with Wi-Fi. Beachfront parties sponsored by frivolous bankers made adding new posts impossible. Be assured THE DOG still barks.)


Many freelance editors work in conjunction with agents and subject to their deadlines. Once the in-house editors are done shedding dead skin from healing sunburns, the fall selling season begins and agents wrestle with their clients to pull together the best, most dynamic, and thrilling proposals. The overview, about the author, marketing and promotion plan, competition, table of contents, chapter summaries, and sample chapter have to sparkle or the editor will write off the agent and the project.

I have the luck of working with Nancy Ellis-Bell, known as the bulldog for her tenacity. We started going through the proposals for business books and other nonfiction in September, and carried on through October with a brief respite for the annual Northern California Independent Booksellers convention. Cynthia Frank kept her promise to continue promoting THE DOG past its first year and had a signing for the book. Forty had their title pages scribbled on in less than an hour. More manuscripts came in soon after and Nancy needed other proposals tightened and teased for her meetings.

Proposals call for hours of writing copy that is cut down and rewritten, and only to be written again. The hardest part is the marketing and promotion plan. Editors always want more material, and days of online research result in bad tempers and keyboard abuse. After the hair-pulling, second-guessing, and animal sacrifices to appease the gods, there are thirty pages that someone smarter than you reads and immediately points to what you had missed.

We hammered at mutual keyboards early in the morning and late at night. Her enthusiasm zipped through the telephone wire to infect me. In book publishing, we don’t do enthusiasm until 50,000 copies are sold. Since she broke the rule first, I figured following along was safe. She got on the plane with a bundle of manuscripts in hand and others sent ahead to her hotel in Manhattan. Her last trip turned weird in the first couple of days when she was offered a contract for her own book, THE PARROT WHO THOUGHT SHE WAS A DOG (Random House, July 2008, $23.00). We’ll see how she fares this season.


NEWS YOU CAN ABUSE

James Frey had expected a morbidly obese royalty check for his A MILLION LITTLE PIECES before the purported memoir was exposed as a ridiculous fraud. He blamed his publisher, agent, editor, and a low-flying mallard drake for his indiscretion, yet none of the blame stuck and a class action suit followed. On November 2, details of the final settlement were released: Of the $2.35 million Random House held for the case, $783,000 went to the attorneys, $432,000 was spent on publicity about the settlement, and $27,348 in refunds was mailed to 1,729 claimants. Another $180,000 was divided between the American Red Cross, the Hazelden clinic Frey slandered in the book, and First Book. Rumors the American Bar Association sent flowers to Frey have not been confirmed.


On November 13, Judith Regan has let rip her promised lawsuit on former employer, HarperCollins, to the fanciful tune of $100 million. The 72-page document accused an executive at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., parent company of HarperCollins, of a smear campaign to protect Rudy Giuliani and his presidential aspirations. Seems that his former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik was involved with Regan when she had her own imprint at HarperCollins, and has recently been indicted on federal corruption charges. Ms. Regan also says the screeching over OJ Simpson’s IF I DID IT cast her as an “unethical businesswoman devoid of any integrity,” and the New York Times story about her anti-Semitic comments was pure poppycock. Publishing never has been and never will be for the weak of stomach.


BUY MY BOOK OR I’LL SHOOT THIS KITTEN


Black Friday comes at the end of this week. This is biggest sales day for retail stores and an indicator of how books will sell during the Christmas season. What better time to hit your local independent bookstore or even a chain store with credit card in your reckless hand? Save the kitten and purchase multiple copies of THE DOG WALKED DOWN THE STREET: AN OUTSPOKEN GUIDE FOR WRITERS WHO WANT TO PUBLISH (Cypress House, $13.95). Don’t take my word. Take this happy reader’s opinion instead:

I met Sal in 1988 when we worked on my first book, THE GLIDING FLIGHT. From day one, his enthusiasm for ideas and disdain for nonsense made every page better. Finally, he’s written down some of that straightforward wisdom. Every page of THE DOG WALKED DOWN THE STREET crackles with sharp, practical advice every writer ought to read.
From the cover to the biting descriptions in the resource list, THE DOG has teeth. It’s writers’ boot camp you can read in an afternoon and spend a career internalizing.
Everybody needs an editor. If you think you can’t afford one, you should at least own this book. It’s like having Sal in the room, making everything you write a heck of a lot better.

—John M. Collins, author of THE GLIDING FLIGHT, RETURN TO THE FOLD, and FANTASTIC FLIGHT


Zip over to Red Hot Book Review (www.redhotbookreview.com) for an interview with Lauren Smith about THE DOG. Read fascinating answers to questions like: What is your book about? Why did you write it? What do you think is the biggest misconception about getting published? What are some qualities an author needs to have to become published (besides being a good writer)? How is the publishing industry changing and how will it affect future writers looking to become published?


While you are online, T.J. Sullivan has a post on his site about plans to preserve the 5124 De Longpre Avenue home of Charles Bukowski, writer of the quote gracing the cover of THE DOG. Read the news at www.tjsullivanla.com/2007/09/is-this-that-bukowski.html


NEXT: Water Bugs in the Water Bowl

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1 Comments:

Blogger Martha Alderson said...

Hi Sal,

Nice to catch up with you. Been too long....

Read the interview on Red Hot Book Reviews. I recommend your book to everyone in hopes they'll read and connect the dots with the 2 most common misconceptions.

Magical thinking allows some of us to believe we can beat the odds, that the rules don't apply to us, not us. We've got to live it. We've got to burn our own fingers on the fire before we believe.

Still, I continue to recommend The Dog. Read it once? It's even better the second time around, and the third, and....

See you next year.

10:04 PM  

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