Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Update

Well, hello everybody! Been a while, huh? Did you all have a good Easter? A good April Fools' Day? A good any-other-holidays-I-missed-since-my-last-substantial-update?

Mine weren’t bad, I guess. Nothing remarkable.

(Side note: I was originally going to write some sort of April Fools' Day-themed post wherein I would joke that I had given up on the book and decided to look for a real job, perhaps use my remaining savings to go back to school, after which I’d find a nice non-Asian wife, settle down, have a couple of 2.3 kids, etc. but I realized it all sounded much too sensible and my intention was to be funny, not make my grandparents proud.)

I hadn't noticed how bad my posting had been lately until about 2 (3?) weeks ago when, for the first time in ages, I checked my Google reader (which, thanks to neglect, has now started grow and become self-aware. I fear it may join up with my Remember the Milk to-do lists and revolt).

Sadly, the only folder in my Google Reader that wasn't 1000+ full of unread feeds was my Narcissism folder (the one containing feeds by and/or about yours truly). I clicked on it and, before I even had a chance to relive the delight of some of my most recent Tweets, I saw that it had been over a month since I’d last posted here.

My bad.

So I'm currently using today to write this as-promised update and, hopefully, even polish up a few old posts that I never got around to hitting the submit button on.

And just why haven't I been blogging much recently, you ask? Why have Matt’s Tweets been reduced to a twickle watewy? (Why does everyone who uses Twitter start to sound like Jonathan Ross?)

I'd love to say my little hiatus was because the book had sold or because I was out on another fantastic adventure somewhere on the other side of the planet but, sadly, the truth is that March was just a really busy month for me.

On top of spending a lot of time working on my book proposal, there were also the weeks of obligatory panic as I approached yet another birthday. (Usually this involved repeating "what the hell am I doing with my life??" while sobbing, curled up in a ball in my shower. Hey, at least I haven’t bought a sports car, right?)

Anyway, despite the age-related panic, I'd been making a ton of progress on the book proposal. Now, why am I spending so much time on a proposal for a book that I haven't even finished? Well, every book on publishing that I’ve read lately talks about how it's possible to attract an agent for a nonfiction book without having completed that book. Having not completed my book, this appealed to me. Besides, I work better with a deadline. Also, it would be great to finally have some professional input, someone in the business to say to me “more of this”, “less of that” and “you should consider therapy”.

So, the plan was to write the proposal and then find an agent, who would then offer feedback and perhaps suggest an editor. Then, once the book is done, the agent would start proposing it to publishing houses. Hopefully, one of the publishing houses likes the book enough to publish it. Hopefully, the public likes the book enough to buy lots of copies. Hopefully, an A-list Hollywood motion picture director buys the rights and asks me to star in the movie version. Hopefully, fame and fortune result. Hopefully, I get asked to write a follow-up book. Wash, rinse, repeat. (Told you I had all this planned out.)

Well, I've got some good news and some bad news (which actually is really good news, I guess, but I didn’t really feel like it was at the time).

The good news is that I talked with a literary agent!

Now, not THE literary agent I’m hoping to attract. And not even one that represents narrative nonfiction. But, an agent nonetheless.

OK, yeah… and by "talked to” I meant “we Tweeted”.

Still. Progress!

I had stumbled across a literary agent named Colleen Lindsay when she started something called “Query Fail Day” on Twitter. All day, she and her fellow literary agent friends twote about some of the more unprofessional book queries that had recently landed on their desks. (A nice summary of some of the lessons learned that first Query Fail day can be found here.)

I found the whole thing fascinating and thoroughly terrifying. I ended up following a bunch of the agents on Twitter that day, including Colleen who, a few days later, held an “Ask an Agent Night”. Taking full advantage of this opportunity, I sent her the following Tweet:

question to colleen

(A close second: "What the frack am I doing trying to write a book?")

Her first reply was informative and heartbreaking (and is the bad news):

narrative non-fiction


After fighting to keep my head from exploding, I thanked her and told her I’d better get back to work. Her next reply was unexpected, brief and brutally honest:


Short of say "we should amputate" or "let's get married", those were the last three words I want to hear from anyone.

Now, as great as it was to finally have some honesty from someone inside The Business (for which I am extremely thankful), I was bummed because I was really hoping to have snagged an agent (and, while we're dreaming, an advance) sometime in the near future.

And now, thanks to three little words, I was back to finishing the damn thing on my own again. Suddenly, the light at the end of the tunnel seemed a whole hell of a lot further away.

Fortunately, I was about to make a huge revelation that would change my attitude and my approach as well as give me a burst of much-needed enthusiasm. A revelation which I owe, in large part, to the most unlikely of places: Microsoft.

(As a result of my polishing up chapters lately, I've been getting in the habit of stopping things with a little bit of a cliffhanger. You know, to keep the kids reading.)

More soon!


HumorSmith said...

Matt,Matt,Matt. Book proposal? You should get out more. You would do much better to propose to a woman.

Matt Herold said...

Propose to a woman? Are you kidding?? I can barely commit to a phone plan!

And yes, I do need to get out more.