Sunday, November 28, 2010

Butterflies and Book Deals

Seamus is on his way to being famous...(and also practicing his "I want to be alone" pose).

The title is a bit of a cheat. Twice, actually. I don't have a book deal yet--but as I mentioned I have "officially" signed with a super fantastic literary agent who will be representing my memoir and taking it out to publishers. And I promised details, which I will now share. (Programming note: if you are one of the blog readers who is a writer yourself, you are already familiar with this process and you may just want to skip down to the end...and then leave your comments telling me where I got it all wrong.) When I've told some of my family and friends my news I've been met with cheers and...confusion, especially when they ask when they can buy the book and I have to explain, well, uh, it will have to find a publisher first.  Understandable confusion since most non-writer folks don't really know about literary agents and just think "book deal."

Here's the deal--to get a book published with a publishing house of repute (whether little, medium or big), these days one must have a literary agent. You cannot simple call up Random House and tell them you've got the next bestseller--you're the next Jonathan Franzen Clancy Irving King Rowling.  Nor can you mail them your novel and then sit waiting for the money to pour in. (Please watch this funny clip and know it's all true). No, you need a literary agent. The literary agent can get to editors at the publishing houses and get them to consider buying your book. No agent, no book deal, pretty much. So it's a first--and major--step, after of course you've done the required writing work.

Literary agents get 100s (maybe more) of requests --known as "query letters"-- every month from aspiring authors pimping their writings. With a novel a writer must finish the book (or, um, in the case of my earlier novel, finish it repeatedly, and then again and then start again) before seeking a literary agent. With non-fiction, it's a slightly different route. With non-fiction the writer puts together a book proposal, which Chris has described as a "business plan for a book" and that's pretty accurate. A memoir is non-fiction so it falls in the latter category, except with some agents who still want a finished manuscript and a book proposal. I've been working on the actual memoir all year. I started working on the proposal in August (remember that North Carolina trip--yep, all book proposal) and finished it in mid-September, including sample chapters and an outline of the full memoir.

Then I spent several weeks researching agents. If you are ever in this position, let me highly recommend a site called This site not only let me research the agents and find out all sorts of valuable information (who represents what kind of books, what other authors an agent represents, how to contact them, how long they usually take to respond, if they respond...) but also let me track the status of the various queries. That might not sound all that complicated, but it is--considering that a writer doesn't get to just send 2 or 3 queries and wham! there's the agent begging for the book. It takes many, many queries. 100s sometimes (there are 1000s of agents--some better than others of course). Then, with my list of 250 possible agents selected and ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being a dream agent and 10 being a good agent that was a fit with this type of memoir), I turned to writing the query letter.

Again, harder than you think.  A query letter is one page that describes the book, sells it with a "hook," and also explains why you are the best if not the only person to write this particular book. Phew. This stuff is work, people.

Finally, on September 29th, I began the process of sending out the query letters (and sometimes the proposal itself, or sample pages, depending on each agent's preferences) to a select number of agents (not all 250--that would be crazy!!). I got a good response almost immediately! The "good response" was 11 agents asking to see the full proposal. Trust me, that's a good response. I sent the proposals as the requests came and then returned to writing the memoir (okay, well, first launched into a "what was I thinking? I can't do this! I can't write! panic which all writers are familiar with).

By November 16th (trust me, that's speedy!) I had offers of representation (yes, plural!!) and got to begin the happy task of "checking references"--which is a fancy way of saying I called and spoke with some of the authors represented by the agents who'd offered to represent me. As a lifelong reading geek, that was beyond thrilling. Then, last Wednesday I signed with a category 1 dream agent--Sarah Jane Freymann of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. I'm thrilled. I've loved my conversations with her and her thoughts on shaping the memoir. This weekend I've written 11 new pages and am highly motivated to write more and more and more. (I'm sure this is a honeymoon stage; I'd like to enjoy it anyway.)

The plan at this point is that she will get back to me with her notes on the proposal and how to make it as marketable as possible. I'll spend December revising the proposal and after the first of the year she'll be taking it out to the editors looking for that magical book deal. Which means, there won't be news of a book deal until February or March--and that's if I'm really, really lucky (or really, really good ;-)  ).  In the meantime, I'm just going to bask in this little glow right now and keep my head down working on the  actual writing. Not a bad way to spend the holidays.

Seamus has of course demanded his own agent. He's not sure I'll fight for enough toast residuals in his contract so he'll need his own representation. We're in negotiations now.You can see the hardline position he's taken in the photo.

Oh, and the butterflies in the title? Well, I could cheat and tell you it was in reference to the butterflies in my stomach when the agents called, but I'm not really a butterfly kinda gal. No, it was a bald faced cheat--because the blog post with the most hits, consistently, in the history of the blog was the one titled Butterflies and Blogs, and, um...I wanted a lot of hits again as I brag about getting an agent. Believe me, when the book gets published the blog posts will all be "Butterflies, Unicorns and Free Sex."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Best Thanksgiving Ever!!

The big news is........ I have an agent for The Dog Lived memoir version!!! Woo Hooo!!
More details later, but suffice it to say I'm very happy and looking forward to getting this memoir as perfect as it can be. I will be represented by Sarah Jane Freymann of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, (in New York City--which just feels so literary!).

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Also known as "Paso Robles, Part II."

Yeah, I's taken me awhile to get this posted. Well, all I can say at this point is that it's been a really, really busy week or so as both a lawyer and a writer. I will have very exciting writer news to share very soon (lawyers aren't really allowed to share their news..oh, and it's rarely exciting to non-lawyers)! In the meantime though, I wanted to share a bit more about my Paso Robles week of wine and writing. I mentioned our neighbors in PR. They were awesome. So cute. So well behaved. Perfect in every way. Allow me to introduce you to a few of them:

This is Clover (so named because he has a brown clover-shaped marking in the fur around his butt). He lives at Venteux Winery. (Let me also highly recommend their Hospice du Bone wine...mmmmmm).
This is El Cid from Ambyth Winery (he's a golden-doodle!). Simply adorable. Also, I'm going to recommend the Ambyth Rosada Rose...and just going to this absolutely spectacular vineyard. The views are incredible. The wine is delicious and if you are as lucky as we were, the caretaker Gustavo and his lovely wife just make a deliriously fabulous shrimp Veracruz and chips and guacamole (she put cucumber in the guac! never hear of that but it was fabulous!).
This is El Cid's pal at Ambyth whose name is momentarily escaping me. But he ran way out ahead around the entire vineyard leading the way as Gustavo drove Chris and me around in the Polaris for a tour...wineglasses in hand.

This was our next door neighbor for the week. Never did catch her name; she mostly kept to herself.
This is Cabernet. He lives at Eberle Winery with his less-willing-to-be-photographed sister, Roussanne.
I did not catch these girls names either, but clearly they were having their own girls' weekend.  We'll just call them Lori, Jane and Teresa. (The photo is taken from the car, through the windshield while we waited for them to cross).

Bartender Zachery. Cute waiters are also part of the native wildlife of Paso Robles. (And Zachery was an English major in college. Mild swooning.)

T (heart) PR.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Come Along With Me

I'm on vacation this week. And if you are thinking "Hey, weren't you just in a beach house in North Carolina for a week of writing and relaxing?", well, congratulations to you. You are absolutely correct. But really, that was last August. And it went so well that Lori and I, along with another writer friend Jane (for two days anyway) decided it was worth repeating. Only this time instead of the beach we're in a great little house in Paso Robles, California. Conveniently located in the midst of Central California's wine country. A little writing, a little wine, a little more writing, a little's all working out great.

I'm still busy with The Dog Lived (and So Will I) memoir version and have thus far completed the second draft of the first half (Seamus's story, in essence). I'm now on to my own story. It's an interesting process and I'm actually learning a lot about my own journey. I'm re-reading some of my old blog posts to remember where I was and what it was like during certain stages. Today I'll be writing about the MRI and how it was to let friends and family know about my diagnosis. If you'd like to follow along, in the memoir I'm pretty much at the stage discussed in THIS blog post. (yep, click on "this"--er, the earlier one, in caps--and you can go back in time with me). But if you'd just as soon follow along on my vacation, I offer you this:

My cute home for this week.
And it's fall here. This is just not something we have in Southern California (of course, it's also been in the 80's here all, um, "fall" is still a relative term).
There was a late harvest this year due to the cool summer, so the vines are actually a bit lush for this time of the year. (No lush jokes! None!)
The wineries are also pretty spectacular. (This is Robert Hall; it was closed when we got there, but the grounds were so beautiful we walked around for a bit.)
Starr Ranch Vineyard.

DuBost Winery Vineyard.
This bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon came from that vineyard right behind me. And then he came home with me. Along with a few of his friends--like Ms. Rose', and Ms. Viognier.

In the next day or so I will share with you photos of some of our neighbors on this vacation. Really. They're cute.

In the meantime, Cheers!

(Neither Lori nor I know what's up with our hair. I'm guessing it was windy. At any rate, we're in Vina Robles winery and we'd like to thank Martin for a wonderful tasting and some of the best double cream bleu cheese I've ever tasted. Paradise Bleu I believe it was.)