the lawyer writer

sometimes legal                     sometimes literary                     sometimes not

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Waiting...

The worst part about a new book submission is the waiting. This should come as no surprise, but what is surprising is that there is no way around the anxiety and the obsessive feeling. Each time I think I can handle it better--I'll stay busy, I'll leave my agent alone, I'll plan alternative book projects. I'll expect it this time, the anxiety and the fear and the ridiculous feeling that your whole career hangs on whether this book would be accepted.

Now, I've done a bunch of book proposals, some of which (like the one sexy films, or notorious new york hangouts) haven't sold. You always try to salvage them, send them to a new agent or a new publishing house, but the truth is that the best shot of them getting published is when you become famous for something else. I'm not sure if there are any other writers who want to write about everything, from street law to wicked women to leaving the rate race to sexy films to speakeasies--and I'm not sure what the diversity of titles says about us as writers. It's sort of a weird thing to have such varied interests.

I'm not sure I'll write about law again. I liked writing about social issues, like why drugs or prostitution should be legalized, and I liked writing about pop culture and current affairs. And I really liked the idea of distilling legalease into something that made sense to non-lawyers, because the pedastal that lawyers are put on really irritates me. Lawyers provide a service, a vital service, but there's nothing class or status or intellect-wise that's superior to the profession than any other.

Okay, none of this is any distraction from the fact that I'm probably going to have to wait a couple weeks before I get a final word on my proposal. It's a good sign when it takes a week or two, because if they get back to you fast, it means it was probably rejected before it goes before an editorial meeting. Getting a book published means the whole house or at least imprint is behind it--and that includes editorial, bookstore sales, advertising and publicity, to start. Each editor only has a certain amount of money to spend each year or each season and ou've got to prove that your book proposal is worth a percentage of that budget.

That's why writing a book proposal is such hard work. Each agent I've had has helped me refine my style, and this last proposal is probably the best, because it's not too long and I did some minor graphic design to make it look pretty. These things matter. It isn't enough to have an idea, or even good writing, anymore--you have to have a vision of how you want the final book to turn out. And you have to start conveying that vision in the book proposal--marketing, publicity, graphics, cover, everything.

I'm not much of a saleswoman in most circumstances, but selling a book idea is fun, in a tough way. You really put yourself on the line for it, and the reward is, well, being published. At first. Then dollar signs grow in your eyeballs. But unlike screenwriting, the purchase of a book means the publisher is almost definitely going to publish it. Almost. Unless your publisher is a hack who advertises on craigslist. But even then, the odds are good.

Weeks. Weeks, not days left. Ugh.

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