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How to Get a Book Deal: Chapter One

November 15th, 2006

Here’s how I have attempted to get an agent: I’ve shamelessly and without pride asked all of my friends who have had books published for the names of their agents. They both said yes. Their agents said no.

Plan Two: Wrote down names of agents who represent my favorite authors. Typed it up on the computer. E’ed a bunch of them. No, no, no, no. They all e back within minutes or hours, leading me to believe they didn’t even look at my e-mail. Start developing a little bit of paranoia. Lose list. Start new list. E more agents. No, no, no, no. Huh. Find old list, combine both lists. Lose hope.

Plan Three: Buy copy of Getting Your Book Published for Dummies. Become too intimidated to open it. Am not even worthy of “dummy” status. Decide I will never get a book published with this kind of lousy attitude. Dust book off and crack it open. Flip to section with agents’ names. Realize I’ve sent proposals to half of them already. Think briefly of Margaret Mitchell who supposedly talked with fifty publishing houses before getting a deal for “Gone With the Wind.” According to Wikipedia, my Bible, this is completely untrue. MacMillan gave her an advance right away, just to get her to finish the book. (It had no first chapter.) Who told me this crap about Mitchell? My mom, that’s right. She also told me that Juliet was knocked-up in “Romeo and Juliet,” that Maria was knocked-up in “West Side Story,” (well, duh, what was good enough for Juliet was good enough for Maria), and that Arthur Miller stole all of Marilyn Monroe’s writing and published it as his own.

Decide my mom is a big liar re: anything literary and that I will no longer believe her. I will still accept book suggestions from her but that is it.

My works to sell… One: finished manuscript, that is a big, torn-apart and reassembled Raggedy Ann mess because I got to the fourth draft and completely freaked out. Two: A just-started manuscript about an evil neighbor and her mother. (“None of these characters are based in whole or part on any real people, living or dead, and any similarities are truly quincidence.”) Three: Children’s book about Wacky Cat wanting to run off and join the circus. (Need illustrator, in case any of you are artists. Send me an e if you’re interested. And maybe the name of an agent?) Four: Awesome blog that could possibly become the best goddamn parenting manual EVER, complete with advice, recipes and political diatribes. Five: Several short stories. Six: Freelance articles? Aw, fuck it.


OK, I decided to go for the literary mags. Sent out a short story to ten or twelve mags. They all said, and I’m quoting here, “No, no, no, no,” and “Next time why don’t you remember to include your address, idiot.” Well, OK. I will

Plan Four: Re-read Stephen King’s writers’ manual for the tenth time. Refuse to read Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” writing manual because I am sick of people telling me I write like Anne Lamott. Do not care for Anne Lamott.

Plan Five: Write more in journal and less in blog; sort out this shit. Realize that someday my kids will find my journals and I don’t want them to read about my sex life with their dad. Too spicy. This image, of a “Bridges of Madison County” kind of moment, with my son and my daughter reading my innermost freakouts and sexual moments, completely shuts me down. Am unable to write anything in journal besides this: “Weather was stormy today. Kids are having fun!” (Why do I not stress about them reading the blog someday? Oh, wait, they already read the blog. They want to hijack the blog. Here are quotes from Wacky Boy: “Pants? Pants no! And I will not go to church!” and “School? What is this school? It’s a daycare!”)

Put journal aside and go to Plan Six. Decide to take King’s advice and read a bunch of books. Right now, I’m reading excerpts from “Three Cups of Tea,” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin; “Self Storage,” by Gayle Brandeis; “Sweetwater Creek,” by Anne Rivers Siddons; and “Garlic and Sapphires,” by Ruth Reichl. (Thank you to Suzanne for the book clubs.)

I’m halfway through Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire, and am thoroughly obsessed with The Bookseller of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad. Am also still working on “Anna Karenina,” which I started in college and must. Finish. Before. I Turn Fifty. (Which is a long, looooooooooooooong time from now, don’t get excited.)

All for now.




  1. edj says

    I don’t like Anne Lamott either, and you don’t write a BIT like her. You are much spicier, funnier, livlier–in fact, better.
    I LOVED “The Bookseller of Kabul.” I want to have a long email exchange with you about that, and about similarities between Mauritanian and Afghan culture.
    I’d publish you! Don’t give up! And, when you do find an agent, can I have his/her name? :) I need to get serious about my own book.
    Anna Karenina is great! What is bogging you down? I’ve read it several times. Oh, lest you think I’m bragging, I’ve never managed to finish “The Brothers Karamazov” by Doestevesky, assuming I can spell his name and don’t look like a dork for all your blog readers to see. I’ve gotten halfway through at least 3 times…sigh.
    PS My computer keeps freaking and deleted ALL my bookmarks! Good thing I’ve got your URL memorized.

    November 15th, 2006 | #

  2. Wacky Mommy says

    Thank you!

    November 15th, 2006 | #

  3. Mrs. Flinger says

    Well, it’s too bad about Anne Lamott. I think I’d shite myself if someone told me I wrote like her. :-) No, truly, though, I can’t believe how tough it is to get published. That, in honesty, is why I’ve NEVER tried. I’m scared. Do I want to be published? HELLYA. It’s on my “things to do before I push up daisies” but yaknow, there’s EFFORT in it. hmph.

    Good luck. At least you have a plan. And are making connections. That’s a great step, right? (Sorry to be so optimistic. Just had coffee. Makes me all giddy.) :-)

    November 15th, 2006 | #

  4. dawn says

    (sigh) Good thoughts coming from (agent-less) Ohio!

    November 15th, 2006 | #

  5. Wacky Mommy says

    Thanks for the good thoughts, y’all. They just say I write like Anne Lamott because I spaz like her, I think. Heh heh.

    November 15th, 2006 | #

  6. wacky cousin says

    Pants no!
    That is amazing and brilliant. Wacky boy is a philosopher!

    November 16th, 2006 | #

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