What, you may be wondering, is it like to be a published novelist?
Damn good question. Answer: I don't know.
My novel is due out in February, 2012. Which, though it seems like a long ways off for my adoring fans, in the world of publishing is actually quick turnaround. And means I hit the shelves just in time for all your Black History Month book buying needs.
So I am not actually a published novelist. Yet.
I am, however, a professional novelist. As in, I got a royalty check!
Because, for reasons I don't quite understand, in addition to selling in North America and the UK, my novel has sold in Norway and Brazil.
Yes, I am being translated. Or rather, my narrator/protagonist is being translated:
In the US: free woman of color
In the UK: free woman of colour
In the Denmark: free wøman øf cølør
In the Portuguese-speaking Brazil: free wõman õf cõlõr
(c'mon, if you celebrate the first two sales with a low-flo dual flush toilet, you might as well celebrate the next two with some recycling. Of your jokes)
In the ridiculously long time since I last blogged, I have learned a few things about being a novelist. And because I am such a gifted teacher, I will share them with you now.
Thing #1: Stalking has its upside. About the most important thing you can do as a new novelist is to get a known novelist to read your book and possibly blurb it. This I have done. By happening upon a book signing by a known novelist and asking her, ever so casually, to read my manuscript. Which she agreed to do. Wasn't that easy? Yes! And I only had to travel 3,000 miles to happen upon the signing!
Because you know Portland doesn't have any bookstores of its own.
Hmmmmm is recycling pictures somehow less lazy than recycling jokes?
Thing #2: Stalking, sure, that's okay. But let's not be insensitive.
So when a famous author, or two, or as many as you can land, agree to read your book, it's nice to send a handwritten note thanking them. The only problem with that is my egregious handwriting. Not much point sending a deep token of appreciation in a completely illegible scrawl.
Thus I carefully, painstakingly (as in pain of hand cramps), wrote out my notes. Had the Cheez read them over. Was about to pop note two in the envelope when I *happened* to glance at the back of the card, which had the credit for the image on the front of the card. A lovely abstract quilt. Called There goes the neighborhood.
Maybe not the best way to say, "hello, famous black writer, I am a nice white woman who I swear is celebrating African American culture!"
Thing #3: Maybe it's not Maybelline.
Famous writer the third advised me Make sure you look really good in your author photo. Which I thought I'd done, by asking a friend with advanced photoshop skills to take said photo. And then doctor it.
Which he did quite well. But the doctor can only do so much given the patient. And this patient is impatient with make-up and product and the like.
Do I have to wear a lot of make-up and product when I do public appearances? I asked Famous writer numero quatro (really it is amazing anyone has time to be a best-selling author, given how much time just answering macaronimaniacal queries can take). Are you kidding? she answered. If you do TV, first of all they deal with all that and second of all WHO CARES because you are doing TV! Otherwise, three words: Joyce Carol Oates.
And it's true! Sure, I may not have over fifty published novels and an endowed professorship at Princeton, but damn if I don't have better eyewear and slightly less frizzy hair!
Thing #4: What's in a name? Everything. Starting with name recognition.
So Emily Let-Me-Just-Fold-That-Up-And-Hide-It-Where-No-One-Will-Find-It-Until-I-Am-Dead Dickinson not withstanding, most writers want to be read. And most readers want to read.
Seems like a match made in marketing heaven.
So I keep telling everyone I talk to about my book. Seriously, when I was standing on the admissions line at the Boston Museum of Fine Art behind a sweet college student who left her ID at home, causing me to bring her into the museum as the Plus-One on my museum pass, I told her and all her ID-remembering friends about my book. Which they seemed very excited to read. Except that it's harder to remember than an ID, on account of it doesn't yet have a name.
Or rather, not only one name.
I wrote it with a title in mind. My agent didn't like that title. So she sold it under another title. That I don't like.
No biggie. Everyone told me publishers always change the title. So I figured I'd wait to see what the publisher thought.
And they agreed! That is, they agreed that the title my agent gave it wasn't the right one. Which launched me into session upon session of generating possible titles.
In case you are wondering, titles follow no rhyme or reason. Don't believe me? Check the bestseller lists of late.
There are the one word (or one wordish titles): Room. Doc. The Help.
Then there are the egregiously long titles: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (at least four autumns of which is spent just writing the damn name).
There are the titles that need in a feminist consciousness raising: The Paris Wife. The Tiger's Wife.
And dear hearts, I tried my hand at ripping of each and every one of them. Sort of.
At some point, as I was shouting out title after title, I screamed The Cask of Amontillado.
I believe that one's been taken the ever helpful Cheez noted.
Freaking Canadians, with their penchant for facts.
The OTHER Cask of Amontillado I shouted back.
So to recap: Please tell all your friends/mates/venn/amigos in North America/the UK/Denmark/Brazil toput The OTHER Cask of Amontillado by a certain Not As Prolific But Neither as Frizzy author at the top of their Black History Month gift lists.
Because if I can make it to the bestseller list, you know what all the other authors will be saying:
There goes the neighborhood.