Friday, December 23, 2005


Last night I dreamed about work, a sure sign that I've had too much Christmas and not enough press-your-butt-to-the-chair and write time.

In the dream someone at the publishing house where I've recently submitted a manuscript told my editor that my submission was exactly the kind of fiction they should be publishing. However, this and this and this was wrong with it so they should reject it. One of the "thises" had something to do with the ending. In the dream, I came up with an easy fix and changed it so I could submit it again.

Needless to say, I can't remember it now.

Gail's Selling Herself

In her December 20th journal entry, Jane Yolen discusses whether or not writing is a democratic profession in which one is judged solely on one's work. Jane says no. " adult publishing these days, and feeding into children's publishing as well, there are pockets in which race, beauty, gender, country of origin, and celebrity count far more than does mere talent. It has to do with the selling of a product rather than merely the writing of a book. Often an author's backstory trumps their actual writing ability."

I have to say she may be on to something here. Some really fine books get noticed solely on the basis of their merits. But I do think newspapers, in particular, don't find books very newsworthy. They want something else. An author with a "backstory," as Jane says, has a chance of getting into the Living Section of the paper where human interest stories live, which is a good thing since the Book Sections carry fewer and fewer book reviews. And Book Sections tend to carry the same old, same old stuff--name authors or authors who are getting a lot of buzz in other publications at the moment.

This explains why I am promoting next spring's book, Happy Kid!, a little differently. The book includes a subplot about a martial art, and I am a martial arts student. I am a female, middle aged martial arts student. In approaching general publications, I am playing the age card, God help me. This time I have a "backstory" to sell (a baby boomer with a black belt!), something I've never had with any of my other books.

I feel really cheap and manipulative about this. If it doesn't work, I'm going to feel really trashy. If it does work, I'll still feel trashy, but it won't bother me nearly so much.

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