I recently signed a paperback deal with Random House Australia for my novel, Are You Seeing Me?. It was exciting, especially after waiting for it longer than I cared to. Of course, I wanted to share the great news with friends and loved ones asap. But with the delivery of said news comes a challenge in helping people understand exactly what it is. Folks who don’t write novels and don’t receive publishing contracts and don’t read novels that have received publishing contracts generally have no real clue as to the true and appropriate level of significance to your achievement.
If you have good friends and you get on with your family, they’re instinctively happy for you. Oftentimes, they assume the deal is the ultimate life-changer; you’re quitting your job, moving to New York, buying a small island in the Pacific, rubbing elbows with Stephen King and JK Rowling and that raunchy bloke who wrote 50 Shades of Grey. Others have congratulations, but figure it can’t be too hard – look at how many books there are in the store we walk past at the mall! A few just smile and nod politely, wondering what the hell would possess anyone to want to write anything after the mandatory creative writing torture in Year 8. All need a little guidance in getting a proper handle on your modest ‘T’ triumph.
So, for authors perched on a similar rung of the publishing ladder as I, here’s three solid pointers to explaining your new book deal:
Much like writing your novel, explaining your book deal involves knowing your audience. Whomever is in front of you needs to hear the big news in a language they speak. Simile is key here. Some analogies I’ve used: “It’s like I went from the AHL to the NHL…It’s like I traded in a Ford Cortina for a Mazda Miata…It’s like I got the final rose on ‘The Bachelor’…It’s like I changed from George Lazenby to Sean Connery…” Try to avoid using porn comparisons.
This is less of a problem since she shut down her show, but there are still pockets of folks for whom Oprah and her ubiquitous book club is their go-to response upon hearing of a publishing deal. “We’ll see you on Oprah next week…Oprah should really do a story like yours…You should get on Oprah to make sure the book is a bestseller…” At various times, I have used the lines “She won’t return my calls since the restraining order” and “You know she’s only doing dead authors now.” I stopped saying “I’m pulling a Franzen” – people thought it was a euphemism. I also stopped referring to Oprah as the “great white whale for authors like me.” People thought I was being both racist and cruel about her weight.
No, the book will not be in a bookshop for you to buy tomorrow. No, not next week either. Not next month. When? Probably close to a year. What’s that you say? Why the fuck would it take that long? Well, books actually take quite a while to make. There’s a lot of things that go into it – editing, jacket design, proof, final proof, print, distribution…What’s that? You don’t give a shit? Ah well, by the time it’s ready you will have forgotten all about it…