I am writing a pet travel book. I am writing a pet travel book. I am writing a pet travel book.
If I repeat that phrase often enough, in public, will that make it happen?
I suspect not.
People have short attention spans, and most of them don’t really care if I write a book or not. Besides, being someone who has been known to fall down on the sidewalk, cold sober, because I didn’t watch how I was walking, I’m no stranger to public humiliation.
Still… I went to the movies the other night with my friend, Kate, whom I hadn’t seen for a few months. She said, “I saw on Facebook that you were writing a new book. How’s it going?” Oops. Maybe people are paying attention. And do care.
Most important: I care.
For those few billion people who don’t read my blog but came across this post, I should explain that I’ve written four books, all for major publishers; for details, see here. The first three, all travel guides, were work for hire, which means I got paid a lump sum by a publisher to write the book and never thought about it again unless I was asked to update it.
Then I wrote a royalty-based book, AM I BORING MY DOG: And 99 Other Things Every Dog Wishes You Knew, which inspired this blog, and discovered that it takes a lot in today’s market — including self-marketing — to sell enough books to earn back an advance against royalties, no matter how modest that advance.
So for my fifth book, a pet travel guide, I decided to self-publish. Which requires self-motivating. No advances to help finance the venture, no deadlines, no one to be accountable to, except myself.
And, I hoped, you, o gentle readers…
What I have done so far
This book isn’t just a gleam in my eye. I’ve gotten pretty far in its conception.
- I wrote a chapter outline and fleshed out proposal, which I sent to my last publisher, who passed it on to an editor, who never got back to me and who I recently discovered had departed the publishing company; and was planning to send to an agent, but she never answered my email query. This lack of responsiveness on the part of agents is not a fluke nor can it be attributed to an email gone awry. It has happened to me before.
Here is what I wish on all agents who don’t even bother to answer query letters: You should have a brilliant idea for a book and try to find an agent for it and see what it’s like to be ignored, to encounter people who don’t even have the courtesy to send you a brief line of rejection.
Or for the whole agenting profession to become obsolete. Oops, I forgot, it already has.
Okay, so maybe I’m still a little ambivalent about this self-publishing thing….
- I announced on this blog that I was writing a pet travel book and established Pet Travel Tuesday, which became Pet Travel Thursday because…
- I became the pet-travel person for Animal Cafe, a new podcast/chat community with (alphabetically) Eric Goebelbecker, Mary Haight, and Lorie Huston, and on Tuesdays I blog about the topic we’re covering that week (which happened to be pet travel this week, which is why Pet Travel Thursday became Pet Travel Tuesday again this week. In case you were wondering).
- I bought Scrivener, software that many writers I know swear by. My sense so far is that it is geared primarily for novelists, who get a complete template for book writing. The templates for nonfiction presuppose you are writing academic essays or undergraduate papers. But of course it would be better if I actually tried to use the generic template before I decided it wasn’t working for me.
- I put my chapter outline in Scrivener, and scribbled a few notes in each of the sections. Which is not enough to test the software’s effectiveness by a long shot.
Blogging and podcasting about a subject and buying book-writing software aren’t nearly as effective motivation tools as cash advances and deadlines.
Blogging about the problems I am having writing a book is not the same as writing a book. (I am one of those procrastinators who writes — or reads — other things rather than writing, which is why my house is not nearly as clean as that of other writers. I guess I should be glad I don’t have writer’s block.)
- Writing a short accountability blog post about my writing progress — as opposed to about pet travel — every week.
- Starting a nonfiction version of NaBloPoMo, which is a great writing challenge but has an acronym that always seemed a bit lewd to me. Mine might be NaNoWriMo– National Nonfiction Writing Month — which has the advantage of sounding a tad Inuit and therefore trendy.
- Getting my best friend Clare to agree to read a chapter of my book every two weeks. She did this for me when I was writing Am I Boring My Dog, because she is my best friend. It was a huge help to me. She is more literate and articulate than I am and knows honesty is important, so has always been a wonderful critic. (At this point I am hoping she is reading this post all the way through. Is it flattery if it’s true?)
- Asking you for suggestions. In fact, I’ll call it a contest. If anyone comes up with an idea for accountability I can use that doesn’t involve spending money or joining a writer’s group (that’s a whole other post), I will critique or edit a short — no more than 1500 words — article or blog post for you; or write a guest blog post for you on your blog; or write a blog post praising you and your blog on this blog.
What do you think?