I don’t know.
I think I will do this in four parts –
Part One will be how I got a book deal
Part Two will be how I got the second deal (a lot different), how other people I know have gotten book deals.
Part Three will be about the business side – a little about what works what doesn’t work and what exactly is a “hook” or “high concept.”what is a platform? Do you need one?
Part Four will be about how to publicize yourself and get noticed. How you sell yourself and how will you be able to promote your book.
I get a lot of emails from people asking me how to get a book deal, agent, write proposal, just get started etc. Although it’s frustrating to hear, it’s true, there is no straight forward way. A lot of what happens in the publishing business along with a lot of other businesses is pure luck. Before I tell you how I found my luck – I’d like to get an important point across – there are plenty of amazingly talented people out there with great ideas and even finished manuscripts that can’t get a book deal. Why? I have no idea. And there are plenty of horrendous writers who get big big seven figure book deals to basically take a crap on a page and feel great about themselves.
So let’s start with my story: I started doing stand-up when I was 22 years old. Before I got up on that stage, I wrote two minutes of material. I had a friend who was a comedian help me turn my ideas into punch lines and took my ten or so jokes to an open mic night. Petrified and unfortunately not drunk despite six rum and cokes I went up and did my jokes. I got laughs and was immediately hooked. But then came the hard part. I worked my ASS OFF doing stand-up every single night of the week. I drove hours from my house to do five minutes in a sports bar where the only applause I got was because a basketball game was on over my head and someone scored. I continued doing this for years starting with pretty jokey jokes – I wasn’t great – eventually being able to turn my real sense of humor into jokes that I could make work due to greater confidence. I never “made it” as a comic. Although, I was pretty fucking funny. I did perform on TV and become a regular at the Improv but it wasn’t a living.
After a few years of stand-up and waiting tables, I met someone who let me write some jokey questions for a game show that was going into production. I’d never done it before but I tried my best and after having a meeting and making many follow up calls to bug them, I got the job. This began a career of working on dozens of shows that most people have never heard of and a couple you have. I was primarily a joke writer and didn’t write long form (like a sitcom or drama etc.).
When I was pregnant with Elby, I was producing a show on VH1 which ended right as I hit 7-months. There was no point in seeking out another gig because I was going to be giving birth soon – and people don’t think pregnant women are funny. So I was out of work a few months before I had the baby and a few more months with the baby before I started going crazy for an outlet. That’s when I started my blog. One night over three glasses of chardonnay, my angst just came pouring out in my very first post called, “The Cult of Mommy.” I knew nothing about the blogging world. NOTHING. I just knew it existed. I didn’t know there were mommy blogs, political blogs etc. I just knew I could write something and have a little website. So I emailed a few friends and told them to go read my blog. One of those friends was Chelsea Handler. Without me knowing, she told her agent to read my blog and he called me and told me he liked “my voice” and thought there was a book there. I was pretty surprised since I thought my post was sort of angry and not at all what I believed I should be feeling or what most mainstream people would like. I sort of thought it was my point of view and that my single girlfriends might find it amusing. He asked if I had other writing and I lied and said “of course.” But first he wanted to see what a few chapters would be about. So I wrote about twelve topics and a few funny jokes after each one. He promptly blew me off.
With dreams of my big book career and being a fancy stay-at-home writer mom I bugged him. What did he need? What didn’t he like? What should I do different? He let me know that I’d need to send him actual material “you know, like on that bloggy thing.” So I wrote and wrote. It killed me. I was horribly insecure about it. At first it came off like rants so I sent it to my brother and he helped me shape it into a more silly yet edgy work. I sent four essays off to Michael, the agent, and a few weeks later he told me there was interest. I jumped through a lot of hoops after that. I was told that Simon Spotlight liked my voice. They thought I was different and wanted me to write an actual parenting book. “What? I don’t know how to be a parent” was my first thought. But what I said was “Yeah, I can do that.” I figured I’d just chronicle what I was going through as I went along.
What have we learned so far? Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit!
Writing Sippy Cups was pretty awful. I was anxious all the time. I worried that people would think I’m a shitty writer, that I wasn’t funny, that I was being too funny, that I wouldn’t find other moms who felt like me, that maybe I was just a freak. But I wrote. Every. Single. Day. I pushed through the fear. I went and did activities just for the experience so I could write about them. All the while petrified that I was a fraud. Like I said before, I’d never written long form. I didn’t go to college, I wasn’t a grammer whiz or a particularly great speller. But I did know how to write a joke. So I held onto that. And I reminded myself over and over that if someone wanted to pay me to write a book, then who was I to say no?
Not exactly an overnight success if you consider I started stand-up at 22 and I’m now 42 (just as hot though) But, I know a big part of my deal was a bit of luck named Chelsea Handler and I didn’t have to give her a blowjob although that is an underrated way to get ahead.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you how “people not friends with Chelsea” have done it.