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How To Get A Book Deal In Three Words

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.

PART ONE:

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.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on September 4, 2008 7:00 pmUncategorized29 comments  

29 Comments

  1. Aunt Becky said,

    There had better have been some chardonnay in that sippy cup, my friend.

    | September 4, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

  2. Surfer Jay said,

    So a little of who you knew, a little luck of who that person knew, and a whole lot of putting it all on the line and working your ass off to put some good stuff on paper. (Of which I just read by the way and it’s fantasticly humurous.)
    Good stuff. Show us part two!

    | September 4, 2008 @ 10:07 pm

  3. heather... said,

    Aunt Becky is always stealing my best lines.

    And yeah, you are WAY hot. That was the point of this, right? That you’re hot and you give blow jobs to women?

    | September 4, 2008 @ 10:27 pm

  4. WA said,

    I’m glad you’re doing this. I love to hear the backstory behind a good book.

    | September 4, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

  5. Coma Girl said,

    I love that you’re honest and write that you were worried that people would wouldn’t think you were funny. The book was hysterical and I cannot wait to read the next one.

    | September 5, 2008 @ 12:53 am

  6. www.ovolina.com said,

    This was encouraging and made me feel less alone. Some days I really want to give up the writing, but tonight I feel comforted and not alone. Thank you for sharing this.
    Anita

    | September 5, 2008 @ 2:13 am

  7. www.startswithanx.com said,

    you’re pretty lucky to have that body, period, let alone after birthing babies.

    | September 5, 2008 @ 2:50 am

  8. JustameR said,

    That’s very lucky. Good for you, and good for us because we got to read it.

    | September 5, 2008 @ 3:10 am

  9. Anonymous said,

    I wondered if you had gone to college.

    | September 5, 2008 @ 3:31 am

  10. Anonymous said,

    I blow people all the time. It works, people! Seriously. Give it a try.

    Love, your mother

    (kizz)

    | September 5, 2008 @ 4:34 am

  11. Ms. Bar B: said,

    “So I wrote and wrote. It killed me. I was horribly insecure about it.” I think this is where I am right now with my writing, minus the “wrote and wrote” part. I should rename my blog to A Place of Insecurity.

    I am looking forward to reading the other parts of this post.

    | September 5, 2008 @ 5:05 am

  12. Schmutzie said,

    You are being featured on Five Star Friday:
    http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2008/09/five-star-friday-edition-22.html

    | September 5, 2008 @ 6:28 am

  13. Wicked Step Mom said,

    That is one hell of a story. I am glad you survived and still managed to write a great book!

    | September 5, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

  14. elise said,

    The best part about you (well, maybe not THE BEST, I haven’t see it all, heh heh…no, that was SO creepy, it isn’t coming off well in this medium, just forget it) is how HONEST you are.

    Really, I so, so appreciate the honesty. It’s so incredibly refreshing. And I love this series already.

    | September 5, 2008 @ 1:35 pm

  15. help4newmoms said,

    Wow! It is amazing to realize how close things get to NOT being created! Thanks goodness “Sippy Cups” DID get created.
    PS. If you want any input on the self-publishing side, let me know.

    | September 5, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

  16. Carolyn...Online said,

    I love that you think it was all luck and a girl named Chelsey when you spent almost 20 years writing. Even if it was “just jokes.” You made your own luck.

    | September 5, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

  17. anymommy said,

    I’m with Caroline – luck is what you make of it! I thought I’d skip this series because, you know, not gonna happen, but your story is so engaging. Hmmm, must be the kick ass writing!

    | September 5, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  18. Becky said,

    I am a relative newcomer to your blog & I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series.
    :) Becky

    | September 5, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

  19. Anonymous said,

    I had a feeling there was a connection with you and Chelsea. What is up with that “in the motherhood” series that she did online? I heard they were creating a regular show from it, which I think would be awesome as long as her and Leah Remini stayed in it.-and you were head writer. Can you make that happen?

    | September 5, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  20. Cynthia Sobo said,

    Okay, don’t get jealous people, but I was actually one of the lucky few who got to see Stefanie on stage during her stand-up gigs. And I got to work with her.
    Although it can sometimes be “not who you know” but “who you blow,” hard work and determination do not go unnoticed. When Stefanie says she worked her ass off, it’s true. She paid her dues.
    The people that break through, are the ones that work through the fear, and then show up on every possible occasion. If that was not the case, then Jamie Kennedy would have never had a career.

    | September 6, 2008 @ 12:36 am

  21. Stefanie said,

    Ha Cynthia, thanks for chiming in. So so true – about me being hilarious onstage. Oh wait, you didn’t say that. But, very true that persistance pays off. Jamie Kennedy is a great example. We’re all still scratching out collective open mic heads. And by the way, Cynthia is HILARIOUS.

    | September 6, 2008 @ 1:04 am

  22. Black Hockey Jesus said,

    Does Chelsea read this? Hi Chelsea.

    | September 6, 2008 @ 1:13 am

  23. Lisa said,

    I thought your original post was great. I have never been the type of mom that you outlined in your post. I never fit in with that type despite the fact that I have six kids.

    There is a place for the real information on parenting. The reality for me is telling a friend that I made chili today. Then offering up the stain on my shoulder left by a toddler eating the chili. It’s not always clean work, is it?

    | September 6, 2008 @ 2:17 am

  24. Giovanna Diaries said,

    I’m thinking you should get a “Chelsea Handler is my good luck charm” tattoo.
    The reason I think you got your book deal besides Chelsea, is the fact that you are raw. You write what we all think but are too afraid to say. Moms need that!
    So, I’m thinking, maybe you can write a post about “How to meet Chelsea Handler and get her to read your blog.”

    | September 7, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

  25. Rhea said,

    Congrats on the book deals! That’s awesome. I can’t wait to hear more about the process you went through.

    | September 8, 2008 @ 4:48 am

  26. Daddy Files said,

    Just found your site and I really like it. As a Dad blogger with a journalism day job, strong voice and the desire to one day see my writing on a book shelf, I’m reading your posts with great interest.

    Especially the parts about blowjobs. Oh wait…sorry, what were you saying again?

    | September 9, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

  27. Leslie said,

    Just curious…what were your original four essays about? Love your blog by the way. I just found it today and I am dying to buy your book!!

    | September 10, 2008 @ 11:55 pm

  28. adsiza said,

    thnks

    | December 22, 2008 @ 7:57 am

  29. carrie said,

    Thank you for this. So very much. Just reading how it went down for you inspires me to keep on keepin’ on. Despite a weird experience…

    We could all use a little Chelsea Handler in our lives. :)

    | January 31, 2009 @ 7:42 am

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