I’m still kvelling after an incredible book club discussion of Release last week. Each woman in the group, related to one another by blood or marriage, and each one stronger than the last, offered a TON of feedback. It was revelatory, targeted, constructive, boisterous, and overwhelmingly positive. It was brazen and unvarnished, yet the great debates that broke out indicated clear direction, not conflicting advice or ambivalent opinion. It was often occurring all at once, I should add; it was hard to know where to look and listen sometimes.
This book club/family is a crew accustomed to speaking in shorthand, anticipating each other’s thoughts, and finishing each other’s sentences. The interactions among mothers and daughters, between in-laws and sisters, and across generations was one aspect of the awesomeness, but I don’t want to reduce their dynamic to that of a feisty family trope. For their diversity as well as what they have in common, these women are my readership. No shrinking violets need apply.
Many of you have also participated in shaping Release in one way or another.
- Maht gets top billing because he told me about NaNoWriMo, the catalyst for this whole chemistry experiment.
- The passages in Sedona** and Albuquerque, the references to Jaipur and Muang Khoun, and the chapters at “the Department of Energy Laboratory in the western Chicago suburbs” wouldn’t be right without the insight of Priya, Lisa, and particularly Sarah Marie – Be Still is a revelation. Thank you, Laurince, as well, for your help with the passages describing bodywork and martial arts; your insight made the difference between research and truth. Believe me, you’ll all make the acknowledgements page.
- To Shelly: Not only did you introduce your family to Release, but your guidance on psychiatry and quantum entanglement are the linchpins of this whole operation. Clearly, Release does not get written in the way it has – quite possibly, it does not get written at all – without our talks, calls, texts, and emails. Dinner for four at Next and a night at the Aqua (two SEPARATE rooms, no adjoining balconies) when the book’s sold – deal? You’re on your own for a morning-after continential breakfast bed picnic, however.
- The voice, pitch, pace, and message of Release is what it is because of brainstorming and constructive criticism, which does not happen in a vacuum. I give a special round of thanks to my own book club, who took not one, not two, but three evenings out of their busy schedules to talk through Every. Last. Aspect. of the story. Hours upon Hours. These women have suffered and continue to suffer volumes of correspondence from me spewing random updates and rants. Joanne and Lisa, and a extra shout out to Joanie for all of the editing work – Sedona awaits!
Finally (for now, because this list continues to grow)
- My cheerleading captains, Erin and Tom. A post in the future will be dedicated to describing what your constant support and encouragement have meant to me. You know it’s big when I’m at a loss for words. Nothing I can say in this format can fully capture all of what I feel. You’re both very busy people whose hobbies don’t usually include reading, but you championed and continue to champion the story and the characters – even better than me, sometimes.
There are many other people whom I will acknowledge, especially as the pitching and publishing process continues, but I digress.
The point I’m meandering toward is this: The beta, or workshopping phase of Release is nearing its end. It’s not over – querying, submitting, and revising will continue for some time – but the eager yet submissive solicitation of feedback for the sake of forming or confirming the narrative structure, plot direction, character development, etc. is concluding. If you’re in possession of a copy, please keep reading and telling me what you think. I value your opinions; I’m just done hunting you down for them.
I set a goal of sending 50 query letters for literary agent representation. As of today, I have sent 37. As I continue, waiting to see what the outcomes of this first sortie, I have a number of options, which can happen concurrently:
- Revise. I’ve edited and polished, bled, sweated, and cried. The manuscript is exactly as I would like it to be. With the feedback from my first two book club workshops complete, I can line-edit yet again, but I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about wholesale word count reduction. Any other refinements that happen along the way will be incidental. Ultimately, word count has a direct correlation to publishing cost, and 125K words may just be too much story for one book. Shaving some of the philosophizing, subplots, or supporting characters may make Release more marketable. This is value engineering for literature, AEC friends – better value for less cost. Darlings, beware.
- Self-publish. Release has a lot in common with some current commercial successes and literary favorites, including A Visit from the Goon Squad, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, The Art of Fielding, The Marriage Plot, and the ubiquitous Gone Girl and Eat, Pray, Love. With every last drop of due respect, however, I don’t think I’m the next Jennifer Egan, Maria Semple, Chad Harbach, Jeffrey Eugenides, Gillian Flynn, or Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m the first me, for better or for worse, warts and all. Because of that, I may have to actually demonstrate that there’s a market for my work (just as they did once and, because they’re all captains of this odd industry, continue to do). I may need to create the groundswell before my it gains traction on the traditional path. To be optimistically, even naively honest, I think that if I dedicated myself to promoting my book, starting through my network (that’s YOU, gentle readers), I could do exactly that.
- Continue work on Book #2. I have a lot of ideas. I have so much more to say. I’m hooked. Maybe Release is destined to be the anticipated follow-up to a best-selling yet-to-be-penned debut. If the initial steps of this career in the making don’t happen in the sequence I thought they would, that’s A-OK by me, so long as footfalls continue to advance the journey.
Here’s where you come in:
- Who do you know in the world of literature and publishing? I’m talking about everyone from bookstore employees and owners, to librarians, to agents, to editors, to publishers*?
- What do you know about self-publishing?
- Do you know anyone who’s self-published?
- Are you in a book club?
- Are you not a bookworm, but do you know people who won’t stop talking about the latest book they read, or about their book clubs?
- Would you recommend my book to your club and/or to your family and friends?
- Are you friends with me on Facebook?
- Are you following me on Twitter?
- Are you following this blog?
- Have you commented on this blog (now is a GREAT TIME to start)?
- Would you recommend me to your social media connections?
So, enough foreplay. Let’s get down to it.
What do you have to say for yourself?
*Quick aside: Within 15 minutes of getting my 14th rejection letter, I walked a copy of my manuscript over to my magnificently talented, hilarious, and overall badass neighbor, who foolishly requested a copy. I say foolishly because, although she doesn’t know it yet, Lindsay is my first choice far and away to rope into creating the cover art if I self-publish. When I arrived, Lindsay was hanging out with a woman from across the street, Rachel, who watched my daughters for several days last summer while I slaved away over a hot keyboard. Turns out, Rachel’s mom’s a librarian, who now also has a manuscript in hand. To paraphrase Mandelyn, “In a lighthearted way, I sort of wish that the universe would just shut up once it made its point.”