Archive for December 2006

New Bat Segundo Podcasts Available


Never one to be outdone by cute reindeer, the bat is back with another round of great podcasts. This time, Bat Segundo speaks with authors Claire Messud and Simon Winchester.

Happy Holidays


I’m still recovering from my top secret assignment to help Santa spread literary cheer over this past holiday weekend. But we’ll back up to normal operations tomorrow.

I do hope all of you are enjoying a happy and safe holiday season!

Personality Goes A Long Way

The Paris Review Interviews, I (Paris Review Interviews) 

Imagine… instead of slaving over proposals, outlines, chapter summaries, market analysis… imagine if you could just talk your way into a publishing deal. Richard Price managed to do that very thing.

In The Paris Review Interviews, volume I, Richard Price recounts how he pitched Clockers to publishers. “Before I wrote a word of Clockers I had arranged to tell the story aloud to a number of publishers. Whoever was interested could bid against the others. I didn’t trust my prose at that moment in time, because I had been writing movie scripts for eight years. I said, At this point I can talk so much better than I can write. Let me just talk. If it’s inadequate, don’t bid. I was confident enough in my story that if they could hear it, they would have the faith to go with it… As it was, we had about nine publishing houses bidding… It’s from the studios. The way you get work with them is by being a salesman, by walking into an office where people have the power to commission projects and saying, Have I got a story for you!”

Of course, this won’t work for everyone. At this point, Price had a number of well-received novels under his belt and several successful movie scripts so he probably earned the right to do something different.

The Paris Review Interviews, volume I reveals several interesting personality traits of our favorite writers. In addition to Price, Dorothy Parker, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, James M. Cain, Robert Stone, Elizabeth Bishop, and many other great authors are present. And while Price used his personality sell his novel, some of the others in the book aren’t quite so pleasant.

Comically, Hemingway seems completely put out by his interview. His responses are littered with comments such as, “That is a long-term tiring question and if you spent a couple of days answering it you would be so self-conscious that you could not write,” and “The fact that I am interrupting serious work to answer these questions proves that I am so stupid that I should be penalized severely.” Then again, I suppose when you’re Ernest Hemingway, you’re allowed to be annoyed by questions about naming characters.

Regardless, The Paris Review Interviews, volume I is an intriguing text for the aspiring author or just plain literature fan.

Quite a Ballsy Move

Many authors obsess over Amazon. They worry about their rankings, the reviews, and the overall visibility for their book. However, not everyone is happy about being on the site. The great Bookninja brings news of a writer who is actually demanding that Amazon remove his book from their site.

“George Walker, author of Tales from an Airfield, was horrified to find that his new title was featured on the site without his permission, following good sales in bookshops. ‘What they are actually doing is getting the independents to do their market research,’ said Mr Walker, a passionate advocate of independents. ‘When a book gets a certain amount of attention, they will attempt to stock it and cut the independents out. Not with my book!'”

Kudos to Mr. Walker for standing up in such a manner.

Books as Structural Support


Today’s value-minded consumer wants products that exceed expectations. It isn’t enough that the television has a good picture. No, the TV also has to throw off some colored glow onto the surrounding wall. It isn’t enough that the GPS device shows the shortest route to Tifton, GA. No, the gadget also has to tell you where to stop for boiled peanuts along the way. And it’s not enough that a book provide an engrossing read. Evidently, the book most also be big enough to support the foundation of your house.

In 2004, Taschen released GOAT a tribute to Muhammad Ali that was the largest book ever published. Weighing in at 75 pounds, the 792-page text surpassed the 66-pound SUMO to break the record.

More recently, soccer fans have been able to take part in the massive madness. Manchester United Opus weighs in at over 80 pounds and was signed by Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson. Kraken, the publisher of the mega-book, also has an opus for the National Football League, Formula One racing, and Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona. Gloria Books is also publishing a similar text devoted the soccer icon Pele.

Most of these books are priced in the thousands. But I could see this trend taking off to other obsessions of the affluent. Surely, a massive book dedicated to the Rolling Stones (complete with signatures of the fellas) would do well. And with the money that golfers drop on their sport, I’m certain a huge text of photos of golfing greats would be snatched up quickly. And the list of potentials goes on and on…


Underrated Writers


Syntax of Things continues to spread the word with the 2006 Underrated Writers List. This year, a number of litbloggers contributed their thoughts on 66 writers who deserve more attention.

So while you’re completing last minute Christmas shopping, check out this list before you hit the bookstore. Do the guys on the usual “best of” lists really need another sale? Use SoT’s list to discover a writer you’ve never heard of and pick up something different this holiday season.

Still More on Hooks


A few days ago, I mentioned Miss Snark’s advice on crafting a great hook. Well now, she’s back with a hook-o-meter designed to offer criticism on hundreds of aspiring hooks. Looks like she’s up to #160 of reader-submitted hooks. As always, the Snarkalicious One offers succinct criticism and instruction.

How’s This for Determination?


There is a fantastic quote in the January 2007 issue of Playboy that reveals the determination of a young aspiring author. In the On the Scene section of the magazine, the quote reads,

“As things stand now,” a 21-year-old Hunter S. Thompson wrote in June 1959, “I am going to be a writer. I’m not sure that I’m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says, ‘You are nothing,’ I will be a writer.”

A scrapbook of photos and documents relating to Thompson is being released this month by Ammo Books. Gonzo “includes Thompson’s press card for The Jersey Shore Herald, where he got his first writing job after leaving the military; notebook scribbles that later turned into Fear and Loating in Las Vegas; endless photos of and by the master; plus various and sundry bits of Thompson lore.”

Gonzo is available from the publisher for $300.

An Amazing Collection

The Washington Post reports: “Working entirely on her own, spending her librarian’s salary and later her Social Security checks, Mayme Clayton amassed one of the finest collections of African American history in the world — and stored it in her garage.”

This amazing article explains, “By the time she died in October, at age 83 of pancreatic cancer (“I’ve got a so-so body with a go-go mind,” she said in her later years), Mayme Clayton amassed almost 30,000 rare, first-edition and out-of-print books.”

(via Syntax of Things)

Don’t Act Like You’re Best Pals

I recently had lunch with an agent from one of the major Hollywood agencies. I’ll leave it up to you to guess. Which agency was involved?
A) Creative Artists Agency
B) International Creative Management
C) William Morris Agency

You can also determine, keep your eyes on your own paper now, the circumstances that lead to my lunch meeting. What led to this lunch?
A) A threateningly flashed Desert Eagle .50
B) Lucky positioning in line at Taco Bell
C) The agent’s tremendously lucrative interest in my writing

Finally, you can potentially figure out how the lunch ended. What signalled the end of lunch?
A) A signed contract for a massive publishing deal and champagne for everyone
B) The LAPD negotiator’s demand that I release my hostage
C) The maitre d’ at The Ivy insisting that I take my panhandling on down the street 

During our lunch, the agent did explain one of the things you should not do when pitching. Keep in mind the three major agencies have differing policies on unsolicited submissions or queries. 

Regardless of the guidelines, however, aspiring authors still email agents at these companies. And my dining partner expressed his frustration at a cheap ploy too often used by writers. “My biggest pet peeve by far is the unsolicited email where the writer takes a tone like he/she knows me,” he said. “Does the sender really think 1) that I haven’t seen that before and 2) that I’m really not going to remember who I have and haven’t met before?”

Believe it or not, some people do go so far as to manufacture a supposed meeting. An article appears in Rejection Letters Violate Your First Amendment Rights! magazine about Mr. Bigtime Agent’s appearance at the Oxford Conference for the Book. A month later, Ms. Guided Author writes, “I met you in Mississippi at the conference…” when in reality she’s never crossed the Mason-Dixon line much less dined on the succulent chicken-on-a-stick offered by the Four Corners Chevron station in Oxford.

There are a number of online resources about pitching agents. Check out Pub Rants, Miss Snark, or any number of other websites for more information. Just don’t lower yourself to acting like you know someone you don’t. It’s the pitching equivalent of saying, “Don’t I know you from somewhere” to a beautiful woman. And equally ineffective.