Mixing it up

I’m taking the liberty to mix it up today by blogging about something I love to do besides writing, and that’s cooking. Maybe I’ll set up a separate cooking blog at some point.

So, today I’m cooking from Anthony Bourdain’s “Les Halles Cookbook.” I’m making poulet roti, or as Bourdain writes, “That’s a roast chicken, numbnuts!”

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t speak like that at all. Except when I’m driving (ask my kids!). So, I was thinking about roasting this chicken all day. I thought about it during a 3-mile walk, even stopped and picked up an organic-ish chicken on my way home. I though about it while watching the World’s Cup. The roast-the-chicken thing kind of took over.

I’m not following the recipe exactly. I added sage, even though he doesn’t list it because at the store, I could have sworn he said sage, so I bought some. Also, I don’t have any white wine, so I used red, wondering if Tony (can I call him Tony?) would be mad.

While tucking in herb butter under the skin, I wondered if anyone I know actually knows Tony. It’s possible. Also, I thought about the difference between loving to cook, and having to cook. Lucky for my family the love-to-cook-part took over, even if today I’m kind of mad at them. I also worked out some lines of prose in my head for some of my projects.

God, it smells good! Time to baste the chicken.

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Is writing a book torture?

I get that question a lot. And, if I’m going to answer honestly, the answer is yes, it can be unless you are so blinded by enthusiasm, you can’t wait to get the words out. But like anything else, after the novelty wears off, when you’re charged with the task of writing a book, it can seem overwhelming.

So, I put the odds in my favor. I like a big glass of cold seltzer, and if my brain feels cluttered, some green tea. Next, music. I’ve set up a host of Pandora stations, with artists ranging from Regina Spektor to Mozart. Emanating from my speakers, these artists channel me, and keep me in my seat. A couple of Facebook and Gawker checks later, there I am, writing.

And if the task still seems daunting, as it sometimes does, I take on the task one section at a time. I know the outside distractions will be there waiting for me when I need a break.

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A Dilemna

A friend of mine was really excited. Yet-to-be-published, she’d signed with an agent to prize-winning stars. When attending writer conferences, she’d mention to insiders the name of the agent who represented her, and they’d literally look at her in awe.

Sound like a dream come true? Try limbo-land. My friend seemed to only get the runaround. She wound up being more of a small fish in a very big pond, and nothing ever came to pass, except a lot of time and frustration, not to mention disappointment.

Has this ever happened to you? Regardless, would you have stuck with the agent, or felt that the potential was too good to pass up?

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When A Rock Star Pens Your Foreword

This you need. It’s the difference between interesting a publisher even for a moment, or winding up in the slush pile.

A rock-star-written foreword lends your book cache, giving you the A-lister’s seal of approval. It also goes a long way, marketing-wise.

So, how to get started? Think about who is tops in your field. Maybe you already know the person you have in mind. Then try to get access. Perhaps someone you know is close with this person, and would pass your message on for you. Or, maybe you don’t this person at all. Start with a direct note or write to the person who handles the person’s communication.

When reaching out, show all-out and genuine respect. Tell the rock rock star how much he or she has influenced you, your thoughts, your career, and has served as an inspiration to you in writing this book. Also, share your outline, and send along the manuscript when it’s complete so that you are completely transparent.

It may seem like a long shot, but I can tell you first-hand, it works.

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Quality, and Yes, Quantity

You’ve committed to 50,000 words. Now how are you going to fill those pages? A yikes moment, for sure, but there’s no reason to panic.

Once you’ve fleshed out your outline, it’s time to start gathering material — a lot of material. Start looking for sources that can enhance the premise of your book. Think about the profile of the people you’d like to feature in your book. Where are they from? What kind of experience would you like them to describe? Then announce your search by posting on HARO (Help a Reporter Out), PR Newswire, Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

Also, consider existing media coverage. It’s fine to modestly cite examples — and by that I mean no more than a sentence or two, in most cases — that have been covered before, so long as you provide the source for your material.

Do add your own opinion, explaining why you included this particular material. Otherwise, you’re putting together a very extensive list, not writing a book. Provide your take on why things worked out the way they did and any caveats or lessons you can share with the reader.

In other words, make it your own.

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A Marketing Plan to Envy

Writers by their very nature like to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and let their thoughts out. I’m not calling them all introverted…but they tend to shy away from speaking opportunities. I won’t mention names — but you know who you are.

So it’s kind of counterintuitive that the thing you have to do once the book is written is get out and promote it. As if writing the book weren’t enough! Yet if you don’t promote it, a bunch of books with your name on it are destined for the remainder pile, or in this day of print on demand, will never be produced.

There are all kinds of ways to market a book: social media, radio interviews, press releases sent to local papers, TV, webinars, book parties, small dinner parties with influencers. Maybe you won’t land on the Today Show, but there are certainly tons of cable and internet TV and radio opportunities that are hungry for interesting guests. Especially authors. So why not you?

Put all of those ideas in the marketing section of your book proposal. One client of mine actually wrote up a separate marketing plan to complement the proposal. My agent was over the moon about it. And yes, that project got sold.

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Be Relentless

Agents are busy people. So if you’re getting the run around — “I haven’t had time to read it yet” or “I just returned from maternity leave” — it’s time to move on.

That means ask everyone you know if they know an agent. Or if the people THEY know know an agent. Ask published authors for the name of their agent. Read the books that are similar to yours and see if they thank an agent in the acknowledgements. And when schmoozing and catching up with others at a party or even on the sidelines at your kid’s soccer game, tell people you’re on a mission to find a good literary agent.

You never know what you can achieve. Unless you’re relentless.

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