Wednesday, April 28, 2010

how not to write a non-fiction book proposal

It's been a while since INTERN's written a post about matters non-fictive. But after coming across a few less-than-accurate guides to book proposal writing on the internet, she thought she should set the record straight. Here's the last word on the subject:


This is the part where you lift copy directly from the Vitamix salesman's spiel at Costco, but substitute the title of your book for "Vitamix". Don't ever tell what your book is about in this section—that comes later. Your goal here is to get the agent pumped.

Comp Titles

This is the part of the proposal where you get to diss other books on the same subject as your book (and books not on your subject that you just felt like hatin' on). You want to prove to the agent that every other book in circulation is a cockroach-infested pile of beaver dung, hence the need for your book to fill the gap. Personal attacks on other authors also go in this section. Don't be shy!


OK, here's where you tell the agent who exactly will buy your book. There's no real need for specifics here. "Humans" will do just fine, because who are we kidding, when's the last time you saw beavers and cockroaches lining up at Borders? You can be pretty sure that humans will be interested in your book, like the word-hungry little bipedal organisms they are. If you think extraterrestrials will also be interested in your book, you definitely want to mention that here. But don't get too cocky. Only like 1% of extraterrestrials actually read, and maybe 1% of those ones will actually be interested in your book.


Here's where you get to roll out the mock-ups of the revolutionary new social networking site you plan to launch on the same day as the book. And the architectural sketch of the institute you plan to build to hold seminars in (funded by your advance. Be sure to mention your advance). And the blueprints of the spaceship in which you plan to promote your book to 0.1% of extraterrestrials. Again, mention your advance. Your advance will easily cover this stuff.

About the Author

Here's where you talk about your cats for three paragraphs.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

do unpublished manuscripts need book trailers?

Over the past month or so, INTERN has been shocked by the amount of work she's found herself doing to prepare for her book's** release. Between printing rather superfluous flyers, making a book trailer, and setting up a ridiculous website, the time she spent writing the actual book has become a faint, innocent, candy-coated memory.

But it all pales in comparison to the amount of work INTERN has seen tons of writers do to promote their book—before they even have a book deal.

Over the past year, INTERN has seen it all: writers who make a blog from the point of view of their fictional protagonist, book trailers for books that are actually half-finished manuscripts, sample cover art printed on glossy paper at great expense and submitted with the query or book proposal, custom-made stationary featuring a quote from the book, links to twitter and facebook accounts for a manuscript or character—pretty much everything short of feature-length films of the unpublished manuscript.

As someone who is pretty aversive to doing anything on a computer except writing, it boggles INTERN's mind to think of all the hours of labor that go into producing this mountain of manuscript-related media. It further boggles INTERN's mind that anyone would willingly spend time making all that stuff unless there's a publicist or agent threatening to beat in their skull with a cricket bat if they don't. It must be fun or useful or rewarding in some way, because more and more people are doing it—and after all, aren't authors supposed to build a platform at any cost?

But which of these endeavours are worthwhile? And which ones will actually help pave the way to a published book?

INTERN has a childhood friend who spends all her free time on the internet looking at wedding dresses and printing sample invitations. She's never had a serious relationship (probably because she spends all her time on the internet looking at said wedding dresses and forgetting to leave her apartment). Too much promotional material for unpublished manuscripts feels a little like those imaginary wedding invitations—cute, until you ask when the actual wedding is and things get awkward. As an intern, INTERN never witnessed an editor being even mildly enticed by any such bells and whistles (it's about the writing, silly!) And there's a big difference between producing a lot of promotional stuff and building an actual platform.

All these Negative Nancy-isms being said, INTERN thinks manuscript-related blogs and videos and image galleries can be extremely useful—to the extent that they help writers get deeper into their characters' minds and imagine the world of their books more richly, thus allowing them to write better books. INTERN has seen a few truly magical media creations yet-to-be published writers have made—not for the express purpose of promoting their manuscripts, but to explore their stories more deeply, clarify their ideas, and use those insights to make their characters more believable, their worlds more finely detailed—and their manuscripts better.

This is where, in INTERN's opinion, the real value of all these creative side-projects lies: in improving the manuscript itself (or, in very rare cases, building a huge and ravenous following who will demand more fictitious blog posts and tweets, pronto). And, oh, also the fact that lots of people apparently find it fun and interesting to make media related to their manuscript, which is a wonderful reason for doing just about anything.

INTERN wants to know: Have you ever made media related to your (fiction) manuscript before it was published? Was it fun and interesting? Did it help you write or revise your story? Did it help you in other ways? Would you do it again for future projects?

Have an ecstatic Monday!

**For those who missed INTERN's confession in a previous post's comments section that her book is NOT, in fact, about funky senior destinations in the Midwest, INTERN hereby confesses that that information is completely erroneous and apologizes for her treachery.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guest Post: An Errant Interview

Good day, writerly colleagues! Today's guest post takes the form of an interview written by Jill Cayrol, with answers from INTERN (or INTERN's spunky ghost-writer) scattered hither and thither. INTERN herself is hard at work on her next book, "The Care And Grooming of Treasure Trolls 1988-1990," forthcoming in Mocktober 2010.

INTERN is away from her blog at the moment, most likely sitting comfortably on the church pew she rescued from the side of the road last October.  She’s probably flipping through her beloved dictionary in search of the perfect word to describe the organic cloudberry and granadilla snack square that Hippie Roommate made from scratch (after clearing all remnants of Vampire Roommate’s evil-spirit-ridding paraphernalia from every corner of the kitchen).   UNKNOWN HOPEFUL has spotted this as her one and only chance at blog-writing stardom and hopes that INTERN’s legions of fans can handle the intrusion.
In order to keep INTERN’s legions of fans partially satisfied, UNKNOWN HOPEFUL will now attempt to create a list of questions for INTERN that are in serious need of answers (quirky answers inspired by tree bark, a complete set of neon-orange friendship bracelets, and an Albanian wedding song).  UNKNOWN HOPEFUL looks to her trusty six-year-old Transformer Son in hopes that he will be as supportive and inspiring as Techie Boyfriend.
Transformer Son hands UNKNOWN HOPEFUL a tiny blue hunk of scrap metal that appears to have a robotic face poking up through a miniature radiator.  For luck, he tells her. 
Questions for INTERN:
-Will a new Nemesis Intern make an appearance at Venny McPulitzer?  Perhaps one who is kinda cute, but not cute enough to be any real threat to Techie Boyfriend?

Underlings at Venny McPulitzer were exclusively X-chromosonal. But what of that devilish doorman?
-Will INTERN ever give her legions of fans a clue about the title of her #$%!*&#!  book so that we’ll be able to rush out and buy six copies of it immediately?
See yesterday's post, in which all is revealed.

-Why hasn’t INTERN bumped into a deeply tanned, KFC-eating, WWF tee-shirt-wearing self-published author on the commuter train?

While INTERN has bumped into a few self-published authors over the past year, none of them have been eating KFC. This is probably because self-published authors are rolling in so much cash they never eat KFC—it's caviar only, baby.
-Does INTERN know how to roll a starter pot out of newspaper in which to plant seedlings that will transfer directly into her window box garden?  Or will she have to rummage through the basement of an acquaintance in hopes of finding a book to shove discretely under her green hoodie sweater borrow on the subject?

INTERN prefers to start her seedlings in rolled-up thousand-dollar bills.

-Has INTERN ever had the urge to rush off to Seattle to knit a giant tea cozy around the Elliot Bay Book Company’s front door awning in an unabashed episode of yarnbombing?

Last time INTERN tried that, she got confused and yarnbombed Trader Joes. Not sure how that happened. Memories fuzzy.
-Has INTERN ever actually seen Vampire Roommate— like with physical properties of his own— or is he just a fractured element of her own personality?  (Let’s pause to give a quick shout-out to all the make-believe friends out there... HEYYyyyy!!  Love ya! For reals!)

Vampire Roommate is real and he works for the Boys and Girls Club. He is the only member of the household who holds down a Real Job (is he some kind of god???). HIppie Roommate, Techie Boyfriend, and INTERN all freelance and hop from dubious gig to dubious gig for their rent money.
-Would INTERN say that her background in dumpster diving is part of the reason her shizzle is so awesome?
No, but dumpster diving is definitely the reason there's 20 pounds of applesauce in the freezer.

UNKNOWN HOPEFUL stops here.... she is certain that INTERN is ready to return to her blog, having secured the perfect snack square description word:  selcouth.
Transformer Son takes back his tiny blue hunk of scrap metal, holds it up, and asks UNKNOWN HOPEFUL if she thinks Techie Boyfriend would be able to rig it so the little robotic face lights up and makes random beeping noises.  
UNKNOWN HOPEFUL tells him she thinks so.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

the grapes of april

Hello, fabulous people!

INTERN has returned from her sylvan hideaway (yes, it was a camping trip—Techie Boyfriend always seems to sense when INTERN needs to be kept away from things like electrical sockets at all costs, and INTERN's mental health, volatile at the best of the times, is feeling much more robust after a week spent searching for morels. ((an activity only slightly complicated by the fact that neither Techie Boyfriend nor INTERN have the faintest idea when morels are supposed to fruit, nor where to find them.))

This month has been a hailstorm of book-related activity, little of which has actually made it onto this blog because INTERN has, by and large, been too hyperactive and/or consumptive to post. Anyway, here's what's been going on:

-A few weeks ago, INTERN's forthcoming book received its first review. (title of said book is 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest. There, INTERN has finally divulged her secret! Go forth and purchase it from your favorite independent bookstores! ) INTERN's publicist told INTERN the date on which to expect the review, and INTERN duly stayed up late fretting the night before, then arose very early, her heart filled with dread, to see if she could track the damn thing down.

After a quick internet search, INTERN found the review, but by that time INTERN's mind was so clouded with dread and paranoia that she could literally not comprehend the words on the screen. Reading the review felt like this:

Actual wording of review: " 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest is an indispensable and often hilarious guide to..."

INTERN sees: 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest is a useless pile of snake-baloney whose paltry attempts at humor fail to..."

Actual wording of review: " 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest will find an eager audience among seniors, twenty-somethings, infants, toddlers, and the deceased."

INTERN sees:: 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest will be sneered at with equal disdain by seniors, twenty-somethings, etc...."

It was a truly horrifying morning. A few hours later when the rest of the world was awake, INTERN's publicist called.

Publicist (wearing a grin audible through the telephone): "Aren't you just ecstatic?"
INTERN (haggard and delusional): "I guess you saw the review."
Publicist: "Haven't you read it yet? It's positively glowing."
INTERN: (*quiet sob of shame*)
Publicist: You haven't read it.

-In other book-related developments, a big box of ARCs (Author Review Copies) arrived while INTERN was hunting for morels, which Hippie Roommate duly opened and set up bookstore-style so that a veritable co-op table of 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest was waiting on the kitchen table when she returned.

Said Hippie Roommate: "I sent a copy to my grandma. I hope you don't mind."

Vampire Roommate has not commented on the books, but with Vampire Roommate, an exorcism is never far off.

-INTERN has also been cranking out tons of Funky Senior-related essays and articles for various magazines and newspapers, as part of the book's promotional campaign. Sometimes, INTERN feels like her life has come to revolve around Funky Seniors, their antics and their needs. Sometimes, INTERN would rather snip off a piece of her brain than write another bright and funny bulleted list of things Funky Seniors should not forget to bring when they go on their Active Getaways. Ye Gods! INTERN has also been learning a few things about the magazine and online magazine markets, which she will discuss in a future post.

-INTERN's publicist has stated, ominously, that television and radio are next on the Reading Railroad. INTERN's publicist should really refrain from saying alarmist things like that, because INTERN is apt to flee the country. Publicist, you have been warned.


Well, that brings things more or less up to date. INTERN apologizes for being rather scatterbrained lately. If anyone cares to comment with coping strategies or Buddhist chants or recommendations for pleasant mental asylums, please do. It is so wonderful to see you all again!

P.S. Yes, comment moderation is turned on again—but hopefully not for very long. It's mostly to help INTERN keep track of conversations and remember to respond. Humbly requesting your patience!

Monday, April 12, 2010

INTERN on blogging vacation!

Techie Boyfriend announced this morning that he is whisking INTERN off to a secret location for some pre-book release adventures. INTERN is therefore putting this blog on standby for a week or so.

In the meantime, write good things and read good things!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

royalties on Total Loss Farm

INTERN was looking through Hippie Roommate's collection of 1970's-era homesteading books last night when she discovered an (apparently classic) tome called Home Comfort: Life on Total Loss Farm. The book was co-written by a dozen or so people who lived on the farm, and discusses everything from well-digging to psychic farming to the challenges of maintaining healthy group vibrations over the course of a Vermont winter.

There's a small section about farm economics—how much money the farm members need to make in a given year to cover the mortgage and property taxes, how the communal checking account works, and where the money comes from.

At this point, the author of the section reveals that most of the commune's income comes from book royalties. He then casually lists six titles from publishers like Knopf, Random House, and Harper & Row.

This blew INTERN's dome.

These cheese-making, outhouse-going, back-to-the-land folks were also published authors whose poetry, fiction, and sustainable living books were sustaining their cheese-making, outhouse-going living.

And somehow, in between feeding the woodstove and repairing a collapsing barn, they found the motivation to keep writing books—longhand, in an often snow-bound cabin.

Suffice to say, INTERN is terribly impressed and inspired and twinkly-eyed over all this. Why don't more writers start living collectively—in an abandoned hunting cabin or a city squat, where they could live rent-free and income from royalties would actually amount to something? What could ever go wrong with such a plan? It would be utopia! Utopia!!!!!!!

Off to hunt down some of the titles on the Total Loss Farm list!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Guest Post: Divine Secrets of Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

Ahoy Wednesday readers! In this week's Guest Post, bookstore employee undercover book marketing mole Lindsey Carmichael reveals how brick-and-mortars really work. Want people to buy your book from a bookstore? Tip: be nice to Lindsey, and for #^$#'s sake stop moving your book from where it's supposed to be shelved. Lindsay blogs here and here. INTERN will be back tomorrow.


Every writer needs a day job. Supportive spouses, after all, can only take you so far. After it became clear my back up plan (PhD/research scientist) was killing my creativity, there was only one choice left - what better place for a writer to work than a bookstore? There are flexible hours, which free up time for writing. There's on the scene, up to the minute market research. And let's not forget the staff discount.

One of the biggest advantages, however, is the insight into how bookstores* actually function, and how customers actually choose their next great read**. Here's what I've learned about what can make a book, including yours, jump off the shelves.


1) COVER ART. It's a sad fact that the very people who tell you not to judge a book by its cover are secretly doing just that. My specialty is the kid's/teen department, and the younger the reader, the truer it is. I can't tell you how many times I've started to recommend a book, only to have a child glance at the cover and say "no" before I can even describe the story. A book's cover is like a blind date's handshake - if it's limp and moist (ie, bland, boring, overly familiar), it inspires no confidence. If it's joint-crushing (ie, garish, vaguely offensive, or just plain ugly), it's not taken seriously. On the other hand, if it's firm and decisive (ie, well-designed, beautiful, intriguing), a reader will give serious thought to bringing it home.

2) JACKET COPY. Have you ever been intrigued by a book's cover, picked it up, flipped it over, and found nothing but blurbs, or worse, a single-paragraph excerpt from the book? What if the only information inside a hardcover's dust jacket was the author's bio? Assuming you didn't already have good reason to trust the author, how likely would YOU be to actually buy the book? To give you an extreme example. In our teen section, we have a paperback edition of Francesca Block's Weetzie Bat. It's an Indigo Recommends title, meaning it's stocked in large quantities, faced, and has a star sticker to draw attention. The cover, however, contains not a single word: no synopsis, no blurbs, no extract, nothing but rather unremarkable art. This book does not sell, because customers don't have the faintest idea what it's about. Likewise, we don't hand sell it, because none of us have read it, because we don't have the faintest idea what it's about. But, you might argue, can't booksellers get more info about the book online, at the author's website or library catalogue? Absolutely, but we don't. And neither do customers.

3) TITLE. Give us funny, give us clever, give us mysterious. Give us something that catches our attention and makes us want to know more about your masterpiece. Above all, give us something that accurately represents the book. Play fair with your readers, and be kind to booksellers. We read books at home, on vacation, and on our lunch breaks. Some of us also follow industry publications and blogs in an effort to keep up. Despite our best efforts, there's no possible way we can be familiar with every book in the store. Which means we're often giving customers advice based on our experience of titles and cover designs. Help us be right.

4) BLURBS. Blurbs are a double-edged sword. If they're compelling and offered by a writer (usually) or newspaper (sometimes) the reader trusts, they will sell your book. On the other hand... I bought the first book in a new fantasy series the other day. I read halfway through and gave up because, after 200 pages, I was bored to tears. This book was enthusiastically blurbed by two other fantasy authors. Not only will I never buy another book by this author, I'll never buy a book by the authors of the blurbs, because clearly our definitions of "good" don't jibe. The same, by the way, goes for movie deals. News of a movie deal can be all the impetus a customer (especially a child) needs to take a chance on a book. That being said, I had to stop telling people that Disney had bought Aprilynne Pike's Wings for Miley Cyrus, because 50% would buy it instantly and the other 50% put it back even faster.

5) PLACEMENT. With a few exceptions, display space in chain bookstores is a function of co-ops. Meaning publishers pay to have their books appear on tables, end caps, wheelies, in piles at the cash register.... In other words, unless your publisher has the a) money b) clout c) faith in your book as a front list title, it will probably not be featured any place but the home section. Likewise, if your publisher can't convince our buyers to purchase enough copies for a facing, your book will be spined, meaning your lovely cover will not be visible to casual browsers. Do not despair. There are ways around this, and I'm about to tell you all the:


6) GET THE WORD OUT. Take blog tours. Do store signings or school appearances. To the extent possible, arrange for newspaper reviews, especially in your hometown. In the real world and online, be places readers hang out. Customers remember books they've heard about, even if they don't remember the details. They clip newspaper reviews and bring them into the store (helpful customers do - unhelpful ones say "it was in the paper six weeks ago, what do you mean you don't know what it's called?").

Statistically speaking, you and your book will not appear on Oprah or The Today Show. The good news is, like writing, book promotion is mostly about persistence. As my alter ego the scientist would say, viral marketing is a geometric function - it takes a while to get going, but when it does, it's unstoppable.

7) ENSURE YOUR BOOK IS CARRIED BY THE CHAINS. Of course, you'll want to get your book into as many independants as you can, but there's no denying that the chains have them outnumbered. Yes, it is true that some small publishers aren't stocked by chains, and therefore a lot of great books get overlooked. Initially. If your book picks up steam, that will change. Furthermore, there are a TON of books that chains don't stock in stores, but will offer for customers to order online or through their favorite location. If your book is available through our online system, individual locations can also special order it, to offer in store. And if we like the book enough to recommend it, we will.

8) IF YOU'VE SCHEDULED PUBLICITY, LET BOOKSTORES KNOW. And let us know early enough that we can get your book in stock BEFORE you hit the airwaves. The last thing you want is for customers to mob the store in search of your gem, only to discover it's out of stock. Only a fraction of them will actually bother to order it. And those that don't will have forgotten all about it by the time it comes back into stock.

9) VISIT BOOKSTORES. Locally of course, but also when you travel. If possible, call ahead to set up an appointment with the manager for your book's category. Find out whether your book is already in stock - if it's not, bring information, or better yet, a copy. Be polite and friendly. Be charming, not creepy. Be professionally dressed, and if you have an appointment, for goodness' sake be on time. If your book is good, and you have the social skills of a even well-trained golden retriever, we'll do what we can to help you. If you're an obnoxious, pretentious, arrogant jerk, it will not matter if your book has the literary value of Dickens and the sales potential of Patterson: we'll wait until you leave and mock you in the staff room.

When I was a graduate student, I had to mobilize hundreds of hunters, trappers, wildlife officers, and biologists to collect the over 4000 DNA samples I needed for my research. I quickly learned that the only way to get people to help you is to make them WANT to help you. Which brings me to perhaps the single most important thing you can do to help sales of your book: MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE BOOKSELLERS.

Booksellers can be one of two things to you - your most powerful advocate, or your worst enemy. Unlike managers, who are often busy managing, booksellers are interacting directly with the book-buying public, every day. We're the ones making recommendations and influencing customers' decisions. Give us a reason to recommend YOUR book. When you drop by, say hello. Ask us what we're reading. Find a bookseller who likes the kind of books you write, and if you can, donate a review copy (we are drug addicts working in a heroin factory - the staff discount can only take us so far). Here are just some of the ways I've supported books I loved in the last few months:

- Adding staff picks stickers
- Spining books I didn't like so I could face ones I did
- Hand selling
- Special ordering out of stock books, for the purpose of hand selling
- Telling my coworkers how awesome a book is, and what kinds of customers it would appeal to
- Writing reviews for our company magazine, which is read by every Indigo bookseller in Canada
- Adding appropriate titles to understocked displays (we NEVER have all of the books required by co-op in stock, but if I love yours and it fits, I'll add it to the display)

I have also, on more than one occasion, told customers not to buy a book I hated. Or a decent book by an author who was a total ass. However, if we've met and you were a lovely human being, I won't sabotage you, even if I secretly believe your book isn't worth the toilet paper it's printed on.

10) BECOME A BOOKSELLER YOURSELF. Trust me. If you're even remotely likeable, your coworkers will support you. Mine are planning release parties for books I haven't submitted yet. Plus, booksellers get to meet people from the chain's head office, who make big buying decisions. Not to mention publishers' sales staff, and really, what writer doesn't want those kinds of connections?


11) GUERILLA MERCHANDISING. All due deference to the lovely Intern's former post, just don't. Don't move your book from one part of the store to the other. If we can't find it, we can't sell it. Don't add your book to displays. When we see it, we have to remove it (see above re: co-ops). Don't turn your book face out if there's only one or two copies, because our merchandizing standards will require us to come along right behind you and switch it back. In short, all of these things MAKE MORE WORK FOR US, WHICH BY THE WAY THE CUSTOMERS ARE ALREADY EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD AT, AND WE HATES IT PRECIOUS, WE HATES IT SSS SSS. Ahem. Sorry. I may have been channeling The Rejectionist there. But the point stands. Spend your time on numbers 6-10, and try not to make us resent you, 'kay?

Now get back to work and finish your book. And when it's published, come find me. I'll be in the kid's section.


* I work at Chapters, which is part of the Indigo Books and Music group, Canada's chain bookseller. But please, can we skip the diatribe about the evils of chains? I can't speak for American chains, or even other branches of Indigo, but my location is staffed with folks that are passionate about books and truly dedicated to customer service. Including PhDs willing to work for less than $10 an hour, just for the joy of being around books. Besides, our local independent ordered copies of the UK edition of Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest from a British bookseller and resold them in North America. This may not actually be illegal, but it's just a tad unethical. And while we're on the subject, if you really want to point fingers, I think we can all agree to aim them towards places like Costco and Wal Mart.

** I'm referring here primarily to fiction and kid lit, as purchased by bookstore browsers. Nonfiction shoppers are a different species entirely, and more often than not already know exactly what title they're looking for when they walk in the door.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

a special message from Confucius

INTERN was going to post something in response to this New York Times article about the growth of unpaid (and sometimes illegal) internships during the recession, but this morning INTERN's forward-happy dad passed along the following, which *obviously* trumps illegal internships in terms of importance:

Confucius say, "If you are in a book store and cannot find The book for which you search, you are obviously in the...

INTERN often gets the impression she is in the Wong Fook Hing bookstore.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Guest Post: A Former Random House Intern Speaks Her Effing Mind

This Fresh and Delightful guest post was submitted by Kristen Lippert-Martin on behalf of Jemima McNally, an 103-year old former intern for Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer (Random House, 1925). Kristen's blog is here. Jemima doesn't care much for computers, but she agreed to have her account posted here because the world needs to know the truth about writers.

Look, I’m only back on the job because I’ve outlived my pension. I had no idea this was not a paying thing, but, well, I’m here now, and the bus isn’t due to pick me up for another four hours, so I might as well read some of this slush crap you people are sending in.

It’s been years since I set foot in a publishing house, but to this day, people are still mewling at me, “How can I become a published writer?”

Let me tell you something about writers. I know writers, and I know writing, and I’m telling you right now, none of you is a real writer. That’s right. Go on back to your mama if you can’t take the truth.

Here’s what it took to get published back in my day: You spent years on end in total isolation, banging out a manuscript on a typewriter, working part-time as an assistant fish monger to earn enough money for paper and typewriter ribbons. You sweated a book out of you like yesterday’s gin, and you were only done with it the day you killed yourself. And maybe, just maybe, once you were dead, somebody felt sorry enough for you to pick your manuscript off the floor in your flophouse room, stick it in a box, and send it off to a publisher. Then and only then did you have a shot at success.

Oh, and also, before you wrote your book and killed yourself, you got married a bunch of times and were an ardent, committed alcoholic. Or maybe you were married TO an alcoholic who was bleeding you dry and telling you to go out to Hollywood and make some real money writing scripts instead of wasting yours, hers and everyone else’s best years.

Let me tell you, if people knew you had a son who was a writer, they used to say, “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Henderson. I had no idea. Our prayers will be with you.” And then they’d go right to church and light votive candles. Better you were homosexual or a draft dodger than a writer. To be a writer was a desperate, shameful thing.

But now all this internet business has ruined writing forever. You’ve got too much contact with others of your kind. How are you supposed to toil in obscurity when you can just email people whenever it strikes your fancy? And don’t even get me going on blogs. AND! You’ve also got liver transplants. We didn’t have liver transplants back in the day. If you couldn’t work up the courage to put that belt around your neck and hang yourself in the furnace room at your boarding house, you at least had the decency to drink yourself to death.

Also, I don’t understand these younger girls nowadays. Back in my day, the interns were a dating pool for the editorial staff and for the unpublished writers who were trying to pump us for information. We knew it. We accepted it. I slept with loads of writers. One was William Maxwell, and if you don’t know who he is, then you’re an undereducated moron. That man was a real writer. He could make you cry just saying gesundheit, and by God, he could go all night. And I tell you, never once did I feel sexually harassed. Heck, no. I felt honored to slink around with him behind his alcoholic wife’s back. Jesus H. Nobody has any damned discretion nowadays. Where do people find mistresses anymore if not the damned intern pool?

So that’s my advice to you people. If you want to be a real writer, go off by yourself, get rid of your phones and your televisions and your internets, take a few years to write a book, and then when you’re done with it, put it in a padded envelope with a cover letter/suicide note and then go kill yourself.

That’s it. That’s how you get published. You asked and I’m telling you the same thing I’ve told countless writers before you. I’m not here to make you feel good. I’ve been telling it like it is since 1907 and I ain’t gonna stop now.