By Hope Katz Gibbs
Editor & Publisher
Be Inkandescent Magazine
You want to write that book. You know you do.
I know it because I am also writing a book – 100 Truly Amazing Women Who Are Changing the World. When I mention it, almost everyone tells me that they, too, are just dying to sit down and bang out the story that is important to them — a life experience, a mystery, a novel, a book of poetry. Something. Anything.
In fact, many people do write books. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, more than a million per year are published around the world. The United Kingdom leads the pack with more than 200,000 titles, followed by the U.S. with nearly 175,000. China publishes about 136,000 books each year, and Russia publishes more than 123,000. (Statistics courtesy of UNESCO).
Quality is the Key
Obviously, books are being published by the truckload. So how do you get yours to go from dream to reality?
If you are serious about embarking on this endeavor, pick up a copy of Write That Book Already! (Adams Media; May 18, 2010; $14.95), by Sam Barry and Kathi Kamen Goldmark.
Turn immediately to page 7. In the introduction to Chapter 2, “You Have a Great Idea. So What?”, you’ll find sage advice.
“Okay,” they write, “so maybe you are the world’s authority on the art of making butter sculptures of dead presidents’ heads, but if you want to sell a book on the subject, you’ll have to do more than know your stuff. You’ll need to make the idea sound sexy, or cool, or hot, or timely, or cute, or something that instantly makes it clear to people why the world needs your book.”
This husband-and-wife team goes on to provide aspiring authors insight into the book publishing industry—from transforming an idea into a manuscript to finding an agent to working with an editor to marketing the finished product.
“What’s most amazing is that we actually stayed married during the process of writing this book,” says Kathi with a slightly amazed, amused grin. “Our mission was to provide an informative yet entertaining mix of insider advice with plenty of personalities, and get back up from literary personalities such as Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Roy Blount, Jr., and many more.”
The Story Behind the Book
Sam and Kathi admit they had a bit of a leg up on landing interviews with those famous writers because, in 1991, Kathi created a rock band starring some of the biggest and best authors of the day — Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry (Sam’s brother), Roy Blount, Jr., and many more.
Kathi came up with the concept back when she was a book publicist and media escort in San Francisco. The idea came to her as she chatted with the authors while schlepping them around town on their book tours.
“I was known as the media escort who had the best music selection in her car,” says Kathi, who is actually a musician in her own right. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a combination of Joan Baez and Judy Collins — at the same time. Sadly those jobs were taken by the time I got around to applying.”
She did, however, get a good taste of life as a rock star when, after graduating from Antioch College, she moved to Los Angeles in 1972 with her boyfriend, Jimmy Hodder — the original drummer for the rock band Steely Dan.
So when Dave Barry, Barbara Kingsolver, Ridley Pearson, Amy Tan, and other notable writers told her they not only had a secret fantasy of being a rock star but also were relatively decent musicians themselves — it got her thinking.
“I realized that I had a lineup of band members simply from the folks I was driving around,” she recalls. “So, one day, I asked Dave and Barbara and Amy and a few others if they’d consider doing a rock show to raise money for charity. They said yes. When Stephen King came on board, things really took off.”
The band chose a self-mocking name, The Rock Bottom Remainders — based on the publishing term used to describe the unsold remainder of the publisher’s stock of copies, sold at a reduced price. “We didn’t want anyone to think we were going to take ourselves too seriously,” Kathi shares.
There’s Nothing like Writing a Book
Like many dynamic women, Kathi has had many careers. She is a former teacher with a Master of Arts degree in Drama and Education, who has worked as a family planning educator (producing The Rock Project, a national radio campaign in which music stars recorded public service announcements urging teenagers to “think about having a child before you make a baby”).
One of the greatest joys of her life, she proudly admits, was becoming an author.
“For someone who loves books, and after 17 years as a media escort, it’s such a thrill to be a published author myself,” notes the co-author of Mid-Life Confidential (Viking/Signet, 1994), which is by and about the Rock Bottom Remainders; The Great Rock & Roll Joke Book (St. Martin’s Press, 1997) with Dave Marsh; and the novel And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You (Chronicle Books, 2002).
Sam, too, has worked in various industries, including being a Presbyterian minister (“albeit a funny one,” Kathi says). He’s also the marketing and promotions manager at HarperOne, the author of “How to Play the Harmonica: and Other Life Lessons,” and a musician in the Rock Bottom Remainders and Kathi’s San Francisco band, Los Train Wreck.
Secrets to Writing That Book Already!
So when it came time for Sam and Kathi to pen a book about the industry near and dear to their hearts, they came up with an outline that answered all the tough questions.
Chapter One: Why We Write (and Why You Write, Too)
Chapter Two: You Have a Great Idea. So What?
Chapter Three: How to Get Started with the Write Stuff
Chapter Four: Your Manuscript: The Basic Rules of Attraction
Chapter Five: Finding an Agent
Chapter Six: Behind Closed Doors: Will They Buy Your Book?
Chapter Seven: You and Your Editor
Chapter Eight: Marketing and Publicity: Getting the Word Out
Chapter Nine: The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing
Chapter Ten: For Sale: Bookstores, Bookselling, and Book Groups
Chapter Eleven: Long Life: Paperback and Backlist
Conclusion: What’s Next?
And there’s more:
Appendix I: Beloved Books of Famous Authors
Appendix II: The Life Cycle of a Book
Appendix III: Glossary of Publishing Terminology
“We wanted to provide writers with everything they would ever want — and need —to know about the industry from the inside out, including an overview of your book’s life cycle, from inspiration to publication and beyond,” says Sam. “We also wanted to give them some Tough Love advice to help keep their writing goals on track.”
Kathi says that she also felt compelled to provide step-by-step guidelines for writing book proposals and pitch letters.
“We also wanted to give some tactical advice, such as counsel regarding when self-publishing is a good idea—and when it isn’t, and ideas for conquering writer’s block. So we included a special recipe for matzo ball soup. I mean, when you are really blocked, nothing loosens you up like a steaming bowl of chicken broth with a giant matzo ball in the middle. Talk about comfort food.”
Sam and Kathi also felt it was essential to provide personal stories of writers who faced rejection and published success.
“Few people are hits right out of the shoot, so you have to be smart about the process, tenacious — and good to yourself,” Sam adds, referring to the chapter on page 35 entitled, “Author Care 101.”
“There are various strategies when it comes to living the life of a writer,” they explain in the chapter “How to Get Started with the Write Stuff.” “One is to drink yourself silly, ruin your body, and destroy all your most important relationships, as many great writers have done. Or you can take care of yourself. We suggest the latter course.”
If you are ready to Write That Book Already!, click here to buy your copy today!
Perhaps you’ve attended a Rock Bottom Remainders show or listened to the radio show West Coast Live. You may have read Kathi’s novel, And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You, or one of her published essays. Folks who need a laugh have grabbed Sam’s How to Play the Harmonica: and Other Life Lessons off a bookstore shelf or downloaded the iPhone app. Sam Barry and Kathi Kamen Goldmark, creators of the popular Author Enablers column in BookPage, now bring you Write That Book Already! The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now (Adams Media, May 2010), in which they demystify the life-cycle of a book—from inspiration to publication and beyond—for aspiring writers.
Kathi and Sam have just returned from touring the east coast with their band, the Rock Bottom Remainders, (this year’s lineup also included authors Mitch Albom, Dave Barry, Roy Blount, Jr., Greg Iles, James McBride, Ridley Pearson, Amy Tan, and Scott Turow in addition to Sam and Kathi). You can find delightful footage of their recent rock & roll fantasy tour on YouTube.
Praise for the Book
“Stop! Don’t write another word until you’ve read this book.” — Roy Blount Jr., author of Alphabet Juice.
“I learned more from this wise, witty primer of publishing than from fifteen years in the business. With everything you need to know—and some things you don’t want to—in one place, this is the only pen-to-shelf guide you’ll ever need.” — Jacqueline Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean.
This stellar new book on writing
It is most helpful, clear, and inviting.
The big kicker, though—
I feel you must know—
It is its humor, which just keeps delighting.
— David Corbett, author of Do They Know I’m Running?
“We can only imagine how much more Tolstoy would have accomplished if only he’d had this book.” — Dave Barry, author of I’ll Mature When I’m Dead.
“Among the many charms of this guide to becoming a writer, it consistently helps you understand the perspective of the agents, editors, and gatekeepers who you probably fear are in your way but are in fact there to help you if you’re willing to listen. Anyone at work on their first book, or wanting to start their first book, should soak up some of this tough love from Kathi and Sam.” — Po Bronson, author of What Should I Do with My Life?
About the Authors
Sam Barry is a marketing and promotions manager at HarperOne, author of How to Play the Harmonica: and Other Life Lessons, and a musician. Barry offers advice to aspiring writers as one-half of BookPage’s Author Enablers team and tours the country as a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders. He lives in San Francisco. Visit Sam at www.redroom.com/author/sam-barry and the Author Enablers at www.authorenablers.wordpress.com.
Kathi Kamen Goldmark has worked on publicity campaigns for nearly every major publisher. She is the author of one novel, And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You; has co-authored or contributed to numerous other books; and writes BookPage’s Author Enablers column with Sam. Kathi is the founder and a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, producer of the radio show West Coast Live, and winner of the 2008 Women’s National Book Association Award. She lives in San Francisco. Visit her at www.redroom.com/author/kathi-kamen-goldmark.
More information can also be found here: www.kathiandsam.net.
Meet Sam and Kathi In Person
• June 15: The Booksmith in San Francisco, 7:30pm
• July 22-27: Kathi and Sam in New York
• Aug. 28-Sept. 4: Author Enablers workshop at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico
• November 19-21: Miami Book Fair International