Inhuman Swill : Publishing

The Accidental Terrorist: Our book may not be free, but at least it won't cost you 10% of your income.
The publication date for my memoir The Accidental Terrorist inches ever closer. We're a little more than four months away from rolling out the book, and things here at Accidental Army Headquarters (a/k/a my house) are busy as ever.

The most important news to share is that last week I received my final set of editorial notes from the brilliant and insightful Juliet Ulman. I was breathlessly awaiting her verdict on the heavily rewritten draft I turned in at the end of March, and the news was good. Here's a bit of what she said:

This book went exactly where I wanted it to go, and it's so much stronger, not just because of the added historical context, but because of the additional work you put into trimming fat and pulling all of your threads tight. This is the book we were aiming at, its bones and body solid, and all you're doing now with these final edits is stepping back to look it over last time and polish it until the shine is satisfactory to you. I hope you're proud of what you've accomplished with this text, because you certainly should be.

I have to admit that the room got a little dusty when I read that. It's nice finally to hear an editor say "Good job" after sixteen years of work.

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The Accidental Terrorist Close the Book Campaign
My sixteen-year quest to publish my memoir The Accidental Terrorist is nearly over. I feel like I've been fighting my way down the field all that time, sometimes making progress, sometimes getting stopped cold, sometimes losing big ground. But now that it's fourth and inches, and I need your help to cross the goal line.

Okay, enough with the bad sports metaphors, and I'll try not to waste much of your time. What I'm asking is simple:

  • If you'd like to help, all you need to do is pre-order a copy of the book.

    Possibly you were planning to wait to buy The Accidental Terrorist at a book signing, or to order it this fall from your favorite independent bookstore. (Or possibly you don't give a rats' ass, in which case I'm not really addressing you right now.) I can't fault you for that, and I don't even want to try to dissuade you. But the fact is, you will help me more if you pre-order a copy of the hardcover today, directly from me.

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  • When I announced last October that I would be self-publishing my memoir this year, I optimistically thought I could have it out by the spring. Spring is now right around the corner, and I think I can say with some confidence that ... er, The Accidental Terrorist will be available no sooner than this fall.

    But that's the only bad news I have to report! I've been very busy these past five months, and I'd like to tell you a little about it. As many drafts of this memoir as I've done, I've never quite been happy with it, so my first order of business was hiring an editor. Fortunately for me, I know one of the best in the business, Juliet Ulman, and she was willing to work with me on the book. She worked at Bantam Dell for eleven years, and since striking out on her own she has since continued to do amazing things, like for instance editing a little novel you may have heard of, The Windup Girl. She herself has two Hugo Award nominations for Best Professional Editor. I'm very lucky to have her input.

    Juliet delivered her first set of notes and edits to me at the end of December. All her observations were very helpful, but by far her biggest suggestion was that I widen out the scope of the book, to make it more than just my own story but an investigation into Mormonism itself.

    Needless to say, that sounded like a lot of work. But at the same time, it jibed completely with my original vision for the book. In fact, if you listened to the podcast version of The Accidental Terrorist, then you know that I did interpolate a lot of material from Mormon history into the narrative. For some reason, it seemed like a good idea to me to take that material out in a later draft. (This is why I can't have nice things.)

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    What is the sound of one hand clapping?
    What is the sound of a tree falling in a forest?
    What is the sound of a story without a reader?
    What is the sound of tears on my typewriter keys?

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    No, this post is not about my marriage, which marks its 12th happy anniversary this year. This post is actually about writers and sensitivity.

    Imagine yourself at the wedding of a close friend. You're there alone, having failed again to find a date to yet another big occasion. And it's not as if you didn't try hard. The frustrating thing is that things were looking really good with ol' what's-his-name for a while there. He seemed really interested, he did. You thought there was a good chance he might even be the one. But that was before he started acting all weird and distant, and stopped calling, or even returning your emails and texts.

    So here you are alone at the wedding, again.

    Oh, you're not alone alone. Most all your friends are here, and they're all happy to see you, but the thing is, they're mostly all married themselves. Everyone's nice enough to you, but you can sense a certain distance developing. It's nothing personal, you know that. It's just that for married people it seems somehow easier to relate to other married people. There are new concerns, new problems, new joys that come along with marriage, and that sets you apart from their world.

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    The Chicago Writers Conference is Chicago's only homegrown mainstream literary conference focusing on practical business advice for fiction and non-fiction writers alike. The brainchild of Mare Swallow, it will feature such editors, agents, and authors as Chuck Sambuchino, Christine Sneed, Robert K. Elder, and Jennifer Mattson.

    But it can only happen with support! The CWC is in the final eight days of its Kickstarter campaign and still needs to raise over $4000 for equipment rental, web development, speakers' travel expenses. There are lots of great incentives remaining for various donation levels, including art, signed books, and query letter or story manuscript critiques from Chuck Sambuchino and, ahem, yours truly.

    But here, let Mare tell you more about the conference, and why you should support it:

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    Chicago is getting its own down-home writers conference! The Chicago Writers Conference will take place September 14-16 at Tribune Tower in beautiful downtown Chicago. Speakers and presenters include Chuck Sambuchino, Robert K. Elder, and Cinnamon Cooper, while special readings will be staged by both Essay Fiesta and Tuesday Funk.

    But the Chicago Writers Conference can only happen with your help! I'd explain why the conference deserves your support, but there's already a compelling plea from organizer Mare Swallow, Write Club founder Ian Belknap, and yours truly up on Kickstarter. Check us out:

    So please kick in a few shekels and help support the Chicago Writers Conference. Several great incentives are still available, including a story critique (up to 10,000 words) from me for a mere $175 pledge. (The custom poem is already gone. Sorry!) Please help, and we'll looking forward to seeing you at Tribune Tower in September!

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    Frey-ing fish in a barrel

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    After reading last week's New York Magazine feature article "James Frey's Fiction Factory," I was tempted to post another jeremiad against the author who proves himself time and again the slimiest, most brazenly unapologetic charlatan to disgrace our industry in the past decade.

    Fortunately, doing so would be redundant, since I can just send you to John Scalzi's two excellent posts analyzing Frey's latest hijinks:

  • The Man in the Frey Flannel Suit
  • An Open Letter to MFA Writing Programs (and Their Students)

    All I will add is that you should never sign a contract with a man who claims there's no difference between fact and fiction.

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  • Since we're only, let's see, a decade into the 21st century now, I figured it was probably past time to revisit my essay on "Proper Manuscript Format." I've revised it a couple of times in the past, but with all the changes in submission standards over the past decade a major overhaul was in order.

    Some hardliners may be upset with me for ceding some ground, but I haven't changed the way I format a manuscript. I do acknowledge other valid schools of thought, though.

    I've written a fuller explanation of the revisions over at my formatting blog. I hope you'll check out the updated formatting guide itself and let me know what you think. Does it go too far? Not far enough? Or do you agree?

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    Dear correspondent who just forwarded me the same email he sent two days ago:

    I understand that you are impatient for a response. However, I receive more email about format questions than I can deal with quickly, and just because I haven't responded immediately does not mean I am ignoring your questions. I will get to yours after I've answered earlier messages.

    In the meantime, please refrain from getting so impatient that you repeatedly forward the same message to me. If you can't wait more than two days for a response from me, how on earth are you going to deal with the slow wait for a response from a publisher?

    Love,
    The Formatting Grump

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    William Shunn

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