Why I Wrote the Un-Pitchable Book [With Examples]By Quenby Moone
January 11, 2012
Here is what a book looks like when it lives on a web site. It’s not ideal. But it’s a book[esque] book, and I made it as close to book-ness as I could without handing you an actual book.
If your eyes, like mine, are tired, you can clink on the pages and they will zoom to a much more reader-friendly size.
First thing, how cool that you did a lay out of the essay with images. Love that.
Second, love the passport especially.
Third thing, you did not write an unpitchable book. I honestly don’t believe there’s any such thing as a book that can’t be pitched or marketed. The catch is figuring out how to “frame it.”
I’m sending you an e-mail in a few minutes…
I wrote a pitch once which was “Griffin and Sabine and The Year of Magical Thinking walk into a bar…”
No takers yet.
Ronlyn, you have been instrumental in my stick-to-itiveness for the book. I cannot actually thank you enough for getting me as far as you have. We (Lars and I) reflect on your notes all the time to see if I’ve bumped it up according to your really amazing suggestions.
If I had the space, I would make a page of Thank You just for you! At this point, I’m killing the babies to make room for the whole story + pix. It’s really something. Brutal.
Thank you, Ronlyn. Thank you thank you!
Key words: No takers yet!!!! All you can do is the best you can with the work itself. The timing–that’s beyond anyone. But when good work meets the right steward, there’s magic. Keep the faith.
You’re welcome. The words are enough.
Yes, this is lovely and compelling.
That anyone would look at the obvious strength of this piece and think it a weakness is a crime against creative expression. Could you come up with a federation that punishes these people?
Thanks for the peek.
I don’t know if they think it’s a weakness, I think that they don’t know what to do with it. They can’t file it in the usual categories, so it lives in some alternate space where weird books go.
It might mean that my book meets Dad somewhere in the Interdimensional Federation customs office. Which is appropriate.
I love the passport that you sent for Milo’s birth announcement. I still have it.
I think you’re taking graphic novels to a new level with this one, Q. It’s really cool.
I love that you still have it! Damn, Meg. Miss you.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but it seems to me that your book is an obvious candidate for e-bookdom. I see it as an e-book with internal links, external links, all that stuff. Meant to be read on an iPad or Kindle or desktop or laptop and really nowhere else. That way, you could have all the paintings and other graphics — everything. Even audio and video.
That no one’s suggested this (here) might mean that it’s unworkable. But based on what little I know about e-books, it seems workable to me, and not only workable but the best solution. True, you might have to get a programmer involved for the embedding, but there have to be plenty of good ones out there.
It’s true, Don. It’s a readymade. I would love to have it well-programmed into an interactive experience, which are skills I definitely don’t have.
The biggest problem I have with this is that I know so little about how to get it in the channels of distribution — or even just in front of eyes at all –that I worry that if I went ahead and paid for someone to program it, it would still live in I.F. purgatory. People have to KNOW about it to want to read it, and I don’t know how to do those sorts of finicky things.
Like talk to people. Heh.
Amazon. They have an entire publish-it-yourself setup which doesn’t have (or shouldn’t have) any whiff of vanity publishing. I read something about it not long ago, maybe in the NY Times. Google should turn up what you need.
Then there’s a possibility of book-as-app, which is another interesting possibility.
I think you only need to locate somebody who has a good handle on all this e-stuff, and get advice there. Easier said than done, I expect. But maybe not. I stuck my foot in the e-book/book-as-app waters a couple of years ago, when the iPad first came out. But I didn’t pursue it because that was just the time when I really settled in to work on my novel, and it seemed dumb to spend a lot of time learning something new. Well, something new besides writing a novel.
Have Lars post something on the Macrumors.com iOS section, asking about how to find an iOS nerd. iPad would be a very tempting target device, if thinking about an app concept.
You are awesome. That is all.
I am slightly embarrassed. That probably isn’t all, but should be.
Quenby, are you fishing for compliments? No, let me rephrase: how many leviathans can you accommodate?
Fishing for compliments: ugh. But I guess so, because I want people to see what IT LOOKS LIKE, not just imagine it through a description like, “Quenby records her father’s death with humor, sadness and a wack-load of art from fifty years of her father’s ridiculously prolific life.”
So the answer is…gallingly. Yes?
Let me be perfectly clear, to borrow Richard Nixon’s catchphrase: my joke was intended as a left-handed compliment.
I know it was, Duke! I’m just struggling with the author-in-the-age-of-interwebs issue, and find it galling that I am actually going against my better nature to throw it out there. “Hold your nose and do it,” I guess, which makes me uncomfortable.
You just tapped my hair-trigger discomfort button!
“If I’m doing what everyone else is doing, I’m doing it askew.”
Like you’re over there reading my mind. I’ve been pitching my own presumably unpitchable thing myself, one that covers, without a visual component, well-charted territory (American road memoir) only to find I’m too square for the indies and too odd for the traditional pressess in the same way as you describe. I figured a middle-ground take on a standard would be welcome, but here we are, askew.
And thank god for that. Whatever form- ebook, app or new test graphic novel- best uses both the wonderful graphics and the words that go with them, I can’t imagine what these no takers are thinking.
We just don’t have a home yet, Nat. It’s strange to live in the margins like we do, but I know that publishing is like the freaking Wild West right now, and I believe that the margin-dwellers have a few more opportunities to find their homes now. It is just going to take a LOOOONG wagon train through hostile territory to find them.
To the margins!!! Onward, HO!
Divine! I was thinking “Griffine and Sabine” when I first saw the pages. As for e-books, have you seen this TED talk from Mike Matas? He was the software developer for Al Gore’s book “Our Choice.” Your book would be awesome in this format. Let me know when it is available
Thank you! I’ve been searching for people who are pushing the envelope on programming e-books, and was literally just going to buy Al Gore’s book to see what the fuss was about. This sort of multifaceted presentation was, in many ways, what I was always trying to do before there was technology to do it.
Too bad I’m such a klutz with learning programming. But maybe it’s better to step away from it at that point anyway.
Because man, am I sick of the material.
For that faux pas, you get a free book whenever it comes out!
No worries Quincy ; ) And I’ll take that book.
wonderful blend of graphic and written creativity. the two together in a virtual book where the reader/viewer could enter an ever-expanding universe of such brilliance would be amazing!
Thanks, James! Lovely to make your acquaintance.
I think it’s just a failure of imagination sometimes. It doesn’t fit the pre-ordained “memoir” model so people don’t know what to do with it. But isn’t the world full of memoir-bashing these days? Maybe we need ones that break the mold! Or something.
Anyway, thank you!
yes, completely agree. there’s plenty of memoir bashing going the rounds. still, we write, and must write, regardless of the marketplace. your layout and beautiful artwork brought to mind some of maira kalman’s work over the years. and isn’t ronlyn amazing? she saved my manuscript from disaster.
Ronlyn is the patron saint of unknown writer(s)! She did me a solid, for sure!
a big amen to that!
I’m reminded of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee. Have you heard of it? It’s a sort of avant garde masterwork (essentially her only work. Sad story there).
A mix of poetry, fiction, non-fiction and illustration…it’s a fascinating piece of art. Not just literature.
So there’s precedent! Take heart. Someone out there appreciates this stuff.
I haven’t heard of it–but I will look into it for sure! Thanks, Becky. I know that there’s a (potentially tiny) audience, I just haven’t found how to get it out in the world.
Eh, you know. Frustration and all that.
You know what, though? You know how I found out about Dictee? A lit class. I’m normally not an avant garde literature person, but I had a professor who was.
So, theoretically, you don’t have to find a lot of people who like it. Find one interested professor and you could have 30+ sales every 3 months, minimum! A captive audience. 🙂
Ha! I love it. I will write with a narrow but focused audience! This is doable. All I need is a professor.
This is gorgeous and so original. It seems very McSweeney’s to me, but like you, I’m no expert on how to get books out there. Also, screw feeling embarrassed about writing a memoir about a dying parent. It’s true there are many, but we have the material we have, and there’s not a lot we can do about that. I speak from trying to wring a novel out of my current dying parent story, (mainly because I suffer the same paranoia that you do about a dying parent memoir, it’s been done, blah, blah, how can I possibly make this new, the market, the collapsing industry, the Snooki’s of the world getting their memoirs published, etc.) but whatever the consequences, what I have is a goddamn memoir. Sometimes, this makes me a little ill, but there’s not a whole hell of a lot I can do about it. Just keep going with the material you have; something’s bound to happen with it. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
Ha! McSweeney’s rejected it, so I have one feather in my cap. I love McSweeney’s and indeed, it seems like it would live quite happily there. But what do I know?
It’s difficult, because I have to sell it on the merit of the writing–which I hope cuts muster, otherwise why bother?–but then sell someone on the idea that the words REALLY DO BENEFIT from the images, that it’s just not as good without them. Ugh.
Yeah, it’s hard, right? How many people write a stupid book about their personal tragedies? And I don’t know why mine is any more or less worthy that the tides that are already out there, other than it’s mine so I’m a little attached to it.
Thanks, Abby! It’s always nice to hear about someone else with the same issues.
Quenby, I’ve got a handwritten rejection letter from McSweeney’s. It’s my pride and joy. I can definitely identify with what you’re going through. It’s hard to incorporate text within layout and imagery and explain to people that you can’t get rid of that border, that impression, that display. It’s all part of the work. It was hard for me to find a publisher, though it all ended up coming down to who I knew. If I hadn’t taken a course from the right person, I don’t know where I’d be right now. If I hadn’t joined a writer’s group with the person who recommended the professor I met through that course…and so on….
However, here are some positive insights, beginning with my challenges: when I wrote my book e-readers just read text. That’s all they did. Images? Forget about it. You could use ’em but they wouldn’t look good. Complex layout? Forget about it. That’s STILL not the standard. Converting my published book into Kindle format took us a year and some. Yech. Now for the positive: new formats for electronic display! Publishers will be looking for more visual books, soon; I know it! The public will demand it! You have a leg up here. Do it. And have fun doing it.
It’s interesting having made this book on the cusp of eBook explosions. I’m curious to see what happens tomorrow when Apple makes their customarily frenzied announcement about their new program which supposedly takes the brains out of ebookery. Hm.
I think one of my problems is not knowing how to get it in front of the eyes who would want to invest in a project like this. It’s the Wild West out there, and there are some serious risk-takers who are on the edge of defining “books” as something new and strange. I just don’t know where they are. The rest of publishing seems to be sitting on the fence waiting for someone else to take the lead, because they’re all sheep not knowing how to get out of the paddock without a leader.
For me, I would love to hold the book-book in my hand. It deserves print because of the images (my father’s artwork which dot the entire book with complimentary images) but the argument goes that it’s too expensive to print a book like this.
I suppose that would hold water if I didn’t go to the grocery store and see thousands of crappy full-color kids’ books in the bargain bins.
Yeah. Where are they? That’s a total problem. I can’t say I’m good at getting connected. My philosophy was to not do what everyone else is doing because I figure if you keep doing it and it isn’t working then it’s just stupid. (Like, sending out query letters–I know, there are those stories about the people who send out a thousand and finally get one, but I’ve heard way more stories about the person who knew the person). Maybe it’s time to start choosing a few pages and presenting them on the web or something? You’ve done a great job here. Get a web site. Make it a phenomenon. Or something! But whatever it is, make it fun! Because if it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.
It’s maddening how a book like this can’t get through the gatekeepers. To the mudpit. The Dairy Queen parking lot. JMB? Nat? Throw down time.
I will see your Dairy Queen and raise you a Taco Bell. Let’s rumble with the gatekeepers at dawn!
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
That passport announcement is divine.
Much luck in finding it its due home–gotta be one.
Thank you thank you!
Brilliant! I agree — it’s just a matter of finding the right home.
I have two dear, dear writer friends who came to visit over the holidays and snapped me out of a particularly long (for me) writer funk, and I wish I could loan them to you. I mean, they should start a business in which they show up at frustrated writers’/artists’ homes and give them pep talks and slap them around and give them strategies for sucking it up and hitting the market all over again. I’ll try a shorthand version: You can do it, Q! Keep at it, because this is most definitely not like any other memoir. This is a special, gorgeous book that someone, the right someone, will feel really passionate about selling. This visit, btw, ended with a margarita poured over Han-Solo-in-carbonite ice-cubes, and I think my shorthand version for you should conclude with an equally impressive toast.
Best wishes with this! Cheers!
I would borrow your friends with interest!
I’m pretty much finished with the stupid book. Now I’m tweaking images and rejiggering the layout, but the text is pretty well hammered to death. Now I need outside eyes to read it and find the holes that I just can’t see any longer. I figure that will happen when some crazy dreamer/editor/publisher will take a chance on love.
For now, it’s sleuthing for the wily and elusive perfect home. Thanks for all your support and tips, C! It’s always great to get a message from you!
I used to have a very unpitchable book I was sending out; never got anywhere with it except when I knew someone. Really I should have just worked on knowing people instead of sending the book out. Much better use of time.
I can’t believe that this is unpitchable. I don’t even know anyone who wouldn’t love this book.
The Ticket on Interdimensional Express Lines is my favorite part.
You have an amazingly fertile mind!
I love your enthusiasm! It’s possible that people wouldn’t like the book because it’s about dying, which is kind of unpleasant I suppose. On the other hand, it’s about dying the way you want to die, not in a hospital alone, but on your own terms. So there’s that.
I love the pictures–but most of them are my father’s, and I haven’t gotten sick to death (heh) of them yet! The ticket is mine, of course, or more accurately Milo’s; Dad’s ticket was my piece “Epilogue” which makes an appearance in the book–such as it is.
Where’s Irene’s writing? Hmmmm?!