Tuesday, December 20, 2011
HOW I GOT HERE by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Back in 1999 when I was first trying to sell The Thin Pink Line, I used to get the most glowing rejections from editors - sometimes running to several pages - saying how much they loved the book but that humorous fiction was too hard to sell. One editor even told me that Americans don't like to laugh when they read (!!!). Then Bridget Jones hit, followed by the awful events of 9/11, and suddenly there was a boom of demand in a new subgenre that came to be known as Chick Lit because it turned out that Americans did want and need to laugh. But then publishers did what they always do and overpublished, glutting the market, and then the economy began to tank. By 2008, publishers were basically telling their Chick Lit authors to go away, that no one wanted to hear from Chick Lit anymore. It's true that consumers rarely wanted to pay $15 for paperbacks and $25 for hardcover Chick Lit books in tough economic times, but did the publishing industry really think Americans no longer needed and wanted to laugh?
My last Chick Lit novel - and my last book for adults, period - was published in 2008. It was called Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes. Don't feel bad if you missed it. It was published just as RDI was rolling back their red carpet and I suspect that pretty much everyone in the world missed it! In the three years since, I've mostly devoted my time to writing Young Adult and children's books, because that's what the publishers have been buying from me. Two of my YA books did start out as adult novels - The Twin's Daughter and Little Women and Me - but I ended up revising both into YA, again because that's where the market was for my work.
But it wasn't as if I'd stopped having ideas for adult novels. I'd just stopped trying to get them published.
Then, sometime last year, I got the idea for a new book, one that was clearly a comedy for adults. Based on the story matter, one other thing was clear: Whatever else happened with this book, there'd be no re-tooling of it into YA.
What was that idea? It was for THE BRO-MAGNET, which is officially described thusly:
Women have been known to lament, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride." For Johnny Smith, the problem is, "Always a Best Man, never a groom." At age 33, housepainter Johnny has been Best Man eight times. The ultimate man's man, Johnny loves the Mets, the Jets, his weekly poker game, and the hula girl lamp that hangs over his basement pool table. Johnny has the instant affection of nearly every man he meets, but one thing he doesn't have is a woman to share his life with, and he wants that desperately. When Johnny meets District Attorney Helen Troy, he decides to renounce his bro-magnet ways in order to impress her. With the aid and advice of his friends and family, soon he's transforming his wardrobe, buying throw pillows, ditching the hula girl lamp, getting a cat and even changing his name to the more mature-sounding John. And through it all, he's pretending to have no interest in sports, which Helen claims to abhor. As things heat up with Helen, the questions arise: Will Johnny finally get the girl? And, if he's successful in that pursuit, who will he be now that he's no longer really himself? THE BRO-MAGNET is a rollicking comedic novel about what one man is willing to give up for the sake of love.
But once I'd written it, just what was I going to do with it?
Enter 2011, and the surge of the ebook. Many former Chick Lit authors, including myself, have turned to putting our books in that format, at reasonable prices. And guess what? The readers are still there. You can even see the resurgence of chick-friendly comedies in the film industry with the huge success of The Bridesmaids etc.
Probably the greatest thing about publishing in ebook is all the freedom, the greatest of which is the freedom to change: change the cover if I decide it's not working, change the cover copy, change almost anything. If the book takes off, I can even change the size on the cover of my own ridiculously long and unwieldy name and make it as large as Stephen King has his on his books. (Kidding. Kidding! [But only because it would never fit.])
So there you have it: How I Got Here, which could probably be subtitled And How Many Of You Got Here Too.
Now am I going to turn into one of these people who says, "Traditional publishing sucks; DIY ebooks rule"? Hardly. I'm rarely an absolutist in my opinions, unless they involve wine or General Hospital. Believe me, if any commercial publisher out there wants to offer me a contract for my next adult comedy, I'm happy to listen. But right now I'm just happy to have something to offer the people who do still regularly write and say, "I enjoy your YA stuff...but when will you do another adult novel???" And I hope they'll be happy too.
Your turn: If you've epubbed, how have you enjoyed your experience so far? And if you're a writer who hasn't or if you're just a reader - as if there's ever anything meagerly just about being a reader! - what's been your experience reading ebooks?
Be well. Don't forget to write. Oh, and Happy Hanukkah too!