Tuesday, December 20, 2011

HOW I GOT HERE by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Bro-Magnet

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!



  1. Lauren, I can relate to this post in sooooo many ways. I epubbed my novel, Mrs. Tuesday's Departure, a year ago.....and now I'm in the process of doing a complete revision along with a new cover. That's the flexibility I love. I also love that I can publish my books without waiting for the approval of an agent or a publisher. Yes, like you, I wouldn't turn down a traditional publisher.....but it sure feels great to not wait around anymore....to get to do what I want more than anything else in the world, which is to have others read my novels.

    And I love the description of The Bro-Magnet. I'm going to download a copy to my Kindle-app.

  2. Lauren, Happy Hanukkah to you, too!!

    I love this post. You are always so generous with your awesome advice.

    I haven't yet e-pubbed any of my books yet, but I did get my rights back to my first two novels (also published as RDI was saying sayonara), so I think I have a thing or two to learn from you!!

  3. Happy Hanukkah!

    I endlessly resent the suggestion that chick lit shouldn't be funny, and I'd kill for your original books to be around now as I haven't been able to find the kind of chick lit I'd like to read in years.

    I did buy a Kindle and buy ebooks with some frequency as they're great when traveling, particularly if you tend to go through 5+ books on vacations as I tend to, but I don't enjoy the experience of reading them nearly as much as I do a paperback.

    I do think it's fantastic that people have the ability to get their stuff out there without having to jump through the hoops of the traditional publishing industry, but I have to admit a bias in favor of books which have gone the traditional route, simply because of the quality control. I've actually been veering away from buying self-pubbed stuff lately because I find the lack of copy editing unbearable. Granted, I may be extra nitpicky since I'm a copy editor ;)

  4. That book sounds awesome. Best of luck. I also "traditonally" publish. When I would hear authors talk about the "freedom" of self-pubbing, I thought it was a lot of hooey. But I've since changed my tune. I self-pubbed a "non-commercial" project and found exactly what you did: there's a market out there that's not being served. It's not only fun and profitable to tap into that market--it's freeing! And that feels best of all. (P.S. -- My daughter and I still LOVE your YA work. Don't stop!)

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  6. Congrats, Lauren. I'm an unpubbed writer and a voracious reader. I've mostly read ebooks from trad publishers, often offered as freebies, because I feel I have a sense of the quality I'll get. My experiences with self-pubbed books going several years back are not pleasant. But lately, I've been taking a chance on ebooks from authors who are self-publishing, some from known authors and some from unknowns. Overall, I've been pleased. But I tend to choose books I've heard buzz about online or via social media and/or have a good number of solid reviews with high marks. (You can kind of tell fake reviews from real ones.) Occasionally, I'm disappointed by the editing quality, but if I spend less than $3, I can overlook that.

    I love the opportunities that epublishing provides, and I'm glad to see more authors take advantage of them.

  7. The publishing opportunities are expanding and the lines between trad and self-pubbing are blurring. It's an exciting time to be a writer. Thanks for the great post, Lauren!

  8. The publishing opportunities are expanding and the lines between trad and self-pubbing are blurring. It's an exciting time to be a writer. Thanks for the great post, Lauren!

  9. Thanks for all the kind comments and Hanukkah good wishes!

    For those who are also embarking on DIY ebooks, do your best and best of luck!

    For those who are concerned that some ebooks may not be edited well - and I'm sure some are like that - I have noticed that on Amazon, e.g., you can actually read a fairly large sample of the book before deciding to buy. In the case of THE BRO-MAGNET, it looks to me like they're making the first 30+ pages available to read before ordering - I'd say that's a hefty chunk to judge if I, or any other author, has something a particular reader might find worthwhile.

    So, Happy Reading (and Happy Hanukkah, Night 2)!

  10. Sounds like a great book, Lauren. Best of luck!

  11. Happy Hannukkah!
    I am also a chick-lit survivor.
    I have done both and what I love about epubbing is the freedom and what I don't love is the marketing. But I am definitely going to do it again, because the fans are there. They just have to find you.
    Good luck with the Bro-Magnet.

  12. Chick-lit survivors from 2008 checking in!!! LOL

    Wonderful post, Lauren. Best of luck, and let us know how things go! I'd love to see a follow-up post. Also, I'd love to know your opinions on General Hospital. ;)

  13. Great post, and I'm seriously considering epubbing at some point. It's good to know I can walk through the minefield in the footsteps of others.

    And...I'm looking forward to reading the Bro-Magnet.

  14. Oooh, I definitely want to read this book. It sounds terrific. Thanks for the great post. I agree that there's still a market for chicklit. Really, there's a market for everything. In my opinion if you want to read it, then someone else will, too.

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  16. but um, put a link to the book in the post! are am I just missing it...