You have no idea how long this took.
Your measurements may vary.
National Novel Writing Month is the period every autumn when a million would-be Salingers collectively ruin a book agent's Thanksgiving. Yet among this tidal wave of stilted dialogue float a few rubber duckies of talent. Perhaps you are one?
If so, you need my advice for the less-celebrated NaHoStrugPubYoNoMo (National Hopelessly Struggling to Publish Your Novel Month). As a highly successful author who's certainly not running a sweatshop full of Indian orphans shackled to cheap word processors, I know all the tricks to getting published without alerting authorities to your whereabouts. I've talked literally millions of editors into publishing my books with nothing more than a vicious misuse of the word "literally."
The secret is a system I call ruthlessness. After a full day of bad pitches, editors are mentally exhausted creatures vulnerable to psychological techniques. I'll show you how to sweet-talk a gullible publisher using real samples from my NaHoStrugPubYoNoMo success last year. Real examples: real results.
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And get sick abs in the process.
What to Write
Thoughtful examinations of the human experience, exciting action sequences, characters so real you consider them family, mind-blowing twist endings ... don't write any of those. That chicanery is for self-published authors and Nobel Prize winners.
You want to make that sweet Dan Brown money, right? Stop trying to be a good writer. The real money's in being a great bad writer. Gone are the days of Dickens and whoever else is respected but not Dickens. Very few authors achieve such success, but those who do live on in legend. Selling 80 million copies of the Bible is why Sir Francis Bacon is remembered as an author instead of the inventor of bacon.
In our previous publishing lesson, we looked at urban fantasy romance and why nobody should be writing it. But what about other genres, like science-fantasy or Pacific Northwestern Gothic? It's only fair that I show you how to pitch a book in the sections of the library that won't pleasure a woman's imagination. And even more fair to the extreme that, instead of critiquing other people's work, I submit my own for your scrutiny.
Selling Your Book
The four things you need to sell your book are:
1) An original idea. Here's one: "It's RoboCop, but in the Bronze Age." See? It's that easy! Here's another: "It's like a creepy, goth version of Alice in Wonderland." Original ideas are EVERYWHERE!
2) A cover letter. You can skip this one, because editors don't really read these, so just type "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" as many times as the spirits of the damned command you to.
3) A one-page synopsis of the book. Yours probably sucks, so sum up The House of the Seven Gables instead. (Trust me, no one in publishing has read it.)
4) The first 50 pages of the book. Jesus Hopscotching Christ, that's a lot of writing. Do we have to? Yes.
Got it? OK, now let's guide you through my process of conquering the month of NOVEL-ber, which would sound better if it were in November and not December, but is still less awkward than saying NaNoWriMo.
Lesson 1: An Original Idea
We should be focusing on the hottest shelf in the bookstore right now: penguin erotica. But according to Cracked's lawyers, I can't show you that because very few penguins are over 18.
But its forbidden quality is what makes it so alluring.
So instead, we're going to invent a brand-new genre. Let your publisher worry about how to sell a class of book no one's heard of. Your job is to plow the fertile grounds of the imagination like a 15-year-old boy whose Internet connection is down.
Now, there exists a vast number of manly genres, including:
Assuming, of course, you can find a man who reads.
We're not doing any of these. Can you imagine a first-time writer trying to land a best-seller in the crowded field of, say ... time-traveling blaxploitation romance? No, the easiest way to surf to greatness is to catch a trendy wave on the upswell. The most popular untapped fad at the moment? Electro-swing.
Say, what's electro-swing? Only the latest iteration of fashionable rebellion via past innovation, see? Forget steampunk, kid. Steampunk's a plucked chicken. No one thinks twice anymore about pneumatic bustles and sentient draisine dandyhorses. The only thing deader than steampunk is cyberpunk, which is punk with an Atari 2600 circuit board lodged in its brain.
So tap that electro-swing audience! They're buying all the books these days, 'cause that's the retro thing to do. And boy, do they swing! They swing electrically! Let's turn their earnest passion into cold profit before someone else does.
2 December 2012
To the Wilhelm Scrooge Literary-ish Writers' Agency:
Have you ever wondered what amperage tastes like? Nellie Mae Neo has.
Nellie Mae Neo is the protagonist of my new book, Patch-22-Skidoo! and I think you will find this willful young woman to be quite the handful! While running hooch* across the Canadian border in her electric jalopy,** Nellie and her friend, British inventor Ha'Penny Jones, discover a Nazi electro-plot to assassinate FDR!***
About me: I am the author of several unpublished letters to Penthouse Forum and four published ones to Guy Gardner: Warrior.
Fondest regards and kisses,
(writing as Sir Nigel Catgroove)
* hooch = booze (isn't slang fun??!)
** jalopy = car, but in this case a blimp
*** FDR = Franklin Delectric Roosevelt in this timeline
The Nazis' secret Elektrikssche-SS division has developed a brand-new form of electricity that can strike anywhere on Earth with targeted lightning. If they decode their copy of the president's itinerary, it's lights out for America!
Neo can't warn the Feds -- they're already after her for rum-running. These plucky gals must destroy the Lightning Gun, but they'll need a little help from Ha'Penny's contacts in the British Electro-Resistance: specifically, the handsome Agent Arthur Chestertonshirelow DeSee.
Oh, I should mention that all this takes place in an alternate universe where Prohibition never ended and FDR was president as early as 1920. Pretty simple, really.
But you can't outrun lightning -- with time running out to infiltrate Castle Nazistein, Nellie Mae Neo is saved by the timely arrival of a certain Doctor ...
Let's just say he's a "Lord of Time" (wink) who is very popular on the Tumblrs. His cameo will make this a very successful book with young people who post their self-loathing on the Internet for strangers to read. It doesn't cost you very much to license a character from the BBC, right?
Screw the sample. Check out this sweet cover I made already. That's got to save publishers, like ... $500 at least, right?
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Those insulated rubber suits protect the Nazis from everything except body funk.
Lesson 2: Cover Letter
After several follow-up calls and one very heated exchange in a parking garage, I concluded that an original idea won't sell, especially when it's a pile of gibberish. Instead, I looked back at proven successes and realized that there's nothing more reliable in America than the quiet rage of middle-class middle-aged men who have had it good their entire lives.
For round two, I pitched an old-fashioned, manly lawman in the '80s, before cellphones ruined dramatic tension. I thought this would sell well because it was set back when our target audience still had hair and could wallow more openly in their racism.
I also decided to give the cover letter a real effort this time and butter up these dumb agents.
8 December 2012
To the Armin Zoroaster Agency:
Detective Chuck Target is a cop on the edge.
Target thought he had put it all behind him when he solved the death of his partner's murder-homicide. He hadn't. Then he thought he could relax when he rescued prostitute Beverly Goldheart from the hard streets of Skokie. He couldn't. Then he thought taking a bullet meant for the mayor was the secret to a happy early retirement. It wasn't. Because Target is a maverick who plays by his own rules, he's the only man for certain jobs ... and he's just been asked politely to do one.
Hard Target is 185 pages, handwritten in red ink for dramatic purposes. I think it would be an excellent book for your company to represent because drugs are a very big problem these days and all the authors you represent at the moment are beneath you. Let's change that together?
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These? Oh, just my abs. Didn't mean to distract you from your decision.
(Note: This is a prequel to the Moving Target series of novels self-published on Usenet from 1996 to 2000 about Chuck's son, futuristic vice cop Maxx Target. The younger Target patrols a ravaged Skokie pulling itself together to become the capital of New America after the Water Wars of 2011. Perhaps I could send you the first five books so you can see for yourself the shocking brutality of Maxx's world?)
(writing as Colton Wesson)
c/o Jolly Corks Lodge #1316
Things had been quiet since Target killed the drug lord Manuel "The Hyena-Condor" Vasquez and ran the dealer's gang back to Colombia. But now a new drug, called Burn, is heating up the schools. The 25-year veteran of the Skokie PD faces his toughest assignment yet: one that calls not for the youngish-looking Target ... but his undercover identity as high school senior Randy Bronson.
Target will have to go deep into the deadly public school system to track the drugs back to their source -- Latino businessman Carlos Mendoza. And Target is in for the fight of his life.
"'Ey, chico, whatchu need?" The eyes of the dealer known only as El Manuel shifted. It was all the warning Target needed. He knew what to do. Knew -- with a vengeance.
POW! Chuck's gun smoked dramatically in his hand after he pulled it out and shot the drug dealer.
"Are you crazy, son?" Dan Peeznik, the school guidance counselor, howled zionically. "My God, this child is dead!!" He pointed a reproaching finger at Target in reproach.
Your mistake was bringing reproach to a maverick fight.
Chuck -- or Cool Randy, as he was known to these kids -- blew the smoke from the gun barrel into Peeznik's stupid face. "He wasn't going to sell to me. He was going to kill us all."
He left Peeznik to realize the dead man clutched a revolving pistol -- the kind all these punks liked, with its flashy pearl handle carved with gang symbols. If Cool Randy had waited a half-second, the gun would have fired upon every person present. Burn would have claimed another dozen victims because this dealer didn't "push" a "fix."
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Kids, what should El Manuel have done differently?
"Tell the principal I'm skipping class ..." continued Target, "... with extreme prejudice."
As he walked away, Chuck could feel the eyes of head cheerleader Valerie Tiffany burning a hole in the buns of his tight Wrangler denim jeans with the extra round crotch to give your boys room to breathe. "Hell of an 18th birthday gift," muttered Chuck/Cool Randy to himself, "watching your drug-dealing boyfriend die."