Before and After the Book Deal

Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book by Courtney Maum is one of those books you don’t necessarily read from start to finish. It’s a book that has been on my bedside table for a while now. I pick it up and read a few pages, mark meaningful paragraphs with a yellow highlighter and sticky notes, and then put the book down again until the next time.

Ms. Maum has crafted a well-written and, at-times, humorous book. It is an incredibly valuable resource for writers who are looking to “finish, publish, promote and survive” their first book. Which I am.

Yet, even if you’re not a writer, if you create in a different medium, there are useful tidbits for all artists and creators. Here are just a few:

“Narrative voice is your literary aura, your essence, the thing that allows writers the world over to write about the same topics in thrillingly different ways. Even though it’s yours, your voice can take a long, long time to find.”

“Get excited by your rejections. They are road maps toward the kind of work that you were born to write.”  (It’s a good reminder. Although they are a part of the writing process, some rejections sting more than others.)

In addition to writer-specific advice, I love these reminders about the power of expressing gratitude:

“Set some money aside for thank-you tokens for your editorial team and agents at pub time. (A heartfelt, handwritten card is thoughtful, but some authors also send on gifts, flowers, alcohol [when appropriate], or something handmade.)”

“At some point after the book contract is finalized, if you live close enough to your publishing house to make this happy event possible, you will meet the people who are going to publish your first book.
“Within twenty-four hours, send a group email to everyone you met expressing how great it was to meet them, how lucky you are to be working with them, and why [enter name of publisher] is simply the best house for your book. Then send a handwritten note to your editor, reiterating the same.” 

Dear readers-who-are-also-writers, have you read this book? Do you have paragraphs or pages you have marked with your own sticky notes? 

Write On, Sisters!

Write On, Sisters!: Voice, Courage, and Claiming Your Place at the Table by Brooke Warner is more than a writing book. It’s also a look into the uneven playing field that women encounter in most careers and fields. It’s a close-up look at the ways in which women often hold themselves back, and not just when it comes to writing. 

I’ll be honest — the first half of the book has a lot of statistics and was rather slow reading for me. But the second half of the book has quite a few nuggets that were worthy of my sticky notes.

Here are a few:

“Writing is self-expression, and as such, when we write we give voice to what we think, what we care about, and who we are. When we read a book —or even a post —we take a walk inside the innermost recesses of the author’s mind, welcomed into a place so private that the words we read on the page may be words the author has never uttered aloud. How powerful — and intimate — is that?”

“To put your voice out into the world is to both believe and demand that what you have to say matters. We are our best selves when we assert our independence and self-reliance, our strength and toughness. The very qualities our culture values least in women are the ones women need to succeed.”

“… you don’t need to heed warnings from the jaded that failure is imminent or inevitable. It is. The work is in getting back up on the horse, rising from the fall, and the way you handle the fall.”

“Few events are more life-changing and soul-affirming than offering up your work in the form of a published book. The act of creating a story, honing your words into a message that matters to readers, or honoring your truth by recording your experience in memoir form is a way of telling the world, I am here. I have something to say. I have something to impart. I want to share with you a story, a message, a truth. You are passing feelings from one human heart to another.”