Bad Timing and the Blogging-Book Deal Dilemma

Wooing with Words

“If I didn’t have bad timing, I’d have no timing at all.” That is a quip delivered, rakishly, by a really cute, otherwise unremarkable almost-date. You know the kind of guy I mean: the flirt at the party who ends up being a heel but who happens to have a really nice and pretty good-looking friend you had overlooked at first. That guy was NOT in the center of the adoring circle of women, tossing off clever one-liners.

Then, there are the dates and near-dates, the hits and misses that occur over literary tastes. Or, sometimes over literary ability. As in: does he even read? In “It’s Not You, it’s Your Books” – these are the questions, the literary litmus tests that are analyzed by an impressive panel of experts. A psychologist, a book critic for Salon.com, several authors, editors and agents all weigh in on the subject of reading material as a mate-assessment indicator. The range of questions discussed by the expert run the gamut between “I was happy if he ever read a book,” to “his literary tastes were too lowbrow.”

Bloggers with Book Deals

The New York Times ran another article on the same day about bloggers’ book deals and the possibility that the phenomenon of moving from blogger to published author, has jumped the shark, as they say. Am I the only one that finds this fascinating?

One could be dismissed for not being literary enough on the same day someone’s getting a book deal for blogging about cute kitties?

It was this article in the New York Times that made me remember the “bad timing” quip I have long since appropriated without attribution. (He didn’t deserve it, trust me.) You see, I have about the worst timing in life of anyone I know. There have been one or two notable near-misses (aka hits – think about it, go ahead – I’ll give you a minute…).

Most significant was the move from Boston to New York, which, if executed on schedule, would have meant never meeting my husband. He is not a “focus on me over here, with the clever quip” kind of guy, though no one would deny he has his moments.

But the bad timing episode that gets the most laughs is when I left a very solid corporate consulting career for the ‘dot.com boom’ – just as it was turning into an epic avalanche of pink slips. One after the other…

Ultimately, I decided to stake my claim as a writer. Working at the business of being a freelancer and also trying to hone the writing itself. Modest recognition has come along, but so far, no big book deal.

Was there a five minute window of opportunity I missed when the stars were aligned? Have I completely missed the trend again, this apex of writers discovered through blogging?

Who Reads and Who Writes

Something else is bothering me though. How it is that so many people are getting book deals when they’re frauds (the James Frey-Jones/Seltzer fake autobiographies)? And, how can publishers simultaneously dismiss bloggers and reward them. One just got a book deal for blogging about silly kitties.

Who is the literary audience that dismisses a suitor for his low brow lit (“He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!“) and do we imagine they are going to buy books of cats in silly poses? We’re not talking William Wegman’s Weimeraners here.

Online content editors make profits based on good content driving traffic. They are loathe to pay for it, even while pronouncing the importance of good content. “Content is King” but we should work for the joy of seeing our work on their website.

Even as I write this, another story breaks about a writer who fabricated travel guide assignments for Lonely Planet guides. He claims he was driven by the poor pay offered by publishers. “I was driven to deal drugs and fabricate stories” does not seem a solid legal defense, even if I understand part of his point…

For now, I will keep writing, refusing to believe that my fate lies with costumed kitties or a fake autobiography. After all, overcoming my drug-infested inner city childhood, my adult addiction and recovery taught me a thing or two about determination and rising above poor circumstances.

Those mean streets taught me a lot. I learned how to be resourceful and take what life has dealt me.

I am a survivor. Just ask my cat.

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A window into what I’m thinking and writing about.

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  3. The Audubon Insectarium is a new and top-notch attraction in New Orleans. We passed by it and wondered why we'd missed it before. Turns out it's just now opening. No time this last trip, but it's on the list for the next time. Check here for info.

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