• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You Are Everything and Everything Is You

I've always wanted to be her.

I had the unique pleasure last week of telling a client that we had sold his book. He said, “I’m sure you hear this all the time, but you changed my life.” When I first became an agent and started selling books, I felt as if I were Santa, The Tooth Fairy and a Fairy Godmother all wrapped in one. It wasn’t long before I saw some of those books struggle in the marketplace and sometimes sink without a trace, the writers filled with despair. Even those who succeeded including some bestsellers didn’t necessarily thrive in the wake of their success. In fact, some were entirely crippled by it. (I know, I know.) I went from being Tinkerbelle to an ER nurse.

I too thought publishing a book would change my life, that I would cross over into some magic kingdom, that pounds would shed. I was prey to the same magical thinking and I worked in publishing, saw the shit hit the fan every day. I also thought that I would change my life; I had always promised myself that if I made x amount of money from writing, I would quit the day job and write full time. Didn’t happen. Couldn’t walk away from a career I had built for so long, didn’t have the confidence I would be productive. So, here’s how I look at it now: publishing a book doesn’t change your life so much as creates opportunity. Then it’s up to you.

Did publishing a book change anyone’s life? Good, bad, snuggly?

15 Responses

  1. “that pounds would shed”

    (i’m dying…)

  2. I hink having a published book under your belt gives you a bit of confidence. The more books you have the more confident you are. I can see that in my writing buddies (including me) from unpublished to over 25 books…The confidence grows with the book publications.

  3. I’m with Sharon. Although I think the change starts earlier – when an agent has the faith in the writer to take them on. That’s when the private, secret hobby becomes an activity that can be worn proudly in the outside world.

  4. I thought publishing a novel would make it easier to publish more novels. That didn’t happen. But I was very young and now I honestly think I *needed* a long dry spell in order to work on my craft. The novel I’m shopping now is a hundred times better than anything I wrote around the time I wrote the novel I first got published.

  5. Yes, publishing a book changed my life but WRITING a book changed it more. And more than that, quitting drinking the daily martini so I would have the extra hours a day to write changed my life the most.

    But may I say, without sounding too snotty, that getting a book published is one of the neatest things that can happen in life; I would not want to know me if I hadn’t published my book — I’d probably be back on the daily martini.

  6. I’m just going to chant the title as my daily mantra all day today–and perhaps several days thereafter!

    • Sorry, the rule is you must SING it all day (unless you’re too young to remember the Stylistics). Thanks to Betsy’s blast-from-the-vinyl-past, I’ve had “To Sir with Love” on continuous loop for two weeks now.

  7. I haven’t published a book but I hope to.

  8. Getting my agent changed my life because that was the “official” stamp that I actually had some sort of a clue. It took two years to sell my first book, which did ho-hum, but we’ve gone on to sell two additional books, and a novel is finally coming out this year. Selling the book is just a step. For me, it didn’t change my life — it opened up some doors in my life, but it was still up to me to decide what to do with that.

  9. […] Betsy Lerner put it in perfect perspective for me with her blog post this morning: “publishing a book doesn’t change your life so much as creates opportunity. Then it’s up to yo… […]

  10. Things that are FOR SURE going to fix me:

    Publishing a book
    Losing 20 pounds
    A pony

    Empirical evidence is overrated.

  11. thanks to a certain author of this blog, publishing a book has changed my life, but it’s not the way I fantasized about and expected., it”s not like walking thru back of wardrobe inot this magical, pain and problem-free world. i used to think if attained certain benchmarks (like be published by publisher X, appear on X national show, make X amount of money), i would move on to a slightly more exalted state. here i am two books later, and the electric bill still needs to be paid and the basement still floods. (literally and figuratively).
    but what publishing does give you is a platform, a voice, and yes, power (to put it in perhaps mercenary terms): you exist in the world in more meaningful and purposeful ways. it is very real, very tangible, for me. the other thing that publishing and the attendant publicity/promotional etc activities has taught me is that, really, at the end of the day, all that matters and all that ever will is the words on the page, you and your computer screen, and that one true relationship will never change …

  12. Yes, it changed mine, though maybe it’s too soon to tell.

    I think publishing period changed it. At this point, I think the biggest change for me came when I started publishing for Salon regularly for awhile. From then on, I felt real, knew I could go all the way.

    And my writing changed, because people actually responded to my voice, so I trusted it much more, and calmed the hell down. (Sort of. Haha.)

    After that, I think selling the book maybe changed me more than it hitting the shelves. More validation. I was really this for a living, more or less.

    Each step has been a big change. I’ll let you know if it sticks.

  13. It changed my life but 12 years later, I’m not sure I like it. My (one) book continues to sell well enough to keep me in kibble. I had no aspirations to write. I only wrote it (in a cathartic 28 day fit) to say what needed to be said so I could get back to what I considered to be my core career. The book became the blue book of my industry but unlike Temple, I didn’t take well to it (I’m also autistic, know T and often described as the TG of my industry) but then she didn’t write books about cattle facility design. Now I’m stuck. Catty-corner parked into a life I never wanted or asked for. I’m putting out three more books this year -maybe four- and hoping it’ll the the last that will be asked of me so I can go off to do what I wanted to do in the first place. I do not relate to the angst and desire of the average writer but then feel guilty that writing has been good to me.

  14. I didn’t mean to become a published writer. It’s just that I needed something to do after I retired from teaching 2nd grade for 33 years. I tried knitting (can’t knit). Then I tried refinishing furniture. While I was sanding one end of a table, my dog was chewing on the other.

    I decided to buy a computer and write a story; might be fun. My story turned into a novel which I sold to a small publisher in Chicago. And, miracle of miracles, that novel up and won a Lambda Literary Award then went on to be published in Chinese and Italian. I got lots of great reviews (even Kirkus called it a “winning debut”).

    I learned what literary agents do and got one. She sold my next novel to Harcourt.

    My latest novel is just about to be published by FSG and I’ve finished another that’s started the submissions process.

    I keep writing because I’m hooked on the “highs.” But there are SO many more lows than highs in this business. One of these days I’m going to quit–as soon as they invent the patch.

    When I think about my life before writing, I feel calm and my head stops hurting. But then I come back to reality, tense up again, and wonder how I’m going to write the new book I’ve started. I have a beginning, some neat characters, and a kind-of ending, but no middle. Nobody’s going to buy a book with no middle.

    My dog’s old now. I think I’ll refinish the ladderback chair in the attic — right after I check my e-mail to see if that editor likes my new book.

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