Advice for Aspiring and First-Time Authors (a.k.a. The Book Business)

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nathan-rabin_the-big-rewindI haven’t read Nathan Rabin’s new memoir The Big Rewind, but I did read and enjoy his recent A.V. Club blog post about his experience as a first-time author. It deals not with getting published or creating the book itself, but with the process of putting out his book. The article’s intended audience are those first-time or aspiring authors who might benefit from his experience, and it contains the kind of honest, real-world account of a working creative type I find inspiring.

I don’t publish books, but I do release music. Whatever the medium through which one disseminates ideas into the world, things usually shared in common by their creators are the toil put into the work, the excitement that comes as a work is nearing completion, the anticipation of sharing that work with the world, and the complex emotions one experiences as the work begins its hopefully long, unpredictable, and exciting journey through the world. Rabin’s post mostly touches on this last item.

In addition to giving advice, two other motives seem to be behind the blog post. One is to promote the book, certainly. The other, and I think perhaps the main reason for the piece, is to address a particularly nasty — i.e., “viciously schizophrenic” — review that appeared in the Washington Post. This redemption of credibility, honor, morale etc. enhances the article, as it’s interesting to see a pop-cultural critic qua vulnerable memoirist respond to a mean reviewer without coming across as overly defensive, ironic, or whiny. Rather than follow the usual recommendation to ignore bad reviews (no matter how much their authors are begging for a joust), Rabin, who resists shielding his vulnerability in snark, stands his ground, and in the process offers a nice lesson to aspiring creative types on the unfortunately real threat of reviewer brutality.

That said, the overriding message is: even when you’re selling something important to you like a memoir, you are unavoidably engaging in cold, hard, bottom line-oriented business; the real reward is the interaction with people who appreciate what you are doing as a feeling, thinking, creative person, not as a business person. (I would qualify this by noting that this sort of appreciation – or admiration – is generally directed towards the image and idea people have of the public persona that created the work, as well as the work itself, not towards the actual person; that’s what friends and family are for.)

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Dan Jacob Wallace

One Comment

  1. Great post. Thanks for telling me about this. Publishing today is so much different than even a few years ago with all at the self-publishing options that go beyond the simple vanity press of the past, online buying (Amazon, etc.) choices and buzz generating potential of social and viral media.

    Plus, there are a ton of books being put out. It’s a tough environment to exist in. Even though there are innovative ways to launch oneself, it’s finding the right hook, or break, or narrative thread that makes one interesting enough to leave behind the clutter of the market place and stand where people can notice.

    How? Originality? Scandal? Humor? Not sure, but what a fun ride it would be.

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