Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Writing Books? Now There's a Compelling Topic

Well. Here we are on Day 4 of blogathon and I’ve actually posted everyday. Is there a prize for getting this far? This year I’m patting myself on the back every chance I get.

Today is scheduled for a Theme Writing day: the topic being, “My Top Five Favorite books on Writing Are..”

I know I’m a writer, but that topic just doesn’t make me want to grab a cup of coffee, put my feet on the couch, and snuggle up with my computer. Perhaps the problem is I don’t read a lot of books on writing. Maybe if I did, I’d be making a hell of a lot more money in this career, or at least know how to market myself better. I have grabbed a couple books on writing in the past year, and (though my checking account balance wouldn’t show it) have read them. I did find them very helpful with a lot of great advice. Six Figure Freelancing and Goodbye Byeline, Hello Big Bucks both by Kelly James-Enger were both a wealth of information, even if I’ve yet to see six figures. Or four, for that matter. Or  big bucks. I haven't seen those yet either. But that’s less a reflection on the books as it is about my ability and comfort zone with marketing myself. Really selling my work. Cold-calling PR firms and publishing houses, and sending out Letters of Introduction in CitiBank-credit-card-application volume. I know. If you’re one of those writers who make six figures (and chances are you’re not because you certainly wouldn’t have time to waste on this blog, being busy with paid writing gigs and all) then I say, congrats to you. And if your six-figure salary is a direct result of those books, I say, Boo-yah! to you twice.

The other writing book I read and enjoyed was The Renegade Writers Query Letters That Rock. I read that over three years ago. To make use of that book effectively, one has to actually write query letters. Oh, I’ve written them, again, just not in the amount you need to be successful. To illustrate this point: four weeks ago I planted sugar snap peas in my garden. I planted half a package and seven days later planted the other half to extend my harvest. Out of approximately 200 peas, 12 plants sprouted from my first batch and seven plants sprouted from the second. That’s 19 plants out of a possible 200. Maybe some seeds were eaten by birds. Maybe some seeds were duds. That’s approximately a 10% return rate on investment. (And I only know that because I used an online math calculator to figure it out.) But query letters are exactly like that. You must send out 200 to get a few yes’s from editors, but most of those query letters die in the ground.

Which would make sense that I’m not doing very well, seeing as how I’ve sent out a total of seven query letters since January. Statistically speaking, my chances are nil before I’ve even begun and I totally suck at math. But let me tell you, they were great queries. C’est la vie, Important Editors. Your loss. (It’s really more my loss, but saying that makes me feel better.)

No, writing books isn’t what really moves me to read, honestly. I’d rather be reading a great fiction novel, or a book on raising chickens. That’s one bit of non-fiction I’ve been ear marking and reading over and over. Because the chickens in the basement playpen are starting to fly around in there and I'm not exactly sure what to do with them.

But if you are looking for a great fiction read, the latest books I’ve read are:

While they were all great, the one I loved the best was This Is Where I Leave You. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed out loud so many times reading a book. There’s even a great scene with a lit birthday cake and a naked man’s butt. Oh and for the bookclub we sat Shiva and dined on bagels and lox. If you need a good read, choose that one. Heads up though; it wont’ tell you how to be a better writer. It won't tell you how to earn six figures, or even how to pay off one credit card. But it will make you want to curl up on the couch with a good cup of coffee and read.

1 comment:

Sue Dickman said...

Hi Rachel! I wanted to say a)that I didn't write about writing books either. I've certainly read some, but not recently and none I really wanted to write about. And b), I read the Tropper last year and really enjoyed it. His sense of comic timing is superb. I sent it to my brother and sister-in-law, and they loved it as well.

How are your chickens? My post yesterday was partly about the joys of having a friend with chickens, so perhaps you will get extra popular (even (or perhaps especially?) among the naysayers) once you have a steady supply of eggs, some of which may need homes that aren't yours!