WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT BOOK I WAS GOING TO WRITE?

My mother says she doesn’t believe in massage.  The same way you’d say you don’t believe in ghosts or unicorns. I can understand not believing in Going out of Business Sales, but massage?  Betty has a healthy scepticism of a lot of things including but not limited to men, cheap shoes and expiration dates on food.  So when I told her I was thinking of writing a book I expected the same healthy amount of Betty scepticism she had for many other things in in the world.

And I got it!  “Someone wants you to write a book?  Who? What would you write about?  What makes them think you should write a book?  That’s weird.”  Betty isn’t necessarily convinced I’m a writer, although in these past few years I suspect she’s coming closer to realizing I do indeed write things.  Curiously that doesn’t necessarily make me a writer.

Like a lot of people, my mother associates being a writer with having things printed on a page that are either delivered to your door or bought in a shop.  If it is free, is delivered on your computer and doesn’t involve any swarthy characters or plot twists … it’s not really writing.  And I kind of agree.

Well not really, but let me explain.  It used to be, to have others read your writing you had to go through other people, smart people who wore tweed and smelled of paper before anyone else in the world was allowed to read your writing.  These bookish people who instantly knew 1,437 different synonyms for any given word off the top of their heads were known as editors, agents and publishers. If you could find a bunch of those kind of people who would all confirm that you were a good writer they might allow you to make your writing public.  Books, magazines, newspapers.  Print.  Actual ink to paper print was the only way for a writer’s work to be made available to the world not so long ago.

Unless you count television and movie writing which no one does for some reason even though without those writers your favourite shows wouldn’t be your favourite shows.

Now?  Now anyone with a keyboard, a few fingers or even a mouth with a pencil in it can tap out anything they want and send it not only to a few bookstores, but to the entire universe with the click of the return key.  Now everybody can be a writer.  Maybe not a great one, maybe not even a mediocre one but a writer nonetheless.

But even I, someone who writes in exactly that way, clacking away on my laptop keyboard until it’s time to send it out into the world, thinks that a having a book makes you a “real” writer. It’s partly because of the notion that some really intelligent people, people who have been trained to spot good and bad writing are willing to let you into that circle of printed word authors.  They believe in you.  THEY think you’re a real writer.  Or at the very least they think you’ll make them money, which is really what it boils down to for the publishers.

For me, writing a book is more about ego than anything else.  A writer makes almost no money on their first book and if that first book doesn’t sell well there is no second book.  But it’s a book.  A hard covered book that the writer can put in their bookshelf or on their coffee table and marvel at.  That’s my book.  I am a writer.  It’s ego.

As it turns out I don’t have time for ego.  Writing a book takes an insane amount of time.  I knew that when a literary agent from New York (being from New York makes anyone seem more valid) contacted me a couple of years ago and asked if I was interested in writing a book.  I knew I didn’t have time, I knew I used all my best ideas in my blog and yet I knew I wanted to write a book.  Why?  Ego.  I wanted to see that book, printed and sitting on my coffee table.

It took me a year to write the proposal for the book (you have to write a proposal which your literary agent then shops around to publishers) with the help of my agent. She’s GREAT.  She just gave me little bits at a time to do and made it almost manageable. But a year?  It should not take someone a year to write a book proposal.  Once it was finished we were both really, really happy with it and so she sent it off into to the next round of smart, tweed clad people, the publishers and THEY liked it too. And that’s where things ground to a halt.  You know who didn’t like it?  The sales department.

We had written a proposal based on my blog, so it was DIY projects, engaging writing and great photos.  By the time I finished the proposal the demand for DIY books had disappeared.  NOW people wanted “lifestyle” books according to the sales departments at every publisher.  I didn’t even know what a “lifestyle” book was.  I still don’t.    So Maria, my agent, asked if I’d consider redoing the proposal and making it a “lifestyle” book.  She believes in me and the potential success of my book.  I’m guessing Maria also believes in massage.

But for now the book is on hold.  I haven’t said no, but I’m not exactly rushing to write another proposal for a book that may or may not be accepted by the smart people and which I’m guaranteed to make no money on after spending 2 years writing it, a year promoting it and … and … and …

Judging from my last sentence there, it’s probably a wise decision.

So no book for now.  But writing? I’ll continue writing.  Because I am indeed a writer.  And I don’t need no smart person telling me so.

Have a good weekend!

91 Comments

  1. Flash says:

    I will buy one when it eventually is written

  2. I had a poem published in a book when I was a youngster. Gotta say, I felt pretty damn special.

  3. Edith says:

    I’ll read whatever you write….and I’ll pay for it whatever it costs!

  4. Isabella says:

    Ditto. Cause you be funny. And clever. And I like funny and clever. Plus, you can write girl. I know this cause I’m a reader, a damn good one.

  5. Valerie says:

    Karen you should reconsider and write this book….the subject could be many of the replies you receive your followers, this would be a complete hoot.

  6. Paula says:

    Definitely write the book. I, for one, would be content with one post a week if that means that you would have more time for your book. I would love to read a book that you could write.

  7. TucsonPatty says:

    I believe in massage, and even massaging your ego, if that needs done, also! I would also buy the book, but you need more buyers than your audience here on the blog, even though we would all tell all of our friends and tell them to tell…
    But, I also read about book tours/signing and it seems hella lotta work. You like home too much!
    Someday…my friend! You’ll do it if it needs done! It ain’t that hard, any of it, someone very smart and wise and sage once told me! ; )

  8. Nicole says:

    I think you should do what your heart tells you to do – and it sounds like, at least at the moment, your heart is kind of “meh” about the book thing. Good on you for recognizing that and being able to admit it, not just to yourself, but to your agent and to us, your readers.

    You blog about what you’re passionate about, be it chickens or antique-shopping or decorating. If you were suddenly passionate about writing a book, you’d blog like crazy about it. Which… might not be as interesting to read. Which I wouldn’t like. And it’s all about me, right? Many bloggers-turned-book-authors seem to suddenly start just blogging about how you should buy their books. And that is not fun to read. Not as fun as learning about loofahs (or however they’re spelled) or linen aprons.

  9. Melissa Stinson says:

    You are indeed a very smart person. And, in time, I know there will be a book on my coffee table written by you. I have no doubt.

    But, in the meantime, we will still get to enjoy your blogs, for which I greatly look forward to.

  10. Sera says:

    You should write a book. I say that because I love your blog and I’ve gotten in the habit of buying and reading the books of food bloggers, not for the recipes as much as for the long form writing that takes place.
    I just finished Dinner, A Love Story and now I have nothing to read while my daughter watches Daniel Tiger next to me. I would go back to reading blogs but the thing is, I want her to see me read physical books and smarty Pants magazines like the Atlantic.
    Maybe by the time she’s 10, books will all be digital and we won’t have the smell of printed paper between our fingers, but I hope not. I love that smell.
    So I’ll buy your book, whenever you get around to writing it.

  11. Marianne says:

    I agree. Write about what you want, not what the sales people think is sellable. If and when you get the urge to write a book for your own satisfaction, I’ll bet it will flow out of you, without only minor sessions of what feels like teeth-pulling and mental torture. And maybe some angst. Please keep writing the blog. You are like a late night friend, guaranteed to make me laugh or think or be inspired or all three at once.

  12. Pam'a says:

    You know you are, and so do we, or we wouldn’t be here. 😉

  13. Swinnen Lisette says:

    You are a good writer. Just rename your book : Lifestyle : Interiordesigns to create yourself like a pro

  14. Andy Fiarfax says:

    The world is a mad place, tastes change faster than we can keep up with!

  15. Exactly. What’s the point in writing ‘to order’ when they might decide something else is the in thing by the time you’ve finished? Just write what you want, when you feel like it. Whether it’s blog or book.

    As for massage, I’m with your mother. Hate it. That might be because a physical therapist once tried that to make my dodgy neck more flexible and I ended up blacking out and not being allowed to drive home.

  16. If they really want a book, and you really want to write it, bang it out fast, (no time-sucking revising!) and then give it to an editor who knows your blog well. She can tweak it into shape while you go merrily on creating material for your next book, living large with your chickens and your gardens and your home and all the other lovely things that fill your days. I’m pretty sure all of us blog followers would buy your book, because we all love you for the happiness and humour you bring to our days. A Karen book would make a great go-to gift for my women friends. : )

  17. whitequeen96 says:

    Here’s why I don’t write a book. You have to travel around the country on a book tour, staying at all kinds of hotels with miserable Continental breakfasts and rush around frantically and hope that people show up for the book signings. But the WORST PART would be having to go on Oprah (because of course my book would be that good!) and having people I haven’t seen in 30 years shriek, “Oh my God, look what’s happened to her! She’s gained so much weight; look at her double chin and her wrinkles – how tragic!” And then all the tabloids would run features with pictures of me in my perky, petty past, right next to pictures of me in my pitiable present. And then EVERYONE in North America would be talking about how I was such a heartbreaking example of a woman who let herself go.
    Yeah, that’s why I don’t write a book. 🙂

  18. Emie says:

    Yes.. You ARE a writer. I hear similar talk amongst people who make art. Seems that calling yourself an artist is more difficult than giving oneself the title of “artist”. The act of making art makes one an artist just as the act of writing makes one a writer!

  19. Leticia says:

    What in Glob’s name is a “lifestyle book”? Does it mean you should take pictures of yourself doing DIY projects and holding chickens, since that is your lifestyle?

    I once worked closely with marketing people and my constant question was “Does that even work?”. Their answer was “It does, it makes people buy more!”. Maybe I am immune to marketing schemes and just find them annoying, not enticing, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that I come here for your wit, not your chickens. 🙂

  20. Claudia says:

    I am not a do it yourselfer. But I read your blog religiously. Because you’re a great writer and I’m fascinated by your lifestyle.

    In fact, I would love to spend all day nesting. It’s an amazing fantasy! Decorating, building, gardening, the beautiful accoutrements…So I would read a book about your lifestyle in an instant.

    I want to know everything about you. You have learned so much! Entertainment, photography, using your hands and your body, having so many fucking vegetables its mind-boggling – what the hell do you do with them?

    And your deep relationships with the chickens. Your mother is skeptical about men? Don’t we all wish we could get rid of ours!

    You are the master of your own domain. This is a lifestyle I want to read more about – the sales person was right. It’s you we are interested in. So take THAT, Karen’s ego!!

    And a final note: I suspect I am not alone in absolutely adoring you.

  21. Claudia says:

    PS your “lifestyle” also appears to include a huge sense of humor. Also instructive. And uplifting. So open the door to a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be you, an inspiration, and make it both happy and sad, like the blog. Xoxoxo

  22. Catherine Vosper says:

    But your DIY is your lifestyle, why can’t they see that?

  23. danni says:

    wow! Me TOO! That and the fact that you have to write what you know, and I plan on taking all the really good stuff with me to the grave, never EVER to see the light of day…. 😀

    Karen, they contacted you because you were good and stood out so shame on the dopes that don’t know this fact, they need to loosen their ties and get some medicated cream for that tweed rash on their (horse’s) ass!

  24. ronda says:

    i ditto that too! i’m a DAMN good reader!

  25. Linda sieve says:

    Write the book already.

  26. marilyn meagher says:

    If your hearts not in it your book would suck…so wait til the time is right. Hopefully while Betty’s still around so you can give her the first signed copy. Lol.

  27. Suzanne Reith says:

    Please Whitequeen96, write that book. You and Karen could book tour together. It would be hilariously successful.

  28. Suzanne Reith says:

    Go for it Karen. In your spare time, of course.

  29. Francie Thornton says:

    Skip all the other people and write and publish it yourself. You can sell it on Amazon etc. I have an award winning author cousin (also a ghost writer) who does this and is very successful. you have enough of a following to do it. You don’t need “smart people in tweed” etc. because, obviously, they aren’t that smart.

  30. Alice says:

    My mother, who is 94, recently published her first book of poetry. (She’s been writing forever…or at least a good portion of her adult life.) She used createspace.com, which allows print-on-demand printing. You still need an editor — but you have much more creative control — and don’t have to convince anyone else your book is worthwhile.

  31. Ev Wilcox says:

    You write girl! I read, sometimes a lot! I will buy your book. I am smart, and I will buy your book! (You could sit it your gargantuan garden plot and think and write write write!) By the way, did you level the two plots together or not?! Anyway, you write girl!

  32. Kelly says:

    I’m reading whatever you put out into the world, paper or no. But if you do decide to do a book, please come do you book tour near me. I’ll host it, for Pete’s sake. OR (new idea I just had) skip all the book work and do a TAODS blog tour!!! With DIY demos!!! And snacks!!!

  33. Mara Wolters says:

    Agree and Im the best reader in history!

  34. Heather says:

    Interestingly most people here are suggesting you write the book. I say, do what you do or do not want to do. You ARE a writer.end.of.story. Your post about the process makes for interesting reading.

  35. Linda in Illinois says:

    Why write a book about something you are not so passionate about? DIY, gardening, chickens, antiques, food, house, tips, decorating, etc. all great things to know from someone who knows “how to do stuff”. Don’t write a book about lifestyles if that is not something you are passionate about. Stay true to yourself Karen.. be you not a yes man.

  36. JMHO – I’ve had three fiction books published, written for newspapers, had a column in a newspaper, written for trade journals, short stories published, a few articles in the American Mensa mag, had a quarterly column for an on-line mag, articles published in international mags, and a five-year run writting a column for a national mag. You are so correct about the book “ego” thing. It is something all authors need to experience…ONCE, and then done.

    Writing a column for a national mag brought me the most joy and compensation, with no travel required for book signings, etc. The best part is that I still have treasured friends from all over the globe, and am still close with my editor (the mag went bankrupt).

    If a publisher would accept your previous columns as a collection, then it would be worth your effort, but the compensation to write a book versus time spent … well you know that already.

    I adore your writing style (we write similarly), and anything you do will be a resounding success, and I will certainly purchase it because I love ya’ girlfriend!

  37. Karen says:

    Thanks Edith. 🙂 ~ karen!

  38. Karen says:

    I will take that under consideration Isabella, lol. thx. ~ karen!

  39. susan alexander says:

    Sure wish your column would allow editing or spell check…”writing” not “writting” dang! Oh well…it is early here and I haven’t had coffee yet because I read your column first thing. 🙂

  40. Karen says:

    Yeah, it’s a huge amount of work. HUGE. I’ve spoken with a few friends who have very well known blogs that have written books and it’s a GRIND. And not necessarily a pleasant one. ~ karen!

  41. Karen says:

    It *is* all about you. 😉 ~ karen!

  42. Karen says:

    Ooo! My friend is a writer for The Atlantic. 🙂 And yes, she … as the writer … is a smartypants. Maybe I’ll ditch ALL of this and become a smartypants journalist. ~ karen!

  43. Karen says:

    Thanks Marianna! Those are the exact three of the four things I try to do with my posts. Laugh, Think, Inspire, Learn. ~ karen!

  44. Karen says:

    Oh yeah. I’m a writer, lol. Always have been. ~ karen!

  45. Karen says:

    Yep. We’ve come to have the attention span of piece of bark. ~ karen!

  46. Karen says:

    From the sound of your comment maybe you should write a book, lol! Well done ~ karen!

  47. Karen says:

    Thanks for saying that Claudia. My intention wasn’t really for this post to turn into a lovefest for myself, but I’m not gonna lie, it feels pretty good, lol.

  48. Karen says:

    I’m not sure. 🙂 ~ karen!

  49. Karen says:

    LOL! I’d actually like to write a novel or a life guide. It’s adding in all the DIY stuff that’s mind boggling. Just let me write without having to come up with an additional 150 creative ideas and I’ll be fine! ~ karen!

  50. Karen says:

    Yes, in all my spare time, lol. 🙂 You’re right. ~ karen!

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