Elle Newmark: A lesson in how to get published
If you have written a book and want to be a published author then you need to read this from Elle Newmark. She’s the writer of The Book of Unholy Mischief and became a published author at the age of 60. And she made it by never giving up…even when the chips were down.
After being knocked back by every Tom, Dick and Harry, she self published but that was only the start. I’ll let her explain in her own words….
I gambled on a do-it-yourself website and spent thousands on an Internet marketing course. I would throw myself a virtual book launch party. Crazy? Maybe, but no guts, no glory. When you get older you start to think that way. I organized a one-day virtual party designed to generate a surge of sales on Amazon, and catapult me onto the bestseller list. The website looked colorful and festive, but we all know the most humiliating disaster is to throw a grand splash and have no one show up. Then I’d have to kill myself for sure. I needed to reach 500,000 people to make a few hundred sales and reach the bestseller list. I needed partners.
I asked droves of website owners to participate. I sent them a letter, a box of homemade cookies, and a signed book marked on the page where those same cookies appear in the novel. The cookies are called ‘bones of the dead’ so, with an aching back, I stood at the kitchen counter, well into the wee hours, shaping cookie dough into little bone shapes, baking them to the perfect golden shade of doneness, and then rolling them in powered sugar to make them look bonier. Only the boniest cookies went out—fifteen hundred of them. The rest…well, I gained four pounds.
My friends and family were apprehensive. I could see the pity in their eyes. Isn’t it sad to see Elle grasping for the brass ring that has so clearly passed her by? But I forged ahead, bold as an old crow. I blogged and talked up my book on message boards. I got a few Internet partners, I baked more cookies, I begged, pleaded, flattered, cajoled, bargained and I got more partners. In the end I had enough support to reach 500,000 people. Yes! I would hit the Amazon bestseller list. Then agents would notice and publishers would come knocking. That was the plan.
But two days before my virtual party, my son, Michael, thoughtfully stroked his goatee and said, “Mom, if you want agents and editors to notice your book, why not just invite them to your party?” And there’s yet another advantage to age: Grown children capable of clever ideas. However, that idea was definitely against the rules. You’re supposed to approach agents according to a well-established protocol, and you’re not supposed to approach editors at all. Michael’s idea was risky and audacious, but in the end, I decided I was too old to be timid. I just didn’t have that kind of time. I got online and dug up e-mail addresses for 400 agents and editors. The night before the launch, I wrote personal invitations with a link to the party site and brazenly hit “send” 400 times.
By noon the next day, I’d heard from dozens of agents and editors. People were clamoring to read my book! An editor from a major house flat out offered me a hardcover deal via e-mail based solely on the reviews. Agents asked me to speed books to New York, and while I manned the computer, my husband, Frank, made multiple trips to the post office. Within 24 hours I had offers from several impressive agencies—including William Morris, with whom I made an agreement at whiplash speed.
I did hit the Amazon bestseller list, not that it mattered anymore.
New York talent scouts were talking about The Book of Unholy Mischief, and the buzz was so loud I could feel the vibration in California. I swear the earth moved. During that first wild week, my new agent turned down a respectable offer from a major publisher. She said, “We can do better.” I swallowed hard and hoped she knew what she was doing. Two weeks after my virtual party, The Book of Unholy Mischief went to auction.
The auction was due to start at 11:00 a.m. EST, which was 8:00 a.m. for me on the west coast. I planned to be sitting at my phone, showered and fully caffeinated by 7:30. As I stepped out of the shower at 6:00, the phone rang, and I ran for it, dripping and clutching a towel. My agent said, “Are you sitting down?” I stood there, holding my towel, and said, “Yes.” She said, “Two book deal, Simon and Schuster.” Then I sat down. I was naked and wet—like a newborn.
I got one of those boxes of cookies and was thoroughly impressed by the effort Elle was making. I’m glad she got a book deal. Not enough authors understand the principle of self promotion. I hope her book tour for The Book of Unholy Mischief goes well and she enjoys every minute of being a published author. The Book of Unholy Mischief is a novel set in 1498 Venice with a penniless orphan and an ancient book everyone wants to own.
(By the way, check out the prices for the self-published copies of Elle’s book – it was called Bones of the Dead before Simon & Schuster renamed it The Book of Unholy Mischief)