A navy blue velvet shirt arrived in the mail from J.Crew the other day. Thinking it was a gift, I rummaged through the packaging for a hint of who sent it. Turns out I had backordered it ages ago, when I was going places. Blue velvet would have been lovely for my book launch in March, 2020.
The publisher recently told me the book will be on Amazon by October. Then in a surprise move last week he posted on Instagram:
Tortoise Books: We are launching IN THAT NUMBER by @reganchicago THIS OCTOBER! It’s a thrilling and heartwarming memoir about one woman’s journey from the streets of protest to the halls of power, with fascinating firsthand reminisces about Woodstock, Vladimir Putin, THE EXORCIST, Bill Clinton, and more! Stay tuned for details.
I guess the Amazon availability triggered the book launch. But what do I know? The answer is—nothing about publishing or marketing a book. My completed memoir, fully edited, trussed and ready for prime time left my control in December 2019. I dreamed of the day I would stand in front of a crowd of friends in late winter at my book party.
At the party I’d be showered with compliments, jeter des fleurs, as the French say. I’d hold my book overhead and shout, “I did it.” I must have ordered that forgotten velvet shirt at the time to celebrate crossing the finish line. The coronavirus didn’t stop movement on publishing, but the shutdown slowed incoming blurbs for the book cover. Reviewers must have cast my manuscript into the suspended-indefinitely heap. I stopped asking the publisher or even wondering “when will it be out?” for the same reason. Everything else in the world came to a halt, why not book printing?
Here’s what I’ve learned ambling along book-publishing lane. These apply to unknown authors only:
1. A full length memoir is no more and no less than 250 pages, Times New Roman, double spaced, 12-point type, 60,000 words.
2. Non-fiction titles should be five words or less.
3. When you tell people you wrote a book, they’ll ask you what it’s about. Have a good answer.
4. Dreaming up chapter titles is a monumental waste of time. Just number them.
5. However long you think it will take to get your finished work published, it takes longer.
6. Even though a full length memoir is episodic, it needs an arc or storyline. You can’t just put all your 500 word essays in chronological order.
7. The first time your editor sends edits, it’s not really edits. It’s questions.
8. Learn to deal with jealousy.
The Chicago Reader headline this week screams, The Summer That Won’t Be. You know what they can add to that list? My book launch. Visions of myself as a published author is alive beyond the still point though, squiggling around in dream time.
If the coronavirus still spooks us in October my book will launch on Zoom. Look for me in blue velvet throwing flowers at myself.
Jeter des fleurs.