Thursday, January 16, 2014

The long way around to a (possible) US publisher


  1. 1.
     a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.

Happy New Year!

If there were ever a part of this process that truly deserved the description "Doldrums," it would be this long, slow wait. I haven't posted for a while because there simply hasn't been a lot to share. And, with all the holiday travel and festivities, time has been short. Finally though, now that we are a few weeks away from the release (Feb. 6th. The same day the Winter Olympics begins) of the UK edition of Good For Nothing, other things are starting to happen. Most significantly, I took a call yesterday evening with a US publisher who wants to make an offer for US rights. I will come back around to that in more detail in a moment. What follows is a slightly more detailed explanation of how my Barcelona-based agency traveled to Mexico and handed my book to a California imprint.

Just before the holidays, in anticipation of seeing friends and relatives who would want to know how to order my book, I worked with designer Karol Shewmaker (of FLAT publications and previously mentioned in the ROOM project post), utilized the image designed by Joseph Lappie (of Peptic Robot Press) and produced this little reminder card to hand out, complete with QR code. Through the Amazon Author Central tool, I've been able to see Good For Nothing's ranking ebb and flow as the cards were passed out. Many thanks to everyone who made advanced orders.

Here are the strange, circuitous, trans-continental activities that led to my manuscript ending up in the hands of a west coast publisher: Over half a year ago, my agents at Pontas sold the UK rights to Skyscraper Publications. Since then, I've worked with the Skyscraper team to edit, make design and typesetting decisions, and generally turn the manuscript into a clean book object ready for the hands and eyes of the reading public. Pontas continued talking to US publishers about North American rights.

Around Thanksgiving, Marina Penalva, one of the Barcelona-based Pontas crew that has been enthusiastically championing GFN, attended the first annual Guadalajara International Book Fair. There, they met a publisher who took a digital copy of the UK edition to the editor of Red Hen Press. She read it, loved it, and thought it had a place within the the spectrum of 20 books they chose to print each year.

Last Monday, in an end-of-the-year wrap-up correspondence with my primary agent Patricia Sanchez she asked if I had any impression of Red Hen Press. I said that I knew of them as a well-respected poetry press. Last Wednesday, I was invited to a reading hosted by the Guild Literary Complex (celebrating it's 25th year) at Women and Children First (one of my favorite independent book stores) in Andersonville, Chicago. There I perused the shelves and looked for Red Hen titles. I found five books of poetry, and one Memoir. They were interesting and diverse titles, printed and designed with a lot of love and respect. I asked one of the the bookstore owners what they knew of Red Hen. She said, "Very good poetry press. But they print other very good work too. Both fiction and non-fiction. They are distributed through the University of Chicago press." I later learned through conversation with the the Managing editor of Red Hen, they are a non-profit specializing in poetry, literary fiction and nonfiction. Founded 20 years ago in 1994, they now publish about equal numbers of titles in Poetry and Fiction. My impression of their publishing model is that of a hybrid of a not-for-profit arts organization combined with a boutique literary agency. Which I find pretty compelling. 

To be clear, there is no offer on the table. Just mutual interest at this point. 

In other news. GFN was reviewed in the Daily Mail, London:

 December 31, 2013

Flip Mellis is so fat he and his body are not on speaking terms. He is out of work and having a giant size mid-life crisis. He even fails when he tries to commit suicide. But, despite all that, this is a very, very funny book. Even the chapter headings - Regrettable Attempt At Second Breakfast, Poked 
Viciously By A Crazy Person - are funny. The setting is small town America, always a reliable 
source of eccentric characters. The book could be the lovechild of Bill Bryson and Martin Amis. 
And it's peppered with the kind of slick slapstick situation comedy that made the Hangover movies 
such big hits. But at its heart is a very serious point. It is about the tsunami of destruction that has hit Middle America since the financial crisis. 

Word has it that this is one of Andrew Marr's favorite books, but don't let that put you off.

So much has happened in the past week or so, no telling what could happen between now and the launch of the UK edition. There are a few minor rumblings from potential other US publishers, and odds are good for another review or two in the coming weeks. Wish me luck, spread the word, and send me pictures of you holding your copy of the book. It makes this whole, insular process feel more real to see people with the book. Also, find me on Goodreads and share your thoughts. 

Until next time...

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