Monday, June 20, 2022

Double Whammy? Querying in the Time of Covid and Identity Politics




Backstory: The publisher of my first book "God Bless Cambodia" had first right of refusal on my new book. However, they are going through a transition phase (publisher passed away last year) and publishing four books instead of their customary 16 so I’m back on the street looking for a book deal.


1) Since October, I've queried 103 agents with my new book "The Squid and the Spaceman."

Results so far:

- 30 rejections

- 1 request for manuscript, later rejected

Whining and Kvetching: I submitted my first book to 106 agents and received 7 requests for the manuscripts, which were eventually rejected. 

Clearly, the query letter for the new book isn’t working so I just revamped it, highlighting topical elements, such as race, gender, #MeToo (a bit of a stretch considering the characters in the book spend a lot of time poking wokes and insulting uptight Boston millennials.)

The new query letter:

THE SQUID AND THE SPACEMAN is an 80,000-word comedic novel that combines the romantic dysfunction of Jonathan Tropper, the dark humor of Sam Lipsyte, and insight into the male psyche and the confusion men are facing with today’s shifting rules of courtship love, and commitment.


It's 2015 and Boston is being colonized by gender-trenders, biotech hipsters, and artisanal pickle shops. Two tone-deaf fifty-somethings, who are unhappy with city’s transformation, meet and fall in love.


Randall is chronically single. Jackie doesn't date men, she marries them. He's Jewish and trying to reinvent himself as an artist. She's Chinese-American and drives a muscle car. Both are struggling with their racial identities, the fear they've aged out of the local dating pool and that this is probably their last chance for happiness.


Four months into the relationship, Randall develops insomnia and Jackie develops an ulcer. Because Randall has never been married, they both agree he's the problem. He locates a therapist, Dr. Byrnes, who has a plan for turning him into marriage material.

As part of the treatment, Randall and Jackie attend a fetish conference to resuscitate their middle-aged sex life. Can acceptance, compromise, active listening, and a sphincter harness save their relationship? More importantly, how much can –- and should –- one man change for the one he loves?


2) Since February, I've queried 36 highly rated mid-sized and small independent presses.

Results so far:

- 6 rejections

Sniveling and Moaning: Many independent presses let you pitch them directly even if you don’t have or can’t get an agent. Response times are much longer than I remember for first book – many of these publishers claim to take up to nine months to respond. 

In addition to tweaking my query letter, I’ve rewritten the first three pages of the novel and created a marketing plan, which some small presses want to see.


Latest version of my marketing plan




Backstory: To promote my first book, I've developed lectures, authors talks, and two one-man shows based on the book. (For the one-man shows, I took some acting lessons and hired a director. I'm no star but I'm competent enough not to embarrass myself. My current one-man show on youtube.


The year in review

2021: 19 shows and author talks, almost all virtual on Zoom or Youtube.

- 10 at local libraries, about half with The New England Indie Authors Collective (three friends and I)

- 9 at theater festivals

Worth noting: I got some decent reviews from these virtual gigs but didn’t sell a single book.



Salt Lake City fringe theater festival

Tales of a Reluctant World Traveler (Live on Zoom)

"Absolutely hilarious" "animated story-telling" "a theatrical experience"

--Utah Theatre Bloggers Association (2020 Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival)


Kansas City fringe festival

“Entertaining” “Sardonic kvetching”

--Fringe Festival KC


User Reviews from the Minnesota fringe festival

 Beantown (four stars) "An entertaining travelogue through the world which morphs into an entertaining travelogue though the book-publishing world. Pleasantly neurotic in a gruff, understated, and recognizably Bostonian way.

Bald Bostonian Tell It Like It Really Is! (five stars) "Extraordinarily funny, honest, and horrible! And a journey of a Wandering Jew at that, too!"


So Far in 2022: The library scene appears to have dried up due to Covid – it’s still a thing in Boston. In addition, many people are burned out on Zoom and attendance at virtual shows has plummeted. As a result, I am now pitching arts festivals and open studios. 

Current schedule below.


for more details






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Saturday, July 3, 2021

Marketing for Writers: Selling Books at Live Events

Selling books needn't involve begging


Last week, I did my first live reading – in front of a live audience -- in more than 15 months and sold three books. That's more than I sold doing 20 Zoom readings in 2020. 

If libraries, bookstores, and art events are opening in your area, you may have more opportunities to sell books. Here are some tips for making the most of those opportunities.

1) Ask the event organizer or library if you can sell books at the event.

2) Offer books at different price points

- I offer the following: hard cover for $20, a paperback for $15, and a chapbook for $5.

- Note: my publisher, the Permanent Press, typically prints hard covers, which is what most libraries want. However, they also produced a paperback galley copy to send to reviewers. I bought galleys from the publisher that I sell as paperbacks, which cost less than the hard covers. The publisher tweaked the cover to say "Preview Edition."

Galley proofs my publisher let me sell as low-priced paperbacks.

- If you don't have a chapbook you can sell for $5, create one. Using Microsoft Publisher, I self-published a 40-page sampler of my work that includes, scenes from my novel as well as published and unpublished short stories and comedy bits. 

Some tips for creating a chapbook:

*create a simple cover that will be printed on card-stock (heavy paper that fits in an inkjet or laser printer.)

*for the body of the book, use or request standard copy paper.

*get pricing from smaller local places (In my experience, Staples was twice as expensive as the print shop at a local university. Yes, call the print shop at a local university to see if they'll take jobs from the general public. My 40-page chapbook cost me $3 to print and I sold copies for $5.

- Download a free PDF copy of my chapbook

My self-published $5 chapbook




3) Display your book like a retailer

- Ask the event organizer for a table to display and sign books.

- Buy a book stand so your wares are easier to see.


Display your wares with a $5 book stand.


- If possible, spread them out on the stage before you read.

- After the event, have a book in your hand as people are leaving.

- Create different size signs with title, prices, and Venmo and Paypal accounts so people lined up can pay ahead of time (assuming you have a line). Be sure your Paypal and Venmo accounts are set up to email you when you get money.

- If you're at a table with other writers, mention one of the other writers' books after someone buys yours.

- Provide a sign up sheet for people who want to get on your mailing list. 



4) Give away something after your talk or reading

At the end of my reading, I offer a free chapbook to the first person to answer a simple question about my talk. In most cases, the winner also comes up and buys a book.


5) Offer multiple payment options

- Bring cash

- Use Venmo, Paypal, etc

- Anticipate problems with your credit card swiper. I use a PayPal triangle and it generally requires several swipes to work – when it works at all. 

- Be sure to include your Paypal and Venmo info on your book signs.

Some other options:

*enter the credit card number manually

*Paypal now offers a QR code that someone can scan and use to pay with their own phone. (I have it set up but have yet to use it)

*test out your Paypal or Paypal Here before the event. (assume you won't have wifi)


6) Close the deal

- When someone approaches, give your elevator pitch

- Ask the person a question – most people want to talk about themselves as opposed to listening to you.

- One way to close the deal if a person is hesitant: "I'm happy to sign one for you."


If all else fails, beg.






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