BOXED SET -- A novel by Bernie Kohn & Gina M. Smith

An unemployed Chicago sports writer quickly finds himself broke and homeless, but he uses his gift with words and some inspiration from Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac to turn his life around, help his fellow homeless and to get the girl, a perky tech at the local plasma clinic who thinks a boob job will solve everything.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What's your book about?

Tell anyone you've written a book, and the response is automatic. You'd better have an answer ready. It might seem obvious. Of course you know what your book is about! You just wrote it. You had an idea, which seemed genius at the time, and you spent months or even years getting it all down on paper.

But start telling the long, albeit even exciting, version of your book and watch your listeners' eyes glaze. It all makes sense to you, but even a mother's love can wane after a few minutes of a detailed explanation.

Lucky for the stranger sharing your Metro seat! You've perfected a one-sentence description of your book, a log line as it's known. And for those publishers and agents, if you're lucky enough to get 90 seconds or so to pitch your book at a conference, you also have your one paragraph summary, or an "elevator" pitch. You can see a log line for Boxed Set under the banner for this blog.

For a summary longer than a minute-and-a-half, such as a synopsis or query letter, lucky you! Take all the time you want to perfect an entire one-, two- or three-page synopsis of the book. You can spend days or weeks perfecting the cover letter to be sent with the synopsis to potential agents. And even though you know far less than five percent of queries will get a positive response, you still agonize over this letter like it is the first page of your next book.

As Jane Friedman says on her blog, the cover letter exists solely to seduce an agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. At this point you have at least the same chance as a 10th grade Rico Suave with pimples does with the head cheerleader. No wonder query letters are a challenge.

Am I exaggerating about query letters and synopses? I don't think so. Ask any other writer friend, and you'll get horror stories about the query letters they've revised time and again. It's the reason I have at least seven different versions of query letters saved on this computer as well as dozens more copies of slightly personalized versions, and at least three synopses of different lengths. 

My most favorite advice, from the Miss Snark blog, would eliminate the need for query letter- and synopsis-stress altogether. "Just write something fabulous and it will all work out." So she says.

Some other great advice for query letters with samples can be found on MediaBistro, Writer's Digest and Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, in an upcoming post, I'll give you a further peak into Boxed Set.

So, what is your book about?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

So We Wrote A Book. Now What?

Yep. So....

We wrote a book.

But is it really, really a book until it is published, printed, bound up with a cover and a spine and some smart author photos and snappy blurbs, and offered up for sale on someone's, anyone's website or on a real, live bookshelf somewhere, anywhere?

That's the problem. It's not yet really a book to me. We need to make it real.

It's.....well, it's just a thing right now.

It's a zillion different documents stored between two or three different computers. It's 73,423 words, big and little. It's 302 printed pages, and a goofy art collage I made to stand in for a real cover.

It's a scrap of torn paper with the very first ideas and notes we brainstormed during a six-hour road trip, top-down, headed south on a beautiful spring day.  

It's an important thing for certain; it's one of the most fulfilling things I've done so far in my life. Just as other writers call their project "my baby," this thing most definitely feels like a child. I want to protect and nurture it until it is ready to go out into the world. I only want what's best for it. It's a Love Child. It doesn't just feel like something we conceived and birthed and bathed in love. It is.

Writers talk about sweat equity and blood, sweat and tears while putting their words down in hopes of creating a book. There was no sweat here; only love. This project was a work of love from the first inkling of an idea to the final edit. There was no bloodshed nor tears.

There are two of us, my co-author and I, to agree with every concept, every character, every chapter; to agree to a beginning, middle and end. I had expected writing a book could leave one of us with a murder conviction and/or one less friend. For two Type A writers who might have been expected to walk 20 paces in opposite directions and duel over every page, writing the book was a surprising gift. It was a gift of love to each other in the truest sense. An individual dream, shared, respected, handled carefully, and brought to fruition with the help of a best friend -- what could be a greater gift?

Ideas were jotted down as fast as we could play them off each other, more than five years ago now. Writing was done in inspired fits and spurts, wedged between work, unemployment and job searches, sports, children, Midwest to East Coast travels and back, and electronic swapping of notes, ideas and full chapters. For three months' time in 2009 and another three months in 2011, we banged and pinged and zinged along on our keyboards, 600 miles apart and completely connected. So smoothly did we trade back and forth that three years later it is hard to remember who wrote which chapter. We truly became one voice for the project. And it was exhilarating!

From the beginning of 2012 until the end of June 2014 we let it set, gel, percolate and any other word to choose so as not to say: life got in the way and we neglected the work. Neglected may be harsh; we simply chose to let it rest by not choosing to do anything with it. Now, more than five full years since our first discussion and what if?, the project is new and exciting to us again.

The same inspired blended voice was just waiting for us; edits were easy, obvious, made sense and were agreeable. A re-organization of chapters and a new starting point were unanimous. So we're ready to see our gift to each other become a real book. Our baby is a toddler now: standing up, eager to run, ready to see the world. It's time to let go.