It happened this morning like it happens every year. The emails started at 3 AM—Happy New Year! Welcome Back! So…about that manuscript. By 10 in the morning, there were eight; by noon, 14. Today is the first business day of the new year, and everyone wanted to get rolling.
Publishing is such a cyclical industry that anyone who’s been involved in any aspect of it knows the rhythm of the year—which is kind of like a school year: Business gets going right after Labor Day, with a peak right before and after the October Frankfurt Book Fair and a frantic burst of dealmaking right after Thanksgiving as agents and editors try to finish their calendar years with ONE LAST DEAL before everyone starts to depart for winter break.
Then there are crickets for two weeks, as authors finish their NaNoWriMo edits, agents write their new pitches and look through the Fall’s subs that didn’t quite get traction, working to inject new energy. There is a sustained energy to the industry through March, when it begins to be Fair Season—Bologna (for children’s books) leads to London (for everything), then a break for six weeks or so, then the big BEA convention that begins the summer season.
Summer is a crap shoot. Back in The Day, it was a dead zone, with editors disappearing to the Hamptons and nothing getting done. Nowadays, however, the industry slows, but doesn’t stop. Everyone takes a break, but it’s rolling. Consecutive rather than simultaneous. So sometimes it’s possible to make things happen, and sometimes it’s not.
But everyone knows about the first workday after New Years. We’ve all had a vacation, and had slowed down for a couple of weeks before we left. Authors get itchy—they know that they can’t expect much for around four weeks, so by the time Christmas break is over, it’s TIME.
Hence, 14 gentle nudges in the first morning of the new year. And I’m fine with that (as long as “Hi, yes, I’m on it” is an acceptable response).
I’ve been blogging on Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room pretty much every Tuesday for five and a half trips around this publishing cycle, from the very beginning of Hannigan Salky Getzler in 2011 until today. And it’s been fascinating to explore this industry—as well as music, politics, parenting (sometimes), sports, and other arts. I’ve had three assistants. Approximately 20 interns. Three offices. One New York Times Best Seller. Two USA Today Best Sellers. A bunch of successes, and some books that never caught the public’s fancy the way I thought they should.
All three of my kids became teenagers during this time period, and they, as well as my wife, Amanda, have dealt with my Tuesday evening freakouts, where we’ll be watching TV or reading at 10:30 at night, and all of a sudden I’d say “Oh NO, it’s TUESDAY!” and run into our bedroom where the desktop sits.
I’ve written blog posts in Florida and Prague, London (a bunch of times) and assorted conferences. Sometimes I punted, and posted a photo with a caption. Sometimes, though, I’d spend a thousand words on an esoteric topic within the publishing world.
This blog definitely helped me improve my visibility—my Q rating, as it were—and many prospective clients cite the blog in their queries. And the most popular blog post of my tenure here was about “The Modifier Zone,” where I go through a few first pages to show how writers sometimes frontload their manuscripts with adjectives—presumably to show me that they know big words—before settling down to their true styles. (The fact is, though, that probably the TRULY most popular posts of my time were written not by me, but by my son Joe, who can continue on his own blog at Skidmore next year.)
But I started to realize this year that I needed to wind down. I’ve really written a lot the past five years, and found that I was boring myself. I didn’t want to write another post about queries, or marketing ebooks, or the changing bookselling attitudes in the UK. It’s not that I was not enjoying writing, but that I wasn’t enjoying the deadlines, the relentlessness of time passing. And I kind of want to write different things—maybe more about being a parent, or about music, or even some fiction…but that’s really not what Dead Guy is about. Mostly, I need to recharge the batteries and start over in a different way.
When I was a teenager, and went to camp, the weekly socials (we had socials) always ended with Stairway to Heaven, so the party could end...but slowly, over 8 minutes. That's really what I've been doing the past weeks--wrapping up slowly, so I didn't actually have to turn on the lights and go back to my bunk. But it's time. So…thanks for reading! I’ve loved the feedback, the friends I’ve made through the blog, the challenge of consistent writing, the way it’s let me organize my thoughts. It’s probably made me a better agent. It’s definitely made me a better writer.
And particular thanks to Jeff and Lynne (whose thumbnail always seemed to appear on my Facebook links to my posts) and Terri and Jessy and the rest of the Dead Guys. Hopefully Jeff will let me guest post once in a while if I ask nicely, when something relevant comes up. I look forward to reading everyone’s posts, and to hearing how the NEXT Dead Agent Guy analyzes the publishing industry.