By Hope Katz Gibbs
Editor & Publisher
Be Inkandescent magazine
If you are serious about writing a book, but don’t know where to start, pick up a copy of Write That Book Already! by Sam Barry and Kathi Kamen Goldmark.
For sage advice, turn immediately to page 7: “You Have a Great Idea. So What?”
“Okay,” they write, “so maybe you are the world’s authority on the art of making butter sculptures of dead presidents’ heads, but if you want to sell a book on the subject, you’ll have to do more than know your stuff. You’ll need to make the idea sound sexy, or cool, or hot, or timely, or cute, or something that instantly makes it clear to people why the world needs your book.”
This husband-and-wife team does a bang-up job providing aspiring authors insight into the elusive book-publishing industry—from how to transform an idea into a manuscript, to finding an agent and marketing the finished product.
The Story Behind the Book
“What’s most amazing is that we actually stayed married during the process of writing this book,” admits Kathi. “Our mission was to provide an informative yet entertaining mix of insider advice with plenty of personality, and get backup from literary personalities such as Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Roy Blount, Jr., and many more.”
Barry and Goldmark admit they had a bit of a leg up on landing interviews with those famous writers because in 1991, Goldmark created a rock band starring some of the biggest and best authors of the day—Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry (Sam’s brother), Roy Blount, Jr., and many others.
Goldmark came up with the concept back when she was a book publicist and media escort in San Francisco. The idea came to her as she chatted with authors while schlepping them around town on their book tours.
“I was known as the media escort who had the best music selection in her car,” says Goldmark, who is actually a musician in her own right. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a combination of Joan Baez and Judy Collins—at the same time. Sadly those jobs were taken by the time I got around to applying.”
She did, however, get a good taste of life as a rock star when, after graduating from Antioch College, she moved to Los Angeles in 1972 with her boyfriend Jimmy Hodder—the original drummer for the rock band Steely Dan.
So when Dave Barry, Barbara Kingsolver, Ridley Pearson, Amy Tan, and other notable writers told her they not only had a secret fantasy of being a rock star, but also were relatively decent musicians themselves—it got her thinking.
“I realized that I had a lineup of band members simply from the folks I was driving around,” she recalls. “So, one day I asked Dave and Barbara and Amy and a few others if they’d consider doing a rock show to raise money for charity. They said yes. When Stephen King came onboard, things really took off.”
The band chose a self-mocking name, The Rock Bottom Remainders—based on the publishing term used to describe the unsold remainder of the publisher’s stock of copies, sold at a reduced price. “We didn’t want anyone to think we were going to take ourselves too seriously,” Goldmark shares.
There’s Nothing Like Writing a Book
Like many dynamic women, Goldmark has had many careers.
She is a former teacher with Masters of Arts degrees in Drama and Education, who has worked as a family planning educator (producing The Rock Project, a national radio campaign in which music stars recorded public service announcements urging teenagers to “think about having a child before you make a baby”).
One of the greatest joys of her life, she proudly admits, was becoming an author.
“For someone who loves books, and after 17 years as a media escort, it’s such a thrill to be a published author myself,” notes the co-author of Mid-Life Confidential (Viking/Signet, 1994), which is by and about the Rock Bottom Remainders; The Great Rock & Roll Joke Book (St. Martin’s Press, 1997) with Dave Marsh; and the novel And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You (Chronicle Books, 2002).
Barry, too, has worked in a variety of industries—including being a Presbyterian minister (“albeit a funny one,” Goldmark says).
He’s also the marketing and promotions manager at HarperOne, the author of “How to Play the Harmonica: and Other Life Lessons,” and a musician in the Rock Bottom Remainders and Goldmark’s San Francisco band, Los Train Wreck.
Secrets to Writing That Book Already!
So when it came time for Barry and Goldmark to pen a book about the industry that is near and dear to their hearts, they came up with an outline that answered all the tough questions.
Chapter 1: Why We Write (and Why You Write, Too)
Chapter 2: You Have a Great Idea. So What?
Chapter 3: How to Get Started With the Write Stuff
Chapter 4: Your Manuscript: The Basic Rules of Attraction
Chapter 5: Finding an Agent
Chapter 6: Behind Closed Doors: Will They Buy Your Book?
Chapter 7: You and Your Editor
Chapter 8: Marketing and Publicity: Getting the Word Out
Chapter 9: The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing
Chapter 10: For Sale: Bookstores, Bookselling, and Book Groups
Chapter 11: Long Life: Paperback and Backlist
Conclusion: What’s Next?
And there’s more:
Appendix I: Beloved Books of Famous Authors
Appendix II: The Life Cycle of a Book
Appendix III: Glossary of Publishing Terminology
“We wanted to provide writers with everything they would ever want—and need—to know about the industry, from the inside out, including an overview of your book’s life cycle, from inspiration to publication and beyond,” says Barry. “We also wanted to give them some Tough Love advice to help keep their writing goals on track.”
Goldmark says that she also felt compelled to provide step-by-step guidelines for writing book proposals and pitch letters.
“We also wanted to give some tactical advice, such as counsel regarding when self-publishing is a good idea—and when it isn’t, and ideas for conquering writer’s block. So we included a special recipe for matzo ball soup. I mean, when you are really blocked, nothing loosens you up like a steaming bowl of chicken broth with a giant matzo ball in the middle. Talk about comfort food.”
Barry and Goldmark also felt it was essential to provide personal stories of writers who faced rejection and went on to publishing success.
“Few people are hits right out of the chute, so you have to be smart about the process, tenacious—and good to yourself,” Barry adds, referring to the chapter on page 35 entitled, “Author Care 101.”
“There are various strategies when it comes to living the life of a writer,” they explain in “How to Get Started With the Write Stuff,” Chapter 3. “One is to drink yourself silly, ruin your body, and destroy all your most important relationships, as many great writers have done. Or you can take care of yourself. We suggest the latter course.”
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About the Authors
Sam Barry is a marketing and promotions manager at HarperOne, author of How to Play the Harmonica: and Other Life Lessons, and a musician. Barry offers advice to aspiring writers as one half of BookPage’s Author Enablers team and tours the country as a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders.
Kathi Kamen Goldmark has worked on publicity campaigns for nearly every major publisher. She is the author of one novel, And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You; has co-authored or contributed to numerous other books; and writes BookPage’s Author Enablers column with Barry. Goldmark is the founder and a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, producer of the radio show “West Coast Live,” and winner of the 2008 Women’s National Book Association Award.
The couple lives in San Francisco.
More information can also be found here: www.kathiandsam.net.