Monday, July 11, 2005

Wow, I'm Slightly Valuable (as a commodity)

Someone asked me just today:

"What the hell good is all the interest you're creating in your website? What does it DO?"

Hell if I know.

Of course, the goal of the Beyond You & Me website is to build a pre-sold audience for the book. The market for first-time novelists without a track record is pretty thin, so it would be helpful to prove to agents and editors that people actually like my book, that some of them would actually buy it (beyond my friends and immediate family).

But one thing is now certain: I am useful to other writers. Today I got my second plea for help from another writer. The first was for an obscure small press in Brooklyn. The second was from big-time non-fiction writer and Yale alumna, Alexandra Robbins.

Ms. Robbins got her start writing for The New Yorker, followed by a book about the Yale secret society Skull & Bones (Bones is mentioned in Beyond You & Me when Cassie and S. pass Book & Snake, another of the senior societies at Yale. Senior societies are mostly supper clubs, a silly holdover from the time when only the children of the affluent attended Old Blue, and it became a distinction within a distinction to be "tapped" for one of these clubs. Much blather persists about the connections (for good and evil) that arise inside the windowless buildings of the various societies, enough so that Robbins' book did reasonably well.

After I finished writing Beyond You & Me, I contacted a number of Yale alums asking if they'd be interested in "blurbing" my book. A blurb is a short endorsement of a book, usually by the author's friends, or writers his publisher thinks will induce consumers to buy said book. While normally blurbs are solicited after a book has been contracted for publication, they also are sometimes used to convince a publisher that a certain book is worth bringing out. Especially if the blurber is famous.

Needless to say, Ms. Robbins never answered my email request. Until today.

Oh, she still hasn't agreed to blurb Beyond You & Me, nor even entered into a real communication with me. No, the email I received today was a broadcast to countless people in her address book (she even apologized in advance if I received the email twice). It's a form letter hoping I was having a wonderful Summer, and promoting both her new book about the scandalous, sex-drenched goings-on in sororities, and seeking help in finding damaged kids for her next book about the pressures of getting into the "right" schools (like Yale).

And yes, for those of you who suspect that some writers of non-fiction books start out looking for evidence that will confirm their original hypothesis, the short answer is "no, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus."


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