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Jul28
Sex and Knitting: Pitching a Personal Memoir
kid_scuba.JPG Getting a book deal is like deep sea fishing: it's a long soggy battle and you never know what kind of fish you caught until it's all over. 

Today,
author and blogger Joel Derfner tells us how he landed his most recent book deal, a complicated, but ultimately redemptive model for us all to follow...

Welcome to the conclusion of my interview with Joel Derfner, part of my deceptively simple feature: Five Easy Questions. In the spirit of Jack Nicholson’s mad piano player, I run a serialized set of weekly interviews with writing pioneers—delivering some practical, unexpected advice about web publishing.

Jason Boog:
You recently sold a book of personal essays. Could you tell me how that book came about? Any advice for fledgling writers looking to publish a finished manuscript?

Joel Derfner:
I told an editor friend that I wanted to write another book and he said I should ask my
Gay Haiku editor what he'd be interested in. So I did... My jacket bio for Gay Haiku read, "In an attempt to be the gayest person ever, he took up knitting and got a job as a step aerobics instructor." Andrew (my editor) said he and his boss thought a book of essays about trying to become the gayest person ever might be really fun.

He made it clear that he wasn't committing to making an offer and I made it clear that I wasn't committing to selling it to him, but we like and respect each other so we both hoped it would work out.

I wrote the proposal over the course of four or five months, using a friend's (already sold) proposal as a model. My friend's proposal had two full chapters, so I figured I needed to write two of the essays. I thought, well, okay, sex sells, so one of the essays I'll write for the proposal will be about sex. And then I wrote an essay about knitting, to show range, since knitting was about as far away from sex as you could get.

In the meantime, I had decided to switch agents, so once I had a draft of the proposal I sent it around to a few people, and one of them absolutely loved it, which of course made me like her the best.

I did some rewriting based on her suggestions and she sent the proposal to Random House (in the Gay Haiku contract there was a clause saying they had the right of first refusal on my next book). They made an offer and we negotiated, but in the end we couldn't agree and so we took the book to market.

After talking to a bunch of other editors, though, I realized that I felt best about Andrew and Random House, so we went back to them, and together we came up with an offer that made everybody happy.

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