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Rjo
04-26-2010, 07:58 PM
I recently completed a memoir centered on a trip I took to India in '68, to attend a three-month course at an ashram in the foothills of the Himilayas. This happened to be the same course attended by the Beatles, and while the book contains some information about them that I think readers will find informative and entertaining, this is not about THEM (as I say in my query) it's about ME.

Unfortunately, the most common response I've received so far is that if I just got rid of all that stuff about my coming of age in the 'sixties and made it another nice little book about the Beatles in India, it might be publishable. Now, after sending fulls to a fair number of agents, one of whom even requested photos but never had the courtesy to reply (this was two years ago) I'm worried that someone might do just that.

The book is now being given a second read by someone I trust, and who sees it for what it is, but I'm worried that before it gets published (if it ever does), some of the stories I tell, and which have never been told before, will leak out and get published by someone else.

Am I right to worry, or am I just being paranoid? And if the worry is legitimate, what can I do to protect myself?

Rjo
04-26-2010, 08:19 PM
That's "Himalayas," of course. You'd think that after writing that word 5,000 times I would have spelled it right this time.

ChaosTitan
04-26-2010, 08:37 PM
As long as you've been submitting to legitimate agents, I wouldn't worry about anything leaking.

Gillhoughly
04-26-2010, 08:53 PM
The fact stands that the Beatles are a marketable branding that will instantly attract the attention of any agent or editor and you DO have a very interesting angle on them. An inside look at this phase of the group's life is money in the bank, interviews on Larry King, and calls from Rolling Stone.

Soon as they're mentioned, it's going to shift an agent's expectations. They're not going to be interested in someone who happened to be there at the same time. They're going to want a "Watson" to write about the more flashy "Holmes."

You can try leaving mention of them out of the query and focus on what you did. In the course of the narrative, you mention them and how their presence influenced things, whatever.

An autobiographical book of a personal spiritual journey might get published, but it is a crowded market. Look for similar books in the store and sub to those publishers, ask the authors who reps for them.

The one thing that causes yours to stand out is the Beatle angle, like it or not. Of course your spiritual journey is much more important to you than the Beatles' journey, but it's a much more difficult sell. Tons of other people have already gone there.

If you want a sale that will get the door open, shift focus to the Beatles. The next book can be about YOU, just don't expect it to do as well.

Publishing is about making money. That will always be the bottom line.


No one is going to steal your stuff. That only happens after you're famous.

This essay by Joe Bob Briggs (http://www.joebobbriggs.com/jbamerica/1991/jba910510.html) addresses that very point. Print it and stick it over your desk.



And stay away from Publish America. You're exactly the kind of customer they want hog-tied to one of their ripoff contracts. They present themselves as spiritually-friendly (they love waving the flag and praising Jesus) but they're a black hole. Books go in and are never heard from again.

Lucy
04-27-2010, 12:30 AM
Honestly, go for the Beatles angle. I am sure it is subjective but the thought of reading a story about "coming of age" in the 1960s is actually painful. Like, torture. It's something of a cliche, though you have a lovely exotic setting (India). Something new, and thus possibly marketable, would be the Beatles angle.

Rjo
04-27-2010, 12:55 AM
Thanks for this thoughtful response, and for the link to the Joe Bob Briggs essay.

Of course it's not "my ideas" I'm worried might get pilfered, but some of the stories I'm telling and, as far as I know, telling for the first time, as they really happened. And it's hard, if not impossible, for me to tell those stories without explaining how they're interwoven into my own. I'd offer an example but I don't want to use this forum to self-promote.

Incidentally, what I've written is less of a spiritual journey than a relentless quest to get laid. Of course it's the same thing, but I don't think P.A. would understand, so I guess I'm safe there.

And I'll keep hoping the 100+ agents I've queried and the twenty or so I've sent partials or fulls to are "legitimate."

thanks again.

(I meant this as a response to Gillhougly, but thanks to Lucy too.)

colealpaugh
04-27-2010, 01:01 AM
Unfortunately, the most common response I've received so far is that if I just got rid of all that stuff about my coming of age in the 'sixties and made it another nice little book about the Beatles in India, it might be publishable.

Everything Gill said...

But, just to add, I totally understand your situation. My first MS was a fictionalized version of my career as a war corespondent. I had an offer of representation from one of the bosses of the big agents...for it to be "retooled" as non-fiction. A straight-up offer, no rewrite and resubmit, just let's do this.

"But I made up all the good stuff," was my response.

"Where you in those places at those times?"

"Yeah, but I didn't capture Noriega or stop an Islamic terror plot..."

"You have my number."

If you want to write about the Beatles, then write about them. But if you want to tell your story, Gill's advice is spot on.

colealpaugh
04-27-2010, 01:03 AM
Incidentally, what I've written is less of a spiritual journey than a relentless quest to get laid.

Welcome to AW! You're clearly one of us.








:D

CheyElizabeth
04-27-2010, 01:05 AM
I may be entirely off base here... But Agents are requesting a book about YOU to be turned into a book about THEM, right?

Why not use both and make it be a story of how that experience with the Beatles changed you into who you are today.. or what not.. Like instead of a book solely about the Beatles, make it a book still about you, but just you and the Beatles part.

Gillhoughly
04-27-2010, 01:06 AM
Incidentally, what I've written is less of a spiritual journey than a relentless quest to get laid.

Why didn't you say so??

Sex always sells!

Sex *and* the Beatles, connected to you or not = OI VEY, SIGN THIS ONE!!!

CheyElizabeth
04-27-2010, 01:07 AM
Incidentally, what I've written is less of a spiritual journey than a relentless quest to get laid.


Make it a screenplay! !

Wayne K
04-27-2010, 01:09 AM
Make it a How-to

colealpaugh
04-27-2010, 01:18 AM
Make it a How-to

Genius!

Rjo
04-27-2010, 02:36 AM
Welcome to AW! You're clearly one of us.








:D

Thanks. It's a comfort to find myself among like-minded professionals.

veinglory
04-27-2010, 03:06 AM
The Beatles are your hook, there must be some way to use them to spice up your material for a wider audience without totally overpowering it?

BenPanced
04-27-2010, 03:30 AM
Did you have sex with the Beatles while traveling through India? Were you in on the plot with Yoko to break up the band?

CACTUSWENDY
04-27-2010, 04:13 AM
Since you are unknown at this time in your walk of being published....you are not even a small cloud yet, you might want to use all the 'thunder' you can find to get there. I would consider what others have said and see how you might make some changes. Like Wayne said....lol

PoppysInARow
04-27-2010, 04:23 AM
But, just to add, I totally understand your situation. My first MS was a fictionalized version of my career as a war corespondent. I had an offer of representation from one of the bosses of the big agents...for it to be "retooled" as non-fiction. A straight-up offer, no rewrite and resubmit, just let's do this.

"But I made up all the good stuff," was my response.

"Where you in those places at those times?"

"Yeah, but I didn't capture Noriega or stop an Islamic terror plot..."

"You have my number."

Yikes. :scared:Maybe this is just me, but non-fiction should BE non-fiction.

colealpaugh
04-27-2010, 05:22 AM
Yikes. :scared:Maybe this is just me, but non-fiction should BE non-fiction.

Ha, I made that sound like he was suggesting I didn't change anything. He took the fiction version as a proposal for writing a non-fiction book. He was willing to sign me off of it, as opposed to a rewrite and resubmit. I had no interest in non-fiction.

Did I just read BenPanced has a love child with Yoko in Indiana?

shaldna
04-27-2010, 12:12 PM
I think you might be slightly paranoid.

Axler
04-27-2010, 03:07 PM
Of course it's not "my ideas" I'm worried might get pilfered, but some of the stories I'm telling and, as far as I know, telling for the first time, as they really happened.

Is Mia Farrow in it? If so, then mention her in the query as well as the Beatles. In a query to an agent, you don't necessarily have to hammer home what your book isn't.

priceless1
04-27-2010, 04:43 PM
I can hardly compete with anything Gilly said because the advice, as always, is spot on. But as someone who specializes in memoir/biography, I'm always looking for the hook. Many memoirs cross my desk that lack marketability because they lack a hook, and the reason is the author is too close to his own story. As Gilly says, the Beatles are your hook, and you need to change that because that isn't what your book is about.

So what are you left with? Going to live on an ashram. Is this enough to get an agent's or editor's attention? Not really because there are a ton of those stories already out there.

However:


Incidentally, what I've written is less of a spiritual journey than a relentless quest to get laid.
That is one hell of a hook because it's so deliciously contrary. That would certainly get someone to sit up and say "oh, really...tell me more."

Rjo
04-27-2010, 07:02 PM
Is Mia Farrow in it? If so, then mention her in the query as well as the Beatles. In a query to an agent, you don't necessarily have to hammer home what your book isn't.

Mia Farrow is definitely part of the story (and is mentioned in the query), as is her sister, Prudence. One night towards the end of the 3-month course Prudence flipped out because of too much deep meditation. The next morning she was moved to my room which was at the other end of the ashram from the block of rooms where all the celebrities were staying. The room was transformed into a padded cell, and it was outside that window that John Lennon came down a few days later to sing "Dear Prudence," in hopes that it would help her recover. It didn't, unfortunately.

I was moved to the laundry room of a beautiful young woman from Sweden whom I ended up marrying. For better and for worse.

All this happens about 3/4 into the book, and is when the thunder starts to roll.

aruna
04-27-2010, 07:09 PM
So what are you left with? Going to live on an ashram. Is this enough to get an agent's or editor's attention? Not really because there are a ton of those stories already out there.

Can you let me know a few titles? I only know of Eat Pray Love.

priceless1
04-27-2010, 07:47 PM
Can you let me know a few titles? I only know of Eat Pray Love.
Sorry, Aruna, I should have been more specific. I was talking religious enlightenment.

aruna
04-27-2010, 07:52 PM
In that case, I think you mean spirituality!
But you know, it's actually a HUGE market, that's why there are so many books. The trick is to steer away from the flaky New Age stuff (by which I include EPL) and produce something different, something original, something of substance.

priceless1
04-27-2010, 08:07 PM
In that case, I think you mean spirituality!
But you know, it's actually a HUGE market, that's why there are so many books. The trick is to steer away from the flaky New Age stuff (by which I include EPL) and produce something different, something original, something of substance.
Spiritual enlightenment/spirituality - same same, so why quibble with what I wrote? Yes, it is a huge market and it's also quite impacted, as is the "flaky New Age stuff," which sells like hotcakes.

aruna
04-27-2010, 08:46 PM
IMO "enlightenment" is overused, and spirituality isn't always about enlightenment; also, you said "religious" not "spiritual", which are not the same thing. Yes, I do quibble over these words because words are the source of so many misunderstandings. I try to use them very precisely.

But back to the OP, I agree that she should use the Beatles hook. Whether it's about sex or spirituality, a memoir by an unknown is not saleable IMO. Name dropping might be a lever to get in there.

priceless1
04-27-2010, 09:12 PM
Yes, I, too, try to be quite precise in my word choices, and I'll thank you to avoid instructing me on what I meant to say based on your opinions.

Rjo
04-27-2010, 09:22 PM
But back to the OP, I agree that she should use the Beatles hook. Whether it's about sex or spirituality, a memoir by an unknown is not saleable IMO. Name dropping might be a lever to get in there.[/QUOTE]

Thanks. But I'm a he. (Nobody's perfect.)

CAWriter
04-27-2010, 09:54 PM
A couple points:

To answer your original question, you probably don't have to worry about the stories being published without you, but I understand your desire to get them put together and out under your own name as soon as you can.

Any agent or editor would tell you not to save the "thunder" for 3/4 of the way into the book. Ideally, if there's no 'thunder' on the first page, you want some serious storm-brewing right off the bat.

It sounds like you've definitely got something that could be very interesting, but I agree, you practically have to let the Beetle's be a key point in the whole thing.

I do think there's a way to do both--relate enough Beetle's stuff to satisfy those buyers, but weave in your own journey so you've had your say. It will definitely take some skillful writing, but it could lead to something really good. You'd essentially be telling a parallel story, and telling the Beetle's stuff through your perceptions and experiences. I don't think you'd need to remove your experiences to make it a viable book. I do think you'd need to change the slant from being "not about THEM, but about ME" to making it more of a community experience (which it probably really was).

Good luck. Hopefully the person looking at it now will be the right one for you.

priceless1
04-27-2010, 10:22 PM
The worry is overselling the book. I've seen queries that have an entincing hook, but upon getting into the manuscript I can see that the hook is nothing more than window dressing.

As Rjo says in his first post, the story is about HIM. The Beatle stuff is an aside, and I think it's dicey to try to sell it as a Beatle book because they aren't the main focus. He'll either get a lot of rejections or requests that he rewrite the book.

Rjo
04-28-2010, 12:21 AM
The worry is overselling the book. I've seen queries that have an entincing hook, but upon getting into the manuscript I can see that the hook is nothing more than window dressing.

As Rjo says in his first post, the story is about HIM. The Beatle stuff is an aside, and I think it's dicey to try to sell it as a Beatle book because they aren't the main focus. He'll either get a lot of rejections or requests that he rewrite the book.

I've gotten a fair number of both, but also some serious expressions of interest.

If you'd like to take a look at a recent query, I'd be happy to send it to you.

veinglory
04-28-2010, 12:35 AM
I think you can use a hook without overselling it--so long as you present it right and have a line and sinker that stand on their own.

aruna
04-28-2010, 10:03 AM
Yes, I, too, try to be quite precise in my word choices, and I'll thank you to avoid instructing me on what I meant to say based on your opinions.

If you like to be precise in your word choices then all I can say is: here you weren't. I'm not instructing you, just clearing up the definitions. If I were to say "erotica, porn," it's all the same thing, I'm sure a hundred people would "instruct" me as to my mistake, ie correct me; and I'd accept that correction gracefully and gratefully. There's no need to take offence.

aruna
04-28-2010, 10:14 AM
Thanks. But I'm a he. (Nobody's perfect.)

Ooops! Sorry! Didn't notice! (maybe boys should always post in blue, girls in pink!)

The trouble with the Beatles hook is as, as priceless says, it might oversell the ms. Is your story interesting enough on its own, without the Beatles?
That was a time when thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of young people went to India ostensively to visit ashrams, but really to get laid. Is your story very unusual? Could it stand alone, if you removed the Beatles?

Katrina S. Forest
04-28-2010, 02:36 PM
Maybe I'm just greedy, but if I had the same experience you did, my first reaction would be, "Focus on the Beatles? No problem!" Unfortunately, I have no life experience that anyone else would find remotely interesting to read about. I wish I did.

You're still the narrator of the story, and even if you talk about the Beatles the whole time, readers will still hear your voice and get to know you as a person. A lot of memoirs don't get that.

Rjo
04-28-2010, 05:40 PM
A couple points:

...
Any agent or editor would tell you not to save the "thunder" for 3/4 of the way into the book. Ideally, if there's no 'thunder' on the first page, you want some serious storm-brewing right off the bat.*

It sounds like you've definitely got something that could be very interesting, but I agree, you practically have to let the Beetle's be a key point in the whole thing.

I do think there's a way to do both--relate enough Beetle's stuff to satisfy those buyers, but weave in your own journey so you've had your say. It will definitely take some skillful writing, but it could lead to something really good. You'd essentially be telling a parallel story, and telling the Beetle's stuff through your perceptions and experiences. I don't think you'd need to remove your experiences to make it a viable book. I do think you'd need to change the slant from being "not about THEM, but about ME" to making it more of a community experience (which it probably really was).**

Good luck. Hopefully the person looking at it now will be the right one for you.***



*Thanks for taking the time to make these good points. I do think there's enough thunder rumbling from the first page to keep people reading until the hurricane at the end. People who have read it (and have no reason to make me want to feel good) seem to think so, and I'm hoping they're right.

**Right, this is exactly what it was, and what I'm trying to convey in the book. When I left India at the end of the course, I returned to Paris where I was living at the time, to try to convert the French to Transcendental Meditation. (It was not yet called "TM.") I arrived back in Paris on May 1, 1968. During the next month-and-a-half the events I witnessed and to a small extent participated in were in a way quite similar to the clash of generations I had just been a part of down in Rishikesh. That's one of the stories I'm telling, and it's impossible to tell it without describing the role played by the Beatles, especially George and John. But in a way, yeah, I wish they'd never been there.

***Thanks. I guess I'll find out soon enough, but I'm dreading that little red dot telling me I have new mail and the new mail turns out to be a message from this person I've come to like quite a lot, telling me that although she likes the changes I have made and thinks it's a good story overall she and the agent she works for still think that in today's market, blah blah blah.

Rjo
04-28-2010, 05:56 PM
Maybe I'm just greedy, but if I had the same experience you did, my first reaction would be, "Focus on the Beatles? No problem!" Unfortunately, I have no life experience that anyone else would find remotely interesting to read about. I wish I did.

You're still the narrator of the story, and even if you talk about the Beatles the whole time, readers will still hear your voice and get to know you as a person. A lot of memoirs don't get that.


The person who's now giving it a second read seems to think that it's my voice that people will end up being most interested in. I'm not quite sure what she meant by that, but I hope to god she's right.

Incidentally, I'm sure you have had experiences that others would want to read about. I think it comes down to how you see and relate them. (But I'm also sure you know what I'm talking about, and I do not want to sound like I'm teaching writing 101.)

Henri Bauholz
04-28-2010, 09:20 PM
I don't know how big a risk you are running with discussing your ideas. Hopefully, you'll get good feedback and the risks will be small. However, sending your ideas to agents is a lot less risky than posting them on writer's forums.

backslashbaby
04-28-2010, 09:33 PM
I don't know memoirs, but what if you had a Beatles 'plot' running through the book, alternating with the rest of your story? Then it's Beatles all the way through, and it's you all the way through. If their story there is key to your story and themes, maybe this structure will work?

BTW, I find it amusing that the Beatles are stealing your thunder. Well, yeah ;) They're the Beatles :D They steal thunder.

Rjo
04-28-2010, 10:47 PM
I don't know how big a risk you are running with discussing your ideas. Hopefully, you'll get good feedback and the risks will be small. However, sending your ideas to agents is a lot less risky than posting them on writer's forums.

Good point, and thanks.

But again, it's not my ideas I'm worried might get pilfered, but some of the stories I'm telling. Like why the you-know-whos left the ashram. A story allegedly circulated by knee-deepak chopra a year or so ago says it was because the Maharishi threw them out, which is pure bullshit.

Rjo
04-29-2010, 03:52 PM
I don't know memoirs, but what if you had a Beatles 'plot' running through the book, alternating with the rest of your story? Then it's Beatles all the way through, and it's you all the way through. If their story there is key to your story and themes, maybe this structure will work?

BTW, I find it amusing that the Beatles are stealing your thunder. Well, yeah ;) They're the Beatles :D They steal thunder.

Thanks for the suggestion.

The Beatles are not stealing my thunder. They were the ones who gave it to me, or some of it.