Monday, July 30, 2018

Unconventional Writing Career Goals

In my first telephone conversation with my agent, she asked me a very hard question: "What are your goals for your writing career?"

This sounds like an easy question, and maybe it would be for you, but for me it was hard because at that point, I only had one goal: get published. Like, once. Like, here is a book I wrote; if someone saw potential in it and slapped a cover on it and tried to sell it to someone other than my friends—there. That's my goal.

When she said career, the skin on my arms bubbled up. A career? What a lovely, impossible thought. It wasn't that I didn't daydream about a writing career; it was that it literally seemed unattainable. It was like someone had come to me and said, "Where do you plan on going when you're granted the superpower of flight?" I could only answer that question hypothetically, jokingly, wistfully.

"Like, everywhere," I'd say.

In the year since, I've been thinking about that first question more seriously. It's not as hypothetical anymore, which is fun. But it's still hard, even if it's hard in a fun way.

The typical writer career goal list might look something like this:

1. Get a book deal

2. Win the __________ Award/Prize

3. Sell film rights & star in your own movie

4. Private jet

5. Blue checkmark on Twitter

6. Have people actually care about your opinion because you've "made it"

7. New York Times Bestseller List

8. Amazon Charts #1 spot

And, I mean, I would be straight up lying if I said I didn't want to be on a list or win the kind of award you have to accept in a ball gown. However, I have recently begun to daydream about a few other, more unconventional writing career goals.

That list, so far, is as follows:

1. Have my book cover painted on Jennie Shaw's fingernails.

Okay. Go to Instagram, right now, and search @jennieshaw, or click here to read the article about her on Goodreads. She reviews books and gives herself manicures of the books' covers. And they are INCREDIBLE. I found her through Andrea Dunlop, when Jennie did She Regrets Nothing. I have scrolled all the way back. All of my writer friends agree: this is the coolest ever. We must achieve this.

2. Another Instagram-related one: There's an account called @subwaybookreview. They go into the subways of New York, London, Mexico City, Delhi, Milan, etc, see people reading, and ask for their thoughts and opinions. The idea of this is so wonderful: no one's paying these people to read these books. Publishers aren't sending the books out, saying, "Here's a free copy, tell us what you think." These people aren't 'influencers' or 'book bloggers.' For those reasons, I feel like it would be the hugest compliment to see my book on there someday. Like, someone chose to read my book on the subway, all by themselves. Cool.

3. Have an old teacher email me and be like, "I never thought you'd amount to much, but look at you! You published a book!" I don't know. I just think that would be kind of satisfying.

4. Alternately, have an old teacher email me and be like, "I always knew you had this in you! Yay!" or something.

5. Have my book made into a movie and be an extra in every single scene, but in DISGUISE. So, like, I'd be a mailman in one scene (there are no mailmen in my book, but for example), and then in the next scene, I'd be a lady walking down the street, glimpsed very briefly, and then in the next scene, I'd be, like, in a mascot costume or something. And so on and so forth.

6. Be a guest on the Print Run Podcast.

(This kind of actually happened recently; I sent in a letter and they read part of it, and talked about it for a solid thirty minutes. I was driving and I literally had to pull over.)

I'm sure I'll think of more, but I really wish I had these at the ready for that first conversation with Victoria. She would've been so impressed at my forethought. Querying writers: be more on it than me. You may borrow any of these when your time comes.