Writing for Me

November 13, 2013Author comments

For the past few months, I’ve been part of Allison Winn Scotch’s publicity team for her fifth novel. What’s so special about this book is that this is Allison’s first foray into self-publishing. Like many traditionally published authors, Allison reached a point where she was disappointed in the process and decided to try her hand at going indie. You can read about her decision in going this route in two posts on Writer Unboxed: “The New Era of Publishing” and “A Brave New World: Let’s Do This.”

Of the many reasons why Allison decided to strike out on her own, the one that resonated with me the most was that she wrote this book solely for herself.

Now, I am writing Julius for myself as well, but with the notion that it will grab an agent’s attention and ultimately a publisher. So is that really writing for myself? Um, not really because I’m still tied to the notion of representation. That means that as a first-time author I should probably keep my masterpiece within the guidelines of what could possibly make the book marketable. So in a way, I’m already compromising the story because of the rules. Does that mean I’m not trying to write the best story possible? Of course not, but I feel somewhat constricted.

So this notion of writing a book that I would like to read (and I’m pretty picky) and writing only for me is liberating. I no longer need to worry about whether agents like prologues or not; whether the story logs in at more than 100K words, or whether I have multiple backstories. There’s no question that I’d like to be traditionally published at some point, but right now I’m not going to worry about it. I’ll continue to write, rewrite, and revise  for me, and only for me.

Interview with Abbe Diaz, author of PX ME (How I became a Published Author, Got Micro-Famous, and Married a Millionaire)

August 22, 2013Interviews

This year I’ve been reading some marvelous self-published books including Matthew Fraser’s splendid and informational Home Again in Paris: Oscar, Leo and Me, which definitely has me rethinking the Paris dream.

One of the reasons I’ve been reading self-published books is to learn about the process (mostly the mechanics and it seems there a number of ways to go) but also why these authors chose indie rather than the traditional route. Some, like Matthew, did it for timing purposes, others because they’ve been rejected too many times by agents, and by that I mean in the 500+ range of “No thanks. This isn’t right for me.” And then there are others who just got sick and tired of the publishing industry’s model and want more control. In an enlightening post, “The New Era of Self-Publishing” on Writer Unboxed, New York Times Bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch writes in detail about the pros and cons that had me, and I’m sure others, thinking of my future choices.

PX MeBut what if you have a contact who can get you a lucrative publishing deal? What if that very good deal means that your work, which boils down to your very distinct voice, requires to be edited to fit someone else’s idea of how that book should read? Abbe Diaz in the first serialized volume of PX Me (How I Became a Published Author, Got Micro-Famous, and Married a Millionaire) (Volume One) addresses this and writes of her decision of why
ten years ago—when it self-publishing was still seen with jaundiced eyes and scoffed as “vanity publishing”— decided to self-publish.

Below is an interview with Abbe where we discuss the book, the route she chose, her process, what she reads, and her final reading and eating wishes if she were on death row.

 

 

abbe_diaz_headshot (1)1. In PX Me you addressed the issue of not going the traditional route because of potential changes to your narrative which wouldn’t represent your voice accurately. Any regrets that you chose to self-publish? If you had to do anything differently–in terms of self-publishing–what would it be?

Ultimately, I have no regrets that I self-published. Sure, it would have been great to receive a nice corporate check as an enviable form of validation or something, but the lessons I learned undergoing this alternative process instead, are priceless. People can stigmatize or denigrate self-published books all they want, but they will fail to negate the actuality that self-publishers were at the forefront of a new paradigm.

I’ve mentioned these earlier commentaries of mine before, but I like to use them to emphasize my point because they’re so succinct. For example, five years ago Mediabistro quoted me saying, “There’s an inherent integrity in self-publishing that doesn’t exist when you take a more traditional route… You can exercise much greater control over your work. Basically, self-publishing is putting your money and reputation where your mouth is. I believe there will be a day when self-publishing is even more respected than the traditional route.” Well, even I am amazed how much has changed in five years, so I don’t think I’ll end up wrong.

Also, one time right around that same year, Hamilton Nolan of Gawker wrote an article which essentially opined that self-publishing is doomed to failure because people are too stupid to realize that their own writing sucks. And I dunno, it made me mad, this young kid’s implication that creative/ talented people who write about what they know need a stamp of approval from somebody who works at like, a fucking desk job.

So in short, no. No regrets.

As for what I would have done differently, it’s pretty moot anyway. Because at the time (and maybe even still), what I would have liked to have done differently wasn’t even an option. Ideally, I would like to just write the book and design the cover and then take the whole shebang and drop it in somebody’s lap and pay them to do all the crucial marketing and “networking” and social-media-izing and whatnot for me. I mean, I know it’s entirely feasible and that there are probably people or companies out there that “specialize” in that very service, but in my experience the hiring process is almost more arduous than the job itself.

Anyway, my point is ten years ago, professional “book people” would not even bother to spit at a self-published work much less take it on as a client. Now literary agents are becoming freelance book marketers and publicists and consultants and whatnot, specifically for that purpose.

2. What was the reaction from friends and family when you told them that you decided to self-publish, not once but twice?

Hah, I don’t know if this is an anomaly or a cliché, but my friends and family couldn’t care less. I mean, there’s a very small handful of people in my life who are so amazingly supportive that it doesn’t occur to them to be critical of my decisions; the rest are totally oblivious— they are the ones wondering what I do all day since I “don’t work.”

3. You chose to write about powerful and well-known people in two different industries. Any pangs of regret?

Before there can be any pang of regret, there is first the pang of conscience from even considering it in the first place. Then you remember that those people never gave a shit about what you thought before, so why should this be any different.

But then people intimidate you with stories about the so-called “black lists” from all the sinister omnipotent circle jerks (which would really be funny if it weren’t so scary). Then you realize it is probably better to be a somebody on a “black list” than a nobody at all.

4. You’re a prolific journal writer, but have you considered writing fiction? Any specific genre that calls out to you and why? On the flip side of the coin, you have a fashion and design background would you consider writing about those two industries?

I’m not so sure I’m cut out for fiction. Pretty much from the very first page of my first book, I have asserted that my diary should maybe be considered less like “writing” and more like a “textual manifestation of the stuff in my head.” In other words, my journal is rather like a monologue that just happens to be written down on paper. It’s “voice stream.” It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch while reading it to imagine it being recited on stage or across a dinner table, and it’s structured precisely to give the reader a discernment of my verbalization. So I don’t think fiction lends itself well to that “style” of writing. (Or actually, maybe it does. But I’d have to give that a lot more thought.)

Screenwriting however, is a different story. I could totally write fictional scripts as long as they’re comedic (or “dramedic” or “comedramatic”).

On the “flip side of the coin,” I actually did write extensively about fashion in PX This. – The Revised Edition
but people often don’t realize this because it’s the “diary of the maitre d’ to the stars,” which just happens to be the first (marketable) title of acclaim I was granted by the press. After all, however, my book is a diary, so along with my nightly travails at my “moonlight” jobs were all the daily ordeals I encountered as a designer and vendor, as well as my relationship at the time with “fashion legend” Marc Bagutta.

And if there’s ever a time I expand my fashion endeavors (which is pretty likely), I’m sure I’ll go back to recording some kind of journal of it all.

5. Is there a method to your madness? Are you a morning writer? A procrastinator? Do you come up with great prose while in the shower? Do you follow any writing rituals?

I smoke a lot of weed. Sorry, probably not the answer you’re looking for, but I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I am in favor of the regulated legalization of cannabis. It relaxes me and helps me concentrate, because remembering and then transcribing and then typing and then editing is such a tedious chore.

6. What and who do you read?

Right now I only read light and funny things, because when I’m writing, sometimes the tone of whatever I’m reading seeps into my prose. So during that creative process I try to avoid anything florid or grandiloquent or weird. But usually I can get into quirky stuff like Haruki Murakami or engaging stuff like Paul Bowles or John Irving or Gabriel García Marquez or whoever. Right now I just stick with Sedaris and witty journalists like Joel Stein and Kevin Roose.

If there was one writer you could meet and have coffee with who would that be and why?

Andy Warhol. OMG, have you read his diary? He is my inspiration and my guru. Andy Warhol invented self-everything.

7. What words of wisdom would you impart for someone who wants to be a writer?

There is already such a ridiculous amount of “advice” out there, any more would just be so confusing for all the poor aspiring writers. All I can add is: if a person is really a writer then they just are or aren’t, there’s no “wanting to be.” The question is not really whether you should write or not, the question is whether you should quit your soul-destroying good-paying lackey job to try and live off writing.

And well, I am still working four different jobs so I am the wrong person to ask.

8. What are you working on now?

My second book, PX Me (How I became a Published Author, Got Micro-Famous, and Married a Millionaire), which is the sequel to PX This (Diary of the “Maitre d’ to the Stars”). PX Me is a serial, so right now I’m on Volume Eight out of ten.

And we’re still shopping around the television pilot of PX This that we produced last summer, too. And gearing up the PX This website up to eventually offer a lot more profitable content is always on the back burner.

9. Anything you’d like to add that no one has asked and you wish they did?

If I really thought about it, we’d probably be here all day. But the first wish about questions that pops into my head is: I wish people would actually ask the questions instead of just making things up out of their heads. I mean, I don’t mind answering questions about my book as long as people have actually read it before they start talking smack about it. But I guess that’s a lot to ask of trolls (and the media).

10. Assume you are on death row. You have one week to read one book. What would it be and why? And because you’ve worked at some amazing restaurants and you’ve dined out frequently what would your very last meal be?

Oh wow, Confessions of an Heiress by Paris Hilton? I would want to read something really bad and trashy that’s a huge bestseller, so after I finish absorbing it I just want to kill myself. Then I would be thankful that I’m on Death Row.

And my last meal would be all the fatty and carb foods I love and avoid like pork ribs and fried chicken and mashed potatoes and pasta in cream sauce. I can think of a handful of chefs I’d choose to cook for me, but if I start naming them now I will inevitably forget somebody and make people upset with me. Maybe that would be a good list to make for a blog post someday.