The Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival: Tips for Living with Bipolar Disorder turns four years old soon. We have had quite a few funny moments since turning in our manuscripts on October 31, 2013 for our nine-week deadline.
Rookies on a path, I wrote our rough draft while recovering from foot surgery, laid up in bed for two weeks. While Nora scurried around playing nurse, we then nipped and poked at it, filling in the blanks, she in her part, me on mine, and together on the chapters. Whether at the beach, camping, inside at our desks, on the couch or the porch, while one drove the other took a note, wherever a laptop or pen would travel, we worked on it. However, it was sporadic, certainly not with the intensity of a deadline. In fact, we believed we’d be publishing it ourselves, with no deadline in mind or on the horizon.
The intense portion began after a phone call while camping from our soon-to-be agent. Against the cracking fire, dim light, delightful smell of fire, we fed the fire and fueled our energy vowing to stay until we were done with our rough draft, or nearly so. Our sticky s’mored hands got in the way as we took a break to clean them and sat back looking at the sky wondering if this could really happen. I don’t think Nora realized what a dream come true this was for me.
Several days later another call came and we reported our rough draft was essentially finished. She gave us the nitty- gritty of the deal and said she’s email the contract (and hers) for when we got home to review and sign. Just like that, in a few calls, we had an agent and a deal.
This launched a tight 9-week deadline. Boy, did we both learn about true pressure. Not the college cram or several day study, think of unrelenting, day-in-day-out pressure. Perhaps college was a second – or training for a new job, though this was a different beast.
With a deadline that short comes the true living definition of work, sleep, eat and we left the apartment three times in nine weeks. At least I did and Nora did a few times as well, the necessities, grocery store and pharmacy, no time for any social eThe benefit is not only a completed book, our first with a publisher, but a sense of accomplishment. True, it ended up about 120 or so pages less than my first, and a few less revisions due to size, but it required more research, less time, and endorsements prior to publication. I earned my wings and the hard work from self-publishing paved the way. This is why I always suggest to newer aspiring authors to go the self-publishing route.
Sure, knocking on a few doors once you have perfected your manuscript is fantastic, learn the query quest, query letters, agent etiquette and all, submission requirements should there exist a few legit publishing houses with open submissions; but, for your sake and all things just, do not give your copyright away!
Regarding contracts, my advice is to have, ideally an industry friend (or google standard contract off the internet if nothing else), but do not sign a dotted line without education and an outside opinion no matter how much you want to be published. I lost an agent opportunity because I took it to a lawyer who made a big deal about a few points off the agreement which was lean (short). She was breaking in to the business and in hindsight, it wasn’t meant to be.
In my case though, I realized I nitpicked a point or two made by a lawyer. The one that sticks out is regarding the agent not having my own escrow account as per the contract, which the lawyer deemed standard. Now at the rate of my earnings to date, it still would not make a hill of beans of a difference; however, once, if, a big if I realize now, if I ever did sell a lot of copies, at that point, suppose an agent had a lot of clients who were big earners, then I could see not having an individual escrow account being a problem. My mistake was thinking too far in to the future and projecting success early, in turn, missing a great opportunity. I thought too big or too soon as many wet behind the authors do. I did hit the Kindle and bipolar memoir boom and make $500-$800 for Kindle sales for a solid 2-2&1/2 yrs though and that extra income came at the perfect time in our household when my partner was recovering from a serious back surgery and my doctor’s office job carried us. In other words, going it without an agent worked. The bubble has burst for me now and I now make a small fraction on that book.
I’m grateful for how it all played out. It took a few years to break even, but I’ll always own the right to my story, no publisher makes the decision on price, distribution, in print, out of print, discounts, foreign translation, anything. It earned me the gift of publishing my second book, and that was my dream. I can die a happy woman, as silly as that sounds.
Some people have babies, I have books. Slowly thus far, I must add.
That book, my first, a memoir, I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar, kicked-off this crazy career, not that I had any idea it was a career at the time, yet lo-and-behold, here I am ten years later, still running out of ink from my favorite pens and dashing out at back-to-school time to snarf up ten cent, one-subject notebooks at the local Shop Rite in early September to last through Spring. Then summer I have to suck it up and buy a couple 3 subjects from whatever store I see a deal. I have to write my morning gibberish in expensive $5-$8 notebooks. When did all that get so expensive!
Finally, no blog on one’s own books, no shameless plug could be complete without the simultaneous mention of one’s own friends’ book. In this case, it’s Dyane Harwood’s ground-breaking, Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder has already been Given nods by the bipolar goddess herself, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison (whose office merely added me to their mailing list of some sort! And I thought that was progress!) Congratulations!
“Dyane Harwood’s Birth of a New Brain is a gripping account of the awful juxtaposition of childbirth and the onset of bipolar illness. Her book is an informative and important contribution to our understanding of this triggering of mental illness that happens more often than is generally recognized.” (Kay Redfield Jamison, author of “An Unquiet Mind”
Avx on Amazon.