Showing posts from May, 2009

two good reads

INTERN is feeling sheepish for talking about herself too much, so here are two blogs which are way better: and

That is all.

Oh, wait, not all: also read this.

Why You Really Don't Want to Get Published

If you're reading this blog, THE INTERN assumes that you either know THE INTERN and are just being nice, or you have some interest in eventually getting a book published.

If you're the former, thank you. If you're the latter: crazy mofo, what are you THINKING?

Getting a book published is not all that. In fact, it will ruin your life (at least temporarily). Want to live in a perpetual state of frayed nerves, paranoia and shame-facedness? Get your damn book published.

THE INTERN must, at this point, reveal, that THE INTERN herself is in the process of having a book published. It isn't my fault—there were no query letters, rejection slips, or postage stamps involved—it's just something that happens when you ride the wrong elevator at the wrong time. BAM! Book deal. Like that one, faintly remembered episode of carnal enthusiasm, you wake up the next morning with this THING that follow you around for the rest of your life. Except instead of open sores, that THI…

Elevator Problems

The downtown office building where I work also houses the offices of a prominent weekly magazine, which for purposes of anonymity I shall refer to only as "Wusiness Beek". I work on the second floor, and run up and down the stairs several times a day, ferrying mail and coffee. The suit-wearing, palm-pilot twiddling, self-satisfied-looking 45-year old men of "Wusiness Beek" favor taking the elevator to their fourth-floor palace (I've heard they have a lap pool and jacuzzi up there) and always seem to be laughing about something when they step onto or off it.

THE INTERN has always wondered what these ultra-geeks were laughing about in there—poolside shenanigans? Ponzi schemes? So I have taken to running after them when I see them heading for an elevator, jumping in before the doors close, and staring at the mirrored ceiling casually as I strain to overhear their banter.

But I've noticed something strange.

No matter how loquacious they seem to be when I s…

FedEx Man

Let's take a break from all this writing-advice bullshit and talk about FedEx Man. Every publishing house has a FedEx Man. Ours happens to be a short, tanned dude with big muscles and slicked-back hair like a Bollywood movie star. FedEx Man comes by every day. He sometimes carries an amusing accessory, like big sunglasses or a pen with a naked lady floating inside it. Something small and funny to spark conversation while THE INTERN signs the pad. Today FedEx man was carrying an acoustic guitar.

THE INTERN shits you not.

He proceeds to play La Bamba while I count the boxes and sign the thingy.

What is a ragged, weary intern supposed to say to that? THE INTERN tries to eject an appreciative "Whoa, FedEx Man, you da bomb!" but all that comes out is a terrified-sounding "Whoa."

"I see you later, awright?" says FedEx Man, in a tone that sounds jocular but could also be menacing. He casually slings his guitar over his shoulder and leaves.

INTERN has pa…

Money Talks: Part II

How to convince a publisher that your book will sell?


1. Be known.

Publishers are looking for authors whose name people will recognize—or who at least has enough friends and relatives to buy up 10,000 copies of her book. But even if you're not famous, you can convince an editor that your book (and your name) has a built-in audience by proving that you are a Known Expert on your subject.

"How can I be known," you say, "when I am completely unknown? A mere nobody, a nobody with a manuscript and a bad case of asthma?"

If you're unknown, THE INTERN probably doesn't want to hear from you—yet. BEFORE sending in your manuscript, do a little hustling and GET YOUR ASS KNOWN.

And I don't mean carnally.

Here's how.

Let's say you're an unknown author, who has written a book of relationship advice. Before you try to get your book published, spend a couple months building up some credentials for yourself. Write a relationship advice col…

Money Talks: Part 1.5

One thing THE INTERN, in her mental flurry, forgot to mention about money:

When you're writing your query letter, you might think it's a good idea to tweak reality a bit and claim the book you published in 1993 made $1.3 million in its first year of publication.

"How could they ever find out the truth?" you think to yourself, as you jauntily spit on the envelope to seal it, sitting in your coldwater studio. "They'll be so impressed with my sales record, they'll jump on my book for sure!"


Part of THE INTERN's job is to sniff out people who lie in their cover letters. THE INTERN is a hungry wolf. Lies are a steaming pile of bacon. THE INTERN can smell lies from a mile away. She leaps on da bacon. Fool gets pitied, manuscript gets tossed out.


Publishers subscribe to a thing called BookScan ( which tracks the sales of books that are sold in bookstores. For every cover letter we get where the author has…

Money Talks: part 1

THE INTERN was on vacation for two weeks but is now back at it, 20% smellier and dirtier than before she left. How does THE INTERN afford to go on vacation, you ask? Perhaps a tidy bonus for her bonanza performance in the office, assessing manuscripts with all the vigor and tooth-gnashery of a migrating killer whale? No-THE INTERN has a boyfriend with a real job. Cha-ching!

Since we're on the topic of money, let's roll in it for a while. Publishers love to talk about money. As a sweet young intern becoming hardened to the realities of the industry, I too am growing addicted to money-talk. How much did this book sell? How big an advance did that author get? How low a royalty rate can we get away with offering first-time writer Joe Shmoe? How 'bout we publish another forest-killer about Superfoods so we can afford to take an afternoon off and get drunk?

Would-be authors: If it ain't gonna sell, we don't want to hear about it. It's a recession: publis…