Diary of a Book Launch: An Insider Peek from Idea to Publication

In these posts, I’ll share with you a behind-the-scenes look at taking a book baby to the marketplace. Let me know if you have any questions.

They say that three out of five people would like to write a book, so this is for you if you’re one of them, or if you just want to see how it’s done.

I’m also giving updates on this journey on Unreserved Wine Talk, which The New York Times named one of the seven best drinks podcasts.

You can find my previous two books here: Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass and Unquenchable: A Tipsy Search for the World’s Best Bargain Bottles.

 

Cheers,

 

 

 

 

P.S. Do you want a more intimate, insider seat beside me on this journey? Please let me know if you want to become a beta reader and get a sneak peak at this manuscript. Email me at  natalie   AT    nataliemaclean    DOT    com

 

 

 

December 5, 2021

I’m soooo excited to let you know that several publishers are interested in publishing my new memoir! I’ve been bouncing along the ceiling most of this week.

Now I know this deeply personal story will find its way into the world.

I’m chatting with various publishers to discuss their editorial vision for the book.

Then my agent and I will have to make a decision about which publisher to go with. Deep breath. Thank you for being with me along this journey.

I’ll share more details with you when I have them.

 

 

 

 

December 12, 2021

As I mentioned, several publishers are interested in my new wine memoir. One has offered a 2-book deal … yay!

Even the publishers who said no give fascinating insight into the book’s positioning. I’ll share some “nice no’s” from the U.K.

To publish these days you need to have a large platform; an audience you bring with you who’ll pre-order the book as soon as it’s available, buy it for friends/family and help spread the word.

One U.K. publisher said, “I’ve been completely absorbed by Natalie’s story, but I can’t see us finding a way to make it work for our market.” Another: “It’s a pacy read and the wine interludes are really inventive but I worry we might struggle with this commercially here.”

 

 

 

And a third: “It’s a great and moving read and I really enjoyed it. Natalie has definitely been through a great deal but she tells her story with wit and honesty. It’s a fab read. In the end though I don’t think we would be able to make it quite big enough here in the UK.”

It’s like reading mean tweets, except they’re terribly kind. I almost wish these publishers would write the book back cover blurbs.

They need to know that you have an army of people who’ll support the book before they’ll even look at it … especially with competition for attention from social media, streaming TV and life generally.

 

 

 

December 19, 2021

So many of you emailed me to say you’re interested in the journey from book baby to publishing my new wine memoir, so I’ll give you a little update each week.

 

 

 

 

I’ll take you behind the scenes in the making of a book, from writing and editing to selling it to a publisher and ultimately, launching it in the marketplace.

I’ll share with you the emotional highs and lows, as there have been many already. Memoir is such a personal piece of writing, it’s as naked as you get on the page.

As of this post, my agent and I are still in negotiations with several publishers who are interested in publishing it. How will this end? Down in flames? Up on a bestseller list? I have no idea. You’ll find out as I do.

Today, I’ll share a few more terribly, awfully kind rejections from U.K. editors, a.k.a. the literary cloaked version of mean tweets. Last week, I talked about how your platform, the audience you bring to the book, is so incredibly important. I just don’t have that in the U.K. compared to the U.S. and Canada. So here we go!

One publisher told my agent, “MacLean is a badass; I like her verve and style. That said, I wasn’t sure of the best way to position her in the market for this aspect of her career and life journey.”

Another said, “Natalie relays her tale of devastation and betrayal with a voice that’s approachable, funny, and warm. There’s a fearlessness about her that’s appealing. I’m just not sure how to break it out in a big enough way—these books can be tough even with a notable platform.”

And a third: “I love the exposé element of Natalie’s book and found her to be an incredibly engaging character, however … ”

So one more odd thing about memoir: as the author, you are considered a character in your own book, sometimes also called the narrator. Memoir shares many techniques with fiction writing from character and plot development to the narrative arc and climax. One humongous difference, of course, is that memoir has to be true and based on your own story.

That said, I don’t mind being described as a fearless badass, even though I’ve never, ever felt that way. Maybe it just comes out in my writing.

 

 

December 29, 2021

Great news! The deal is done! My agent and I were in talks right down to the wire the day before Christmas Eve. We had to decide between two terrific publishers. One offered a two-book deal, which is a strong vote of confidence in an author’s career. But I felt overwhelmed committing to another book before this one was even finished.

 

 

 

Both publishers have amazing editors, but the one we went with is absolutely brilliant! His name is Russell Smith and he was a columnist for the Globe & Mail for twenty years, covering arts and culture. He also hosted the popular CBC radio program about language called And Sometimes Y.

 

He has taught creative writing for the Masters of Fine Arts degree programs at the University of Guelph and the University of Toronto, and published eight books, several of which were nominated for the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award, among others.

 

I want you to get a sense of why I decided to work with him. He has a great vision for this book, plus he really got the premise. It’s almost like dating when someone just gets you and you don’t need to keep explaining yourself.

 

Russell is the acquisitions editor at Dundurn Press, Canada’s largest and oldest independent publishing house. In 2019, three venture capitalists who made a lot of money in high tech bought the company, so this traditional publisher also has a future forward outlook. And since the high tech industry is part of my story, I think it’s a great match.

 

So why not go with my previous editor, who is now the head of Doubleday, an imprint of Penguin Random House? Well, here’s what she had to say: Having worked with Natalie, I know how much she brings to the table and I think there’s a significant potential readership for her memoir. I don’t see an obvious editorial match in my group, at least at the moment. So to be practical about it, I don’t think it would make sense for us right now. Between maternity leaves and pending changes it wouldn’t have a natural editorial champion here and it’s only for that reason that it’s not a natural right now for Doubleday’s consideration.

 

Timing is everything. Publishing may be traditional, but it’s undergoing oceanic changes right now, especially with the pending merger between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.

 

And here’s the thing: editors can love your book but they can’t make the yes/no decision alone. They must present it to an acquisitions committee that includes members of marketing, sales, publicity, finance, etc and convince them to say yes to a project that’s a minimum $50,000 investment, apart from any advances the author gets. We’ll talk about that in another episode.

 

Another Canadian publisher said: I’ve taken this one to the team, and we think there’s going to be a big audience for it, but we’re not likely to be the right publisher for it. Usually when we tackle memoir we try to include an overt political or sociological aspect to it. Best of luck to Natalie though; I think this will make quite a splash.

 

Earlier that week we also had several U.S. editors interested in the book. One really went to bat for this book, but alas. Here’s what she said:

I loved the writing in this memoir, and I was pleased that my team did as well. Natalie has such a witty voice and an incredible talent for connecting with readers. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. After much discussion with my team, however, I’m sorry to say I wasn’t approved to move forward with an offer. Everyone agreed with me on the many credits for this book, but we ultimately struggled to land on a solid positioning that we believe will stand out in the category.

 

January 3, 2022

During a Zoom call my agent and I had with an editor interested in publishing the book, he asked, “Are you worried about the controversy this book will stir up? The potential backlash for you personally?”

I said, “Well, first off, I’m still a Catholic at heart, so I believe that suffering is good for the soul, it’s purifying.” He laughed.

On a more serious note, I said, “What happened to me is part of my story, it’s made me who I am and I’m no longer afraid to talk about it or of the consequences of doing so. In fact, I had to write this story to make sense of my life; actually to save my life.

“But more importantly, elements of what happened to me are still happening to many women and this story is as much for them as it is for me.”

In my small, but mighty group of beta readers, there are lots of comments on the manuscript like “I can’t believe how similar our stories are.” “How did you get inside my head?” “I wish there was a hug emoji.”

It’s not just women who are making these comments; the men who are reading the book right now resonate with it for their wives, mothers and daughters.

As much as I’d never want to repeat what I went through, I’m glad that some good can come from it if it helps even one reader feel like she’s less alone and can survive what life throws at her.

 

 

 

 

January 13, 2022

For five years, I couldn’t even look at the notes I took that became the basis of this book. They were too painful, too raw and unprocessed. I had no intention of writing a book, but I had to get the thoughts ricocheting in my head out somehow. So I wrote them down.

It took another five years to make sense of them. It’s only when I could pull back through the lens of time that I had any perspective on my story. As author Glennon Doyle said, “Write from a scar, not an open wound.”

Writing a memoir was like writing about a younger sister, rather than myself. I was a different person a decade ago. We all were. But if I weren’t writing about that experience, I wouldn’t have learned as much as simply going through it.

A few people in my small, but mighty beta reading team have asked me how I can include humour into such a dark story. That’s also the gift of time. If you can see how the absurdity of some things border on hilarity, they fit more holistically into your life. Nothing, and no one, is all bad or all good. Writing about it requires many shades, too.

My fear that this book could be the one that ruins my reputation for good is less important than its message. I’m all in and doubling down.

 

 

 

January 18, 2022

“This memoir is like Bridgerton meets Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,” I said when the editor asked me for “comps” or comparable titles. Publishers need to know where your book fits; which books might be shelved next to it in the bookstore. This also gives them a sense of how large the market is for it.

“What about the darker side of wine aspect?” the editor asked.

 

“Well I guess it’s also like the wine version of Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain’s expose on the restaurant world, and Drinking: A Love Story, Caroline Knapp’s memoir about alcohol addiction.”

 

“And the love story and triumph over a devastating attack?”

 

“I guess it’s a bit of Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Queen’s Gambit … I think we’re going to have to build a bookshelf just to explain this memoir.”

This is the challenge in defining what a book is by what’s already been published. It’s the literary version of the elevator pitch.

 

In my small, but mighty beta reader group, several people have commented that the book reads like a movie. One was more specific saying it was a mystery thriller first then a rom-com. She was hesitant to say this to me, thinking it was an insult, but I’m thrilled.

 

These days, books compete for attention with movies, TV, social media and life. So they need to be as fast-paced and as engrossing as a movie or they’ll be discarded after a few chapters.

 

 

 

 

January 22, 2022

 

“Are you a mean girl?” my mother asked me.

I’d just forwarded another email to her from a beta reader who said she was in tears reading my memoir.

“Yes, I take great pleasure in making people cry,” I replied.

Sarcasm is my first defense against acknowledging real feelings.

It actually touches me deeply every time I get a note from a reader who feels moved by what I’ve written.

Much as I’d like to think they’re crying for me, I know better. They’re crying for the times they’ve felt similar things, whether it’s loneliness, despair, rejection or the gaping hole love leaves when it’s gone.

Not to be a Debbie downer, this isn’t a misery memoir ;)

(Humour is my second defense with feelings.)

I love it just as much, more actually, when beta readers START WRITING IN ALL CAPS and using !!!!!!!!!!!!! because the story turns a corner to something happier.

One reader told me she needed a hug emoji.

I read memoirs to find myself in someone else’s story, to understand myself a bit better, just as my readers do.

Do you? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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