“She won with a book we knew couldn’t sell…a cancer memoir.”
The truth is never easy to swallow, even when delivered with the kindness, generosity and wisdom of Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, the Book Doctors. As writers, though, our jobs are to illuminate the truth. To be able to do so, we have to hear and accept it (even if we don’t like it one bit).
So, despite having a completed manuscript and the exciting Pitchapalooza win of EBWW 2016, Lymphomania still sits in the bottom of my desk drawer. But I promise you, nothing has helped my writing career more than that win.
On our first phone call, Arielle’s guidance was simple and resolute — build my platform. More specifically, she told me to leverage other platforms, advising me to aim to land pieces in The Moth or Modern Love. Thus, began my quest to be the world record holder for most rejections from both The Moth and Modern Love.
Her advice might not sound revolutionary. Submit to The New York Times? Who hasn’t dreamed of that byline? But had I ever submitted a piece to an editor there? Of course not! I mean, why me? Just who did I think I was?
I’ve hid behind the phrase, “Why me?” many, many times. (And not just in writing. Ask my mom.) There are so many people in this world with harder, more memorable, more dramatic, more comical stories to tell than mine. But here’s the thing — that doesn’t mean they’re writing them down. It doesn’t mean they’re sharing those words with people. It doesn’t mean they’re submitting them to an editor at The New York Times. That part takes work, and not everyone is willing to do it.
But reading through my notes from the call with Arielle, I realized that I am. (And I’m betting you are, too.)
In that first conversation with Arielle I received something even more crucial to landing a book deal than a list of target publications. Winning Pitchapalooza gave me permission to aim higher. Aim highest, even. “Why not me?” became my new mantra. When I hear that voice of self-doubt whispering, “Why me?” in my ear, I get to respond to it with, “Arielle and David think I’m a writer. My fellow Erma-ites think I’m a writer. And I do, too.”
And come Oct. 30, I’ll have the book to prove it.
Another thing I learned from The Book Doctors? There’s no shame in being shameless. You can order a copy of Amongst the Liberal Elite for yourself (and every single person on your holiday shopping list) right here. And while you’re at it, pick up a copy of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. I still refer to mine at least three times a day.
— Elly Lonon
Elly Lonon is a writer living in New Jersey. In addition to her gently neglected blog her work has been featured at The New York Times, McSweeney’s, Scary Mommy and a disappointing number of now-defunct sites. She’s also appeared in print within the pages of O Magazine and several parenting humor anthologies. If you make eye contact with her, she will immediately launch into her sales pitch for her new graphics novel — Amongst the Liberal Elite: The Road Trip Exploring Societal Inequities Solidified by Trump. When she isn’t writing wrongs and juggling her progeny, she enjoys torturing small stringed instruments.