A Writer, an Agent, and an Editor walked into a bar…

 

A writer, an agent, and an editor walked into a bar.

  “What’ll it be?” asked the bartender.

  “Scotch,” she said.

 

I’ll admit right up front that I had reservations about starting this blog. Reservations may  be putting it lightly.  Internal arguments raged throughout the various levels of my brain, infiltrating my unconscious, so that I dreamed about blogging when I could have been dreaming about Matt Damon or George Clooney. The Antiblogger within put up a hell of a fight. “What,” he demanded (he, yes, and with a slight Yiddish accent)  “there aren’t enough blogs in the world, you gotta go spit in the ocean?”

“Well, yes,” I said diffidently, “but I think I have something unique—“

“Unique, shmunique! You’re a writer! They all blog now, poor schumucks, they can’t help themselves. You’d have to pay them to stop.  You got time for this blogging?”

“I could make time.”

“Look at your desk! You got students. You got clients. You got proofs to read and books to write, not to mention the poor dogs wanting their walk.  What time?”

The Antiblogger had a point there, his strongest. I juggle a lot of jobs, and when I write I’m prone to obsession.  A blog, in my hands, could become just one more thing to neglect. And you can’t neglect a blog. They come with expectations, and arouse them. It’s like babysitting the neighbor’s kid, except that you can’t plop the blog down in front of the t.v. and expect it to amuse itself. Could I really make the commitment? Should I? The blogosphere is full of wonderfully informative blogs, many of which I read, by writers, literary agents, editors, book reviewers, marketing specialists, and passionate readers. It’s an interesting, contentious world, full of uncertainty and pitched battles between the gatekeepers and the gatecrashers, supporters of traditional publishing and self-publishing gurus. One could spend 24 hours a day reading good blogs and only skim the surface. Why, then, write another?

There is a reason, though, and it stems from who I am. A writer, first and foremost: author of eight novels, with the next one coming out in 2013 with Viking/Penguin. But like most writers, I’ve had many day jobs, and all of mine have been in publishing. I started straight out of college as a proofreader in one of the large New York publishers, and quickly graduated to editing. Then I moved to Israel (long story for another time) and, after a stint with an Israeli publisher, found a niche where my experience could be useful. I started a literary agency to facilitate the translation of foreign books into Hebrew and Israeli books into other languages. In industry parlance, I became a subagent for many of the major publishers and literary agents in the US and Europe.

The agency was successful. I had the pleasure of working with many of the leading publishers, editors, agents and authors in the world, and in the process I received a first-class education in the business of publishing.

But it wasn’t enough. Wonderful as that life was, seductive as it was, I needed to write my own stories.  I carved out time. It took two years, but my first novel sold to Doubleday in the US, Weidenfeld in England and Edanim in Israel.  For years I kept on writing and running the agency, but eventually, with a growing family, a demanding business and a burgeoning writing career, I had to choose between writing my own books and selling other people’s. I chose to write. Since then, my career as a writer has been informed by the many years I spent as an editor and agent.  I see the world from both sides now, and that unique perspective is what I hope to share in this blog.

So here’s the deal. I can’t post daily. Once a week is more my speed, but I promise I won’t waste your time. Publishing is an industry in turmoil, on the cusp of profound change, and I look forward to exploring that evolving world. Other posts will deal with the craft of writing, because the writer, teacher, editor and agent in me all agree on one unchanging truth: The best thing aspiring writers can do for themselves is to thoroughly learn their craft. In addition to providing my own take on the business and the craft of writing, I will rope in some publishing and writer friends for their insider savvy.

Writing is a lonely profession, and publishing a daunting one. I hope this blog will prove a helpful resource and spark some dialogue. I invite you to comment.  “If you build it, they will come,” Kevin Costner was told, but I’m a warier type. If you come, I will write it; and I’ll keep on writing till I run out of useful things to say.