Weekly Guest Spotlight.
This week's guest is author Stephen Kozeniewski.
I first met Katie in Tangiers in 1948. Wait, is Katie the character or
the author? Well, either way, we first met in Morocco. Or was it
Mombasa? I don’t really remember. The important things is…no wait,
it was the internet. Except in those days, the internet was a series of
wax cylinders and it was known as “Victory Cabbage.”
After I met…Erica, that’s her name (right on the tip of my tongue, too)…I realized that we were both in the same boat. It was a real boat, called the Reuben James, but that’s a story for another time. The story for this time is when we were in the same proverbial boat. We were both getting published this year, which I think I said earlier was ’48, but was actually this year, ’13.
So, when Erica first asked me to write a guest blog post, the first thing I did was, very naturally, to go through my old files to see if there was anything that would cost me zero effort to throw out there. There was not. Then I went through my own blog to see if there were any posts I could arrogate. There were, but she asked me to write a fresh one. So, here I am, minutes before the deadline, furiously beating on my keyboard, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly back into the past.
Then I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “You’re overweight. Significantly. You need to get off the god-damn couch, put this computer away for a couple of weeks, and take a walk around the block once in a while. Maybe stop scarfing down your midnight Big Macs and put down that bottle of Old Crow that I know you drink every night, you sow!”
To which myself replied, “Go get stuffed, jerkola! I’m the one who does all the work here! You give me all the Big Macs I want! In fact, right now, I want a Double Quarter Pounder with Double Cheese!”
After I got back from McDonald’s, an idea for a blog post occurred to me. First, vamp for time with a lengthy, mostly nonsensical introduction. Then, talk about how Erica and I both got published this year! Brilliant! And well worth the now critical blood pressure level. Erica, of course, will be getting published before me, mostly because of all the bribes she passes around like candy. (It gives whole new meaning to all those posts about chasing pigs when you realize all the real pork she’s greasing palms with.) That aside, though, we both followed a very similar course to publication.
So, without further ado, here are the three steps to getting published.
STEP 1: MERCHANDISING! MERCHANDISING! MERCHANDISING!
It’s never too early to start thinking about this! Most of your time as an unpublished (or “pre-published” if you’re a jagoff) author should be spent doing mockups of movie posters, lengthy revenue flow charts, purchasing bulk cotton t-shirts for heat pressing, planning tie-ins and crossovers with more popular properties, and writing awards speeches. You should write SO MANY awards speeches. First, write a speech specifically targeting each of the following: the Emmys, the Oscars, the Grammys, and the Cable Ace Awards. Then, write an all-purpose speech combining the general gist of your last four speeches into one, just in case someone springs a surprise awards ceremony on you.
This is also the step where you should be considering whether thetitle of your novel or textbook rhymes in any way with Mountain Dew (or can be easily inserted into Mountain Dew commercials.) Go Tell It On the Mountain? Clunky, but serviceable. Mountain Stu? Better. Mountain Stu’s Extreme Carbonated Soft Drink-Fueled Adventure Series, Part 1: Maximum Hyperdrive? “Pitch” perfect. (That’s a little advertising humor for you.)
STEP 2: QUERYING
It is a well known and popular fact that query letter writing is a once-and-done process. See, your subconscious mind knows what’s best before your conscious mind is ever aware of it. That’s why, in multiple choice questions, if you’re ever not sure, your best bet is to select the choice you gravitated towards first. Scientists have proven this (citation pending.)
Similarly, your query letter is best in its first draft. Whatever you write first, never change it, specifically if you did it in around fifteen minutes. Doing it fast ensures your subconscious was really cracking that morning, especially if you got over the bourbon hangover. Even better if you were still hung over. That’s like having a direct connection to the little man in your mind telling you what to do. I think his name is Super Id.
Still don’t think you can do it? Right you are. Therefore, I will help you out EVEN FURTHER and this is SOLELY OUT OF THE GENEROSITY OF MY HEART. (But if you have bourbon, I will take it.) Use the following Mad Lib™ to generate your query letter. (And remember, the more profanity you use the better.
My name is <profane gerund> <name or better yet a more famous author’s name>. Stop what you’re doing right now, <compound profanity>! Take your hands off your genitals, <gender-specific profanity>, and buy my book! It’s got robots and explosions, it’s about the human condition, it’s got a setting and everything! Patent pending.
Peace, <taboo profanity>,
<different name from the one listed above>
You know where to find me.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Steve, my book doesn’t have ANY robots or explosions.” Well, that was your first mistake. Go fix it right now. But if you don’t, doesn’t matter. The query letter is solely to ensure that the, I don’t know, bookbinder or whoever you’re sending it to reads the sample pages. Better to pull the old switcheroo first rather than put the truth in the query and the lie in the pages.
STEP 3: PROFIT
There you have it, folks. Kick back and watch the benjamins roll in. Or, if you’re Canadian, the loonies.
In all honesty, though, I want to thank Erica for giving me this chance to write a little something (and, yes, she was the one that told me “be funny”) and if you enjoy my unique skew on the world, you can visit me at my blog here (http://manuscriptsburn.blogspot.com/) or on my twitter account here (https://twitter.com/outfortune)
Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife of 9 years and cat of 22 pounds in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of “Boogie With Stu” even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn’t even really want to get into right now.
During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow.
He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.
Until the next time...I'll be doing damage control after Stephen's, ahem, advice.