Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Secret to Success

If you're a book person, you've probably heard about a book called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. The book, which is non-fiction, is doing very well. And I believe I know the secret to its success and I propose to offer this simple recipe so that anyone can achieve the same.

First, all you have to do is have a great idea. Skloot had her idea while she was in grad school. Easy.

Then it's just a matter of doing your homework. Skloot spent years researching, contacting Henrietta Lacks's children, talking to scientists, etc. Piece of cake.

The next step is a little bit harder, but all you have to do is build a platform by reviewing lots of books, publishing articles, organizing conferences, meeting editors and agents, getting to know the movers and shakers in the scientific community (or whatever the community is that is relevant to your subject). That's what Skloot did. Simple.

And then you need an agent and a book contract, but if you've done the previous steps, that should be a snap. Skloot did that. Twice, because the industry is so screwy.

I suppose you need to write the book along the way, too. And it helps if it's terrific, which by all accounts Skloot's book is. (I bought it at the Virginia Festival of the Book last week and had her sign it, but haven't had a chance to read it yet.)

The last step, after all the hard work is done, is to sit back and relax. And by "relax" I mean go on a grueling five month book tour, with up to three appearances a day, radio and TV interviews, meeting with readers and reviewers, and generally hand-selling thousands of copies of the book. As Skloot is doing.

No problem. Follow this recipe and your success is guaranteed.


Paul said...

"If you're a book person, you've probably heard of..."

Wow, that makes me feel dumb and illiterate for not having heard of it.


Clifford Garstang said...

I probably should have said, "If you're a book person in the US . . ."

Pamela said...

Fabulous, Cliff!

Mary Akers said...

This cracked me up.

Linera Lucas said...

Aha! So THAT'S how it's done. Very nice, and amusing.

Dinty W Moore said...

You left out "finance the first two years of research on student loans, even when the family at the center of the story is unwilling to speak with you and the project itself is sketchy at best."