Did you hear about Ellen Graf, the writer who snagged a book deal after publishing an essay in Modern Love? How about Melanie Gideon? Or Alison Buckholtz?
Yeah, me too. In fact, it’s pretty well known in aspiring author circles that the Modern Love column is a favorite fishing hole of New York literary agents. At least nine book deals have been officially tied to essays published in the New York Times Sunday Style mainstay. All the lucky authors say they were just, well, lucky. But I’ve been a business journalist for 20+ years and I know a marketing hot spot when I see one. Modern Love is a great platform for a writer hoping to flag down an agent.
Thus, the genesis of my marketing plan for my novel.
A year ago, I finished writing "My Mother, the Porn Star." It’s a comedy about a 30something magazine editor whose mother refuses to retire quietly and instead starts a second career as a porn actress. It’s funny and sexy and thought provoking. And really well written, if I do say so myself.
Yet, it is, as they say, still seeking representation.
I’ve done the whole research-query-wait thing. I’ve had plenty of nibbles. I’ve sent the first 50 pages out ten times. But so far, I’ve just managed to rack up a blackly humorous collection of the ways agents say “No.”
“I didn’t fall in love with the pages as much as I hoped.”
“I have so many projects I would not be able to devote the time your novel deserves.”
Seriously, one agent said yuck.
Now I believe in patience, but I also believe in making one’s own luck. So this blog will chronicle my uniquely conceived marketing plan to sell my novel. Over the course of the coming year I will write 12 essays and pitch them, one per month, to Modern Love. I’m banking on the fact that as a professional writer, a published essayist and a person who’s spent the last two years thinking and writing about sex, I should be able to come up with something that will catch the eye of the Modern Love gatekeepers.
And then, when my essay graces that inside left copy hole, drop your eyes down to that tiny paragraph of Italics at the bottom of the column. It will read: Ellen Neuborne is a writer, editor and ghostwriter living in New York City. She has just finished her first novel My Mother, the Porn Star.
I won’t add And agents, you should call her quick quick and sign her up. I think that’s pretty well implied.
Will this really work?
I’ve covered sales and marketing for a long time. Judging by all that I’ve seen succeed and fail, my marketing plan has promise:
1. It’s targeted.
2. It’s cheap.
3. It’s out of the box.
So in this blog you will find me brainstorming for ideas, testing out nut grafs, posting the rejects and jealously critiquing the essays that do make it into Modern Love each week. And I’ll be writing. Writing my way out of the slush pile. Damn it.