Facts vs. Fiction – Avoid the Lena

December 16, 2014

In the nonfiction genre, a publisher’s job is to be confident that the books they publish are fact, not fiction. This can be a tough nut to crack in cases where the only proof they have is the author’s word. And I don’t want to even address those queries that insist theirs are memoirs, but have been fictionalized. WTF?

Being able to verify facts are the very reason I pass on a number of projects. I’m talking about the “Insider story!! I was there working in the Pentagon!! Explosive information that will blow the lid off America! Must read! A sure bestseller!!!” Unless they can present verified proof, then I’m really not looking for a tax audit and listening devices planted in my Vickie Secrets trouble.

End game is that we don’t wanna be sued. And we certainly don’t want our authors to be sued. Who needs the aggravation? We talk to lawyers, the authors, and their agents because we don’t want to ruin our hard-earned reputation, our author’s reputation, or the reputation of anyone who’s mentioned in the story, through intentional or thoughtless creation. And yes, sometimes the author has ulterior motives that the publisher isn’t aware of, which can be a real buzzkill.

But sometimes publishers are aware…

Which leads me to another Lena Dunham story. Yes, I realize I just blogged about her in another post, but she’s really a one-person wrecking crew. Her screw ups are valuable lessons to writers because she represents the perfect storm where idiots in positions of power are let out of their straight-jackets to run amok and destroy lives.

If Lena’s happy admission of sexually abusing her sister wasn’t enough, she went went for the double slam by discussing her college rape at the hands of a fellow student. She named him Barry, and offered up enough specific details to toss suspicion in one man’s direction…a man named Barry, whose college life mirrored the description in Lena’s tome. Predictably, he got fingered as being the college rapist. and public suspicion grew. Lena knew it. Random House knew it, because the man had been contacting them since the beginning of October. And no one did anything about clearing up the mess, until it reached critical mass. It wasn’t until the second week of December that they finally decided to cut Bary a break and admit this wasn’t the Barry in Lena’s book.

Six weeks this man was left twisting in the wind by the author and Random House.

Dunham finally wrote a statement:

“To be very clear, ‘Barry’ is a pseudonym, not the name of the man who assaulted me, and any resemblance to a person with this name is an unfortunate and surreal coincidence. I am sorry about all he has experienced.”

So it’s all a co-hinkey-dinky that Dunham’s intricately detailed description of her fictional rapist exactly matches the actual student named Barry? And she and Random House did nothing to prevent this from ever happening? I’m utterly gobsmacked at this overreaching stupidity.

The Lenas of the literary world always have an agenda, which is why it’s so important that the publisher is a real grown-up – not only to protect their author from looking like a queen-sized asshat, but also to protect themselves. Where was the editor on this, and why didn’t her bloody red editing pen intersect Lena’s manuscript with a hearty “‘Scuse me, but are you on drugs?”?

As a writer, I understand how easy it is to write with great prejudice, which is why first drafts are a writer’s bestest buddy. But at some point, the pain, anger, or agenda needs to be confronted and banished from the finished product so that the story has the highest degree of legitimacy. Narratives that spew malicious invective are on equal footing to the sixth grader who got dumped on the playground via note-passing because the boy lacked little chestnuts to break up in person. Okay, I was in fifth grade, but I digress…

Memoirs are often cathartic, so I see many manuscripts that are dripping with pain – sometimes to the point of being counterproductive. It’s my job – every editor’s job – to help show the author how to refine and shape their pain into something powerful and sage in order to maximize their story.

It’s also the editor’s job to seek out and question anything that doesn’t look to be true because lives can be destroyed. Know how long it takes to destroy someone’s reputation? About an hour, given our online lives. Authors may not care what kind of impact they make on those they write about, but publishers damn well have to. Do publishers really want to risk shouldering that responsibility?

Lena’s a putz, and life will go on just fine without her asshattery. But Random House…in all their largesse…really has me wondering exactly what the hell is going on over there. How did one book create such a hot mess of ineptitude? Such an infantile, immature decision allowed Lena to drag a man’s reputation through the muck, and they sat by and did nothing.

It’s irresponsible writing and publishing. Both author and publisher should be extremely ashamed. Avoid the Lena.

 

 


Spiffy Up Before You Query

December 15, 2014

The time to tweak your manuscript is BEFORE you query any editor. I know it seems that editors have oodles of freebie time, lunching and laughing uproariously with lovely agents, who pick up the tab. It’s a myth. Really. Only lunching I do is with the Rescues, and their table manners are abhorrent. And they never pick up the tab.

In the real world, editors’ time is precious. I try to maintain some semblance of organization by apportioning tasks to certain times. Reading submissions has to fit into a packed schedule, but I pull time aside each month in order to fire all my working brain cells on those submissions.

When an author writes back to give me the “Hold on while I tweak it,” I can only gawk. I mean, they rushed to query, captured my attention, then pulled out the literary carpet from underneath me to do the work they should have done before “Dear Kindly, Benevolent Editor” was ever written on cyber paper. So the time I put aside is now tossed out the window, and I move on to other things…grumbling all the way because I know it’ll probably be another few weeks or so before I can return to the submission.

By then, I can usually count on getting a nudge-gram asking me if I’ve had time to read their manuscript. Double argh with a side of loud sighs.

I know I sound all ranty, but for years I’ve been bleating like a goat on crack about the importance of being the consummate professional. Pulling an “oops, I’m not ready” is the antithesis. I actually had one author give me the “oops, gotta tweak it” reply, then go on to explain that he’d only sent out the query to see if anyone thought it was any good. He never expected anyone to respond! Pissed me off, it did, and I suggested that perhaps he wasn’t quite ready for prime time.

Think that author would have told a prospective employer calling for an interview, “Oh, hang on while I spiff up my resume”?

It just ain’t good bidness…spiff before you query.


Great Behler Gifties

December 14, 2014

Looking for great Christmas gifts? Our two new releases are an excellent choice.

imageFIGURING SH!T OUT: LOVE, LAUGHTER, SUICIDE, AND SURVIVAL…what an amazing book. Beautifully written, and a lovely gift to anyone who’s looking to, well, figure sh!t out.

Michelle said this in her Amazon review:

“Highly recommend this book to everyone. It is a powerful read from start to finish, a gift of the heart from the author to readers. This is the kind of book that permanently changes one and then leads to bulk purchases to give to friends. It is that special. It is also heart wrenching and hilarious, profound and delightfully profane, insightful and inspirational. Most of all it is gift of raw honesty, grief, courage, faith, grace and a life-saving sense of humor. While I do not know the author I knew her late husband Chris years ago and know that he was an extraordinarily gifted person in many ways. Chris was brilliant and generous with the heart of a saint. His passing makes no sense, and the author helps us understand that it never does and never will, `tis the nature of mental illness, which needs to be brought into the light for greater understanding. Chris’s gifts live on in Amy and through their three children (as well as in this and his own books of spiritual triumph). The author, whose brilliance and writing I have come to treasure, has generously opened her heart to share that love and discernment. Namaste.”

 

imageFINDING DAD: FROM “LOVE CHILD” TO DAUGHTER is about following your heart, even when it makes no sense, forgiveness, and fatherlessness.

A. Raymond said this in his Amazon review:

“I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I watch Kara Sundlun on TV and knew of her story. Having always loved tales of family reunions I ordered a copy as soon as I could. It’  s a great read! Kara showed amazing grit and determination, especially for a teen, in pursuing her father insisting that he acknowledge her but even more importantly that he be part of her life. Theirs is truly a love story for the ages. The fact that he was a wealthy Governor who lived in a world she probably had never even dreamed of made the story that much more fascinating. I was also more than impressed with her sensitivity to her mother who had raised her as a single parent yet was supportive of Kara’s need to connect with the father she had never known. If any aspect of this story interests you, read the book – you will not be disappointed.”

Click here to watch Kara’s powerful interview on HUFFPO LIVE.

Or take a gander at the rest of our books…including our timeless backlist.


If You Wrote It, You Gotta Own It – and So Does Your Publisher

December 12, 2014

I’ve been watching the train wreck that is Lena Dunham and the spanking she’s getting over her book…specifically the issue about sexually abusing her sister. Sexual abuse is abhorrent. Period. So the fact that she writes about it so openly and shamelessly, she had to be prepared for the backlash of disgust.

But no. Instead, she goes on the offensive by having a public hissy fit and insulting those who find her brand of honesty on equal footing with the muck at the bottom of a cesspool. Come on, what did she expect? That people would embrace her sexual abuse of an innocent child by calling her brave and innovative, or whatever goosh that seeps out of the minds of idiots? I remain humbled by the virility of her and her editor’s insanity.

And yes, what on earth was her editor at Random House thinking? At the very least, I would have urged/stood on a desk and screamed that Lena approach this subject with sensitivity and purpose. Analyze the reasons behind revealing this sickening bit of bovine tripe (yes, Pricey, tell us how you really feel), and discuss why it’s so important to once-again humiliate your sister. Is it for redemption? Clarification? An apology? What? The reasons must be just. Anything less, and it’s nothing more than salacious bovine tripe…which is pathetic on any literary level.

Look, we all know that controversial subjects make great news and sell lots of books.

jan-storyI look no further than our own bestselling book, Jan’s Story, by CBS journalist Barry Petersen. Barry’s book contains a very controversial topic, and we discussed it at great length during the editing phase. In fact, I had a really hard time with it and had to be talked down off the ledge a few times by the hubs, who is calm and resourceful to a fault. I came to honor the fact that this particular topic really needed discussing because Alzheimer’s is such a cruel disease and destroys everyone who comes near it. And yes, predictably, we caught some heat for it. But we expected it, and turned the controversy around into fruitful, honest discussion. Those who chose to denigrate were free to do so, but we met the discussion head on, and I remain extremely proud of that.

Fact are that you can’t write about controversial topics and not expect to take heat. First and foremost, you must be prepared how to respond to negative comments in order to turn them into pluses. You DO NOT go on the offensive and commence to insulting your readership. You’ll find yourself crucified. And this is where a publisher needs to employ real-live grown up editors who understand how to head this off at the pass by ensuring you, the author, don’t accidentally make an ass of yourself à la Lena.

Understand that not everyone sees you the way you see you, and that you may come off as a clodpated nerfherder. You and your publisher’s first order of business is to Protect, Justify, and Defend…not Abuse, Spit, and Accuse the reader. Own it, baby. Avoid the Lena.

 


Challenging Ideas Need a Platform

December 11, 2014

If your book challenges traditional thinking, you MUST have the platform to back it up. I’m all for rocking the boat and making people think. That’s the cornerstone of Behler Publications. However, I can’t possibly consider anything based solely on the merits that it challenges traditional al thinking. Ya gotta be able to back it up.

Just because you can happily survive on $12,000 a year doesn’t mean everyone can.

Just because you lost weight eating pistachio shells doesn’t mean everyone else can.

Just because you found true peace living in a tree house doesn’t mean everyone will.

You need to have cred. You need to be a respected expert to advocate and prove your premise – whatever it is – is viable. After all, the world already has enough dreamers and nutters, and that doesn’t offer carte blanche on a marketable book.

Go for the different, but be able to put your platform where your mouth is. Or be prepared for lots of rejections…


Kara Sundlun on Morning Joe

December 10, 2014

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Tune in to Morning Joe today, Wednesday, December 10, at 8:45 and see our author, Kara Sundlun talk about her wonderful book, FINDING DAD with her pal, Mika Brzezinski, who also wrote the Foreword.

And if any of you missed it, like I did because I brilliantly forgot that I’m no longer on East Coast time zone, then you can watch it here.


Writerly Funny

December 4, 2014

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