In this blog post Maggie Tapert, our guest presenter for October, talks about how she fulfilled a lifelong dream and wrote a book.
Lots of people want to write a book. Every month or two someone says to me, “I should write a book. No one would believe what I have been through.” These are not people who have a daily practice of writing but rather those who fantasize about the process. A few years ago, I did write a book that became a bestseller. Here’s how I did it.
I had passed my sixtieth birthday, my husband of twenty years and I had separated and I was steeped in the process of figuring out how to find happiness as a single woman of a certain age. My life seemed to be fairly chaotic when a book agent contacted me on behalf of a large German publisher. They were looking for writers for a new division that was focusing specifically on books for, by and about women. He had researched me in the internet, scoured my website and read all my essays. Would I be interested in writing a book for them?
I had tried several times in my checkered past to write the book. Like most professionals, I knew that a book would bring me a larger audience and establish my reputation as some sort of expert. I did have vast experience as a sex educator and my first-hand knowledge of the feminine, specifically the female orgasm, was an expertise that eclipsed most other educators in the field. But I couldn’t get the project off the ground. I labored over a proposal until it was so over-worked that I couldn’t stand to look at it again. And I had sent it out to dozens of agents with all the appropriate background material. The whole publishing field is very regulated and as an author, you cannot just wing it. And if you want to be a success, you don’t just write a book and then try to peddle it. You must first make a proposal to a publisher. That includes the idea for the book presented in a three to five page text, a short paragraph explaining the book (for a quick evaluation), a biography, a list of potential readers, a table of contents and two or three (!) sample chapters. For the past project, I did it all correctly and received one rejection after another. It was just too depressing and at the end of the process, my self-confidence was in the cellar.
But now, several years later, this German agent insisted that he could sell my proposal if I was ready to pitch an idea. This time I wanted to go in a whole different direction. I would not write the ultimate “how to” sex manual because this market was already flooded. I would write a biography of a sexy woman who has a delicious adventure after she turns sixty and her twenty-year marriage has come to an end. I would write my own story and I would include all the glorious horny details. I sent the proposal to the agent and he informed me within a week that the publisher liked the idea and wanted to meet me in person. I should fly ASAP to meet with them in their offices in Munich.
Long story short, we closed the deal, I had a contract in hand and now I had to sit down and write the damn book. I knew exactly what I wanted to say. It was not theoretical. But filling 200 pages with good solid readable text that will thrill an audience is no small task. My publisher assigned a translator that I would work with so that I could write in my native English. This lovely woman would translate chapter after chapter so that a clean German text would be available nine-months later. My baby. I got going and wrote every morning. Meanwhile, the publisher had already gotten the marketing machine in gear, organized a photo shoot for the cover art and started a whole advertising campaign. I was only half way through the first draft of the manuscript but the publishing wheel was already turning insistently forward!
I will be honest with you: it scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t turn back. I couldn’t quit. I couldn’t fuck around. I was contractually bound to produce a manuscript and it had to be delivered on a very specific date. I didn’t even know if what I was writing was rubbish or boring or even readable. I knew someone who teaches creative writing at NYU. I had her read and critique my material. She gave me a green light and calmed my insecurities. I didn’t know if I could finish it by the deadline but she helped me create a reasonable schedule for writing and assured me I would be done on time. She took on the role of writing coach and it helped. Back at my desk, I kept to the schedule. Every morning, without fail, I sat down in front of the computer at 10 o’clock and wrote for two hours. No interruptions permitted. No excuses. Just write, write, write and fill the pages. This is how you finish a book.
Of course I have other friends that take years to finish their book, chiseling away, bit by bit, when they have the time on vacations or weekends – sort of a tortoise and hare situation. Having a deadline seemed essential and worked for me to get the job done.
The due date came and the finished text was submitted on time. I had to fight with their legal department over passages that were too hot or too explicate. But that too was a good experience. I learned how to stick to my guns but also how to bow to someone else’s superior knowledge in the market place.
In 2012, my memoir was published in the German language by Süd-West, a subsidiary of Random House. Pleasure – Confessions of a Sexual Woman went on to become a bestseller and sold thousands of copies. Now three years later, I tell people with pride, I wrote a book.
If you’d like to meet her in person, you can get In Bed With Maggie Tapert on Thurs 1st Oct – an intimate evening talk about her work around female pleasure and the things she’s learnt. Find out more >>
If you’re a woman and want to embrace your innate female power, check out Maggie’s workshop Queen on Sat 3rd & Sun 4th Oct. It’s filling up fast though so we recommend booking soon if you’re interested in joining the group.