Friday, March 12, 2010

Blogiversary Re-post #1: How Publishing is just like America's Next Top Model

LAST Blogiversary post!!!
Hope you enjoyed the look-back. It was fun for me!
From October 2, 2009:


I watch America's Next Top Model. I've admitted it before. (I actually get an absurd number of hits from that one mention of ANTM and bikinis, and now I expect I'll get more!)

You might think it odd that I'm obsessed with this show. I'm 5'3". I'm not model age, nor remotely model-like--I've never for an instant wanted to be a model. I'm not even girly! The show is kinda wacked, and the shoots they get up to are pretty...kooky.

Not situations I--or, um, anyone I know--is going to be getting into in everyday life. So why the fascination?

I finally figured it out: because I have empathy with these girls. Because America's Next Top Model is Just Like Publishing.

I'm serious.

Let's break it down, and you'll stop mocking and see what I mean.

1. The first step for wanna-be models in ANTM is to be good-looking. Not in a typical "pretty" way, but some original take on beauty: an unusual mouth, odd-shaped eyes, the ability to walk on a runway with a "trademark walk" and pose well for the camera. This is equivalent to WRITING A BOOK. Your book also must be more than what's already on the shelves, something still "pretty" (entertaining) but different. Something that will make readers ooooh. Sure, it's a little more labor-intensive than...being born...but the similarity is THERE.

2. ANTM hopefuls make videos of themselves, trying to convince Tyra that they are not only beautiful but interesting, have a life story that will inspire others, and can handle themselves. This is THE QUERY LETTER. I don't even think I need to explain this one.

3. Hopefuls are then culled to a small group that will compete for the final prize. These girls are just like writers REPRESENTED BY AN AGENT. These select few get special advice and training from experts (revision), and then they have to put that advice into practice in photo shoots. In photo shoots they may have makeup and wardrobe and helpers, but in the end it's all up to the individual to perform, to show the best side of themselves. This is still revision, taking all the advice given to you and finding a way to weave it into the manuscript to make it the best possible work you can achieve. 

4. After the photo shoot we head to the judging panel, where each model's fate is decided. This, of course, is SUBMISSION. Fortunately, we don't have to stand there in person while the judges critique not only our photos (our books) but the outfits we're wearing to panel, our hair, and that unfortunate scarf. Our agents handle both the submission and the possibly-brutal feedback. But we do have to remember that when we're putting ourselves all over the internet, blogging and tweeting and facebooking, we're still kind of standing there in panel. That unfortunate comment we made about a book that editor happened to love is just as bad--or worse--than an unfortunate scarf. I've seen girls get eliminated because of what they wore to panel being consistently bad week after week, when they didn't listen to judge's suggestions. Listen to your agent. Pay attention to how you appear. Don't be an ass.

Actually the judging criteria parallel submission and acquisition even more closely. Here are some qualities that are important both in ANTM models and wanna-be authors, if they want to seriously compete:

  • You have one chance to make an impression. The most important factor to the judges is that week's photo. Even if you rocked last week (last book), it doesn't really matter. What's in front of them right now, the book you're submitting, is what matters.
  • Presentation and personality do count when there is a decision to be made. ANTM judges will often favor the girl with a more positive, engaging personality. If you were an editor, would you choose the author who was easy to work with, upbeat, and willing to compromise, or the one who is always whining and complaining?
  • I said this above, but don't be an ass. Difficult, mean people never make it far.
  • Persistence matters. Attention matters. Judges look for improvement, for girls who listen to the advice of their experts. Who are willing to revise and revise and keep trying and striving, who put themselves into their effort wholeheartedly.
Now thank God, it's not *all* like ANTM. Authors on submission don't all have to live in the same house, on camera, and bicker at each other. We don't have to be naked on a horse (usually) or roll around in weeds or dirt or wear big poofy clown wigs. Usually. That stuff's just fun to watch.

But I'm in that critical SUBMISSION phase, standing there in front of the judges day after day. And every time I get a positive email from my agent, or even news that we're still out there, still under consideration, this goes through my head, in Tyra's voice. And I smile (smize), because I'm still IN there.

You're still in the running towards becoming America's Next Published Author.


Linda G. said...

I remember this post--great comparison! Makes me glad I don't have to participate in an America's Next Top Novelist TV show, though.

Ara Burklund said...

Definitely a favorite! Glad you chose it as #1! : )