Rejuvenile by Christopher Noxon  
 

12.15.06 Rejuvenile: The Backstory

First, we talked cupcakes. Now, we talk business. Rachel Kramer Bussel, whose online presence is deliciously split between a blog about cupcakes and a blog about erotica, did a very nice piece this summer on the cupcake blog about rejuveniles and food.

This week she posted an equally good, if somewhat less tasty, question-and-answer about the mechanics and practicalities of writing this book. It’s posted on the journalism webzine Mediabistro. Here’s an excerpt:

Where did you first get the idea for The New York Times “rejuvenile” article and how long did you spend researching it? Did you have plans to turn it into a book at that time? Were there more things you wanted to explore and chronicle than you had room for in the Times piece?
?I’d been freelancing for magazines and newspapers for seven-odd years when I started thinking seriously about writing a book—I felt my attention span getting longer and was itching to tackle a big, amorphous topic. The idea for Rejuvenile grew out of questions I was asking myself, and things I saw around me. At the time, I was dividing my time between freelancing and taking care of two little kids. I discovered that caring for small children gave me license to play tag, splatter paint, eat Popsicles and do all sorts of things I was sure would be listed as felonies in the “Official Adult Rule Book.” Talking first to other parents and then to a number of other adults, I was shocked to find I wasn’t alone—grown-ups all over were indulging their inner children like never before; the meaning of maturity had fundamentally changed without much reflection or comment.

I approached a few agents with the idea but was mostly met with “call us back when you have a proposal.” Betsy Amster—a former editor at Pantheon and Vintage, who now runs an independent agency here in L.A.—was the exception. She loved the idea, helped me plan and shape the proposal, and advised me on what material to concentrate on for a sample chapter.
Hoping to turn a freelance assignment into a sample chapter, I pitched editors I’d worked with at The New York Times with a story about adults who love kiddie music—I’d just seen a band called Gwendolyn and the Goodtime Gang do a set of rock covers of “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and “Bingo” for an over-21 club and had talked to collectors who specialized in weird old kids records and thought it would make a good [“Sunday Styles”] feature. They liked the music idea, but were way more interested in the larger phenomenon, and ended up assigning a general trend piece.

After the rejuvenile story ran on the front page of the “Sunday Styles” section, I spent another month fleshing out the proposal, eager to submit it while the story was still relatively fresh. In the end, I didn’t do a sample chapter at all, opting instead to do a detailed overview and lengthy chapter summaries (which, of course, changed when I got the deal and actually began writing).

How did the book deal come about?
?To my enormous relief, the proposal was picked up within the first week. Three publishers expressed interest, though Rachel Klayman at Crown/Random House was the most enthusiastic. She made an offer within 24 hours. There was a date set for an auction but, in the end, the other publishers elected not to compete with Crown.

In your book proposal, how much of your research plans were mapped out?
?I did a lot of advance research for the proposal, referencing basic demographic, marketing sociological data that supported my thesis, and including interviews I conducted while reporting The New York Times piece. These research plans changed significantly once I started work—I altered four chapter topics, added three others and rearranged material.

Do you have any advice to first-time nonfiction authors? Is there anything you’d have done differently, either from a financial standpoint or a journalistic one? ?
It’s become a clich?, but it bears repeating: Your job is only half-done once you’ve finished the book. Your publisher or agent or publicist can be helpful with promotion but, ultimately, it’s your job to get the word out. This extra work has its benefits—it’s great to connect with readers, and hear how your ideas land in a larger market—but it’s hard to make the switch from writing and reporting to hustling and promoting.

Posted at 9:45 am in News | 2 Comments

Comments

Christopher,

Thanks for posting this, very interesting. As an author myself, I shared many of the same experiences and frustrations. It is totally true, old media may be fun to do, but new media leads to sales.

The best advice I can give (which I am sure you will concur) is that a finding a good book agent who believes in your idea is one of the best ways to make your dream of writing a book come true.

They know which publishers (and specifically which editors) will be interested in your concept and help you craft proposal so that it generates interest. This, hopefully, will all lead to the holy grail of selling that book before it is written.

Posted by Graham Walker on 12/15 at 03:33 PM

Well then…since you have so much stuff left over from the book, will you be bringing us Rejuvenile II? I hope so. Or maybe Rejuvenile the movie? Rejuvenile the lunch box? Merchandising, baby! Merchandising!

Oh yeah, I suspect that now that the book is out, you’ll have an easier time getting celebrity interviews for the next one.

Posted by Ms. Geek on 12/18 at 04:11 PM

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