Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fool's Errand

Before I get to the cocktail wiener (almost meaty) part of the blog, let me share my great news. As some of you know, an agent requested my full manuscript two weeks ago. I chewed my fingernails off and then sent it out. She loved it-- TiVo’d House because she couldn’t put it down. Evidently, the editors couldn’t either. A bidding war got going and now I have a three-book deal with a six-figure advance!

If you believed that, can I interest you in a couch? It’s in like-new condition except for where my male cats had a territory war over/on it. Cats are free with purchase of couch.

OK, I don’t have a #*@% contract or the couch. You have to actually send out a manuscript to sell it. And, my husband hauled the couch to an undisclosed location. Happy April Fool’s Day.

Now, to my fool’s errand. With a 40%-off-anything coupon stuffed in my wallet, I went to the monster-mega bookstore. I trolled my usual sections, first dodging Fantasy Dude (sir, clove cigarettes don’t mask b.o...the two odors just combine into something exponentially more offensive), before sailing to the fresher airs of the romance aisle.

I looked, and looked, and looked. So many books. I picked six (lottery technique) and read the first couple pages. Meh. Surely, there was something better on the shelf. But what? When I have thousands of books at my fingertips, I always forget the names of the excellent writers who have books out. I left without taking 40% off anything except my sense of smell. Now that the coupon is expired, I could make a tidy list of things I want to read. Memo to self: don’t go to the monster-mega bookstore without a list.

Does that happen to you? Have you encountered Fantasy Dude? No, that’s not what I meant.

After doing a minimal amount of research, I discovered that yes, having too many choices leads to poor decision making. An article from the Los Angles Times interviewing psychologist Barry Schwartz says, “ of three things is likely to occur when people have too many decisions to make -- consumers end up making poor decisions, are more dissatisfied with their choices or become paralyzed and don’t choose at all.”,0,414001.story

The article continues with a study in which consumers were ten times more likely to buy jam when they had six kinds to choose from instead of 24. My own anecdotal experience backs this up. At the Moonlight and Magnolias book fair, with its smaller selection, I bought an armload of books. I didn’t worry about finding something better and afterward, my selections pleased me.

Does this mean publishers should release fewer books? I hope not. Like everyone else, I want my work out there. I’m just not certain what “out there” should mean. Perhaps I’m foolish, but I’m hoping the looming changes in the industry will result in more books getting to more of the right readers. Am I crazy? Cocktail wiener, anyone?

For the record:
1. That is not my couch in the picture.
2. I didn't really run into Fantasy Dude at the bookstore that day. It was back in ancient times. He was a Dr. Who-scarf-wearing crummy boyfriend who is finally getting a little deserved payback.


Tami Brothers said...

Oh my gosh! I almost spit out my milk. I was first about to jump out of my seat and then wanted to strangle you!!! Too funny. LOVE IT!!!

Thanks, Anna. I needed that this morning. But I will definitely keep my fingers crossed for you and that "deal."

About the couch, hmmm... I think I'll pass...grin....

Tami Brothers

Debbie Kaufman said...

I'm with Tami, except I didn't have milk!

You're right to get that deal OR the rejection, we have to send it out.

Marilyn Baron said...

Wow! I did believe you.

Your post was really funny. What usually happens to me in a bookstore is I have this mega coupon and by the time I get there, it's expired and they won't honor it.

I usually do come in with an idea of what I want but then there are so many choices. If my favorite author has a new book I'll get that.

I agree about the too many choices dilemma. When you go to a restaurant and there are so many things on the menu you don't know what to order.

But you can never have enough books. I get recommendations from friends, book club members and read reviews in the paper.

Marilyn Baron

Anna Steffl said...

Sorry guys--that is a pretty bad trick to play on writers. Now when I do get that contract, no one will believe.


Tammy Schubert said...

Anna, I'll believe you when it happens :) And I do hope it happens for you.

Thanks for the couch offer, but I'll pass.

Giving people too many options is also a problem in software development. You post applies to so many different areas of business. Thanks for talking about it today.

CiCi Barnes said...

Too funny. You had me hooked for a second and I was getting jealous.

I must say I like to arm myself with a list before I go on for the latest books, but somehow I always get sidetracked by their suggestions of 'if you bought this book, you might also like these'. And of course, in an actual store, there are so many more sitting there waiting to reel you in.

It's just like going to the grocery store. I never exit with only what's on the list.

Good one, Anna


Maxine Davis said...

Can't believe I was falling for it all! You are too funny!

On my last visit to 'mega bookstore' I couldn't remember title nor author (never can) but gave him blurb of storyline. He cocked an eyebrown and said in 'that tone', "sounds like a romance." I jumped up and down and said, "Yes! So you've read it!!" He sputtered, I acted innocent, but still don't have the book. . .

Sally Kilpatrick said...


You had me going! And I knew better. Great detail on the couch that was a victim of territorial males--there's a vivid image.


Mary Marvella said...

Anna, you had a lot of us going! Good thing I wasn't eating or drinking! You are one funny lady and I hope you do get the book offers soon!(Not before I get mine, though)

Anna Steffl said...

Wow, I'm flattered that people believed me. You are just too nice.

I promise I'll use my coupons on ALL your books. Heck, I'll even buy them without a coupon.

Susan May said...

I flipped to the end to see who had done so well. You had me hook, line and sinker. Yes, you can write. Nice job. I can hardly wait until it is the truth.

Cyrano said...

I read this blog and was completely jealous and turning bright fluorescent green with envy. What???? Todays blogger is going to be published with a six figure deal? Who is she? Who'd she sell to? I haaaaaate her!
I'll be absolutely honest, until I realized it was an April Fools Gotcha (and it really, really was a gotcha for me) I truly felt all of those horrible things. So terrible, but true.
I read the rest of your blog(loved it by the way) and then at the end of it I thought to myself, You know Tamara, instead of turning six different shades of green, you should have been applauding Anna'a good fortune. And I'm ashamed that that wasn't my first instinct.
What I need to realize is this, if I would finish a @&*%#@@* book then maybe I could submit the @&*#$@ thing, have an agent drool over it, an editor spontaneously orgasm over it and as a result offer a six figure deal with a movie option! And clearly, I'd want my friends at PFHT and GRW to cheer for me instead of having a coronary when I announce it on the blog.
I owe you an apology Anna. I'm so sorry for my jealousy. And the next time you let the world know that you've really sold I'll be the first to hug you and say, "I'm so happy for you," and truly mean it!
Excellent blog.
Have a gorgeous, happy day,

Anonymous said...

Anna, Anna, Anna, Good job on fooling all of us. Like Susan, I immediately scrolled down to the bottom to see who the "lucky" lady was. (Yes, I know there is no "luck" involved...just a lot of hard work) Anyway, when I saw your name, I was so excited! Then the let-down. (shame on you. (g)

Fun post. When I shop for books, I brouse, usually with nothing in mind, looking for the unknown author so I can help someone new. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but it's fun to look and I always get a foamy coffee drink while I'm there, so it's all good.

Thanks for the good laugh.


Barbara Monajem said...

Anna, I wish your mega-deal was real!!

I'm with Sandy re the foamy coffee drink. That's a given at the bookstore.

Anna Steffl said...

Tamara,don't feel guilty! When you announce your big deal, I'm going to drug your coffee and steal your shoes ;-)

Sandy, I love to make discoveries at the bookstore, too. I don't shop the bestseller list (unless it is a GRW author). I do enjoy the pleasure of getting to recommend one of my "finds" to people.

Barbara, I am way too cheap to buy the foamy drinks. Maybe that is part of my problem at the bookstore. I need to relax, revel the foaminess.

Stephanie J said...

I wish the deal was real for you! That would have been so awesome.

Marilyn, that menu thing is EXACTLY how I feel when I go to The Cheesecake Factory. Too many choices!

I never seem to have decision issues at bookstores. When in doubt, buy all of them. But I have indecision with too many choices in every other area of my life!

Linsey Lanier said...


Never mind the six figures, I should have guessed you weren't serious when you said you sent the ms two weeks ago! LOL. Here's hoping you can be serious about getting the call soon.... So get busy and send out some manuscripts! :)

It's good to know I'm not the only one with "too many choices" syndrome! I'm usually the paralyzed one.


Nicki Salcedo said...

I would TiVo "House" to read your book. Darn, those who think otherwise.

As for the changes in the publishing world. I haven't lost a wink or shed a tear. I firmly believe the cream will rise to the top. Like Anna Steffl.

Anna Steffl said...

Thanks for reading my article, guys, and offering encouragement about sending in the ms. I'm getting close. I did send it out before, but that was premature, wishful, thinking. I have a nice pile of rejection letters feathering my nest.

Cyrano said...

That comment about my coffee and shoes was priceless! You're my new humor hero.