Tag Archives: career change

The Art of Non-Conformity

Posted: December 1, 2016 at 11:05 am


I’m featured on “The Art of Non-Conformity,” a website for people with unconventional ideas about work and happiness. It was started by Chris Guillebeau, a New York Times bestselling author. The website has 100,000 subscribers. Check out what he said about me (some of it true): http://chrisguillebeau.com/william-crow/. Special shout out to my friend Sharka Stuyt who plays a role in the story.

My Secret Agent

Posted: November 11, 2016 at 9:47 am


I had some good news last week concerning my memoir, provisionally entitled The Next Trapeze.

In past posts I described the “query” process, by which an author sends a jaw-dropping, one-page letter to a literary agent who will beg to have the honour of fielding the seven-figure offers from the big New York publishers. If you’re not Stephen King, or if your book isn’t fifty shades of S&M fantasy, your experience may be different. Here’s the regular, painful process:

1. You research a literary agent through their website.

2. The agent won’t respond to telephone inquiries. If you have a question, tough.

3. The agent won’t allow visitors to their office. If you want to meet the agent before requesting representation, tough.

4. You tailor your query letter to the exact requirements of the agent’s website and send by email. Any deviation ensures rejection.

5. The agent’s website warns you won’t receive confirmation your email was ever received.

6. The agent’s website states they will review your query letter within TWELVE weeks of receiving it.

7. The agent won’t respond to emails or calls requesting a status update.

8. The agent will only contact you if they want to see part of your manuscript. If they don’t like your query, you’ll hear nothing. Which means you’ll wait for 12 weeks,  and never be sure if anyone even looked at your letter.

In the business world, I was used to people acknowledging I existed, phoning me back, treating me with courtesy. You know, human stuff. To be fair, agents receive thousands of query letters every year, and accept two or three new clients. I wasn’t prepared to be ignored, but I imagine everyone else in the arts knows what that feels like. A smattering of agents were nice enough to send polite, “no thanks…but seriously, what were you thinking?” emails. I wasn’t depressed, just frustrated.

But…here comes the good news…one enlightened, Toronto agent saw something in my book the others missed, actually PHONED ME and offered to represent me. I signed his contract before he could change his mind.

Now it’s up to my agent and me to prepare a book proposal so mind-bogglingly clever and enticing that publishers will fight over the chance to publish it. Or something like that.

So watch out, publishers, I have an agent, and I’m not afraid to use him!

Feeling A Little Query

Posted: May 13, 2016 at 11:18 am


People have been saying to me, “It’s been THREE years! When are you going to finish your book?” When they say “book” they do the air-quote thing with their fingers to emphasize it’s not a REAL book because they’re not holding a copy in their hands. Or they have no faith that I’m capable of writing a real book.

To these people I say, “My book is done, so please quit bugging me.” What I actually think is much ruder than that, but you get the idea.  I finished Draft #9 about a month ago, gave it a title page, put in the chapter numbers, ended it with “La Fin” and printed all 278 pages. I’m tempted to write one more draft, but I’d also like to stay married, so that’s it for now.

With a  completed manuscript burning a hole in my laptop, my options are:

(1) Upload my book to Amazon and make it available for 99 cents on-line tomorrow. This has the advantage of instant gratification (people can immediately give me money and enjoy my book). The disadvantage is that these people immediately giving me money and enjoying my book are mostly related to me or have learned how to snowboard from me (owing me a favour). It is very difficult to stand out from the MILLIONS of on-line books offered each year. There are exceptions….The Martian and Fifty Shades of Grey both started as on-line books. Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to write the first one and I’m too good a writer to write the second.

(2) Send my book to publishers and tell them it’s the next Eat, Pray, Love.   Every writer thinks they’ve written the next Eat, Pray, Love, will sell 10 million copies and will be played in the movie by Julia Roberts (or in my case, Brad Pitt, obviously). Those writers are wrong, because there hasn’t been a phenomenon like Eat, Pray, Love since, well, Eat, Pray, Love. Complicating this dream, unsolicited manuscripts are relegated to a publisher’s slush pile where they languish until all the vowels slide off the pages, rendering the book only slightly less comprehensible.

(3) Hire a printer to print and bind 1000 copies of my book so I can sell them in parking lots out of the trunk of my car. Not exactly the dream I had when I gave up a successful legal career to become a writer.

(4) Crawl into a cave and never show my book to anyone. Not a serious option, because then I would fail in my goal of making enough money on my book to pay for all the coffee I consumed in Delany’s Coffee Shop while writing the book. I know, that’s ironic, or a circular argument, or something that makes the last three years look pitiful.

(5) Query my brains out. To have any chance of attracting a traditional publisher and having my book on the shelves of a bookstore not in my hometown, I’ll need a literary agent. And to get a literary agent I have to “query” 500 of them. A query is a one-page letter, possibly with a book excerpt attached, that is so enticing and mind-blowing that the agent begs me to immediately send the completed manuscript. Remember, literary agents receive thousands of query letters every year, and take on two or three new clients. Consequently, my query letter has to be the best 300 words I’ve ever written, as good as anything in my book. If the agent decides I can write a book as well as I can write a query letter, he or she will offer to represent me…which is no guarantee of success with any publisher with more than two employees.

As you may have guessed, I’m opting for Number 5. I’ll let you know how it goes. I may end up buying a car with a bigger trunk.

Meet the Author

Posted: October 15, 2015 at 7:09 am


I brimmed with confidence, 25 pages of heartfelt memoir burning a hole in my laptop. I felt like a writer, and Carol and I were about to see another writer, award-winning literary superstar “Famous Author,” speak in the only English bookstore in Aix-en-Provence. He was in nearby Marseille at a writing conference and finally accepted the bookstore manager’s latest invitation. I read all of Famous Author’s books and felt I knew him because Carol went to school with him in Toronto. I always joked Famous Author was Carol’s high school boyfriend, but in truth he was the outcast loner with a mohawk in the leather jacket. Barely acquaintances. We walked into a packed house at Book In Bar, mostly older ex-patriots and English-speaking tourists in Rockport shoes. In the largest of Book In Bar’s three small rooms, bookcases covered every wall, floor to ceiling, surrounding a desk set up for Famous Author. About 30 standing people crowded behind 30 mismatched wooden chairs facing Famous Author’s pulpit. I spied my French conversation partner Céline sitting in the second row, her hands defiantly saving the only two empty chairs for us. This detail assured me that except for Céline, everyone in the room was English – there was no “saving” seats In French culture. Céline saving seats? My pupil was becoming more English while I struggled to become French. But a seat was a seat, so Carol and I elbowed our way over.
“Céline, what are you doing?” I said as we sat on either side of her. “Where did you learn that?”
“I can’t believe it worked. You English people are so polite!” said Céline, leaning over to kiss us each in turn.
“I’m so happy you came to this, Céline. I’ve been wanting to tell you I took your advice, and I…..” The bookstore manager stood before the crowd and asked for quiet.
“I would like to welcome our special guest,” said the manager. She outlined Famous Author’s string of literary accomplishments, including winning Canada’s most prestigious prize for fiction for his last published book. He was nominated for this and that, had won that and this, taught creative writing at two universities, had all the literary chops I lacked. In her introduction, the manager didn’t mention Famous Author was also very handsome, but the swooning ladies in the front row could attest to that.
I had seen many authors speak in bookstores, and Famous Author was more engaging and open than most. Listening to him, I thought what I always thought from the bookstore audience: I could do a talk like this. I want to do a talk like this. I would just love to do a talk like this.
As I dreamt of a beautiful future where I was a published author and strangers and lonely women came to musty bookstores to hear my bon mots, Famous Author started talking about his book in progress.
“So I was coming off the surprising success of my last novel and I spent about two years writing my latest. Wow, I worked harder on this book than anything else I had written before. Which was weird because the outside pressure was kind of off; I knew it would get published. That’s a luxury. Anyway, I thought it was in good shape when I gave the manuscript to my editor, the guy at the publishing company who edited the last one. He had it for a long time, weeks, but I thought it was just because he was incredibly busy. But I was devastated when he met me in a restaurant to tell me the structure of the whole book was wrong. And it was in the wrong voice. It should have been told from a different character’s perspective. He basically trashed the whole thing.”
Those in the audience stared in surprise, some in shock. I could only listen in complete dejection.
“I couldn’t just tweak it here and there,” said Famous Author. “What was needed was just too massive and complicated. So I started the whole thing over, and I’m almost finished the rewrite. I think it’s much better now. I guess we’ll see.”
At that moment I stopped listening. What I’d heard was enough to launch me on another downward spiral of depression. Famous Author had his degrees and experience and awards and accolades, and I received my creative writing degree from the University of YouTube. If this “auteur” could screw up so badly, what chance did I have of writing something coherent? It was hopeless. I clutched and unclutched my fists and fought the impulse to run from the room.
Céline leaned over and in a whisper close to my ear said, “What’s wrong, dear Bill? Are you okay?” I ignored her, staring straight ahead, unseeing.
Carol reached across Céline’s lap and found my hand to give it a sympathetic squeeze. The warmth of her touch calmed me slightly. She didn’t have to ask me what the problem was. She knew that my confidence, like Elvis, had left the building.