Author David M. Bader on the Publishing Process

Today I add a new category to the blog – author interviews! 

David M. Bader was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to answer some questions about his experiences with the world of writing and publishing.  Lawyer turned author, Bader has written numerous books, including Haikus for Jews: For You, a Little Wisdom, Zen Judaism: For You, A Little Enlightenment, and Haiku U: From Aristotle to Zola, 100 Great Books in 17 Syllables.  Here’s the interview…

First, thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences with me and the “A Bunch of Wordz” readers.

1. You obviously had a lot of options available to you being a Harvard Law School graduate. What made you decide you wanted to get published, and do you make your income exclusively from writing now?

Well, yes, a Harvard Law Degree opens many doors. Mainly to law offices. Or government positions, teaching, or even corporate finance. As for why I wanted to write, law is a literate and learned profession, but as a practical matter it involves spending thousands of hours working on numbingly dull material.

I did anticipate problems with legal practice even in law school, but thought that when I was older and wiser, I would see it all differently. Never happened. I reached a point at which I just wanted to create one thing that was fun, original, and not ponderously long.

As for the financial question, some of my books have sold surprisingly well. Haikus for Jews has earned more than many novels and non-fiction books. Especially on a per syllable basis. As financial strategies go, though, it might have made more sense to explore the exciting opportunities in ostrich farming or telemarketing.

But I don’t practice law and feel fortunate to have escaped the golden handcuffs.

 

2. When you decided to publish your first book, did you get an agent first or did you approach publishing houses directly? What was that experience like?

Everyone told me to get an agent, which I did. The experience with my first couple of agents wasn’t great. Lesson 1: Never work with a literary agent whose “home office” is in her living room, near an exercise bicycle. Lesson 2: While friends may be able to introduce you to famous, successful literary agents, such agents are not always good with small, quirky books. When an agent who doesn’t know the market for your book takes it on as a favor, it’s not that big a favor.

 

3. What were the steps you took to find an agent?

To find a suitable agent, I looked at the “Acknowledgments” in lots of small, humorous books. Writers often thank their agents there, and I jotted down the names and looked them up. I gradually assembled a list of agents who had sold offbeat humor to respectable publishers. Some of them actually did get back to me when I sent them samples. I don’t know if this works as well for other genres.

 

4. Have you run into any roadblocks getting your work published since your books fill such a unique niche?

Yes, of course. One agent looked at my sample pages of Haikus for Jews and said, “Yeah, I could get about two cents for this.” She was so derisive that it took a while before I mentioned the idea again it to anyone.

 

5. Is there anything in your publishing career you would have done differently if you had known then what you know now?

Clearly I lost some really good years as a law student and lawyer, including many long all-nighters in the office that could have been devoted to more worthwhile activities, such as sleeping. And I would have had more time to improve as a writer. Then again, publishing involves a lot of rejection and disappointment. Had I gone straight into some form of writing, each time I had a setback I might have thought, “If only I had gone to law school.” Now I don’t have that problem.

 

6. What advice would you give to authors on how to go about getting their first manuscript seen and accepted?

Look for agents and editors with a track record for handling similar work. Try to extract constructive suggestions from people who reject your submissions. And if your first manuscript is rejected everywhere, take a break and start something new. You can always revive the first project later. You may sheepishly realize in a year or two that the people who rejected your first attempt spared you great public embarrassment.

 

7. What advice would you give to authors looking to transition from a corporate career to a career as a writer?

Don’t quit your day job? If you have children, put them up for adoption? First of all, set achievable goals. When I gave notice, I remember a lawyer confiding to me that he had always wanted to quit and write the Great American Novel. Not very realistic, coming from a guy who worked 14 hours a day on airplane leasing documents. Pick writing projects you can actually do. Give yourself plenty of time to unlearn all the bad habits you’ve acquired in the corporate world. And if someone advises you, “Go into haiku, that’s where the money is,” stop listening to that person.

 

8. What is the craziest, weirdest, or funniest thing that has happened to you as a result of your writing career?

Hmm… Nothing too crazy. A lot of my books have been copied or, really, plagiarized on the web or in e-mails that people forward all over the place. As a result, one person I met insisted I hadn’t written Haikus for Jews. She said, “You didn’t write that. It’s from the Internet.” She seemed unacquainted with the “book” concept and treated me like some sort of fraud.

Another person forwarded me an e-mail entitled “Jewish Zen” that consisted of passages taken from my book Zen Judaism. She wrote, “This reminds me of your work, though it’s not as funny.”

The Poetry of Spam: Haikus About Lunch Meat

Spam, our favorite mystery meat.  I keep a can of it in the pantry at all times for when I get the occasional spam craving.  But as soon as I’ve swallowed the last bite, I get this gross feeling, like “why did I do that?

Keola Beamer also has a fascination with spam, but his is of the literary kind.  Keola collects spam haiku.  Here are a couple of samples:

Grotesque pinkish mass
In a blue can on a shelf
Quivering alone

Pink tender morsel
Glistening with salty gel
What the hell is it?

You can find tons more spam haiku at keola’s site.  (Unfortunately, no authors are credited.)

Kealo Beamer is a Hawaiian musician who specializes in the slack key guitar.  Visit Keola Beamer’s homepage for more info or to buy a CD.

Hilarious Political Limericks

National award-winning humorist and newspaper/magazine columnist, Madeleine Begun Kane, believes that “a limerick a day keeps Republicans at bay.”  Here’s a humorous political poem she wrote called Some Friendly Advice for McCain’s Veep Vetting Team:

McCain doesn’t use a PC
Or a Mac, so he needs a VP
Who can act as his tutor
In using a ‘puter
And help with the phone and TV.

You can view all of Kane’s humorous poems (including subjects other than politics) at her website called Mad Kane.

Funny Computer Poem

This piece is called A Poem for Those Over 30, but I think people under 30 will appreciate the humor, as well.  The author is unknown.  It starts out:

A computer was something on TV
From a science fiction show of note
A window was something you hated to clean
And ram was the cousin of a goat.

Meg was the name of my girlfriend
And gig was a job for the nights
Now they all mean different things
And that really mega bytes.

You can read the rest of the poem at joke-news.com.  One of the lines is a bit off-color, but it’s the best one in my opinion.  😉

No Third Date

Okay, I wasn’t even sure I liked this online magazine upon first perusal, but now it is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  It’s quirky, strange, a little silly, and perhaps an acquired taste, but one I’ve now grown to love.

Don’t miss the poem by Marilyn Letts called No Third Date at Feathertale.com.  The last line/last reason for not having a third date was the best and had me chuckling.

The Dog Show

This was one of two poems I had published around 1996/1997 in The Advocate, PKA Publications.  (I’m still waiting on my author’s copy, though – lol.)  I wrote this when I was around 16; it’s a true story about a girl I knew at the time:

The Dog Show
by Edie Montgomery-Pool

Here’s a quaint, although true-to-life story
Of a cute, little, six-year-old girl
Who had heard all about a big dog show
And decided to give it a whirl.

Up to the judges she marched
And entered her prized little Scotty.
The day of importance had come,
And she was feeling quite haughty.

As the judges looked over the entries,
She wondered what prize she would get:
One for the best of his breed,
Or one for most beautiful pet.

When the winners were handed their ribbons
Her heart was full of delight,
But joy soon turned to anger
When told she had won look-alike.

“I don’t resemble a dog!”
She cried at the judge in his suit.
He tried to explain the reason:
They both were so blonde and so cute.

_______________

I grant permission for this poem to be reprinted in full or in part electronically, provided the following conditions are met: 1) the author’s name is listed; 2) the site on which the poem is published is not a vanity publisher or a scam poetry contest which requires its “winners” to make a purchase or pay a fee before being published. I grant permission for this poem to be reprinted non-electronically (as in, paper) provided the previous two conditions are met, as well as 3) the publication is for either a charitable or non-profit event or organization and 4) no fee is charged for the publication in which the poem appears. A comment notifying me you have used this poem is appreciated but not required.

After Thanksgiving Poem

This humorous poem is all over the internet, but no author is ever credited.  If you know who wrote this poem, let me know.  It’s called After Thanksgiving.

I ate too much Turkey, I ate too much corn,
I ate too much pudding and pie.
I’m stuffed up with muffins and too much stuffin’
I’m probably going to die.

I piled up my plate and I ate and I ate.
But I wish I had known when to stop,
For I’m so crammed with yams, sauces, gravies, and jams
That my buttons are starting to pop!

I’m full of tomatoes and french fried potatoes
My stomach is swollen and sore,
But there’s still some dessert so I guess it won’t hurt if
I eat just a little bit more!

Edit:  Thanks to reader, Pokey, for pointing out the origin of this poem.  The true name of the poem is I Ate Too Much, and it’s by Jack Prelutsky.

If you liked this post, you might also like this other funny Thanksgiving poem:  The Thanksgiving Toupee Souflee.