The scene: a fancy restaurant in New York City. There I was, exhausted, windblown and badly under-dressed. Flanking me were chic, well-coiffed business people saying things like “I own fifty-one percent of this company” and “the best I can offer you is forty thousand.”
I had driven down from New Hampshire following a snowstorm. I had been driving since 5 am, and I hadn’t eaten breakfast. It was lunch.
“Would you like some more foie gras, sir?” asked my waiter, arching an eyebrow to suggest that I wandered into this restaurant through some sort of temporal shifting device, like the Tardis or whatever they did in Sliders. The old sci-fi show Sliders, not the food, which is served at Applesbees and was not on the menu here.
“Coiytnly,” I said, sounding and feeling like Curly from the Three Stooges, although my hair was probably more Larry at the moment.
When I checked in, the maitre d’ took my “coat” (air quotes his) but also my orange backpack, which was filled with complimentary Magic cards I had received at PAX last year and had never bothered to take out. My son had thrown up on it very slightly. The waiter seemed dubious.
Hell, I was dubious. Dubiousness was all round.
I was here to meet my editor, my agent, and my publicity team. I don’t even know how to say I have a publicity team without sounding like an asshole.
“Hi Max, can you talk?”
“Gosh, I wish I could but I’m meeting with my publicity team. TTYL!”
See? Asshole. I had been texting with a NY friend of mine who wanted to meet up, and instead of the term “publicity team” I used the descriptor “parole officer” which I felt seemed more Of The People.
“what did you do to get a parole officer?” he asked.
“Kind of a profit making scheme?” I told him, which felt like a good way to summarize the events that had led me to this point.
I’m not going to go into the details of the lunch, other than to say that my editor (jokingly?) threatened to throw a drink at me, and is my kind of person.
After small talk, we hoofed it over to offices of Hachette, the interior of which is entirely white marble. If you put a fog machine in the lobby, and possibly gave the security guards wings and white togas, it would basically look like Heaven. The guards took a picture of me before I was allowed to pass through their pearly gates. I was confused by where the camera was. I was confused by a lot of things.
To be clear: this what I looked like before I met with the people I really wanted to impress.
I met everyone all at once, and they were all freaking amazing. The Marketing Director tossed out titles more clever than anything I had come up with to date, and I’d been thinking about it for months. The social media guru gave me tips about what I should be doing on twitter, and gave me contact information for someone to do web work for me. The art director was brilliant and hilarious and suggested that we make a hipster version of the book in vinyl. Comparisons to Felicia Day. Bridget Jones, and Brianna Wu were made. I loved it.
I also tried to be as normal and as myself as was possible, even though I was in a situation far out of my usual frame of reference. In the back of my mind I suspected I was being evaluated– not in a Mean Girls way, but in the enterprising way of smart people who want to make money. “Can we send him to conventions?” they were deciding. “Can we put him on radio?”
It was exhausting and also invigorating. Regardless of how I did in the charisma Olympics, one thing was apparent. The people at Orbit/Redhook were smart and awesome.
Also, they had an orc.
After it was all said and done, I spoke to my agent. “How’d it go?” she asked.
“Good?” It had been good from my perspective, but who knows? The true answer to this question is probably buried in a secret file at Hachette. But I’m guessing I did fine. I was probably less charismatic than Pierce Brown, who is a fantastic writer and also looks like Orlando Bloom. (“We were thinking of putting you on the cover of Tiger Beat,” Alex probably told him. “Can I touch your hair?”) But I’m guessing I did better than Joe Konrath, who probably bit someone and ran off into the darkness. “Code Red! Joe Konrath is loose in the building! I repeat, Joe Konrath is loose in the building! This is not a drill!”
What can you do? I’m thirty-nine-year old dad with a book coming out. I’m not twenty. I’m pretty geeky. I am occasionally funny. And I’m familiar with the work of Sir Mix-A-Lot, which is apparently not true of everyone in SF/F publishing.
I suppose what I’m really trying to say is: buy my book.