How to Become a Published Author in 237 Simple Steps
I was 150 hours into designing PleaseFireMe.com; no end in sight, no web design experience, and, suddenly I found myself in Atlantic City with a piña colada in one hand, cigarette in the other, slutty dress on both thighs. Over the next six months, there would be three times I overworked myself into a delirium-induced adventure. This was the first. Or, as you will later see: Step 36.
Like most writers, I have trouble knowing how to quit. The ironic result? Please Fire Me: Posts from the Revolting Workplace, the humor book I co-authored, based on a Tumblr site, released this month. I’m very proud of it. There are a lot of good jokes, excellent artwork, and you can flip through it while shitting, which — I swear on my tweets — was one of my goals.
Some friends emailed me and asked for advice on turning their own Tumblr projects into books. This is my response, 11 months late, about the only way I know to turn a Tumblr into a book:
Step 0: Run far away and do something in a medium that’s not dying! However, if you are unable to overcome your compulsion to have thirty extra copies of your own book in your house…
Step 1: Get a Tumblr idea! It’s easy! For the purposes of these 237 easy steps, we’ll use the guaranteed hit Tumblr http://SleepyOldPeople.tumblr.com. However, if you don’t like that idea, you can always answer a Craigslist ad like I did.
PleaseFireMe.com came from headhunter Adam Chromy who hired me to make his vision for a site where people could vent about their crappy jobs come to digital life. I said I could make a simple Tumblr and promote it virally. Most of all, I said I could write a book after he helped us get a book deal.
Step 2: Register SleepyOldPeople.com at GoDaddy.com. Important: You must buy it immediately after searching or searchbots will buy the name out from under you, taking down your dreams like a syphilis whore in some Johnny Depp period piece.
Step 3: Call your parents. Tell them it’s not their fault, but you’ve decided to grow up to be someone who runs a Tumblr. Hint: Borrow money.
Step 5: Play with color schemes. Let loose, buddy! It’s color time!
Step 6: Consider stealing thousands of dollars worth of programs! Try to steal: Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Microsoft Office and something recreational as a small reward for your thievery. You may use a BitTorrent site like Torrentz, which searches all torrent sites at once, then open your downloaded booty with a program like Transmission. Check out the RapidShare forums, in case your torrent search turns up more empty than the bottle of Nyquil you so desperately need.
Step 7: Crack the demo? No need to crack up (yet)! There are hundreds of YouTube videos of 12-year-old boys teaching you how to be hackers. Let innocent 12-year-old George teach you how to use the cracking software iSerial Reader and KCN Screw. Warning: Do not get sucked in by your fascination with 12-year-old hacker subculture.
Step 8: Watch Swordfish. Admire Halle Berry’s breasts.
Step 9: Design a logo, or hire/beg somebody to make one. If you don’t have any friends, browse this list of links to public domain image resources or nab a free icon; then, adapt it to suit your SleepyOldPeople needs. Don’t forget to emboss.
Step 10: Design a header. Again: Don’t forget to emboss. SleepyOldPeople is professional.
Step 11: Begin building the website. Order a pizza to celebrate.
Step 12: Remember that you don’t know web design.
Step 13: Guess-and-check all your code by Googling every question you have.
Step 14: Notice you haven’t changed clothes and you forgot to eat that pizza.
Step 15: Buy something new to wear instead of doing laundry. Tell clerk you are going to be an author.
Step 16: Discover Tumblr tag filtering. Look in mirror and smile at yourself.
Step 17: Accidentally delete all the website’s code.
Step 18: Cry to current nerd friends. (You haven’t spoken to the college one in awhile. That’d be rude to ask him for help, he’d think you were a sociopath.)
Step 19: Wish you didn’t have a care in the world…like sweet, sweet nerdy George.
Steps 20: Begin re-building site again. Thanks, nerd!
Steps 21-25: Modify. Modify. Modify. Modify. Modify.
Step 26: Template unrecognizable.
Step 27-29: Modify. Modify. Modify.
Step 30: Own face unrecognizable.
Step 31-32: Modify. Modify.
Step 33: Existential crisis.
Step 34: Eat one bite of pizza. Sustenance makes you more delusional.
Step 35: Run site validator: 8,000,001 errors.
Step 36: Take your first adventure! Where will you go to forget about SleepyOldPeople for your first author adventure? I went to Atlantic City! I became the queen of the smokers’ pennies and won $49, which was more than I’d gotten paid for the website I hadn’t finished. Speaking of which…
Step 37: Come home, literally limping, to find Swordfish has been looping on DVD menu.
Steps 38-48: Finish building website! Get notes: It’s wrong and you need to redo everything. No problem! Repeat 10 times.
Step 49: Wake up! (No, seriously. Wake up. You’ve been asleep for like 19 hours.) SleepyOldPeople is ready for launch!
Step 50: Call your parents from your roommate’s phone to tell them you’ve completed something for once in your life! Ask to borrow money to pay your T-Mobile bill!
Step 51: Send out mass email to your closest friends, family, and former co-workers from one-month temp jobs. Create a Google group if you haven’t already done so. Give examples of what you want and give your ‘volunteers’ a deadline. People always need deadlines, even if you just ask them to tell you what their dick is thinking.
Step 52: Design SleepyOldPeople Facebook account. Use application modifiers.
Step 53: Link SleepyOldPeople Tumblr to SleepyOldPeople Facebook.
Step 54: Set up SleepyOldPeople Twitter. Link to the Tumblr using Feedburner. Do not link from Tumblr.
Step 55: Sign up for Google Analytics. Soon, you’ll be reading graphs like a person with a real job!
Step 57: Submit your Twitter to lists.
Step 58: Send out another mass email with links to SleepyOldPeople Facebook, Twitter, & Tumblr page.
Steps 59-139: Get targeted Twitter followers. Use Twellow. Let me break it down, much like your nerves will soon: follow anyone who is following a Twitter similar to yours. Assume everybody following OldManSearch would love SleepyOldPeople. A few days later, unfollow those who did not love SleepyOldPeople using Twitter Karma.
Step 140: Think of an angle for the press other than “Check out my hilarious Tumblr!”
We tied PleaseFireMe into the recession, saying that unemployment wasn’t the only issue of the bad economy. There was another side: People with graduate degrees checking beach passes in a hut with no air conditioning because they had no choice.
Here’s a nice, “cushy” angle for SleepyOldPeople: During these turbulent times — what with North Korea’s nukes, four wars, and a recession — sometimes it’s nice to have some calm and look at Sleepy Old People. Sleepy Old People: Let the dreams begin.
“Let the dreams begin” is your SleepyOldPeople tagline; you need a tagline or slogan. Something to latch onto for press. PFM also coined the term malemployment. Basically: be latchable.
Step 141: Approach press. Reach out to friends, if you have any left, that you have first. After the friend well quickly dries up, start contacting strangers. Try following journalists on Twitter.
Step 142: Consider lying! As some skeezeball who did marketing for American Apparel once told my friend, it works. If you do not want to lie, then skip steps 143 through 170. Although to be fair, you already stole, so…
Step 143-158: Create fake email accounts. Use both Yahoo and Gmail. Use fun names and try to make accounts that sound like the person registering hardest to use their full name given what options were left. I have like 15.
Step 159: Email in to the lowest level blog you can with a tip about your site from one of your new personalities. My favorite one is a confused teacher. Make sure to compliment them about something specific from the site, as if you were an actual reader.
It’s likely that in real life not everyone will be on board with SleepyOldPeople. Why don’t you try to be one of those people and write a negative tip? I’d probably use my “No-nonsense single dad” character, Aaron Kirkpatrick.
Steps 160-170: Once they write about it, then email that link in to a bigger site from two different accounts. Then, up and up. Try and target bloggers with a huge Twitter following, too.
Step 171: Start writing your first version of the proposal. Formatting is important. Most proposals are about 30 pages. The biggest thing is to make sure you can sell it: writing credits, viral marketing ideas, quotes from fancy people, media outlets about how great you or your site is. Also, make sure it has a narrative arc, even if it’s just photos of sleepy old people.
Please Fire Me originally was structured like days of the week, leading up to TGIF. Today, it is a narrative arc of a revolution as told through the introductions.
Step 172: Book a live show that cross promotes SleepyOldPeople. Enjoy applause. Relax.
Step 173: Write in success of live show into proposal in marketing. All done with that proposal! Get out DVD of Swordfish again.
Step 174: Receive email informing you of total direction change for SleepyOldPeople proposal. Rewrite everything but the bios and important statistics on US attitudes towards Old People and Sleep that you researched. Do all this while continuing to promote the website, run the website and the Twitter and Facebook, and contacting press as 30 fake people.
Step 175: Embrace the silly comfort of total delusional breaks.
Step 176: Take your second adventure! I had an adventure so fun I don’t even know where my $700 cash (intended for late rent) went! The last thing I remember is a sandwich. And probably telling strangers about how I would be an author. What will Sleepy Old People drive you to do on your author adventure?
Step 177: Show up to meeting with publisher hung over, wearing bikini top as bra, take a cab because L train was messed up and still be late. Make inappropriate noises of enjoyment when drinking free publisher water.
Step 178: You have a book deal!
Step 179: Wait. You have a book deal?!
Step 180: Realize co-author didn’t invite you to meeting with second publisher, perhaps on account of bikini and thirst.
Step 181-210: Begin organizing the posts in Excel document. Realize there are too many of one type of post, not enough of another.
Despite stealing programs and taking on personalities for media outlets, I never once made up a post. Keep your integrity for OldSleepyPeople. Don’t submit your own old sleepy people. You can, however, edit the users’ captions to fit the site’s style.
Step 211: Write some original Old Sleepy People content, just like you proposed in the proposal.
Step 212: Accidentally sleep through Forbes interview due to exhaustion.
Step 213: Wish you had gotten pregnant in high school and avoided this life choice to become a writer.
Step 214: Meet with publishers for lunch! Hooray! To discuss new direction for the book that will make you re-organize the posts once again and get rid of all the original content you’d already written! Hooray! Why are you saying hooray! You must be getting delusional again!
Step 215: Time for your third and final author adventure! With my deadline looming and 40,000 words of an entirely new book to be written, I some how ended up in Nyack, NY before jolting awake with new bangs on a red velvet couch in The Village! This is your final author adventure, go nuts!
Step 216: Hire someone else to help write the book because it’s only a month away from deadline. We hired angel of comedy Johnny McNulty.
Step 217: Plan for writing book: don’t come up with a plan until much later. Plan eventually becomes: Hire Erik Tanouye to oversee our work because we’ve lost our minds and I no longer have time for adventures.
Step 218-221: Scrapping whole chapters after self-proclaimed “Don Draper” moments. Making sure to have a game for each chapter, so it’s not just a disorganized pile of jokes.
Step 223: Photography. We hired one of the newly-named “18 Funniest Women on Twitter” Ari Scott.
Step 224: Turn in the manuscript with an art log. An art log is an excel spreadsheet of every single photo you used in the book and who has the rights to it. This includes all the separate pieces of a Photoshop file. Then you have to write in the file name of every photo and what you want to be done with it in the manuscript by the text it goes by. It will suck the life out of you like that machine in Princess Bride.
Step 225: Legal review. Citadel said PFM was the longest legal review in the history of their publishing company. You’re welcome, Citadel!
Step 226: Promoting the book. Check out prince of McSweeney’s Teddy Wayne’s advice.
Step 227: Press kit. There should be one on your book’s website in addition to the one they send out. In this case, do as I say, not as I do. I am working on it now.
Step 228: Book signing. Be sure to show up thirty minutes late after begging strangers in the park for directions and a smoke!
Step 229: Contact journalists: Send Jenna Wolfe exhausted direct message with an inquiry about how to come on GMA and receive response that makes it clear she’s The Today Show, reach out to podcasts, pitch magnum opus of Tumblr-to-book blog posts to Splitsider.
Steps 231-233: Request extension with Splitsider due to promoting book by your lonesome. Repeat. Three times.
Step 234: Find someone to proof magnum opus. Angel of comedy Johnny McNulty returned for me when I summoned him.
Step 235: The article is published! Call your parents! Tell them you still haven’t gotten any royalties but you wrote something really long for a comedy blog!
Step 236: Refresh Splitsider page until you aren’t the only person who shared it on Facebook.
Step 237: Write a new book.
Jill Morris is a co-author of Please Fire Me: Posts from the Revolting Workplace. She may be followed on Twitter, Tumblr, or Dekalb Avenue late at night.