For those of you wondering why Tricks of the Trade was AWOL for much of last year, here’s the story in a nutshell.
When the original Tricks of the Trade article ran in August of 2004, I was immediately contacted by an editor from a well-known publisher, wanting to know if I had enough tricks to fill a book. Not even close, I told him. My original call for tricks had netted about 100 responses, from which had culled the 30 best. That left me with only 70 more, most of which were too specific, not specific enough, redundant, or otherwise unusable.
“Well,” he said, “do you think you could get more? Because I think this would make a great book.” I said I would try.
So the following week I started tradetricks.org. By my reckoning, doling out tricks on a regular basis would slowly build up a following, while making it easy to submit tricks would increase my accumulated store of tips.
Both of these prediction proved to be more-or-less true. By spring of 2005, I had amassed a couple hundred tricks–not nearly enough for a book, and sufficient to serve as proof of concept. I spent a week or two writing a book proposal and sent it to the editor. His response, while more subdued that his original zeal, was still positive and enthusiastic. He said that they were having a planning meeting later that week, and he would see about getting the book onto the 2007 slate.
Anyway, long story short. We corresponded for a few weeks thereafter, and at no point did I receive any indication that he was losing interest in the project. Then, one day, and every day thereafter, all my emails to him apparently disappeared into the ether. No responses from the guy whatsoever. No bounces, either, so presumably he hadn’t been 86′ed or anything.
I keep the site going because … well, because why not? It’s pretty easy to maintain and people like it.
A year later I get another email from another editor at another fairly large publishing house. I tell her the above story, and she says, what hey? No one is currently looking at your proposal? Send it over! I do so, warning her that it’s the first proposal I have ever written and therefore probably subpar; she replies with “no, this is perfect, and I totally want to take this to the next level.” (Most of this is paraphrase, but she honestly said “take it to the next level.” In 2006.)
So this goes on for a few weeks, and eventually she and I wind up on the phone together. And I say, “well, all this sounds great, but, you know, I’m kind of wary. Because the last editor just stopped returning my emails.”
To which she chuckles knowingly and says, “well, I can assure you that’s not going to happen here!”
So: any guesses as to what subsequently “happened here”?
Maybe this is just how editors at big publishing houses routinely end communications of all kinds: one minute you are chatting amicably with them around a water cooler, the next they dash off in mid-sentence and hide in a broom closet so you can no longer speak to them. At any rate, the experience(s) soured me on the whole Tricks of the Trade thing, as well as publishers, editors, books, words, and literacy.
Why, then, did I restart the site last month? Mostly because I got a surprising amount of email from people saying it was missed. Also, the tricks continue to flow in even while the site was inactive, and I had to do something with ‘em.
A few notes. The old tricks have been removed, but will presumably resurface in this chimeric “book,” assuming that ever happens. Some people asked for a full XML feed; I implemented that suggestion this morning. And the submit form is currently off-line–I hope to give this place a modest facelift in the coming weeks, and will re-add it then. (In the meantime, you can send tricks to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are so inclined.)
And I still have this book proposal, sitting on the thumb drive in front of me. If you interested in it, and have an attention span of four weeks or greater, feel free to drop me a line.