Tricks of the Trade

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 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 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.


  1. I love tricks of the trade. It’s one of the things I looked forward to in the day. When one shows up, it makes my feel very happy. Thanks!

    I, for one, would by a tricks of the trade book. Heck, I’d probably buy two.

  2. I too enjoy reading tricks of the trade. When it stopped showing up in my RSS feedreader a while ago, I remained subscribed just in case it ever started up again. I was quite pleased when it started back up recently and I would also buy the book.

  3. I love tricks of the trade as well… These are always little gems that fill me with curiosity and intrigue.

    Suggestion: I can’t posit any guesses as to why those people up and ran and never called you back about the book thing. But I would suggest you consider Most publishing houses are only going to give you a small cut of the profits. With Lulu, you have to do more work doing formatting and all that other good stuff – you’re author, editor, designer, whatever, etc. – but you’re going to get more of a cut of the profits, and Lulu can get you distributed over a fairly wide range (including Amazon), complete with ISBN and everything for additional fees. (They’re not horrible though.)

  4. I love tricks of the trade. like dan who commented before me, I remained subscribed in the hope you would start it up again. I am so glad you did.

    stick with it. sooner or later you will get that book deal, and the book will do well. best of luck, and thanks for keeping this going!


    Might not be as worth while as getting a real book published, but it’s neat.

  6. What a horror story. I hate it when people ignore me – I can accept any kind of rejection, at all, except to be completely ignored like that. Ack.

  7. So glad Tricks is back. It’s a fun site, and would make a fantastic book. (Potential publishers: I would buy lots and lots of copies.)

  8. You need a literary agent — dealing directly with publishers is always a mistake. An agent will help you whip your proposal into shape and then shop it around to various publishers (many agents are former editors themselves). They take 15% of everything, but it’s worth it. (I’ve done five books with major publishers.)

    B&N carries an OK guide to getting the right agent. Trust me, your idea is a good one, and is definitely marketable.

  9. You should self-publish with That way, you’re in control of the whole process, right down to marketing. Lulu handles the publishing and distribution. Consider it! While it doesn’t sound as lucrative, it’s a solid option.

  10. I was so glad to see this site start popping up in my RSS feeds again!

    For the book thing– take a look at Blurb.

    I just published a 40 page story there for $13. It’s gorgeous.

  11. Me again. Lulu, etc., is great, but if a major publisher picks this up, you’re probably looking at a ~$40-50K advance. This would definitely be a front-table impulse item.

  12. Glad you’re back! I have missed the tricks!

    Bummer about all the book hassle, though.

  13. This happens with on-line dating services, too

    For some reason, the new etiquette is just to leave people hanging

    I call this gutless no’s

    I am not sure why this has become the standard: leave people hanging

  14. You were what is called “orphaned”…apparently twice. It happens all the time. Hell, it even happened to me. Go ahead and self publish and promote it yourself. You’ll make money because people like me will buy it and send it to their friends and family.

  15. this is one of my favourite blogs. i’m so glad you’re doing it again.

  16. (Evidently)
    Tricks of the Trade #12345: Rejecting Authors

    As a publisher, instead of wasting your valuable time talking with potential authors when you know that their idea will be rejected, just don’t return their phone call. Sure, they may be disappointed; they maybe be left hanging. But what do YOU care?… you’re the publisher, they’re not. If they were really someone important, they would’ve written a book or something…

  17. Apparently this is the new norm with employers and potential employees. Used to be the day when employers would tell the potential employee they didn’t get the job. Nowadays it’s apparently “safer” that they say nothing…lest not to be the inadvertant recipient of a lawsuit.

  18. Have you heard of eBooks? I think that would be the best way to market your great book/product. If you are not familiar, take look at the web site of Joe Vitale. He publishes eBooks and can help you. This would probably net you more money and cut out the middle man publisher. Best of luck and I really like the tips.

  19. Please don’t ever take this site down. Or if you’re planning to, at least inform us a few weeks ahead so we can mirror it. =P The web is full of trash and a gem of a site like yours is hard to find.

  20. This is a great site. I hope you keep it up, and I hope your book does get published.

    Here’s my own trick of the trade: When a publisher is in talks with you to form a book deal, then simply stops corresponding with no explanation or apology, congratulations, you have a loser. This loser no longer has any right to expect any courtesy or respect from you at all, and you would be well within your rights to publish their full name, address, company, and phone number.

    If the publisher assures you that this won’t happen after you’ve been burned once, then STILL does it, congratulations, you have a Class-A loser. You now are no longer morally within your rights to humiliate her publicly, you have a duty to.

    Frankly, I don’t care how you do it, but these people deserve some kind of punishment. It’s simply unacceptable to behave this way. I know what it’s like to have my hopes raised, then dashed, but this goes beyond even that.

  21. That’s a pretty harsh story – but I’m glad that you’ve resurfaced. I love reading your tricks!

  22. Ever seen the British comedy “As Time Goes By”?

    Comedy and British though it may be, it taught me all I need to know about publishers. What you describe isn’t surprising.

  23. I’m glad you put it back up! I was confused and lost in the world without these handy tricks.

  24. WELCOME back! I really enjoy the site. Even the tricks that may never prove useful to me, personally, are usually interesting. Like the recent one from a waiter who carries a stain-removal pen — what a cool idea — I can definitely believe it would increase tips, ’cause I know I’d tip more to a waiter that thoughtful!

    Do keep the site going — it’s not merely interesting, it’s really a service to the public and helps make our lives a bit easier. It’s the little things in life that make the biggest difference!

  25. he he
    from romania coming
    keep it up
    good job

  26. Hey, great to see you back! I was one of the people asking for a full XML feed and thanks for putting it up!

    Cheers, Robert.

  27. Thanks for bring back this feed. I’ve had it on My Yahoo for years and never took it off, even when you went dormant. I always hoped you’d bring it back and I am so glad to see you did. Don’t ever let them get you down. Just keep doing what you love and eventually everything will work out. You’ve got a fantastic product here.

  28. thanks for keeping this going and good luck with the book.

  29. Ditto to the positive remarks about the site.

    I have a couple of writer friends, and my impression is that that’s the way the business is. Silence, rejections, broken promises. Sort of like show business. You need allies and you need to schmooze.

  30. You need an agent. Really. There is no other way.

  31. Excellent site keep the tips coming – I find them very useful and perfect for reading in a RSS reader. reminds me of the word a day site – they had that published I think

  32. That’s the publishing industry for you, apparently. They can be such flakes. I’ve been trying for the last year to get a job with the publishing house where I interned a year ago, and they’re horrible about following up after interviews or letting you know that they’ve already found someone so you can stop holding your sweet little breath. (Was one of them Andrews McMeel by any chance?)

  33. Just wanted to say I really enjoy the site. Thanks for keeping it going.

  34. Welcome Back!!! I too would like to thank you for keeping your site up. As the saying goes “No good deed goes unpunished”. Don’t allow people like that take away the good you provide to so many people. Me and my girls have learned so much from Tricks of the Trade over the years, and never gave up on your return. You have, and will always remain on my yahoo home page.
    God Bless,
    C.A.K.E. Gyrlz

  35. I agree w/Laura, above. Blurb is wonderful. I turned my blog into a beautiful book for not a whole lot of money. You have the option of setting up your account to sell books for profit, also.

  36. yay, it’s back! I love Tricks of the Trade; I wish I had one to post.

  37. love it!

  38. YAY! Glad to see you back.

  39. I was glad to see articles start showing up in my feedreader again. Thanks! Thanks also for the full feed!

  40. Ahh So glad to see you back. I first heard about your site about a year ago on a morning radio show when they were talking about cool sites to check out. Then you went dormant and I was sad. Sorry to hear about your misfortunes with the editors and publishers.

    Let me tell you…don’t give up because someone, somewhere IS interested but you haven’t crossed paths yet. There are a lot of readers out there that would buy many copies of your book, me being another to many.

    I read this somewhere: you should start a list of people who would be committed to buying your book when published and then contact them (us) when it does and you have already guaranteed yourself, and the publisher, dollars and proof that this is a sellable idea. Plus it gives you a boost knowing that there is high demand for an idea such as yours. Start the list NOW!

  41. I too thank you for starting up again…I have enjoyed the tricks and hope you keep it up.

  42. I’m so sorry that happened to you! I speak as a former book publisher (moved into newspaper reporting), so I know how truly lousy a thing that was for them to do. Well, as a writer, too, since it would hurt me like crazy to get treated that way, too, after all my hard work had seemed to be so supported and validated. The idea for making a book out of these Tricks of the Trade really is a great one, though, and surely somebody who isn’t unethical will really come through for you. In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed the site for a long time and I’m glad it’s up again.

  43. So glad to see you back, I was starting to miss all those nice tips on daily life. I was almost going to remove your site from my homepages, but I had faith. Anyway, good luck with your book (I would buy one for sure)!

  44. I also love your tips – glad they are back and I wish the best for you with the book.

  45. Keep the site going…it’s useful, informative, interesting….hey…it’s one of the first things I check when I come online…just to see.

  46. FYI, doesn’t seem to be working — I got a bounce email with the following message:

    Technical details of permanent failure:
    PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 9): 550 : Recipient address rejected: User unknown in virtual alias table

  47. Glad you’re back! I’ve missed the site as well.

  48. Evan, I don’t know who your agent is, but hook me up! $40-50K advances! W00T!

    Really, though, as someone who has worked in publishing and has two books of his own, I believe this sort of book would more likely net a $4k-9K advance. Even considering the blog audience, yes. It’s a wacky trade book. Somebody will buy it because they have a schedule slot, put minimum work into it (little, if any copy-editing, little attention to the title or cover, probably won’t get its own publicist from the publisher), publish it in a small run (fewer than 5K copies, expecting a second run in two years, if ever), send out a single press release, and that’s all. They’ll be delighted to make their advance back but they won’t work very hard for it.

    Self-publishing can work, but it almost never does unless the author is a natural huckster, has some pre-existing publishing experience, and speaks at a lot of public events, to which they bring their own carbon-copy credit card machine so they can sell books at a card table afterwards.

  49. I agree with those who have advised against trying to deal with publishers on your own. You can try to get an agent or self-publish. doesn’t require money up front, whereas many of the others do. You already have a wide audience from DY and TotT itself, so I think self-publishing could work well for you, plus in addition to a print version, you could offer an ebook version as well (which I would prefer, though I’d buy hard copy for gifts). Good luck!

  50. You could always try The Friday Poject which is a ‘proper’ award-winning publisher who specialise in turning blogs into books.

    They’ve been good to me…

  51. I helped my brother self-publish a book he was going to sell through The book was great, but it cost thousands of dollars to have
    “booksurge” get ready to print it on demand, and I’m not aware that he sold enough copies to make his costs back. Must not be a good enough huckster as someone above mentioned. You can see info about the book here:

    However getting it ready was pretty easy, a word file printed to pdf in exactly the right format, and a cover in photoshop with all the elements in exactly the right format. If you wanted more info you can contact me through