On Theme Parks
and having *vision*
I started my first-ever publishing job TEN YEARS AGO this month. I was a temp at a very nice literary agency, where they used a proprietary software program called BAITS. I don’t remember what BAITS stands for, but I can vividly picture the blond man who popped up every time it loaded (he looked like Coach Craig in Miracle, but in a blue, half-zip sweater. There, now you can picture him, too).
Anyway, part of my job as an assistant was to enter the deal points of the contracts my bosses negotiated in to BAITS (a task I would learn was somewhat redundant nine months later when I switched over to work on the publishing side). It’s hard to pick just one favorite thing about BAITS, but if I *must*, it’s that it came equipped with a subsidiary rights split option for Theme Park Rights.
For context, this agency does not and has never represented any Harry Potter books.
BUT WHAT VISION. To believe so hard that one day one of your books will become a THEME PARK that you build a computer program with a mandatory field about how much every author *might* earn if their book becomes one. It’s aspirational.
Writing books requires vision from the get go; it’s sort of the equivalent of inventing a desert and then having to chart it. But that’s only the start of the journey. Once you get across the desert, you will wait months, sometimes years before others are able to read your account of what the desert was like, and how it smelled, and how sinewy its hands were, etc. And all that time, the desert is just kind of sitting there. No one can see it but you. Then eventually your agent, then your editor, then a whole village.
Here’s something about me. I don’t like creative isolation, or, more positively, I like to collaborate. I like people to be inside my vision. Yes, like a THEME PARK.
My first recruit to Ursa World was my sweet brother, Ben, who played right into my clutches a few summers ago when he casually mentioned purchasing a new guitar after a very long stint producing his EDM opera, Lazer Eyes. “Oh, do you need lyrics?” I said casually. I was writing pop songs for the document in my computer then known as “Island Story”, and thought it might be fun to hear if any of them could make songs.
It was VERY FUN.
I’ve never aspired to be a songwriter, in the traditional sense— I have aspired to be a writer of fictional songs, like Sophie Fisher, the heroine of Music and Lyrics. “She was a brilliant mimic,” is how Sophie’s writing style is described. Same, girl, same. I set out to write some passable folk songs—bring on the elemental imagery . I never thought any of them would actually “work.” But Ben was able to take the rhymes and turn them into actual songs. All kinds of songs!!! Pop songs, ballads, canticles—you name it.
This one’s a sea shanty, called “A Shanty” (not to brag, but I came up with that). It’s the sixth song on Jane’s album, Songs in Ursa Major. In the book, she wrote it for her friend/bandmate, Rich, who is going through a tough time. You can tell I was about six weeks from my wedding by some of the turns of phrase.
Here’s Ben’s version!! DOES IT NOT MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE ON A GD FRIGAT?!
TEASER: We’re actually putting together a lil *music video* for a different song with some likeminded rebels at PRH, which I CANNOT WAIT to share with you soon <3
Speaking of PRH, my next recruit to Ursa World was actually a-long term accomplice from my days at Clarkson Potter. Lise Sukhu is a divinely talented illustrator AND a designer, and she is very good at taking my scribbles and translating them into art. For example, I sent her this in November:
Here’s Lise’s version:
I know the difference is slight, but please try to be objective.
By this point, I was in first pass of the novel, and I had spent all this time envisioning these two album covers—Painted Lady, which is Jesse Reid’s sophomore album, and Songs in Ursa Major, which is Jane’s. And I just wanted to see them. FYI, I also have cover art for Songs in Ursa Major, but it’s a part of my private collection—I’ll only share it when Carly Simon reveals the truth about verses one and three of “You’re So Vain.”
I am *smitten* with the Painted Lady design and am currently in the process of plastering it to every inanimate object I can conceive of (guard your upholstery!) Check out these TOTES (as we all know, first step TOTES, second step THEME PARK).
There are also some enamel pins bearing this design currently battling their way through Canadian customs. My master plan is to unveil a PBS-style merch roll-out on a sliding scale of pre-order loyalty. I haven’t figured out exactly how to weight the tiers yet. My dad, who is currently both my top indie sales rep and maybe also my top indie account, is definitely in the running for multiple totes and newsletter placement (thanks, Dad!).
If you screenshot me a copy of your pre-order for the book, I will send you something cool in the mail <3
Kevin sometimes uses this word with me, “patience.” As in, “Stop making merch, have patience, the book will be out soon.” I try to tell him he sounds stupid, but I’m starting to think he might be right. That all this ancillary has been my way of keeping myself busy before the book comes out. Because when these showed upon Tuesday, suddenly all other formats faded into abstraction.
To pre-order your own copy of Songs in Ursa Major, click the button below! These early sales always help a new book find its footing and are very much appreciated.