Monday, February 8, 2010

How Kaboom got Bookified - Part One

A lot of friends, family, and e-acquaintances have asked about the book process, and how Kaboom evolved from a defunct blog to an actual book. The short answer is simply: the luck of the Irish. The long answer isn't much more informative, but perhaps it'll help some aspiring author in the future, and/or give you all more insight into this world.

After the Washington Post article ran - yes, that article - a fair amount of publishing houses and literary agents contacted me, offering their services for an eventual Kaboom book. Although I was busy making the rounds for a new set of "discussions" in offices across the FOB, I did a little research and decided on William Clark, of Wm Clark Associates, to represent the project. This allowed me to concentrate on something far more important - the remaining 7 months of our deployment.

I spent this time serving with a rifle company in an infantry battalion. This time meant everything to me, because it allowed me to get a fresh start and perspective, and still contribute to the Iraq counterinsurgency on the ground level. The grunts took me in as one of their own, and while there were a few cav scout jokes tossed around ("where's your horse?" was always my favorite), it was all in good humor. I wrote about my experience with the infantry company - code-named the Gunslingers - but mainly in a personal diary manner, rather than in blog form. At this point in my life, I hated the Internet and it hated me. Writing though, still served as a catharsis, allowing me in my free time to digest the events of my days and nights in Iraq.

Meanwhile, William did the legwork for trying to find Kaboom a publisher. He knew I couldn't finish the project until after we returned home in the winter of 2009, but between a couple sample pieces and the blog fallout (a spade is a spade: the WaPo article kick-started all of this), he believed there was enough material to spark a deal with a publishing house. We were nearing such a deal when the economy went all Sylvia Plath on us in the fall of 2008. The houses were wary of any first-time writer, let alone a writer about a supposed "tired" topic like Iraq, so William started his search anew, and the Gunslingers and I finished out the deployment. The airplane ride back was a joyous one, something made even more special when I wandered back a few seats and discovered some of the Gravediggers riding with us.

About a month later, in March, CPT Demolition and I journeyed to the Land Down Under to broaden our cultural horizons and party away the previous 15 months of our lives. Australia is a beautiful and invigorating country, and I will forever associate it as the place I found out that Kaboom the book was going to become a reality. Very early one morning - say noon or so - I emerged from a beer coma and stumbled to the restroom to confirm that I, in fact, still existed as something more than a headache. After doing so, I checked my phone to see what time it was, and noticed I had a text message from William Clark. "Call ASAP!" it read. I did, and subsequently learned that Da Capo Press, under the leadership of a passionate editor named Bob Pigeon, had made a very gracious offer for the publishing rights to Kaboom.

"Should we take it?" I asked William. I was ecstatic, obviously, but between the hangover and my ignorance to the book world, I probably didn't sound it.

"Hell yeah!" he replied.

Not that CPT Demolition needed anymore excuse to celebrate of course, but we did toast that night a few times to the news.

After returning back to Hawaii, I began the process of leaving the service. Anyone who has ever done this can tell you this is a painful, time-consuming process - time that was precious to me, because I had a deadline to meet in terms of the first complete draft of Kaboom. I somehow made it, though, mainly due to my roommate, Chris (book pseudonym: The Great White Hope), and little brother, Luke. After graduating from college that spring, Luke joined me at our apartment in Hawaii for my last month there, and ensured that I took breaks from my writing marathons to do things like eat. Or see the sun. Or even occasionally shower.

I was honorably discharged from the Army on June 10, and nineteen days later, with two hours to spare, I sent in the completed first draft of Kaboom. And then I took a deep breath and a very, very long nap.

So, in short, all I can really offer you in terms of securing a book contract is this: find someone passionate about your project and trust in them. I was blessed to find two such men in William and Bob. But that passion must originate with you - if you believe in your writing and your project enough, the likelihood of someone else feeling that way will increase exponentially.

In a few days, I'll write another segment, chronicling the steps taken with Da Capo to turn a rambling computer document into a tangible book.

Hope all is well out there, both in the interwebz and reality.


OldGrouchy Doug Wright said...

Good news, Cpt G! Oops. now we can say: "Mr. G."

BTW: Life is good, the alternatives are bad! So, welcome back to the life as we now know it.


Hardtack said...

Again, welcome home, and I have the book on order.... Can't wait to read it....

Dominic said...

This was really interesting, thanks for sharing it, Matt. You are dominating Amazon, btw! Beating a lot of great books already, and yours is still just a pre-order!

Arli said...

Will you be doing a book tour or at least a signing event in NYC? If so, any idea on dates?

Nichole said...

Would be super cool if they made this into a movie..

Chris said...

I read the copy you mailed me in Iraq. Damn good book. My Soldiers wonder why I am always laughing as I pick it up and read a few pages.
Thanks, I just got done reading a few of your recent blog entries. I went to Australia in 2008, just as you were settling into Iraq. I have to agree it is a fun place to visit, party and enjoy.
Keep in contact. Fun to re-read what you say in the blog in your book. Sounds like you CAV BC was a ... well, I am still on Active Duty.
CPT Chris W