Welcoming Yuvi + New Videos

PhotobucketTherese here. First off–if you haven’t figured this out already–this is today’s second post. Today’s first post is a great piece by honorary contributor  on short story credits; check it out just below.

Recently we were honored to announce four new contributors. Today, I’m here to announce one more–Yuvi Zalkow. You’ve seen Yuvi here once before; he allowed us to re-post the first video in his Failed Writer series last month. I loved it, you loved it, he loved the experience, so we decided to make it official. I’m thrilled he’s agreed to become a regular monthly contributor at Writer Unboxed, sharing not only his new videos with us but also his thoughts on the weird and wild world of publishing. Welcome, Yuvi!

I’m a collector of rejections. I love rejections. I bathe in rejections. I mean, I don’t love them the moment I receive them, but I do believe that rejection is an important and valuable part of the process of being a writer. Almost something to celebrate as a writer.

I’m also obsessed with creating online presentations about writing. I’ve been particularly focused on making my “I’m a Failed Writer” series. After watching a few of my friends release book trailers along with their book releases, I started thinking about the book trailer format. Of course, you’d normally think that you need to PUBLISH A BOOK to make a book trailer, and I wasn’t there yet.

So I made a book trailer for my novel that I was struggling to sell. Instead of talking about the novel’s high points, it actually emphasizes the rejections I’ve received from literary agents. (WARNING: This one minute video has two occurrences of a neurotic Jew in his underwear.)

NOT IN MY LIFETIME Book Trailer from Yuvi Zalkow on Vimeo.

After doing this video, I read a post by Nina Badzin about being addicted to finding a literary agent and I realized that my trailer was more than just a fakey book trailer showing off my rejections. It was also the first step in my shift away from trying to find an agent for this book, which was something that I was obsessing about in an unhelpful way. So I created another “I’m a Failed Writer” episode, this time about the balance between the writing and the marketing of the writing. I tell my own story about re-balancing things to de-emphasize the marketing and focus again on the writing.

But there’s an odd twist to this story. After I completed this presentation — the SAME DAY that I completed this presentation — I got a call from an editor whom I spoke with two years prior. He was a originally at an independent publisher that was going through financial troubles and he had since switched to another publisher. He wanted to know if I had sold my book. And he made me an offer! I’m still in the process of assessing this offer and what this means; I wrote a little epilogue at the end of the video to account for this unexpected twist.

Episode 4: Literary Agents and Marketing (I’m A Failed Writer Series) from Yuvi Zalkow on Vimeo.

So that’s my crooked story — from rejection to book trailer to letting go of representation to suddenly being approached by a publisher while I stand on my desk in my underwear. Although I wish I had something more graceful to connect all the facets of this story, I think the essence to all of this is that it is valuable to focus as much as you can on the writing, to be a bit more playful about the whole process, and not to feel that you must control how all the wheels turn around you. (How’s that for bringing it all together?) I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to market yourself, but at least for me, I just think it was healthy to re-balance things in my own life.

I’d love to hear your stories about how you balance the writing and the marketing. And also how you deal with rejection — even if you don’t have the masochistic streak that I do…

You can find me on twitter (@yuvizalkow). Or visit my website for other videos.

Photo courtesy Flickr’s ButterflySha


About Yuvi Zalkow

Yuvi Zalkow writes and worries in Portland, Oregon. His stories have been published in Glimmer Train, Narrative Magazine, Carve Magazine, and others. His first neurotic novel is now available. He is working on a second novel (about one Jew obsessed with napkins and another Jew in the Klan). He recently received an MFA from Antioch University, which makes him feel official.


  1. says

    I absolutely hate the “trying to get published” game. That’s what I call it. I guess I reserve the word “marketing” for what you do when you’re selling your book to the public, not trying to get it published (although I understand they are both different kinds of marketing).

    I never had any aspirations that a big agent or a major publishing house would publish my book. I’m writing lesbian detective fiction, and only one major publisher (St Martins) still publishes this tiny subsection of a genre, and the few authors they published are leftovers from when a bunch of major publishers tried out having LGBT imprints (all of which have failed now, I believe). So I knew from the get-go that I would be selling my book to one of the independent presses that specializes in lesbian fiction, and getting an agent first did not seem worthwhile, as I could gather the submission materials myself and send them along.

    I got a contract offer from the second press I tried, and you would think I would have good feelings about the process as it was “so easy” for me, but I hated every second of it. I am not suited to it, and thank god it was “easy” because I was already about to give up on it.

    Like you, I carefully considered my contract (by the way, I highly recommend the book “Negotiating a Book Contract” by Mark L. Levine if you intend to do this on your own) and after the negotiating process, I finally signed the contract this past Wednesday. (Ironically enough, I wrote about my experience with this process in the post linked to with my signature here.)

    I can only hope that I will not hate what I call marketing (to the masses) as much as I hated getting this contract. Also, I hope that you will make the trailer for my book when the time comes, and I AM NOT KIDDING.

  2. says

    Sonje —

    Thanks for sharing your story… And your blog post was awfully interesting to me, particularly since I’m struggling with similar matters. And you also bring up a good point in that I’m using “marketing” a little more generically than most people. I tend to use that term for any part of the process of getting your writing out into the world… basically anything that can derail the actual writing if you don’t keep it in balance.

    Oh: I sure appreciate your honesty regarding your distaste for the process, though I’m sorry you’re not liking it. I wish I could help you regarding a trailer — though I must warn you that my talent doesn’t stretch much beyond getting a neurotic bald Jew in his underwear on film with a crappy webcam…

    Congratulations on getting your book published!

  3. says

    Yuvi–what great news that you’re a monthly contributor now. Can’t wait to see more videos and more light bulb moments. (Thanks for the mention of my post, of course!) And WHAT A GREAT EPILOGUE. You have to keep us posted on what happens from here.

    • says

      Thanks, Nina. I’ll keep you posted what happens with my book… still in the assessing phase right now!… I’m really digging your blog.

  4. says

    What a fun and ambiguously insightful addition to WU. I especially love the neurotic Jew angle, since I happen to be part of that club.

    I think that for me, marketing myself as a writer/author/blogger is helpful because it benefits my writing. I’m always thinking about writing or publishing and having the opportunity to talk about it when I’m not doing it means my head is sort of always in the game. It’s the most interesting thing to me besides my kids and dogs — and I only have one writer-friend in real life.

    I also think that connecting on blogs and forums and Facebook and Twitter and Google+ benefits my writing and marketing because I often see what I don’t want to do and how I don’t want to come across — as much as what I’d like to accomplish and emulate.

    Good luck with your maybe-published book. I’m looking forward to more videos!

    • says

      Amy: I like your perspective on what I was calling ‘marketing’… It doesn’t necessarily need to be at odds with the writing… Maybe another way of looking at it is that you’re building and connecting with a community. It seems like that is just what you’re doing. Anyway, I love that you called it my “maybe-published book”. That’s perfect. I’ll have to steal that line… :) Thanks for watching and commenting.

  5. says

    You and I are on a similar journey, and it’s good to meet a fellow traveler with such a delightful sense of humor and terrific video skills. I, too, have given up on agents. I, too, had them love stuff but then say they didn’t know what to do with it.

    I decided I knew what to do with it, and it wasn’t to give up. I’m now a “publisher.” Yes, they’re all my books, but I’m looking for other writers, too. At least my stories get out there, a little, and that’s the idea.

    And in the process I’m now doing book designing and editing for other authors and a small publishing house. More ways to be creative!

    Luck to you, Yuvi, and welcome to the WU crew.

    • says

      Ray: A nice, different twist to the story of getting published. Your site and the books look great. Wish you the best!

  6. says

    Hi Yuvi! I watched your first video and chuckled and thought it was a refreshing change from all the more serious blogs I read. Today’s video was cute but also insightful. I’ve been trying to find an agent for exactly two years now and have written three books during that time. I DID actually find a “home” for my first book with a small e-book publisher but there’s still that niggling thing in the back of my mind pushing me to continue sending out query letter after query letter. Until I want to scream. I’ve received so many rejections that I don’t even read through the entire “R” letters anymore. I can tell when I see that perennial word “unfortunately” what they’re going to tell me. Additionally, I am at the point where I HAVE to get back to the writing because this querying stuff is becoming almost useless. I know I still have to try in order to fail (at the querying, I mean), so I still send them out. But not with as much enthusiasm as before.

    • says

      Yeah, it seems tricky to put that aspect of the writing life in the right place. I don’t ever want it to take over but I also don’t want to be cynical about it (both of which have happened to me at one point or another). Good luck!

  7. Stephanie Quinn Westphal says

    Fantastic, Yuvi!! So glad to know that you’re here and that even more people can benefit from your brilliance, humor and sartorial panache (Who knew underwear on a desk could be so stylish?? Well, that would be Yuvi.).

  8. says

    Yuvi, you had me at the underwear-dropping. I can see you’re going to be a fab edition to WU.

    Best of luck coping with that ambiguity.

  9. says

    So thrilled you’re here, Yuvi!

    Your videos are my go-to viewing when I feel compelled to remind myself there really is abundant humor in this almost-daily-kick-in-the-kneecaps writing life.

    Besides which, nothing quite says “Oh yeah, this is the Real Deal” more perfectly than a rejected writer standing on a desk in their underwear.

  10. says

    Love all your videos Yuvi! I must admit, I’ve been doing the hiding in the bathroom stall to write thing for many years. I’m pretty sure my boss thinks I have a medical condition. :) Thanks for uniting the failed writers community through your excellent “don’t take ourselves too seriously” perspective. Great post, looking forward to more!

  11. says

    Thank you all for such kind and supportive feedback. Wow, I’m honored to be on board here at WU. (And Heather, nothing warms my heart more than hearing about other people who write on the toilet…)

  12. says

    I love what you say about finding “the sweet spot” in your life as a writer. I’m still looking for that balance, and this post helps. Thanks.

  13. says

    Okay, so I’m late to this party, but those videos are hilarious!!! I too have devoted more time to actually writing my novels this year, and less time blogging and querying. I’m still 100% committed to my first novel being published, and I’m sure it will one day, but I’m also moving forward with my second novel.