Finally, a Book Deal and Publication in the WaPo

WaPo photo for blogIt has been a long summer. I have been watching a pot that has refused to boil. Doing so has sucked some of the wind out of my sails. Treading water through June, July, and most of August was wearing me down – but that ends today with this link: Mission creep doesn’t benefit patients at the end of life.

Yes, in that dog’s breakfast of aqueous metaphors, the proverbial pot was the Washington Post and after a ten-week delay (the “delay” was largely an issue in my own mind) they have just published my “first person-y” thought piece, effectively a synopsis of my book.

Now, re-energized, I can move forward.

A book deal!

And a detail I should add, I now have a book deal.

The spring ended and summer began auspiciously. After wrapping up my book proposal, my literary agent, Elizabeth Wales, sent it out to about 30 editors. The wait began. Simultaneously, through Debbie’s connections, I sent two thought pieces to the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Miraculously, an editor at the health section of the Post asked for them both and suggested she would publish the first in June and the second in August. This was an excuse for my agent to reconnect with the editors reviewing the book proposal. I was on my way!

After several weeks (what were those editors doing??), the responses began coming in. “Too much like Being Mortal.” “Gawande has completely filled this space.” Understandable, to be sure, as every first time author’s book proposal is a long shot.

I steeled myself to further rejection. Frustrated that they could not see the differences between my book and Gawande’s. Did they even read the proposal?

Then lightening struck again. An editor at Hachette Book Group liked it. They made an offer. My agent negotiated. We accepted. We had a deal.

I had a great conversation with the editor and, reenergized, I returned to Maine to rewrite the book with her thoughts in mind.

Then, summer happened.

The Post delayed my piece, as more timely or compelling stories made their way across the managing editor’s desk. The Olympics competed for coverage. I had told friends and acquaintances to look for it but it did not appear. I began to feel that I was misrepresenting my status as a soon-to-be-published author.

The contract!

The actual contract from Hachette failed to appear when I expected. Maybe their legal people went on vacation. Who knows. Advised by my agent that the email memo of agreement was a real commitment (“Sam, you have a book deal!”) and that I could proceed with my rewrite, I tried to begin.

Then I faltered. My confidence wavering, my thought piece delayed, houseguests competing for my time – I rewrote but just limped along.

I didn’t want to push the Post or Hachette. Although both my contacts have been kind, pleasant, professional, and thoughtful, who was I to make demands? Certainly a not-yet-published author.

But then, in a cosmic reversal, the WaPo published and the book contract arrived late today.

Now, validated, I can start anew.

With special thanks to my wife, Debbie Weil of Voxie Media; with thanks to my book coach, Debbie Reber; with thanks to my agent, Elizabeth Wales; and, with gratitude to my editors at the Washington Post and Hachette’s Grand Central Life & Style: I ask for your encouragement and understanding.

P.S. My blog readers are getting a preview – ! My WaPo article will be in the print edition of the Health & Science section on Tuesday Aug. 23, 2016.

15 Responses to Finally, a Book Deal and Publication in the WaPo

  1. Heidi Fitz August 22, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

    Sam this is wonderful to hear the official news of a book deal.

    • Sam Harrington September 4, 2016 at 8:03 am #

      Heidi, thank you. It will be an interesting challenge.

  2. Hettie Mercer August 22, 2016 at 9:51 pm #

    Congratulations Sam. Look forward to reading the WP Health Section tomorrow.

    • Sam Harrington September 4, 2016 at 8:05 am #

      Hettie, Sorry for my late reply. I hope you liked the article.

  3. Katy Rinehart August 23, 2016 at 10:04 pm #

    Sam, I’m so happy for you. This is well deserved. I was struck, however, by your statement, “Now, validated, I can start anew.” Our achievements do not validate us. Our value (from which ‘validate” comes) lies in who we are with the people we love and care for. You are validated by your compassion as a physician, your love and generosity as a husband, father, and grandfather, and by the warmth of your friendships. I know you’ll write a wonderful book. But even if you didn’t, you are validated.

    • Sam Harrington September 4, 2016 at 8:07 am #

      Katy, thank you. I appreciate the distinctions that you are drawing here. Sorry for the tardiness of the response. As you can understand, here on DI, August is a busy month.

  4. Debbie Reber August 25, 2016 at 10:05 am #

    Loved reading this post, and I’m so happy for you! And I don’t think I’ve ever written a book where the contract arrived when it was supposed to. I think sweating it out and the self-doubt that follows is a right of passage… Either way, congratulations on both pieces of news!

    • Sam Harrington September 4, 2016 at 8:10 am #

      Debbie, thank you for this comment and for your enormous help with the book proposal. More later. Hoping to see you in Amsterdam in late September

  5. Roger C. Parker August 31, 2016 at 7:19 pm #

    Congratulations on your book contract and publication in the Washington Post.

    Best wishes on your escalating success.

    Thanks for sharing your journey so far.

  6. Sam Harrington September 4, 2016 at 8:11 am #

    Roger, thanks for your support. Sam

  7. Larry Masi November 11, 2016 at 9:02 am #

    Sam it sounds like you are enjoying your retirement. Hope you are doing well. My GI problems are fine thanks you. If you ever get to St. Michaels look me up.
    Larry Masi

    • Sam Harrington November 12, 2016 at 7:55 am #

      Larry, you found the blog. How did that happen? Yes, we are enjoying our schizophrenic relationship with Stonington, Maine and Brooklyn, New York. I am plugging along with my book project.
      Good to hear from you. I haven’t thought of DC for some time.
      Sam

  8. Larry Masi November 12, 2016 at 8:02 am #

    Glad you are enjoying retirement. People ask me all the time what do you do in retirement. I tell them anything I want to do. Looking forward to your book.
    Larry

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