It's time to meet another awesome debut writer. This time it's narrative writer Jack Gray, Emmy Award-winning producer for CNN’s "Anderson Cooper 360." Born and raised in Massachusetts, he previously worked as a television producer in New Hampshire and Boston. He lives in New York City with his Labrador retriever, Sammy. Find him on Twitter.
PIGEON IN A CROSSWALK (Feb. 2013, Simon & Schuster) is a nonfiction book in which Gray observes and echoes the fixations and neuroses of his generation and our times. Publishers Weekly said "With humor and heart, Gray uses his recollections as a sentimental, sassy mirror into his own personal and professional affairs." Entertainment Weekly called the book, "Addictive… Gray's insight and snarky, self-effacing humor make him someone you'd want at any dinner party.”
(Jack is repped by the agency Janklow & Nesbit. Learn about new agent Paul Lucas of Janklow & Nesbit, who recently put out a call for new clients.)
What is the book’s genre/category?
Please describe what the story/book is about.
It’s a collection of first-person essays about my career in TV news (I’m a producer for Anderson Cooper at CNN and previously produced local news in Boston and New Hampshire), my family, adventures with celebrities, and my dog, Sammy.
Where do you write from?
My apartment in New York City.
Briefly, what led up to this book?
I had been writing some tongue-in-cheek first person posts for the Anderson Cooper 360 blog. Then, one day, Anderson and I were sitting in an SUV at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver; he mentioned he liked the blog posts and encouraged me to keep writing. Eventually, I decided to attempt a book proposal.
What was the time frame for writing this book?
The time frame was a few years. I wrote in my free time -- mornings, late nights, weekends. I wish I’d been more disciplined in getting a certain page count done each day but depression, peanut butter cup binges, and Murder, She Wrote re-runs occasionally got in the way.
How did you find your agent (and who is your agent)?
My literary agent is Luke Janklow of Janklow & Nesbit Associates. He’s also Anderson’s literary agent. Anderson kindly made the introduction and put in a good word for me. I’m very lucky.
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What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
I think the biggest learning experience was realizing just how crucial a good editor is to a book. Ben Loehnen at Simon & Schuster is brilliant and improved my book in countless ways from my first draft.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
I was extremely fortunate to have a well-connected friend encourage and support me. It would be disingenuous for me to suggest I got my break in any other way. That said, I don’t think agents and editors are in the business of signing authors they believe don’t have potential. But, certainly, the connections were a huge help.
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
I wouldn’t do anything differently with regards to getting my foot in the door. I was very lucky when it came to that. I think if I could have been more disciplined about my writing routine that would have been helpful.
Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing the build a platform and gain readership?
I tweet on a fairly regular basis. I was lucky to get booked on several talk shows to promote Pigeon in a Crosswalk. Whatever I can do to get my book in the hands of readers, I’ll do.
Best piece(s) of advice for writers trying to break in?
Connections certainly help, but you also have to have confidence in your work. It’s corny but true.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
My idea of a hot date is a basket of Olive Garden breadsticks.
Hmmm…that’s tough. I’m not sure I have a favorite. I do love FLETCH, the Chevy Chase movie. It’s pretty genius.
Hopefully another collection of essays that will make people laugh. Or a nap with my dog.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- How to Start Your Novel.
- If You're a Writer, Googling Yourself Can Be Dangerous.
- When Should You Consider a Pseudonym?
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- Why "Platform" Doesn't Have to Be a Dirty Word.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.
Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more. Order the book from WD at a discount.
I Will Speak At These Great Writing Events in 2012-2013:
- June 22-24, 2012: Crested Butte Writers Conference (Crested Butte, CO)
- July 26-28, 2012: Midwest Writers Workshop (Muncie, IN)
- Aug. 2-8, 2012: Homeric Writers Retreat & Workshop (Isle of Ithaca, Greece)
- Sept. 13-14, 2013: Chicago Writers Conference (Chicago, IL)
- Feb. 14-17, 2013: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- April 5-7. 2013: Writer's Digest Conference East (New York, NY)
- April 19-20, 2013: Kentucky Writers Conference (Bowling Green, KY)
- May 17-19, 2013: PennWriters Conference (Pittsburgh, PA)
- May 23-26, 2013: Writers Guild of Alberta "Words in 3D" Event (Edmonton, Canada)
- June 6-7, 2013: Clarksville Writers Conference (Clarksville, TN)
- June 7-8, 2013: Carnegie Literary Center "Books-in-Progress" Conference (Lexington, KY)
- June 21-23, 2013: Agents & Editors Conference / Writers League of Texas (Austin, TX)
- July 5-6, 2013: Hunt Country Writers Retreat (Middleburg, VA)
- Fall 2013: Writer's Digest West Conference (Los Angeles, CA)