My fiancé has an alien brain for numbers. For years he’s been trying, unsuccessfully (until now), to convince me to market the stats behind my Carmel writing retreats. “No offense, babe, but you suck at your ABC’s,” he says. That stands for “Always Be Closing” in his world. I see his dismay when he hears me get off the phone with a potential participant. “Did you really just tell her to PRAY about whether or not it’s right for her?” He’s laughing, but also rolling his eyes. “Isn’t her money as green as anyone else’s, Linda?” “That may be true,” I answer. “But she’s writing a book about her dead grandmother. If she has a dream where Gram tells her to wait, she should wait.”
My guess is that his sales reps wouldn’t last long with my tactics.
“Why didn’t you tell her how much more likely she is to get published if she comes to Carmel, even if she’s only in the idea stage?” Oh, God. Here he goes. Stats. I can’t even understand his math (I dropped Statistics in college … twice). He’s tried to explain the numbers to me plenty of times—mentally estimating the latest ones whenever we get news of another book deal. But I always change the subject. Do you smell chocolate? Want me to make cookies?*
Obviously, opposites attract at our house. My guy’s a corporate dude who, in over forty years, has only ever arrived EARLY for work and ditto on paying his bills. I have, you could call it, a far more lax relationship to time and cash—thus, why he tells me to be ready fifteen minutes before we need to hit the road, and why, until I learned how to set up online auto-pays, I sometimes paid my bills late even when I had the money.
Needless to say, I’ve gained valuable organizational skills from this man. Like how to make a spreadsheet (not that I use them). How to track my time in 15-minute increments (timely, I gotta say). And the once entirely vague but freeing practice of spending less money than I earn (living in Hollywood never prepared me for that concept).
I remember, though, cringing the first time I heard him say the term “always be closing.” Is he telling me to hard sell? Pressure the sweet souls who call me desperate to birth their stories? My mind panicked. If this was his mindset, he and I weren’t the match I thought we were. Didn’t he know that people compelled to write books have often just barely overcome ungodly amounts of emotional and financial hardship–and maybe not even?
But how could he know that? These weren’t his circles. Art, in his world, was mostly relegated to hiring someone to do a faux finish on a dining room he’d spend little time in. He’d never experienced a dark night of the soul or turned on a light switch to find his house in the dark. My retreats were expensive to put on, and since they’d taken the place of my ghostwriting, I was unable to host them for less. But I’d rather fill four spots than five than make short-term cash on a client I wouldn’t be able to help. If he was saying otherwise (he wasn’t, thankfully), I saw this as a good going-out-of-business plan. Not to mention a spiritually bankrupt one.
I could be a pushier sale-closer, I reasoned, if I could GUARANTEE a writer she’d get published (I couldn’t). Promise her that going from Idea to Done would be fast and easy (it happens, but is not the norm). Instead, I prefer to sleep soundly, which is why I sometimes talk interested participants into signing up for other people’s less expensive retreats. If I can’t help them get where they want to go (for whatever reason), we both lose. If she’s running on fumes and can’t fix her squeaky brakes after our retreat (yes, I have my ways of asking), I refuse to take her tuition. I may have a strong feeling about her potential, even visions about her bestselling future, but I’m not in control of her destiny or what she will or won’t accomplish once she leaves. And sometimes, the perfect connection I have for her shows up two years after her retreat, so patience is a plus.
Which is why I tell most callers at the close of our first chat to pray about it—if they should come and when they should come. When I do envelop her in a giddy hug in the lobby of the La Playa Hotel, I want her YES to be clean and from her highest guidance.
“Do you at least call them to follow up if you haven’t heard back?” my guy has asked on more than one occasion. A sound practice, I’m sure. His sales teams use all sorts of modern software for their award-winning follow through. I’m also sure it boggles his mind that I rarely do. That’s not to say I don’t HOPE someone I’ve adored speaking with registers. Oh my God! She’s perfect for this group, I think, imagining agents I’ll connect her with when she’s ready. Her book is revolutionary! These gals will LOVE each other!!! But in the end, I detach. Not trying to control the universe or use too much math keeps my serotonin levels humming.
But sometimes my guy is right to worry. Every once in a while, my best laid-back efforts aren’t enough to easily fill a retreat. With all of my other spots for the year full, sometimes I add one without a lot of lead time (like this coming Sept. 3 – 7 at La Playa Hotel) because I’ll be there hosting one the following week anyway and a few fantastic women have requested the earlier date. So I book the expensive rooms and gourmet food and pay for it all up front with no assurance anyone will show up other than that the “right” people always do. And personally, I NEED to get away NOW in the kind of you-have-no-idea-how-much-I-need-to-get-away kind of way. (Two consecutive weeks for me in Carmel, with a quiet weekend between them? #Icanteven.)
That’s when he gives me one of those looks like he did last night. The one that says, “Really? This is how you plan, my crazy woman? Come on, baby. Cancel it! Move the few ladies into the next open spots and let’s take a day or two that week to go horseback riding.” (You see why I have to escape, right? Standing there so tempting with the reins in his hand. I will never finish my books from the back of a horse. Believe me, I’ve been trying.)
[And! Omg! As God is my witness, just NOW sitting in bed typing this post, I heard a loud male voice outside yell, “LINDA! LINDA!” I got up, heart racing and wondering if it was safe to open the slider, as I am barely dressed and alone in the house. I did anyway, and with the dogs lunging at the screen, I looked down our hill and what did I see? My guy grinning from atop his horse, our dear friend by his side, the two–make that four of them–looking completely adorable in the yard and making me wish I’d finished this piece earlier. I rest my case.]
I’m grateful that being with this man brings more play into my life and allows me to no longer forgo sleep to write. But if I don’t unplug from him and our puppies and the barn and our new grandbaby and the zillions of summertime daily interruptions at our house right now, at some point I’m going to go BATSHIT. Not unlike the wild-eyed ladies who take two planes and stay up all night to get to the seaside to work with me from halfway around the world, I’M ACHING to risk, to invest in my stories. Fight for my creative time and space. And, even though I’m technically WORKING for others during those retreat weeks, the heightened creativity in this artistic haven that is Carmel always fills my creative well like nothing else. I get more done every morning by 8:00 a.m. in my hotel room—with tons more clarity after I read to the gals at lunch—than I do in months over here at our dog hotel, er home.
So. What about you? Need to take a break from your house and all that clamors? Come to make magic with us in two weeks, or I might be tempted to spread my belongings throughout three rooms like a wannabe rock star, and you don’t want me to get all spoiled like that, do you? I know. It’s nuts last-minute. But sometimes that’s just what the (book) doctor ordered. (Maybe pray about it and see if long-lost Grammy shows up tonight to tell you to GO—which has happened. Oh, the “people” who have chimed in–man, do I hear stories.)
Before I sign off with the latest agent + book deal news (see testimonials at the bottom of this page), I’m going to throw my guy a bone here. As a business leader known for his head for numbers, for once I’ll take his advice and let him help me share some fun facts and stats behind these retreats. I have left out the details he told me the other night at dinner that sounded like astronaut talk. But these are fairly straightforward and have been really gratifying to see …
After asking Google a few questions and tapping on his calculator, here’s what he scribbled down for ya.
If you type online: “What percentage of people get published?” here are a few things you’ll find:
- The number of books in existence = 129,864,880. (Does that include the 4,988,508 books printed in the 15th century alone? I have no earthly idea.)
- Over 80% of Americans say they want to write a book, but only around 2% do.
- Many literary agents get THOUSANDS of submissions annually, therefore without guidance through the book proposal and query letter process and a personal introduction, there’s a slim likelihood (less than 1%) that you’ll get read. (Some experts say it’s less than 1/2 of 1%.)
At my retreats:
- Through my introductions, thirty-three writers have signed with New York literary agents.
- Based on the number of subsequent publishing deals, Carmel retreat alums have been traditionally published at a rate at least twenty-five times the national average. (Depending on the different pub numbers you’ll find, he says he’s being conservative and probably “grossly underestimating that rate.” Hmmm.) I should add that beautiful, self-published books have been birthed with us, too. In other words, our ladies kick butt!
- Some of those who’ve landed book deals (like Janice McLeod, Anese Cavanaugh, Maia Toll, Sarah Vermunt, Elise Musels, and more—see testimonial pages, linked below), have been published multiple times. When you understand how to tell a story and pitch it, it becomes second nature to keep doing it. You know; the whole “once an author learns to write about fishing, she’s got food for life” thing. (Wink.)
Perhaps relieved I was no longer ignoring his stats, my guy smiled, looked at me with pride, and put away his calculator. “Tell them that’s why they come to Carmel. To improve their odds when the odds are staggering.”
“Okay, honey,” I said, appreciating his care when really, he doesn’t need my financial help and would probably have a lot more fun if I didn’t work. “I’ll tell them,” I promised.
Between you and me, there are the OTHER excellent reasons to come to Carmel. THE GOURMET FOOD! The sit-on-your-tush pampering. The texture of sand through your toes. The new friends you didn’t know you needed but will never want to live without. The belly laughs at ten p.m. The thank-you-god clarity. To hear yourself think and unleash more momentum on the page than perhaps ever before.
If it feels like time to fulfill the promise you made to yourself a long time ago about your writing, I can’t wait to help you! Unwind that knot in your gut as you finally focus–for long, concentrated days at a time–on the book that’s been oh so close, but has felt impossibly far away. Bring your disjointed concepts, your partial chapter, your blog posts, your proposal, or your full manuscript (we work at every level) into our small, sacred circle. We will dote on your book baby (or babies!) and love it as our very own.
P.S. I’m here to answer your questions and chat about your book. For starters, go to the retreat section of bookmama and take a look around. Watch the videos. Read the testimonials at the bottom of this page, and all over my Carmel homepage. (And also on this additional testimonial page.) Take two minutes to fill out this short form and tell me your dreams. Then we’ll hop on the phone and maybe even close with the best of them. If that’s what we hear to do.
P.S.S. We’ve been celebrating the release of Maia Toll’s new masterpiece, The Illustrated Herbiary, the past two weeks (an immediate Amazon #1 New Release in Plants & Biological Sciences)! If you didn’t catch her guest blog last month about her Carmel experience–revealing how scared and exhausted she was–plus news of her 2nd book deal, check it out. Like everything Maia pens, it’s a stunning read. #lheartthiswoman
P.S.S.S. I’m honored to share a few most recent testimonials from Carmel alums:
“The Carmel Writing Retreat was the beginning of my journey as an author. Linda helped me to see the JOY in the creative process. She is a playful woman, writer, and editor, and made the week celebratory and effective. I continued to reference the wise notes I took that week throughout the entire book writing process.”
~ Dr. Dana James, author of The Archetype Diet: Reclaim Your Self-Worth and Change the Shape of Your Body, with a foreword by Mark Hymen, MD. (Avery/Penguin, June 2018.) Congrats, Dana, for hitting #1 on Amazon in Women’s Health and Eating Disorders! And even more importantly, for touching women’s hearts and helping them to transform into more conscious, peaceful versions of themselves. xo
“I consider Linda’s Carmel Writing Retreats a necessary part of my writing, self-care, and energetic hygiene. I’ve been to three (one about every other year), each one more important and powerful than the last. I get to get away, immerse, be with wonderful women — just as we are, with lots of tea, and endless insights. The investment in my craft makes me more committed to unplugging, digging in, and writing my heart out. I forget about everything for that week and allow myself to fully have it. Each time I walk away a better writer and human; quieter, clearer, and even more deeply connected and committed to the work. These getaways fuel me for months, and I’ve come to count on them, knowing that when I need an immersion—combined with R&R, guidance, the ocean, and alone time with my books—that sanctuary is there in Carmel waiting for me. Yum.
“And that’s JUST the retreat! Working with Linda over the last several years has made me better. And better. And better. Not only in writing all of my books — but also in navigating the adventures of the publishing world. I count on Linda as a trusted advisor and friend. In fact, after our last retreat when I was ready to shop the next book and change agents, she introduced me to my DREAM AGENT at Waterside Productions Literary Agency. They’re one the world’s top agencies, with over $500 million in author royalties, but I felt like their only client from the start. My latest book deal was done shortly after. Linda is generous, loving, kind, funny, and crazily good at what she does. These retreats are an investment and one I find time and again pay for themselves in words, spirit, clarity, and results.”
~ Anese Cavanaugh, author of Contagious Culture, and the upcoming Contagious You (McGraw-Hill, Nov. 2019)
“I came to Linda’s first retreat at La Playa Hotel in early 2018. So many people had tried to change my story to benefit themselves, but Linda loved it and recognized how it could do more than entertain and actually help so many others. I joke that Linda forced me to do painstaking, nit-picky edits I didn’t want to do, but I’m so glad I listened and followed her lead (and edits) because it totally paid off.
“From there, things happened fast. Linda introduced me to my perfect match lit agent, who wrote to me right before I spoke with her that her heart is totally in this project! We’re so aligned and I feel she will have my back, just as Linda did in affirming my dream and voice and how best to move forward. Contracts have been signed and I’m floored. My heart is overflowing with joy, love, and gratitude!”
~ Diane Danvers Simmons, the title is under wraps for now — stay tuned!
“I attended Linda’s Carmel retreat in the midst of the worst year of my life. I was recovering from severe injuries and it seemed the perfect place to draw a line in the sand (that became a wall) and put my writing first. Linda offered a safe place to recover and to re-inspire me while offering both heartfelt support and astute observations on my book projects—in the serene magic of Carmel.
“When I finished my book proposal, Linda gave me great editorial notes and polished my query before tapping her extensive list of agents. We promptly had several who were excited about me and my book. With Linda’s support, what is normally an agonizing, lengthy process for an unknown writer was reduced to a thrilling few days of inquiries. My agent, Lisa Hagan, sold the book and I couldn’t be happier! Linda’s enthusiasm, her continuing support (her Carmel retreaters are always first for her attention and brainstorming), and her cheerful smarts remind me that there are good, capable people out there who can and will support you on the solitary life that is writing—and publishing. Start your journey in Carmel at one of Linda’s retreats and bask in this protective, creative space as you nurture yourself and your projects!”
~ Robyn M Fritz, author of The Afterlife Is a Party: How People and Animals Can Mess Up—or Save—Their Afterlives (Hampton Roads, September 2019)
And, for the BEST gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan (or not, you can add butter) chocolate chip cookie recipe on earth (courtesy of #CarmelWritingRetreat alum Elizabeth Rider, who you’re going to want to follow!), click here. I make them EVERY week and JUST made these beauties today. #WontLastLong
And, as always, if you’ve got anything to share, you can join the discussion over here on Facebook. xo