Introducing SAJAforum's new "Authored" series. The idea here is to have writers tell us the back story of their book--how it came to be--as well as the nasty, unwriterly business of getting out there and selling their wares. We think this will accomplish two things: get the word out about new or upcoming releases, and educate other authors (and aspiring ones) about the biz.
Authors, editors, publicists: talk to us.
Our inaugural book is "The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook," by the mother-daughter-son combo of Dilara, Yasmine and Imran Hafiz, who are Pakistani-American. The book is being released on February 10, by Simon & Schuster, but as you'll see in Dilara's account, the work only got picked up by S&S after the family initially self-published it. She also provides some great insights into the marketing of the book, setting up a website, getting blurbs and how going after the NYT can in fact pay off, handsomely.
The Story Behind "The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook" - by Dilara Hafiz, Yasmine Hafiz and Imran Hafiz
“You’re writing a non-fiction book about Islam in America…with your two teenagers? Are you crazy?” This was the standard response I received from various friends and relatives - but I’m grateful that it was the occasional comment of “Oh, that sounds interesting - I think you guys could do a great job!” that we listened to.
Life in post 9/11 America has been challenging for America Muslims: the ‘random’ searches at the airport, the impression that hijab = oppression, that Muslims are "the other." We heard so many misconceptions about Islam in the media, yet no coherent Muslim voices ever got airtime. Where are the Moderate Muslims? Well, we’re fairly moderate - maybe we should speak up. So in 2002 we sent out a survey to 44 Islamic full-time and Sunday Schools across the country. The 150 responses which we received displayed such a variety of opinions and stories that we felt motivated to continue with our project - of not only writing an educational and entertaining handbook for the average American Muslim teenager, but also an enlightening guide to the basics of Islam for non-Muslims who are curious about Islam or want to pursue an interfaith dialogue.
After three years of writing, re-writing, editing and surreptitious editing (remember, we’re 3 authors here) - our manuscript was finally ready. Full of quizzes, lists of Do’s & Don’ts, results of the teen questionnaire - we knew we wanted the book to appeal to teens, so it needed to have pictures, humor and variety. But the response from Muslim publishers? Too progressive - you have pictures of girls without headscarves - haraam! The response from mainstream publishers? Your audience is too narrow, your treatment of religion is too humorous, your information content is interesting…but we’re going to pass on this manuscript. The project was badly stalled, until my Dad decided to go on Hajj in 2006.