Interview: Chuck Sambuchino’s How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack

There’s a new book coming out September 7 that I am dying to read.  The cover looks like this:

I think he's looking at me...

The author is a favorite blogger of mine, Chuck Sambuchino.  He’s been a wealth of information for all us UNPUBs out there.   I found him through Writer’s Digest and never looked back.

Chuck looks like this:

Gnome defense expert and publishing advice giver. Top that, Van Damme!

In his own words:

Chuck Sambuchino is the author of HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, a humor book coming out Sept. 7, 2010.  He is also the editor of GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS (2011 edition in stores August 2010) and runs a large blog on publishing:  Besides that, he is a magazine freelancer, playwright, husband, owner of a flabby dog, cover band guitarist, and all around chocolate chip cookie fiend.

Anyone who likes chocolate chip cookies can’t be all bad.  Chuck was gracious enough to grant an interview to this blog.

Tell us about the book.  The cover is hilarious.  It looks like a spoof of the 1976 book Gnomes, by Wil Hugyen and illustrated by Rien Poorvliet.  I loved that as a child.  Is this a gritty reboot?  Were you attacked by a gnome?  Should I rethink buying a gnome statue for my garden?

The cover is a spoof of the old book—good catch.  It’s not a reboot as much as something else entirely.  But yes, I would rethink that gnome purchase if you want to stay alive.


Humor writing is not easy for a lot of people.  Funny is very subjective.  Do you have any tips for writers who might like to do this type of work?

Obviously, the concept of the book is key—but there needs to be good content in the book, as well. My editor said it well when she said that people will pick up the book because of the title and cover, but they will only buy it if they flip through some pages and are impressed.  Besides that, I would try to build a platform and network of friends any way you can.  With the big publishing blog I handle (, I have developed a decent platform to reach readers.  It isn’t necessarily a “humor platform,” per se, but it is a platform of some kind.

Your blog contains a great deal of information for new writers.  We thank you profusely for the help you’ve given us. Working in the business yourself, you’ve undoubtedly been well-prepared for publishing your own book, but is there anything that surprised you about the process?

Several small things. For example, a large portion of the original text ended up on the cutting room floor to make room for lots of photos—that part surprised me, but the end result is better for it. A surprising thing for me was how quickly the book came to life.  The publishing industry moves sooooo slow, but this book went from initial discussions with the editor to being published in 10 months, and that’s lightning.  I am very fortunate for that.

Marketing is getting pretty important for writers. Any hints for novelists in particular on their platforms and establishing a presence?

Bribe TV anchors to interview you and get involved in some kind of political scandal.  Besides that: Become involved in writers groups and organizations.  Join a local group, the MWA, the RWA, SCBWI—whatever you like.  And you can always develop a platform that has nothing to do with your writing.  For example, if you start a popular blog on yoga, when you have a novel to sell two years from now, you will have some kind of platform in place to read people who may buy the book.  You need friends who will help you spread the word in their small circles just as you will do for them.

Money is seriously lacking in every industry these days.  Advances are shrinking, editors are being laid off and it’s harder than ever to even get a manuscript past the round file.  Can a fiction writer really make a living anymore?

Well, it’s not likely if all you want to do is sell fiction.  A successful writer needs to wear many different hats—they need to write fiction, teach classes, write articles and freelance edit.  You need to remember that it’s OK to write some things for love and other things for money.  David Morrell, a popular thriller writer, once told me that only 250 people make their living solely from writing fiction.  You have to do other things to pay the bills.  But yes, you can make it work and make a full-time living writing.

What do you see for the future of publishing?

Not sure.  My specialty is helping people get their work published and finding an agent.  As far as the looming transition to e-books and such, I’m already kind of burnt out on people taking wild guesses on all that, and any guess I take would be beyond wild.  (Note to self: Write novel and title it Beyond the Wild.)

Just for fun, what’s the weirdest question / comment you’ve ever come across on your blog?

Following an agent interview, I do remember one comment that was something along the lines of “If this agent can’t sell books, she should model in Playboy because she’s that beautiful.” I think it was about 20 minutes later that the agent frantically e-mailed me to ask me to remove the comment.

Thank you, Chuck!  Everyone, get thee to a bookstore or Amazon and buy this book.  It looks like a hoot.  God knows we all could use a laugh these days!

3 thoughts on “Interview: Chuck Sambuchino’s How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack

  1. Pingback: Update and 5 Lies Unpublished Writers Tell Themselves–Matt Mikalatos | Graphomaniac – Elizabeth West

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