It felt like the closing to end all closings: my first book came out this week.
I started working as a reporter when I was in my 20s. More properly, I started working as a fact-checker: other people would write the articles, and I would call the sources who had been quoted and make sure there weren’t any screw-ups.
Since I was working at Fortune, I didn’t have to make any calls of the stereotypical “so what color was the corpse’s underwear?” variety. Instead I talked to PR people and powerful people, including Lou Gerstner (then running IBM), Henry Kissinger (the toughest to get hold of), and Donald Trump (pre-The Apprentice, he was beloved by reporters for answering his own phone).
But I always wanted to write “creative” stuff, and I worked on humor and essays on the side. Buried in my files I have dozens of notebooks full of good lines, three failed book proposals, and a very nice rejection letter from Saturday Night Live.
So of course I got the offer for this book 16 years later, when I wasn’t looking. I had started writing this column (which is called “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie,” but is actually in its second year; I come to horse sense kinda slow) and an editor called me and said, “Hey, I read this every Friday, do you want to expand it into a book?”
My answer, of course, was YES-S-S! I was in the middle of a renovation, a small job on my rental house, and I got so excited I let my contractors go in a hurry; the penalty turned out to be that they skated without cutting a hole in the metal door casing for the doorbell.
But then I had to write the thing. I had just under four months, because the publisher, Kaplan, was convinced the book absolutely had to come out in the summer. The challenge was to give my first year in real estate rhyme and reason, while adding enough new material so that column readers wouldn’t feel they’d already read it. I ended up retelling stories about the guy whose underwear I hid and the guy who tried to sell me heroin, but added even more stuff about what was going at home during all this time.
Because me, I’m a genius, and the year I decided to switch careers was the same year I got married.
The best new stuff may be a piece on credit scores, because I was thinking readers might want to know something about FICO and mortgages, and so I started to write down the same old notions I had always heard. But then, when I called credit experts to check the details, they told me I was wrong, dead wrong.
Did you know, for instance, that your parents can infect your credit score without you knowing? Or that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in your current job, or that sometimes the way to up your score is to get a new credit card?
Life ends up being pretty interesting when you fact-check it.
So anyway, a few months ago my life consisted of showing on Sundays and writing on Mondays, and the rest of the week I was rewriting and doing high-end rental deals, which in Manhattan has the same commissions as selling $400,000 houses does in the rest of the country. At least I had work (which faithful readers know is way better than my dire straits a year ago). Still, I was only managing to be a real estate agent about half-time, and you pros know that 30 hours a week does not make one the sales queen of the universe. You do get out of your business what you put in, and suddenly I was busy with two businesses.
This could have made a hard-on-themselves person like me decide they were perhaps not meeting their goals.
Awfully long background, I know, as to why this was a good week: today, I put a lease application in on an apartment, so next month, I’ll be able to close a deal and have another happy renter.
“Yay,” I think. “Go forth and evangelize, little renter. Set the city on fire with your career, and turn around and buy a condo.”
But also, my book exists. Just like the column, it’s called “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.” You can find out more about it at this link if you so desire.
Or, you could pick up a copy of Newsweek, where the book is featured on “Tip Sheet” as this week’s read.
I truly, truly can’t believe it. I keep circling back to the copy of the magazine on the coffee table, picking it up and re-reading to make sure it’s still there.
Did I use the word “interesting” before? I meant “wonderful.” Life ends up being wonderful when you fact-check it.
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson, and author of “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.”