>Did you ever hear the old joke that goes something like this:
“Orange you glad I didn’t say ‘banana’?”
Pretty stupid, right? Well, that’s what it feels like to be a professional “Creative”. By that term I mean a person who makes his living, in some form or another, as a creative mind, or in some form of art or entertainment. Every Creative Mind has hit some version of this joke numerous times in his career.
- As a comedian, it’s not uncommon for a comedy club to tell me that I can’t get work without getting more TV credits under my belt. At the same time, TV producers aren’t interested in comedians without significant experience.
- As an actor it’s hard to get an audition for a big movie without being The Screen Actor’s Guild, but you can’t become a member of The Screen Actor’s Guild unless you have a speaking part in a major motion picture.
- As a writer, it’s almost impossible to get a publishing deal without a literary agent, yet literary agents often don’t want to represent an author who is unpublished.
After a while of going around in circles, the Creative involved in each of these scenarios either gives up and walks away or simply gives in and accepts whatever you have to offer. In effect, he is willing to take The Orange.
I’m both a comedian and a writer, and I’m constantly juggling to work more doing both. It seems that I need both of these creative outlets to work in order for me to be truly successful at either. Being noticed as a comedian helps me find an audience for my writing and, being a popular writer sets me apart from the average comedian. One hand washes the other.
And yet I still don’t have The Banana.
What’s the point of this, you ask? The point is, of course, my long journey towards fame, fortune, success, and publication. But mostly just publication.
Several years ago I began touring as a stand-up comedian. That’s a long journey itself, my friends, and the road was not always paved with gold. In fact, even now, it’s paved with, well, asphalt. Just like any job, stand-up comedy is a job, with its share of ups and downs, good days and bad. But it’s an industry that would surprise most people if they knew what really goes on when you live your life on the road.
A couple of years ago, I wrote down many of the stories from my early years in this business, and all of the insane mishaps I had to endure along the way, and collected them into a book called Four Wheels and a Microphone. Tales of being an unknown comic, Four Wheels is essentially a book about life on the bottom rung of the showbiz ladder, and how sometimes comedians aren’t struggling for fame or fortune, but simply to stay afloat.
Some of the stories are quite funny (if I do say so myself), some are heartbreaking, and some are just plain odd. The point was never to write a hilarious book about wacky shenanigans or the false life of silliness people often think comedians live; the point was to show that sometimes life as a comedian is hilarious, but sometimes it’s quite the opposite.
A year later, after much editing and much re-writing, I finally finished Four Wheels and stepped away from it. After deciding that I simply couldn’t edit it anymore, I had to walk away. Want a cure for narcissism? Read your own book six or seven times.
With two more book ideas in my head and my creative juices eager to move on to something different, I spent a little while preparing a query letter (a “pitch” letter to agents and publishers about the book), and started sending Four Wheels off to literary agents and publishers who I thought might be interested in it.
I did not receive the deluge of Form Rejection Letters that every author tells you he receives, nor did I get tons of letters from literary agents who told me that my book was a steaming pile of dog shit. Instead, I received absolutely no response from anyone. I’ve got an empty email box and haven’t so much as gotten a “Thanks, but no thanks”. This isn’t people telling me they didn’t like my book, this is people essentially telling me (by ignoring me) that they weren’t even interested in the idea of the book.
I’m not new to the publishing world. Years ago, I wrote a popular humor book called The Ultimate Bachelor’s Guide and got a few rejections during that time, as well. That’s another story, which I’ll get to later, but the key point here is that, when pitching TUBG (as I like to call it) people at least responded to me.
This time around? Nothing.
A fellow author I know went through a similar experience not too long ago where his novel wasn’t rejected by publishers and agents so much as it was ignored altogether. No one rejected him; they simply acted as if he didn’t exist in the first place.
Every author guide or “How To Get Published” book I’ve ever read told me to prepare for rejection, but none ever told me to prepare to simply be ignored as if I didn’t get in touch in the first place. One such book I read about getting published was actually written by an agent who later completely ignored me and never responded to the very proposal I learned to write by reading her book.
So, months later, I find myself trying to figure out what to do with this book I’ve written (and have been promising people I’m going to put out) and is just sitting on my shelf, collecting dust. Okay, it’s sitting on my hard drive, taking up space. Same thing. Whatever.
When I wrote The Ultimate Bachelor’s Guide, I never expected it to be picked up by a mainstream publisher. I never even tried to get it seen by one. I wrote it in less than two months and always intended it to be a quirky “bathroom reader” that I could sell at comedy clubs after my show. That’s exactly what I did and, with no help from the publishing world, any agents, or even a publicist, I managed to promote the hell out of it. I got myself on TV, radio, and in newspapers, and I pushed the book hard. As it turns out, the PR worked, people liked the book and, for a brief moment in 2009, it was a bestseller. It hit #2 on amazon.com’s humor chart and contemporary chart and it remained one of the bestselling humor books that spring. Some bookstores even picked it up and I did a few signings along the way. It was all done without taking the traditional route, and was ten times more successful than I ever dreamed it would be…especially when you consider that it was a niche book about single guys with a rather limited audience.
With that success in mind, I still have yet to get a response from anyone. It doesn’t make sense when you consider that a traveling comedian is a one-man book tour waiting to happen. The fact that Four Wheels is not a “niche book” like my last one was, I think there’s an audience out there who would like to read about life as a touring comic. But agents and publishers aren’t even responding to my proposal, much less rejecting the book itself, which none of them has even read.
My favorite advice recently given to me was from a friend who said “Get famous as a comedian first and then everyone will want to publish your book”. This is hilarious to me simply because it assumes that becoming famous as a comedian is somehow easier than getting published as a writer. It’d be like saying that, if I want to get on The Tonight Show, all I have to do is hit The New York Times Bestseller List.
This all leads me to this blog. I’m now dedicating this blog for the foreseeable future to my quest to find a life for Four Wheels and a Microphone. Do I want to put it out myself, as I did with TUBG? No. I’d honestly rather go the traditional route and see it find its way into more bookstores than I can do on my own…
But I’m willing to do that if that’s what it takes to get it into reader’s hands. I succeeded the last time around, I am hopeful that I could do it again if I tried it that way a second time. I learned so much with the last book, I’d like to think I could do even better knowing now what I didn’t know then. I’m certainly willing to give it a try if it comes to that. But I’d like to see if I can find a home for it with a traditional publisher first.
So, I’m going to showcase my efforts to get the book seen by anyone and everyone, and I’m going to keep track of the results for all to see. If I decide to put the book out myself, I’m going to let YOU, my faithful fans and friends and readers, make the decisions with me along the way. From the cover art to the release date to the PR campaign, I’m going to let you in on everything that is going into my trying to make this book a success.
And, of course, I think the book is good. Send me an email, and I’ll gladly email you back a chapter from the book. That’s how important it is to me and how eager I am to get people behind it. I’ve got no problem showing you all the man behind the curtain and dropping the fourth wall.
With your support, I’ll make something happen. I just don’t know what yet. But I know that, in the end, whatever I choose to do, I’ll have a book that I know each and every one of you will enjoy reading. I’m certain of that.
I’ll take The Orange, but I want The Banana.