All I want to do is to sell a damned book. I mean why does everything have to be so freaking complicated? Seriously. Some days everything feels as difficult to navigate as a marriage. I spent three-and-a-half years writing a book in my “spare time”—as if I even have any of that. OK, actually, I do. I wrote it while I was drinking at various and sundry sports bars, but you get the idea.
I finished the book. I researched how to get an agent. I put together a book proposal. I developed a promotional platform proposal. I started following agent blogs. And the pièce de résistance: I attended a writers’ conference that gave me the opportunity to pitch my book to literary agents.
I saw three agents and was shot down by all of them. The first agent rejected me because I put my foot in my mouth in the very first moment. “So tell me about your book.” she said. “Well it’s sort of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell meets Men Are from Mars Women Are from Venus.” “Oh; another one of those.” she said as she rolled her eyes. “I can see you’re thrilled.” I replied. “Let’s just say I hate Tucker Max” (author of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell). She mentioned it in passing with the sort of scorn I associate with the mention of an ex.
“I hate him too.” I replied. “Then why did you compare your book to his?” she asked in a decidedly accusatory tone. Trying to recover I said “They both rely on really humorous anecdotes—but he uses them to celebrate his own bad behavior. My book is uplifting and takes a much more intellectual approach to the observations I make and the conclusions I draw about people in relationships.” In a challenging tone she shot back “Okay; give me an example.”
I replied “Well my father is a minister and at one point he had a habit of adopting strays—metaphorically speaking. These were people who had just kind of lost their way and needed a break from life. One time—a long time ago—he took in a guy about my age named Bob and he and I both had an interest in muscle cars. We became fast friends because he owned this really sweet Mach I Mustang, and we spent a lot of time in that car just trying to finding reasons to drive around in it. One day when we went out to exercise that fine ride of his, he fired up the engine and Pat Benatar began blasting out of the radio.”
The agent listened intently, never breaking eye contact. I continued: “He immediately blurted out ‘Man; Pat Benatar. If I weren’t a Christian, I’d totally do her.’ Now I, of course, thought he was joking and immediately burst into laughter. Then he looked at me intently and said ‘No, seriously dude; I would.’” The agent immediately laughed aloud despite her contempt for me, Tucker Max, and his fan club.
Then I said “I use that story as a platform to suggest the inner workings of the male ego and how different it is than the female ego. I then juxtapose that postulate against a story about my wife when we were courting.” I served up the counter punch: “When I was first dating her, she was very poor, and one day I decided to take her shopping for some new clothes. She selected a number of things and then tried on a beautiful business suit, which looked really stunning on her. As she viewed her reflection, I asked her what she thought and she immediately burst into tears. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. ‘I’m ugly!’ came the reply”. My agent—being a woman—uttered an empathetic “awwwww” and became a little misty-eyed.
“I know; really sad.” I said. “So I’m 52 and when I look in the mirror I still see a hot young stud who can, in fact, get the girl. When my wife looks in the mirror she sees flaws that I’m not sure even exist. That’s the point of my book; it doesn’t present ground breaking new material. We understand from our own life experience that the male approach to life tends to be different than the female approach, but sometimes we just forget that fact and in the process we can lose that person we fell in love with. My book is simply an entertaining reminder of that reality.” Looking at me intently, the agent replied “Do you have a working title?” “Yes.” I replied. “The working title is A Woman’s Perspective from a Guy’s Point of View.”
She smiled and so I offered the working sub-title. “The subtitle is Thousands of Things Oprah Knows but Would Never Tell You.” She again burst into laughter and then sat for a moment just looking at me in silence, the gears slowly turning in her head. After an awkwardly long pause she eventually offered what appeared to be a very thoughtful “Hmm.” The silence was deafening as I anxiously awaited the words that would inspire unbridled elation or a tailspin of depression.
Then she looked me straight in the eye and said “I don’t think your book is for me.”
“Really?” I thought. “You laughed twice, I took aim at your heart and scored a bull’s eye, and I then engaged your brain. I made you laugh. I made you cry. I made you think. It’s not for you?”
The second agent I spoke to seemed interested, but insisted that nobody would ever take on my project unless I had a recognizable brand. “Wait; so I have to go out and sell the book, and then after creating both the market and the demand, you will agree to represent me and put it in front of a publisher?” “Yes.” she said. I politely shook her hand, said thank you, and wandered to the bar, incredulous at my two interactions thus far. The bartender greeted me and inquired “How are you?” “Sober; how are you?” I replied in a politely bitter tone. “What would you like?” she responded curtly. “A Fireman’s 4 and a shot of your well scotch.”
I am suddenly reminded of American Idol, Real Housewives of New Jersey, and (God save us) The Bachelor. Is this really what passes for literature these days? Although my guess is no, it really doesn’t matter. Perhaps that’s because nobody cares about literature anymore. We laugh at self-delusional contestants on American Idol. We cry when we see the drama on Real Housewives of [insert your location here]. We ponder briefly about the nature of relationships when we watch The Bachelor.
Actually I don’t do any of that because I hate Reality TV—but apparently a lot of other people do. It’s simply not part of my thought process when any of those things are (unfortunately) transported through my television and into my den. Of course my wife and children embrace these pseudo realities in ways I cannot comprehend—but this is obviously an audience I don’t understand.
Dear Life, please tell Western Civilization that I’m on hiatus. My regularly scheduled agenda has been hijacked by Reality TV.