The (Sometimes Heavy) Toll of the Uphill Battle

In the wake of the boost FUTUREPROOF has received since appearing in Entertainment Weekly, I’ve been contacted by a very high-powered agent, as well as an editor at a giant publishing house. This is the story of how things went down with the agent, who will remain nameless.

(S)he contacted me and asked that I send her(him) the manuscript. I complied, though kept any visible excitement as minimal as possible. It’s been hard to learn, but on more than five occasions since I started the quest to get FP traditionally published, I’ve had false alarms on excitement, and the comedown from that has every time been brutal. So now I keep the shit to a minimum. I treat every spark of interest from a perspective career-breaker as though it were just another bull-shitter testing the waters, who is eventually going to leave me in the same place I was before they graced me with their interest. Because in the end, it’s all just people trying to mold me and to mold FUTUREPROOF into what they think will be the most marketable product. And inevitably, to a one, they either turn me down flat with some kind of rote explanation or they ask me to do something that I consider completely dishonest and unauthentic.

And (once again—*sigh*) such was the case with this agent, who represents one of the biggest agencies in the world. Evidently they read Entertainment Weekly at this agency, and (s)he displayed genuine interest. So I sent the manuscript and less than four days later (s)he got back to me and said that (s)he liked the voice, the characters, but that there wasn’t enough of a plot. So we got into a long discussion about, of all things, what exactly ‘plot’ is. I told her(him) that, as I understand it, plot is things happening, and things most definitely happen in FUTUREPROOF. (S)he said that “Plot means the events in a book have to be building up to something larger, a conflict or a goal (which are usually connected) that keeps the reader turning the pages to find out what’s going to happen. Plot is what answers the question: If I walk away from this book at page 50, why should I care? Will the characters lives go on pretty much the same or is there something at stake? Not just events happening one after the other because that’s the way they happen in real life.”

As hard as it was for me to do this, I went my own way, and the agent and I bid adieu. Was that a mistake? Should I have done what (s)he wanted me to and completely changed FP to better meet her(his) standards of what makes a book interesting? No. I shouldn’t have compromised this project to that degree. I would have been turning my back on all of you who have supported me for so long with the book as it is now. Now, this doesn’t mean that every time I am approached by the powers that be that I am completely rigid in keeping the text exactly as it is, but at the same time I’m not going to trash the book completely and start from scratch so as to better accommodate somebody’s idea about what makes a book more sellable to the masses. The “masses” have already spoken on this book, and you guys are those masses. You have found something within FUTUREPROOF that proves that this tradition of story-telling, begun in the common age of novels with James Joyce’s ULYSSES and continued on through the Beat era and into even something like the magnificent television series THE SOPRANOS, is still alive and well, and has an audience. This is realism on the page, and the trials of real life will always have an audience.

But at the same time, I have come to a very hard realization:

Yesterday, I went with my wife and sister-in-law to a Border’s and they went up to ask the book flunkie if she could order FUTUREPROOF for them—just a test to see how easily accessible it is to get this book at your local giant book conglomerate. The answer came back that they couldn’t order the book AT ALL. I was like “WHAT THE FUCK?” When I published the book through Lulu I paid $150 so that it would be listed on all the major book distribution warehouses’ databases. And for what it’s worth, FP did show up there. Only Borders refuses to order it from there because they can’t sell it back. Once they pay to have a copy of FP sent to them, they are stuck with it, and if it doesn’t sell within a month or two, they consider it a loss. So the only way I have of getting this book in the larger chain stores is to actually purchase the copies myself (with my nearly non-existent cashflow) and give them to book stores on consignment. And this means that they either sell them and at some later date give me a paltry cut or I’ve just lost money myself in trying to put the book in some store. And this is the same way no matter which store I go to, independent or giant bookchain. It is an uphill battle every single step of the way.

Now, I know there are a lot of you out there, specifically the die-hard DIY advocates who think it beneath us to grovel at the feet of the faceless corporations that are Big Publishing. But there are certain obstacles that at this point are unovercomeable (not a real word? Fuck it, I make words up when I need to—sorry—FIRED UP over here) without Big Publishing. I’m not trying to get rich and buy an island in the Pacific with the proceeds of FUTUREPROOF, but I would like to make a living writing. And while FP might not be a book to viably do that, I feel that with all the support we have already gotten, it at the very least deserves a chance to get a go at it.

Things to consider within the next 2 weeks:

1. Oct. 1-8 Fall book tour. We’re still working on securing the reading locations, which will center on the East coast, maybe Ohio, Pittsburgh, as well as getting some amount of publicity in each city. This will hopefully involve a large number of you guys posting fliers all over cities, plastering walls and telephone poles in every conceivable area with the news of the coming glory of FUTUREPROOF. This is so goddam grassroots, if it got any more grass-rootier, it would actually bare fruit. Yes, edible fruit. Like apples.

2. Remember way back in October of 2005, when I talked about the glorious triumph of creating a writers/artists collective? Well, that dream is finally becoming a reality. The website is almost complete (much like the Death Star, except this star is one of …life. Yes, the antithesis of death. And can’t be blown up by a well-placed shot from anyone, no matter how badass a Jedi he has the capability of becoming). We’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to finish the site, at which point all TEN authors will announce it to the world. Hope you guys will all come along and help us make history.

In the meantime, the motherfucking saga continues…

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