What does it take these days to get a book deal with a traditional publisher? What do you do when, hypothetically, you’re running out of time and mere talent is not the be-all and end-all?
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American Male Prostitute
Stuart Martin Berry has only three months left to find a publisher for his first novel. In a desperate attempt to achieve his goal, he leaves his home to live in New York. His wife has given him free rein to do whatever it takes to get a book deal. Her only request was not to give her any details on how he got there. If he fails, he will be forced to give up his dream of being a famous writer and accept a regular forty-hour a week job. For Stuart, this is sufficient motivation to start a three-month adventure full of sex, lies, and deceit, without losing focus of the ultimate goal. When he finally reaches the finish line, he has evolved and become a leading expert in the publishing world.
To put it in a nutshell, today’s publishing world is divided into two principle sections. First, there is the exclusive pool of traditional publishers, and, second, the help-yourself shark tank represented by the so-called vanity publishers.
Vanity publishers have a significant edge over traditional publishers in regards to brutality, business sense, and profitability. They ruthlessly pursue the infinite supply of aspiring writers who, in turn, are rejected by traditional publishers or literary agents. Ironically, in the world of traditional publishing, authors are rejected not necessarily due to lack of talent. Vanity publishers accept everybody and everything. No questions asked. Just pay your bill, but don’t come crying to them when you can’t sell a copy of your book.
The question remains, what does it take these days to get a book deal with a traditional publisher? What do you do when, hypothetically, you’re running out of time and mere talent is not the be-all and end-all?
Stuart Martin Berry has found the answer: If you can’t impress them with your talent, baffle them with your bull-shit.
My name is Stuart Martin Berry and, until last week, I was an associate editor for one of the largest magazines dedicated to the dream world of writers and poets. Like many of my ex-colleagues, I am also a failed novelist. My first and so far last novel, a thriller titled Rules of Extortion, never made it into print. That was almost two years ago, and, with my pregnant wife pressing me to get a job that, in fact, created sufficient income, I considered my writing career as being over and done with.
For a short time after my failure, literary agents, snobby bastards that they are, treated me like I was the carrier of a deadly disease. But they turned around and started kissing up to me as soon as I got my job as editor for the above-mentioned magazine. Until then, during an intense three-month period of shamelessly promoting my book, I had learned my lesson on persuasive bull-shitting.
Suddenly, if you believed my job description, I was not a failed novelist, but an accomplished author, who had decided to share his knowledge with the aspiring writer, to provide advice and encouragement. These days you see my photo in various publications, printed or online, identifying me as a top expert on all aspects of fiction writing. My job included, among many other things, writing about writing without being allowed to write something substantial like, let’s say, a novel.
Another essential part of my work as an editor was keeping up a fantasy world for the tens of thousands of wannabe-writers who made the mistake of subscribing to our magazine or the even more useless online forum.
Let me explain to those not familiar with the publishing business, a writers’ magazine cannot exist without the vast number of delusional writers who will never have the slightest chance of ever being published. In order to have your book published, you need to be talented and, as I was told from day one, the vast majority of our subscribers weren’t.
I was also directed to keep the information in my articles at a fairly superficial level and use ample motivational nonsense to keep our readers happy, everything to convince a dying man that he will live a long and prosperous life.
My personal favorite was an article series on dealing with and recovering from rejections, and you can bet, most of our readers have been rejected numerous times by agents and publishers alike.
Besides advertisement, we made our main revenue through online writers’ workshops, and the depthless articles filling our magazine ad nauseam were the best marketing tools. And for God’s sake, I was not to write anything that might interfere with the dubious business of the sharks that paid substantial fees for full-page advertisements in our magazine.
All that wasn’t difficult for me. As I said, bull-shitting was one of my acquired talents.
Jilly Cooper once said, the male is a domestic animal, which, if treated with firmness, can be trained to do most things. I am living proof to validate that statement.
Well, the bull-shitting life is finally over, and, honestly, I hated every single day. Deep in my soul I am an honest guy. Unfortunately, honesty doesn’t pay the bills.
Fortunately, though, about four weeks ago, my wife Sophie had accepted a job offer for a $150,000 annual salary plus benefits, and I had offered to be a stay-at-home Dad.
Our daughter Magda is now almost two years old, and my wife was itching to get back to her former job as the head of the Human Resources department of a leading insurance company based in Washington, D.C.
I have not yet decided what I will do during the copious spare time between play-group-mornings and afternoon walks in the park. I still maintain my blog and make a few bucks on the side with online advertising, just enough to cover the operating costs. I might start writing paid literature reviews or even start an editing service. With my connections to the publishing and writing industry that shouldn’t post a problem.
Llysha, another aspiring author and a dear friend of mine, had jokingly suggested starting our own publishing business, and she touted BBS, Inc. as the business name. BBS stands for “Baffle them with your Bull-Shit”, and, believe me, the name alone was a guarantee for success in the publishing industry.
To stay with the truth, I am done with writing. I am with Groucho Marx who once said, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” Nevertheless, I am burning to take a final hit at the system. It deserves it.
While we’re at it, my name is not Stuart Martin Berry, and events and names have been changed to protect my family, specifically my wife. I will tell you about that grotesque period of three months, during which I tried to find a publisher for my book. My wife had given me totally free rein to do whatever it would take to get a book deal. Her only request was not to share any details of how I got there.