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Episode 19, Part 3:…But *You* Just Might!

September 2, 2012

Click here to start with Episode 19, Part 1: The King and I

Finding a publisher to publish a book is synonymous to finding a venture capitalist to fund a startup. VCs see a tsunami of ideas and business plans; publishers are up to their armpits in book proposals and manuscripts. Everyone has the next bazillion dollar Facebook site or Harry Potter book. In both worlds, people queue up for their chance to pitch their ideas–all but a rare few leave empty-handed. The shark-like VC dispatches his prey up close and personal: teeth-to-face in an air-filled, aquarium-glass conference room. Publishers, more like monolithic government bureaucracies, rebuff their suitors via correspondence—the ominously foreboding rejection letter. Just ask Tim Westergren (Pandora) about being turned-down by 300 VCs, or Jack Canfield (successful author of over 200 books) about being rejected by 140 publishers. They would both likely agree that landing a first VC or publisher is next to impossible.

Judy arrived home from her business trip just hours after the publishing seminar had finished. I filled her in on the amazing alignment between our project and the list of essentials Steve had ascribed to making successful books.

One of the items Steve supplied was an outline for a book proposal. The next morning Judy and I awoke and slapped our proposal together. Because we already had a project plan, the resultant document was half book proposal, half abbreviated business plan. And so we printed off a copy. With the ink still wet, we hurried off to the meeting.

The Publishing King was holding court at a local bookstore cafe. I guess a bookstore is a fitting throne-room if your supplicants are all writers. Surrounded by books on their shelves, his faithful subjects reading, and the smell of rather pedestrian coffee, Steve was just ending his previous appointment as Judy and I walked up to his table.

I introduced Judy to Steve and we sat down to hopefully learn the secrets that would eventually propel our little book into stardom. Before he spoke to us, Steve wanted to first take a look at our proposal. As he read, a large smile grew on his face. I took that as a good sign. Then he asked us to speak about the project. I spoke for maybe 8 minutes, Judy for another 4 or 5.

After Judy finished, Steve looked at us and said, “I’m not going to bullshit you. I want to work with you on this project.”

Holy crap! Had I just heard what I thought I heard!? Did the King just utter that he wanted to publish our manuscript? Monks, by candlelight and quill, were actually going to copy our words so that everyone might have a chance to read them? I thought we were coming here to gain some sage insight on where the project stood, and how we might increase our chances, not to find a publisher! You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Where it took Tim Westergren and Jack Canfield forever to hear those words, it took us a grand sum total of 15 minutes.

If it all went well, Steve said, we could be ready to launch our book by the next Valentine’s Day. We just needed a contract and an acceptable manuscript. I looked Steve right in the eye and said, “You know, we’re going to sell a million copies. What do you think are the chances of that?”

After he had spent the entire previous day saying that no one sells a million copies, he looked back, shook his head, and said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this. But I think you have a 50/50 chance.” Um…wow! A couple of days later, we received an email from Steve telling us that his business partner, Stephen Sendar, had read our proposal and said, without prompting, “This is a million book concept.”

Steve left with a copy of our book proposal and manuscript. I felt badly giving him the manuscript. I knew it was in no shape for anyone to read, especially the King.

Still, I left the meeting floating on a cloud of euphoria. Judy, who has always had amazing luck, departed saying, “I knew that would happen.”

It was pretty darned exciting.

And it was also the beginning of a gargantuan clash between the Old World business of Gutenberg and the New World Silicon Valley.

But for this moment, life was, once again, perfect.


Click here for Episode 20: It’s a HIT!

One Comment
  1. Just….”Awesome”

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