I’ll warn you now that this is a weird, disjointed pop-culture jag, with a heavy dollop of sarcasm, so if that’s not your bag, baby, hit the back button.
I’d ask you to consider all of the ways in which the culture of book writing is different from other artistic pursuits, but the truth is that I’ve already considered them, so all you have to do is read:
If you have a band with a fresh, raw sound and the gigs just aren’t getting you where you want to go, you can scrape together a few bucks, lay down your own tracks and release it on the sly. At worst, you’ll have pie-in-the-sky dreams. At best, you’ll get picked up and become the Next Big Thing. Somewhere in the middle, you’ll be hailed for your independent spirit.
If you’ve come up with a killer movie script and roped a few investors in, you can create your artistic vision, film it yourself and become the toast of Telluride or Sundance.
If you’re moved toward painting or sculpting and someone sees some grand interpretation of life in your splatters, your works might someday hang in the Getty. Of course, you probably won’t witness this, as you’ll be dead, or sans your ears. … Actually, maybe this isn’t the best example for what I’m driving at.
Finally, there’s nothing more American than bringing together a troupe of actors and presenting original works in a community-theater setting. I love that stuff, and you probably do, too.
But if you write a book … oh, you poor bastard. If you even think of releasing it yourself, you’re a hack, a nobody, a talentless slob who wouldn’t be doing such a damnable thing if you had an ounce of ability. And if you don’t believe me, ask this guy.
No, if you write a book, to be legitimate, it must successfully navigate the various levels of vetting: the literary agent, the acquisitions editor, the board at the publisher, etc. That’s the hard truth, delivered from both the vetters themselves and those who have managed to make it through the wringer. And if you ask why, here’s the answer: That’s just the way it is. And further, all artistic endeavors that are intended to be commercial have to be vetted. Right?
Yes, in general, I’ll buy that. But if I were to be contrarian, I would say this:
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing at all against Mr. Evigan. He’s an actor, and an actor’s gotta eat. What will hit or miss is so hard to pin down in film and TV that you can’t very well blame an actor for a willingness to take on roles.
Greg Evigan certainly did his part. He took on roles in two of the most insane ideas ever to be made into TV series, which is why I’m citing him here.
I’m trying to imagine the pitches for “B.J. and the Bear” and “My Two Dads,” and every time I do, I’m reminded of Randy Quaid’s great line in “Christmas Vacation”: I piss myself and can’t remember who I am for a few hours.
“There’s this truck driver, see? And he drives around the country, see, and he helps people in distress. But here’s the kicker — and you’re going to love this: He travels around with a chimp. A frickin’ chimp-an-zee, baby! I mean, just imagine the possibilities. Yeah, sure, those chimps, man, they belong in a zoo, but this one dresses up and wears a cap, and he even blows the horn on the truck. Kids are going to love that crap!”
And then there’s this one …
“OK, look. This woman, she dies. And she leaves behind a daughter. And they can’t figure out which of her two ex-boyfriends is the dad, so the judge lets the two guys and the little girl live together. Because that solves everything! Also, let’s make sure we have Dick Butkus in this thing. It’ll bring in the all-important 19-to-39 male demographic.”
I mean, seriously. Who the hell vetted those? And, more important, is he/she now in publishing and willing to take a look at my novel?