by John Ellis
Several years ago, a student in one of the adult acting classes I was teaching managed to finagle his way into a meeting with one of the top talent agents in the southeast. This agent provided talent for most of the major films and shows being filmed throughout the Carolinas and Georgia. The student’s acting ability and resume did not warrant that meeting, but he was persistent, if nothing else, and somehow figured out a way to get inside this lady’s office.
After I asked him how it went, he sullenly responded, “Like it always does. Hollywood doesn’t care about talent. They just want to put you in a box and misuse you.”
To be honest, I was expecting an answer similar to that because this man had an inordinate and unjustified belief in his own talent combined with the border-line conspiracy-theory belief that the system was rigged against him. Curious, though, I pushed further.
“She asked my age.”
“Okay,” I breathed, searching for the right words. “And she shouldn’t have done that?”
“My age is irrelevant,” he angrily spouted. “What is relevant is that I have the ability and look to play anywhere from mid-teens to late-fifties. If she was any good at her job she’d recognize that I’m the classic leading man!”
He then went on to explain that Hollywood is scared of people like him; people with real talent, to be clear. He’s a leading man, he confidently asserted again and again, but talent agents refuse to give him the chance he deserves. The system is rigged.
As I listened to his rant, my frustration grew. Not only did he manage to secure an audition in front of one of the top talent agents in the business, an opportunity that most of my actor friends would consider parting with a few fingers or toes for, he actually had a great look for film and TV. With a very unique look that would lend itself well to all kinds of character roles, he had enough talent where that talent agency could’ve molded and steered him into a legitimate Hollywood career. However, he was so bound by his own hubristic belief that his “immense talent’ deserved stardom and that the system was rigged against him, he failed to capitalize on a great opportunity.
My point with all that above? As someone who considers himself an artist, I really, really don’t want to be that guy. But it’s hard not to be sometimes. It’s hard not to feel sorry for myself and steer into the nonsensical belief that the system is rigged against me. Over the course of my adult life, I’ve met many want-to-be movie stars, writers, and musicians who believe that their lack of success is because the system is rigged. And, in some ways, it is. Necessary ways to help control the system, to be sure, but still rigged. At least it seems so from the outside.
Anyway, I write this as someone who is tired of receiving the same response from publishing company after publishing company – “We love your book. You’re an excellent writer with a story that people need to hear. But, you have zero professional credentials and have not secured anyone ‘famous’ who will help promote your book. We’re sorry, but we won’t be publishing A Godless Fundamentalist. Thank you for sending it to us.”
Every time I open one of those emails, my initial response is along the lines of nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m going to the garden to eat worms. A response that reveals pride.
I’m not owed this. Publishers do not owe me a book deal. Readers do not owe me their eyeballs. No matter how brilliant I may believe my book to be, I do not have a right to expect to ever see A Godless Fundamentalist in print.
That being acknowledged, I do believe in my book. I do think that God’s story of saving me to Himself is not only interesting but encouraging and edifying. I believe in my ability as a writer. More importantly, my wife believes in the book and is adamant that she does not want me to give up on it. The question with ever-shifting answers, then, is how to proceed?
I’ve exhausted publishing houses, I think. I’m sure there are some that I’ve overlooked or am unaware of; by all means, let me know of publishing houses that you think I should reach out to (chances are, I already have, but better to be safe than sorry). Self-publishing is not an option for A Godless Fundamentalist. No offense to those who self-publish, but, as a general rule, self-publishing is a vanity industry that is essentially paying to blog. I’m not opposed to self-publishing in all instances (more on that later), but I believe that A Godless Fundamentalist would fail to find an audience if I went that route.
Another option that I am not ready to explore yet is that of finding a literary agent. Having worked in the acting industry, I am familiar with the world of talent agencies and the politics in play. While not a complete one-to-one, I’m sure (and without boring you with the details), the parallels between acting and writing agents is enough to cause me to prefer to attempt an end run around that aspect of the system, for now.
One of the common themes in my growing pile of rejection emails is that I do not have an audience. By that, they mean that I do not have tens of thousands of people reading what I write on a regular basis. I do – PJ Media – but, to be blunt (and one publishing house flat out told me this), that’s not the audience they want. By lack of an audience, they mean in the Christian blogosphere. That’s usually connected in the rejection emails to my lack of endorsements from “famous” evangelicals.
So, moving forward, and really continuing what I’ve been doing, but in some more directed ways, I’m going to attempt to build my audience and profile as well as secure endorsements from “famous” evangelicals. This means that I’m going to bug some of my friends, those of you who are friends with “famous” evangelicals, to help a brother out. You may choose to ignore my attempts at networking. I won’t be offended, much. But I’m going to bug you, nonetheless.
In terms of building my audience and my profile within the Christian blogosphere world, I have a few projects I’m working on. Servants of Grace, that has a much greater reach than this blog, has already published several of my articles. Lord willing, I will continue to contribute articles to them. Likewise, I’ve already had one article published in Modern Reformation, a magazine with the esteemed Dr. Michael Horton at its helm. The editor has accepted another pitch from me. My goal is to get two or three more articles published in MR next year. Building my audience and profile will also require posting regularly here on A Day In His Court. I will also continue to find other platforms to pitch articles to (I have few in mind – not TGC, though, official access to their editors is almost tighter than access to Fort Knox).
(You can read my current MR article by clicking here. Rather, you can read the first paragraph; the rest of it is behind a paywall. The subscription price is worth it. Not necessarily for my article, but for the many edifying articles you will enjoy throughout the year from a variety of writers.)
Another way I’m attempting to grow my audience and profile is through apologetics sessions and my theatre work. My family’s move to the Orlando area and some pastoral issues this past winter and spring that demanded much of my time and energy combined to cause me to put Boxing God and my apologetics sessions on hold. Currently, I am finishing the play. Running parallel with that, I’m beginning the process of booking apologetics sessions. The sessions are for Believers. The play for non-believers, really. It would be nice to book them as a package deal. Again, my wife and I are working on that.
One final thing I want to mention is a short book that I am planning on self-publishing in a few weeks titled Our First Love. I won’t say a whole lot about the book here because I’m planning on publishing the current draft of the introduction later today to help stir up interest. For now, I want to explain why I’m choosing to self-publish it after what I wrote above.
For one thing, this book is only in the 20,000 word range. It’s short length combined with the fact that my “lack of professional credentials” would really come into play with publishers considering the topic make it next to impossible for me to find a publisher at this point. For another thing, self-publishing it provides me the opportunity to explore that space. There are self-publishing success stories; The Martian is a notable example. While very difficult to find an audience through self-publishing, not to mention either arrogant or naïve to expect to do so, it’s not impossible. I don’t want to completely shut myself off from that space without at least exploring it. Our First Love provides me with that opportunity and, frankly, the opportunity to make a few bucks while doing so.
So, that brings me to the end of this explanation. Thank you for reading. If you enjoy or are edified by my writing, please consider sharing my stuff with your friends and family members via social media. I know you don’t want to be the cause of me sitting in a garden eating worms.