Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why American Zen Won't Succeed


(Photoshopped cover art done by my Sis Alicia at Last Left B4 Hooterville.)

Maybe it's the homosexual/bisexual angle. Maybe because in my query letters and various synopses I described my protagonist Mike Flannigan as being "a liberal, investigative political journalist." Maybe it's because I wrote in my cover letters to peckerheaded literary agents, "I thought it was high time that someone write a novel from a liberal perspective." Really, since Sinclair Lewis, can anyone name a great American liberal novel? And, no, I don't count Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. While some claim he was an arch liberal outside the salon, none of his novels were as overtly political as American Zen.

You could say that, "Maybe it wasn't good enuff, har har" but you'd be springing from a position of complete ignorance since it's obvious you never read it. I think I have a fairly good idea of who bought or got it for free from me and you're not one of them.

But I'm a big believer in full disclosure. I figured, if anyone asks for sample chapters or, in the case of Grand Central Publishing, the entire manuscript, they'd find out soon enough where Mikey is at. Might as well get that out of the way from the start, I thought.

And I still say I thought right. What I underestimated was how much of a right wing sewer the publishing business is. Oh, if you were to ask Rupert Murdoch lackey Adam Bellow (nepotistic son of Nobel Prize laureate Saul), he'd say starting up a right wing book imprint by the pretentiously provincial name of Broadside Books was a necessary act of fairness and balance because, as Bellow bellowed,
“I am a conservative in a liberal industry. And I’ve always considered it to be my function as an editor to bring news from the outside world — which is to say, reality — to the New York political cocoon.”

Yeah, you heard that right. #1, like Hollywood, the book business in his addled mind was totally liberal before he came marching into Avenue of the Americas like some right wing Hannibal on his shining white elephant. And, #2, It's not the likes of George Bush or Sarah Palin or Christine O'Donnell or other Republican recipients of Ave. of the America's welfare agency that lives in a cocoon. It's elite New York liberals.

Saul, Saul, Saul. Where the fuck did you go wrong? Did you let him get traumatized by playing a Mort Saul album at a party within Adam's earshot?

Yeah, once in a while the liberal book comes out. Every once in a great while, we'll get a Naomi Klein or Michael Moore book (and Michael Moore can tell you all about corporate censorship at the hands of his own publishers). But I can't think of a liberal antidote to Tim LaHaye's execrable Left Behind series or the Christian propaganda troweled out by Noel Hynd and his publishers at Zondervan, can you? For every Molly Ivins or Hunter S. Thompson (who died six years ago today) we lose, it seems 10 Republican sewer rats take their place.

Since the MSM has historically been notoriously bereft of actual liberals, how many books have been published by our side that can serve as a levee against the endless tsunami of bullshit trowled out annually by hacks like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Jerome Corsi, Dinesh D'Souza, Jason Mattera, Pam Gellar and, coming to an RNC fundraiser near you, human hairballs Christine O'Donnell and Dick Cheney?

That reminds me. I haven't even mentioned the tidal wave of bullshit coming from the Potomac, namely the memoirs of George W. Bush, Scott McClellan, Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, and a whole slew of other right wingers including one of my senators, Scott Brown, a guy who's been in Washington for barely over a year and suspiciously timed the publication date with an admission of being molested 41 years ago.

Funny, I don't seem to recall Chris Coons, the guy who crushed O'Donnell by 17 points, being offered a book deal. Al Franken's been in the Senate for a couple of years. How come no one asked him to write a sequel to Lying Liars and the Liars Who Tell Them?

Jesus fucking Christ on a foam rubber crutch, Joe the fucking Plumber?!

So how the hell can this maniac named Adam Bellow piss and moan about the publishing business being taken over by elite, bubbled-in liberals when Republicans and even penny ante bloggers like Gellar and rope line groupies like Joe Wurzelbacher get rich off contracts for books they're largely not even writing?

Is the publishing business so naive as to be incapable of distinguishing an actual bestseller that people are buying one at a time and spreading through word of mouth from one that's merely bought up in bulk by Republican organizations and handed out or sold at Republican functions?

Or does it even matter?

Much of what I hear from literary agents in their boilerplate rejection letters flung to me by flunkies is how tough it is to sell a book by a firsttime author like me. What they don't include is the fact that other firsttime "authors" such as Palin and O'Donnell, two women who could create a wind tunnel just by standing side by side, have no problem breaking into print regardless of having no rudimentary literacy skills let alone literary skills. ("Mandation"? "Refudiate"? How far would I go with literary agents who insist on perfection if I used those pseudo-words in a cover letter or synopsis?)

Oh, but there's something I'm forgetting, isn't there? Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell have something I don't have: A national reputation for lying, losing and quitting. I'm not a national laughingstock who nonetheless possesses the ability to bring out white, embittered, gun-toting, Tea Bagger racists. All I bring to the table is actual writing talent. What the fuck's that worth in the world of publishing?

So I have to laugh bitterly every time I get a form rejection letter in the mail or my inbox then read tripe like Adam Bellow puling about the publishing business being co-opted by elite New York liberals.

And when conservative organizations buy up these books wholesale, it gives publishers the impression there's an actual market for this shit. It creates a market, consensus where there really isn't much.

Simon & Schuster has a conservative imprint. Harper Collins has two (Broadside and Regan Books, sans Judith Regan). There's Penguin Putnam's Sentinel. There's Regnery Publishing. There's Threshold. And I haven't even mentioned right wing Christian publishers such as Zondervan. And they're multiplying like brain-dead rabbits.

How many liberal imprints can you think of? I know the business. I buy Jeff Herman's Guide every year. I see none. It's as if the publishing business is afraid of declaring even a small, start-up subsidiary and imprint might even be remotely liberal. And it's laughable that a guy like Adam Bellow, who's using the tried-and-true argument used by Roger Ailes and Kenneth Tomlinson that "fairness and balance are needed against the vast left wing conspiracy", would claim that an industry that's beholden to corporate interests like Rupert Murdoch's would be making a successful stand against conservatism.

And that's why I think books like American Zen won't sell. It features teh gays. It features a liberal protagonist who calls a spade a spade and pokes fun at the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin (although agents typically never get that far. Even so-called liberal/progressive literary agents have dismissed it with a form rejection letter because they know or assume they can't sell something that isn't nakedly conservative and partisan.).

I once asked an agent after I got a form rejection letter, "Hey, here's an idea. How about if I just change my name to Glenn Beck or retitle American Zen something like Going Rogue? Think it'll sell then???"

It was met with silence.

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