If you're reading this and you are one of the people who follow this project, thanks, and I'd like to bring you up to date on the book about KFAT. And to those who have written me with encouragement, sincere thanks, and when I said that your input helped, I meant it.
Later I might explain how hard it is to get an agent, but it is, but I got one, and she said we'd 'get right to writing' the proposal, which is what editors see. They never see the book until they've bought it- they see the proposal, which is basically a business plan for the book. My agent knew I was broke and waiting for the book to sell, and when I finally saw it, I knew it could have been done in a few days. But she had other clients, so okay, maybe a few weeks. Instead, I had to wait fourteen months (!) for the proposal to go out, and during that period, Bear Stearns had collapsed, and that was a big story and a bad sign, but the government bailed them out. A few months after that, my agent sent out the proposals for the book on Sept. 8th, the day that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapsed, with rampant rumors of a possible AIG collapse, which everyone was saying would have sent the country into a Depression. Rumors, speculation and fear ran rampant throughout the American business community all that week, and then, the following Monday, Lehman Brothers collapsed. The government declined to bail them out, and the entire American economy stopped cold. My agent told me that every editor that she sent it to wanted it and sent it upstairs? for purchase, but the economy was in shock and no one bought the book, and the why was obvious. Over the next year, my agent (!) did not make a single follow-up call or send out another proposal. After a year, I insisted she do that, she promised she would send some proposals out within a month, but two months later she had not, nor had she made a single phone call on my behalf, and I dismissed her.
That was in November, 2009. Last June, I was about to send out a few packages with sample chapters of the book, asking for financial help: not as a gift, an investment. I know that Silicon Valley grew up listening to KFAT, and there ought to be at least one person who could afford the investment and who thought the project interesting enough to even ask about the book or to see a copy. I was about to send out a couple of those packets when I heard from a civic organization that wanted to help get the book published, so I didn't send out the requests. We had a meeting in August and I heard from them again in September. They were talking about printing the book and having a KFAT Festival when the book was ready for sale. We spoke again in early December, and the idea was still in favor, but to the regret of everyone in the organization, the economy precluded anything more than enthusiasm. I thank them here again for their encouragement.
In November, I sent out one of those request letters/packets to a man I knew had the interest and the money, and so far, no word. That led me to an uncomfortable thought: I couldn't self-publish and achieve my goal for the book, so I wanted a publisher, hopefully a mainstream publisher- despite everything I'd been reading about self-publishing- and for that, I needed an agent. Oh, no! I hated the thought of having an agent again, and you know part of why, but there it is.
So in early November I sent out about 50 requests for representation (they're called "Submission Queries") and heard back from only three of them, each of whom quickly showed their disinterest. One of them was only interested in celebrities that came to see us and "went crazy." I told him many came, but all acted respectfully, and he said thanks and got off the phone.
Before we go any further, I am going to show you the letter I sent to the agents, all of whom describe themselves on various sites as being interested in books on music, pop culture, non-fiction, and general interest books, and all of whom announced themselves as being open to email submission queries, which some are not. These requests for representation follow a very strict formula: you are limited to three, and maybe four paragraphs to grab them and get their interest. In these three or four paragraphs, you have to intrigue them with the story, impress them with your writing, and demonstrate that there is a market for the book. How much media exposure the book will generate is called its â platform and if your book is lucky enough to have some- and mine does- then you need to mention it. You need to supply a lot of information- enough to impress a very wary agent, who is usually overworked and besieged with 100 or more such requests each week. They have to sift through all of them to look for the rare gem that enthuses them. If they're interested, they will write back- usually after a few weeks- with questions or asking for sample chapters. You must be concise and talented. Spelling, punctuation, grammar are critical, as is the ability to tell a story well. Here was mine:
I have completed "FAT CHANCE," the non-fiction story of the birthplace of Americana music, America's fastest-growing music category. It is also the story of the last gasp of the 60's. I did the talk show at KFAT, and I know the players and the stories, and I have the releases. Here's what happened:
Already watched by the FBI, two hippie anarchist troublemakers bought the cheapest, lowest-powered station in California, then lied to the FCC to get their power boosted and the transmitter moved to the tallest hill in the Bay Area, and they set about disrupting the airwaves with a wild new mix of music, most of which was played on no other commercial radio station in America, and the fans responded instantly and rabidly.
Knowing that no radio professional would move to Gilroy to work on such antiquated equipment, much less for those wages, the station hired mostly inexperienced people, taught them how to play records, and turned them loose to find the music. Featuring the most colorful cast of cast of characters outside of Hogwarts, the many forms of insanity at KFAT attracted periodic visits from the FBI and the FCC, who tried- unsuccessfully- to exert some control over the DJs. The station was also visited by the Ku Klux Klan, who stopped by to make a programming suggestion and left their card, the CIA tried to interfere with the talk show (mine), and the Hells Angels kept stopping by the station to party whenever they went on a run and the bars closed. And you can't tell me that the Hells Angels ever came toÂ yourÂ place and nothing interesting happened...
The book is complete and I am as proud of the writing as I am in awe of the story. The book has amazing platform, and I'd rather discuss the details of this in person, but I assure you the exposure is there in spades. It's an entertaining story with a dramatic climax in the second act, making it ideal for cinema, and the soundtrack alone makes that a viable investment. But of course it's the story and the writing that will sell the books.
Now, câ€™mon! Whatâ€™s wrong with that? The birthplace of Americana? Americaâ€™s fastest-growing music category? The last gasp of the Sixties? Thatâ€™s sexy stuff that should sell books right there! Also: The most colorful cast of characters outsdide of Hogwarts? The FBI, FCC, KKK, the CIA and a big dose of the Hells Angels! Come on! I think that is some sexy shit and I do not understand why every agent I sent this to didnâ€™t take a look at the letter and respond immediately that Yes! I want to be part if this!Â
Now for the dilemma: I am not vain enough to think that these agents were all freakinâ€™ crazy, that theyâ€™re wrong and Iâ€™m right. If Iâ€™d sent out only a couple of submission queries, and they both rejected me, then I could think that they were both crazy. But I just sent out over fifty of them, and not one agent wanted to represent this book. If one or two had rejected it, I could say they were crazy, but with more than fifty agents rejecting the book, then theyâ€™re not crazy- they know something I donâ€™t know. But Iâ€™m goddammed if I can figure out what that is. If you have an idea, let me know.Â
But here is another problem:
You might have found your way here from the Facebook link, and as of today, there are 181 of us who have registered as KFAT fans on Facebook. The page has been up for, what? two years? and 181 people have joined. Publishers want numbers, and the number 181 does not excite a potential publisher, who is considering the likelihood of making a profit on any book they consider publishing. Publishing is investing, and everyone wants to make a profit. They donâ€™t even need that high a number, considering that they would protect themselves against a potential loss by giving me a low signing fee. So all a publisher needs to get excited is a few thousand books sold. If they felt confident that a book will sell in the low five figures, say 4-5,000 books, then their costs are covered and they get inclined to buy the book and put it out. If it gets reviewed well and sells really well, well good for the publisher and their profits accrue, but they were covered with only a few thousand sold. So they look to such indicators as Facebook and Twitter and whatever the hell else is out there or comes out next week, and they look for the numbers, and the number 180 gives â€˜em both the heebiesÂ andÂ the jeebies, and they look somewhere else for a profitable project.Â
And I donâ€™t get that, either. I found the KFAT Facebook page because I was interested in the subject. Yeah, I had my reasons, but so do other people, and they are finding friends from junior high and from vacations in New Jersey in 1959 and what-else, and people are finding the sites of the things that interest them, and KFAT was such a remarkable experience that Iâ€™d have thought that more people would have signed on. And that would have helped in my hunt for representation, because agents look there, too, when thinking about representing a book. Iâ€™m just sayinâ€™â€¦
In the meanwhile, I will be looking to find more people to send my little packet to, and hoping to hear from that organization again, and the reason I contacted them in December was because a writer from the â€œGilroy Dispatchâ€? wants to write about the book and about KFAT, and maybe about that festival, and Iâ€™ll talk to her later this month, January. In December, the organization said they still loved the idea, and theyâ€™ll help when and how they can, and that is more encouraging than â€œsorry- canâ€™t help,â€? so thatâ€™s a maybe. We'll see if the article gets written and if the exposure helps.
(Every once in a while someone signs on to the site and writes a message, or writes to me off the site to ask me something, or tell me something, and I thank all of you who have read the site, especially those who have contacted me, I thank you all.)Â
I want you to know that I do not think of this book as youâ€™d expect from a first-time author who is enthused about his book, thinking, â€œI wrote a book! Pay attention, world!â€? Nope, Iâ€™m not that guy. There are three ways to look at this book: how good a story is it, how well is it written, and how commercial is it? I look at the book as a businessman would. I ask myself, â€œDo I have the goods?â€? Yes, I know the story and itâ€™s better than anyone knows yet, even anyone who ever worked at KFAT, and yes, that would include Laura Ellen, whose passing saddens me still. My only regret about this book is that she will not read it. Itâ€™s a moving, raucously wild ride, rife with joy, sorrow, excitement, enthusiasm, dedication, discovery, drugs, sex, alcohol, rebels, idealists, purists and dissolutes, people at the mic for the first time and those for whom it was the last, and it is all dosed with triumph and tragedy. Iâ€™ve said it before and Ill say it here: I believe that I have a National Book Award story on my hands, and my best chance to write a National Book Award book will come from working with an editor. If you know one, ask him or her to get in touch, will ya?â€¦
At some point, if enough time passes with no joy, I will release FAT CHANCE as an ebook.Â
As for my writing, why donâ€™t you be the judge? You want to read the book's Intro? You can go to the "Book Intro" page and read it there. The fonts and spacing will be sorta wrong, but it's there and I hope you like it, 'cause there's a lot of that kind of writing.
Wait- hereâ€™s an early review of the book. Everyone whoâ€™s read it tells me it flies by- it just reads really fast. I never had page numbers on any of the copies theyâ€™ve read, so no one knew that it was a 600-page book. When I asked them if it was too long, everyone yelled â€œNo!â€? So thatâ€™s good. Then my KFAT DJ pal read it, and then his girlfriend read it. Sheâ€™d moved here too recently to know anything about KFAT, and she didnâ€™t know the station, the story, or more than a couple of the players. She read the book and loved it, and so I asked her- as the only person to read the book with no prior knowledge of the station or the story- what she thought about it. She agreed to answer a few questions, and on one of the questions, she said she didnâ€™t know the answer to that, â€œbut let me read it again and Iâ€™ll get back to you.â€? Thatâ€™s all Iâ€™m sayin.â€™ Â Â
As for the commerciality, I am just blown away by the commercial potential for this story.Â
Oh, yes- one more regret. I regret that I need financing to publish the book. Without a publisher, I need money to get it done. If you know anyone who listened and loved the station, tell â€˜em about the book, about the site, about the Facebook page. Tell â€˜em that they can still listen to old KFAT tapes at:Â www.kfat.com, click on â€œClick here to listen.â€?
The book is done, and Iâ€™m telling you that itâ€™s freakinâ€™ brilliant. And I wouldnâ€™t say that if it wasnâ€™t true. Itâ€™s fun, itâ€™s tragic, itâ€™s magic, itâ€™s true. It happened to me and it happened to all of us- jocks and listeners- and youâ€™ll like reading about it. I need help. You know what I mean.
So Iâ€™m hoping the article gets written in the Gilroy Dispatch, and I hope someone reads it and offers to help, or someone reads this and offers to help. My best guess for what I need is $7,000 and If you donâ€™t have it, itâ€™s too much, but thereâ€™s a lot of people out there that wonâ€™t be scared by 7K. Know someone? Are someone? Got the money and want to see the book? At first I thought I needed A LOT more money, but if I go the POD route, I can get the book to you by summer 2012. The problem with POD (print on demand) is that I can't have any color images on the pages, and the photo sections will be in B & W on uncoated stock. The printer assures me that the photos will still look good, and if I wanted full color photos, the book would cost you over $50.00, rather than the $27 or $28. Other than that, it'll be on sale on Amazon and I'd rather get it out than wait for the money I'd need for the color photos, and the photos will all be in full color on the web for you to see. And I forgot to mention that if I go the POD route, this will also include having the option of having the book as an ebook. So...
SOMEONE has $7,000 to loan me and wants to see this book in print. If you want to help, get in touch. In fact, if you have any thoughts about this post, get in touch on the CONTACT page. I'd love to hear what you think about my Submission Query.
I don't think anyone will quibble about the quality or style of the writing, and I can't imagine anyone not being fascinated by the story or the people. Back when I had that agent (!) and she was putting togther the proposal to send out to publishers, part of the proposal is the "Comparables" section, where the proposal states which books this book is similar to, and the publishers will know how many of those books sold, so the publishers will know what the market is for it. It works like in real estate, where you look for comparable houses in your area, and what they sold for. She looked and looked, and with all the resources available to her, including the internet and the Library of Congress at her disposal, SHE COULD NOT FIND ANY BOOKS TO COMPARE THIS ONE TO. ThisÂ amazedÂ her.
Iâ€™m sitting on something very special here, Fat Friends. I think everything about it is special: the people, the story, the period, the music, the excitement, and yes, the writing. I know this book is special and will be reviewed well and get exposure, maybe in spades. I just don't know what to do with it now. After 12 years on this project, I'm really frustrated. I want it to be in print before it's an eBook because I want it to be reviewed in the manstream media, which eBooks are not. My agent (may she... you know) told me that because we're not positioning this book as 'crazy shit on the radio' but as the birthplace of Americana (which I prove), we had a great shot at being reviewed by bothÂ Rolling StoneÂ andÂ Entertainment Weekly,Â which would be huge, and it's a lock on being reviewed inÂ Mojo, Spin, UncutÂ andÂ NME,Â all of which would make it a big seller.Â Iâ€™m blown away that the mainstream media has ignored this book. Somehow,Â FAT CHANCEÂ will come out, it will get reviewed well, and you will love reading it. Says me.