On March 18, 2014, I posted the following on Facebook:
The post proceeded to explode. 275 comments, all told, with subthreads and mini-debates and hit jobs and passionate defenses. A gusher. Turns out almost all of you have some Certified Genius you just can’t stand, be it Dylan or The Beatles or Leonard Cohen or The Scorpions or whoever.
Sensing a sliver of zeitgeist, I DM’d a bunch of you: OK, hotshot, write up 500 words on your Loathed Genius of choice. I’ll assemble the essays into a quickie e-book. We'll call it "THERE, I SAID IT." We’ll put the byotch out on Amazon, and boom, we’ll have a Real Live Book with our names on it. And lo, shall our place in the universe be secure.
And it worked! At least, the most important part did. 30 of you actually sent in an essay, creative little bastards that you are. I started editing them into a book, figuring out how Amazon Self-Publishing works, etc.
Here’s where I went off the rails.
One of the best essays came in from a friend who is an Actual Published Author, with actual physical Works on brick-and-mortar bookshelves. And she said, hold on a sec. THERE, I SAID IT is too good an idea to merely self-publish. THERE, I SAID IT is a good enough idea to real-publish. Let’s put together a proper book proposal and get it in front of my agent and try to get a good old-fashioned book deal.
Now, you could read the previous paragraph and imagine my friend as a four-inch red-suited figure standing on my shoulder holding a pitchfork, her voice eerily deep and bass-y, holding out a handful of Turkish Delight. For what could be more cravenly 1% than foregoing the free love and incense of self-publishing, and choosing instead to chase the filthy lucre of Old Media? Why don’t we just cut out the middleman, print out our manuscript, and use it to club a baby seal?
But the truth of the matter is that I was genuinely torn. Old Media may be dying, but in the words of Mr. Clemens, news of its death has been somewhat exaggerated. What if THERE, I SAID IT could score a real, live book deal? I, Joshua Shelov, am not rich. I am sweating the shit out of my children’s impending college payments, etc. Perhaps THERE, I SAID IT could be a path to richitude? I mean, maybe not in and of itself, but, who knows? Maybe it cracks open the door to a publishing career? After all, the core concept seems to have hit a nerve with a reasonable sample size of people. Is a “real-publishing” path worth a shot, before we, you know, slink off into the Amazon?
I figured, what the hell, let’s at least give real-publishing a try. I emailed all the contributors and explained the situation. No problem, said they. No pushback. So I wrote up the proposal, and off to the agent it went.
Any of you who has ever dabbled in show business can probably guess what happens next. We entered the Gatekeeper Twilight Zone.
The GTZ is the next step up from the pain of having no agent at all. It’s when you have an agent, and they say they really like something: I mean, it’s phenomenal, a total no-brainer, but if you could just give me a few weeks, I don’t have time to put it on the front burner right this minute, do me a favor, don’t self-publish it quite yet, there’s really something quite commercial in there, in fact I just had lunch with my friend Emilia Flox-Gruyere at Hachette and this is so right up her alley, she’s just in the Hamptons right now and you know how nothing moves in August…
As Pauline Kael once said, Hollywood is the place where you die of encouragement. So too with big-time publishing. Many months went by. And then a year. And then two.
I could blame my friend for this. Or the agent. But it really wasn’t their fault. At all. It was always completely within my power to say, OK, you know what? We’re done here. Thanks. We’re going back to plan A.
But I didn’t. Because there was something deeper at work.
The deeper reason behind my failure to push this forward is that I was scared to make the leap that I made two weeks ago - the leap that jolted me into starting this blog. I think I was scared to push something out into the Digital New Frontier on the strength of my name alone: the same fear that has kept me from launching a Kickstarter page for a few film projects I’ve wanted to crowdfund. As I saw it, there was still a fart-cloud of failure hanging around the idea of self-publishing. And so I just sat there, in neutral.
I have such admiration for New Media wizards like Jonathan Coulton and Marc Maron, artists who have chosen simply to make stuff and release it out into the world, allowing it to find its own audience organically. There is ego involved in any artistic creation. But there is an egolessness about their distribution process - the way they simply give their completed work directly to their audiences - that I envy deeply. Because if I’m honest with myself, I think my ego is still chasing the validation of an Old Media Forty-Gun Salute.
In my twenties, my two idols were Quentin Tarantino and David Foster Wallace. And as affected as I was by their art, I was perhaps equally affected by their creation myths - a fully-formed genius has appeared in our midst! These Athenian tales were spun by Old Media around the releases of Pulp Fiction and Infinite Jest, in 1994-95 - just when I was starting to think of myself an artist. I think I coveted QT and DFW's creation myths as much as I did their talent. I wanted a myth of my own.
This is pretty much the textbook definition of hubris, which, as Mr. Manuel Miranda reminds us, is that thing that goeth before the fall. My pride has led me into a hell of a lot of potholes over the years. (We’ll talk more about my misadventures in Hollywood down the road.)
But enough with the woe is me! Today, we are here to break this stupid cycle, and launch this bastard. So! I am pleased to announce the self-publication of THERE, I SAID IT. Look, see, here's the cover, designed my talented friend Mark Badger:
I still have to figure out layout and Amazon and all that hooey, but, what the hell, let’s just go ahead and be our own best friend by boxing ourselves into a corner with a deadline. THERE, I SAID IT shall be Officially Published on:
Monday, October 17th, 2016
I apologize to you, O my talented friends who contributed essays. Your work is truly awesome. Sorry for wussing out for all this time. Onward!
And HERE YOU ARE, in black and white:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Beatles by Brian Alverson
The Who by Aimee Weingart Pollak
Eric Clapton by Alex Funk
U2 by Jason Barker
Billy Joel by David Bauer
Tom Waits by Amy Wilson
Miles Davis by Rob Weiser
The Smiths by Andrew McLaughlin
Paul McCartney by Patti Weiser
Carole King by Danielle Delgado
John Coltrane by James Michels
Led Zeppelin by Jaclyn Reindorf Savolainen
Tom Waits by Ron Wechsler
The Rolling Stones by Cebra Graves
Frank Sinatra by Nancy Anderson
James Taylor by Ryan McGee
Igor Stravinsky by Seth Morgulas
Pearl Jam by Alicia Biggart
Richard Wagner by Michelle Brazier
Bruce Springsteen by Michelle Brazier
James Taylor by Jacqui Robbins
Bruce Springsteen by Christine Caddick
Al Green by Leslie DiNicola
Barbra Streisand by Marc Chalpin
Counting Crows by Julian Sheppard
John Lennon by Steve J. Rogers
Leonard Cohen by Mark Badger
The Grateful Dead by Neil Turitz
Stevie Wonder by Henry Tenney
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by Jeff Brock
Now watch me go all huckster: I shall email all ye who subscribe to this blog an exclusive sample chapter. So go ahead and hit me up below with your email if you haven't yet done so...