To be honest, I’ve always been holding out for hookers. That’s the reason it’s taken 16 years to publish my debut novel, “The Last Baby Boomer: The Story of the Ultimate Ghoul Pool.”
I kept waiting for some prestigious publisher or agent to fly me to Manhattan, limo me to some swanky hotel and say, “Here you go, Mr. Rodell. You can have the blonde, the red head, the brunette or all the above.”
Not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings I’d, of course, take all three.
Then we’d elevate on up to the penthouse, I’d usher them into the suite and tell them to all lay down on the bed.
Then I’d slowly reach down and pull out …
My copy of “The Last Baby Boomer!”
Yes, I’d host a dramatic reading straight from page 1:
“The line to behold the dying man throbbed and pulsed within 5,000 feet of velvet rope. The crimson tethers were like arteries rushing blood to the center of a very sick heart. The ceaseless multitudes bore the pained expressions of hens consumed with thoughts of trying to lay square eggs. They clutched their $25 tickets and rubbed their good luck charms with urgent impatience. The doomed man’s chain-smoking primary care physician hadn’t scanned a single chart or much less bothered to visit his patient in more than 18 months and remained dogged in his shrill conviction that the patient, Martin Jacob McCrae, would drop dead any second. That’s when all the real fun would begin.”
It is my fact-based prediction that the very last baby boomer will be 115 years old in the year 2079. The satiric book’s premise is that people will be so sick of baby boomers by then they’ll take the last one, put him in a museum suite and charge contestants $25 to be with him for 15 minutes.
If they’re in the room when he dies they win the jackpot.
One problem: He just won’t die. He just keeps living and living and the ghoul pool jackpot keeps rising to preposterous heights.
It’s a coming of old, old age story.
Because everyone has to die.
But only one of us gets to die last.
I sent the first three chapters to an agent named Steve in 2000 and Steve called back right away and said he loved the premise, the writing he described as “crackling,” and insisted I overnight him the finished manuscript.
I clearly remember hanging up the phone and thinking, “Should the Cadillac be black or red?”
He promised he’d get back to me in two weeks.
That was 15 years ago. I’m still waiting.
I called back after a month and asked for Steve.
Where’d he go?
“No one knows. He just left.”
I like to think he read the book and was too struck by the genius within to further carry on in adult society.
It was the first frustration in what would become by far the greatest frustration in a life that increasingly seems like a colossal monument to the emotion.
Up until then everything had gone exactly as planned. I’d had an interesting career filled with characters and adventures published by many of the top magazines where I was on friendly terms with all the top editors.
The next logical step for a writer was to publish a novel. And I had mine.
My experience with Steve convinced me I’d chosen a bumpy path. I just had no idea the path would be so goddamned long.
But every rejection — and there’ve been maybe a thousand — included praise and advice to persevere. This from a top agent in 2006 was typical:
“This is one of the most inventive premises I’ve seen this year. And your writing, characters and dialogue are terrific. But I’m afraid this isn’t genre-specific enough for me to try and sell. Just keep pitching. You’ll find the right agent and I’m sure you’re in for great success.”
And every time I’d read a rejection like that another chunk of my soul would evaporate.
Would it be easier to sell if I included a lovesick vampire?
Forlorn, I’d put the thing away for years at a time. Then I’d grudgingly bring it back out, hammer away at it for a month or two and resume my tedious march on the rejection treadmill.
The very worst was in 2012. I’d sent it blind to one of the most exalted agents in the literary world.
And she bit.
She called and gushed all the familiar praise and requested I send the whole thing. She called the next week and said she wanted to set up a conference call with her and her 10 associates.
She was meeting with with European publishers that week. Was I available the Wednesday after that?
The 45-minute call was like a play written by my cruelest friends to tease all my most precious dreams. They’d all read whole book and took turns trying to outdo one another in terms of praise.
“It’s like Kurt Vonnegut!”
“Hollywood is going to eat this up!”
“It’s one of those rare books that as soon as I finished it I was already impatient to read your next book.”
Then the top agent said, “So it’s clear we all think we have a real winner here. Now, we want you to take two years and really get the book in shape.”
Two years? I’d been getting in shape for 10. If it was any more fit it could enter a triathlon.
But there was no way I was going to blow this. I said, sure. Two years. I figured in six months I could tell her I worked around the clock on it and was ready to go.
I emailed her a month later to say how excited I was about the progress and that, hey, in the meantime would she take a look at another finished project that’s getting a lot of positive interest. It’s a novelty self-improvement book with the word “crayons” in the title.
She emailed me back later that day a brusque note that said if I wasn’t fully committed to the novel there was no need in going any further.
It was at that point where, while I’ve never once felt suicidal, I earned a poignant understanding for those who do.
Yet, the only emotion that’s outweighed all the frustration is all the hope.
Because I believe all the praise. I believe people are going to love the book. And I believe that, thanks to “Crayons!” I’m now expert at gorilla marketing, which differs from guerrilla marketing in that for the latter consumers are engaged but for the former they go absolutely apeshit.
I paid $1,500 to self-publish it through iUniverse and shelled out another $2,100 to buy 250 discount copies.
As stated in the headline, this book is NOT free.
So it differs from “Use All The Crayons!” which famously states on page 1, “This Book is Free.” I insisted on including that because I didn’t want anyone who couldn’t afford the book to be without something I felt sure would brighten their lives.
It was very vain, yes, but I was correct. That book and the outlook it espouses makes a lot of people very happy. In three years, I’ve given away more than 500 free copies to petitioners from all over the country. I even pay the postage.
And I’ve sold more than 2,000 copies myself with traditional outlets selling just as many.
Given that the typical self-published book sells just 100 copies, I’m very pleased; it's also led to a fun and potentially lucrative sideline as a motivational speaker. And I still believe one day the book will really take off. People just love it. Honest.
Will they love “The Last Baby Boomer?” I honestly don’t know.
Getting anyone to read anything is a challenge these days.
You can read three sample chapters on the newly revamped and comprehensive www.ChrisRodell.com. Check it out. I’m grateful to Robyn John of Apollo Design and Brian Henry of Evermark Studios for their creativity and cheer. Robyn came up with and designed the evocative cover, too. I love it.
So it’s not free. How much is it?
Amazon is selling it for $16.95; the kindle version is $3.99; prices are the same on Barnes & Noble. I’m hopeful, given how supportive they’ve been with “Crayons!” the chain will stock this one at least in Greensburg. We shall see.
All those outlets give better deals than the one I’m giving.
Buying it from me costs $20 (plus $3 if you need it mailed within U.S.)
I settled on $20 because I prefer round numbers and rounding up makes better fiscal sense than rounding down.
Plus, I’m considering the additional $3.05 a sort of blog tariff for my core readers who’ve been enjoying the blog for free lo these many years. That number, by the way, will next week top 300,000 hits in the three years. Talk about your nice round numbers.
I don’t feel sheepish about the fee because this is more of a product than the crayons book, which always felt like a gift to me. It’s something I want people to have because I know they’ll enjoy it.
It’s so pleasing to have people come up to me and say they don’t read, but they love my book. It makes them happy.
Makes me happy, too.
“The Last Baby Boomer” holds a different kind of value, one that I think warrants the additional fees for a signed and numbered book.
I can’t promise this book will make people happy. I think it will, but I just don’t know.
So please don’t feel compelled to read it.
See, once again I’m going out of my way to prove how I differ from traditional authors who are always harping on you to read their books.
I can’t bring myself to ask that of you. Asking people to read a book just seems so audacious.
But, gee, I’ll sure be grateful if you at least buy it!
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