Those were the words of Peter Finch’s character in “Network,” of course, but now I’m shouting them, too. Can you hear me? No? Then let me put it another way.
I’M. NOT. HAPPY. RIGHT. NOW.
I’ve worked in book publishing my entire adult life – from a publicist and a marketing executive to a writer of fiction and nonfiction – and I’ve loved every minute of it. But now and then I want to tear my hair out, and today is one of those days.
Months ago, my agent shopped a proposal to publishers for an illustrated book about the Yankees’ 2009 season. More specifically, the book was going to highlight the 50 most memorable moments of the Yankee Stadium Inaugural Season; I was going to write the (hopefully witty and heartwarming) text for each key moment and Andy Friedman, whose wonderful illustrated portraits of famous people regularly appear on national magazine covers, was going to do the drawings. We thought we had a unique, commercial idea. But here’s what publishers said:
“The project is too risky. We don’t know how the Yankees will do. The season might not be memorable after all, and we can’t take that chance.”
They also said:
“The audience for a book about the Yankees is too narrow.”
Yes, I tore my hair out when I heard those comments, especially because the audience for a book about the Yankees isn’t narrow; it’s enormous. But hey. They wanted to wait to see how the team did this season? Fine. We’d wait. Well, surprise surprise. The Yankees won the World Series.
My agent went back to publishers last week and said, “OK, everybody. The season was memorable. Now do you want the book?” Once again, publishers said the audience was too narrow (no, it isn’t). They also said the market would be flooded with keepsake books about the World Series (ours would cover the entire season, not just the Series). And today, one publisher said this:
“The drawings would make the book too cerebral.”
Yes, I tore my hair out again. Too cerebral? Does this guy think Yankee fans (or all baseball fans, for that matter) are Neanderthals?
Seriously. Take a look at Andy’s drawing of Yogi throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day. Does it seem hard to comprehend?
We had planned to include everything from A-Rod’s walk-off against the Red Sox in the 15th inning, to Girardi getting tossed in Atlanta, to A.J. pitching to kids from Camp Sundown at 3 o’clock in the morning during HOPE Week. We had it covered in a way that would be so different from a photographic chronicle. Publishers didn’t think it would sell, and I think they’ve been incredibly shortsighted. Such is life. Andy will go back to drawing movie stars, athletes and members of the Supreme Court, and I’ll go back to the novel I’m writing as well as the script for the She-Fan book. I just hate when good ideas end up in the dumpster, I really do.