Thursday, November 15, 2012

Be a Star: How Humor Can be the Angle

I heard an old song the other day with lyrics that, to me, sum up publishing deals. New York Times Bestsellers and multi-published authors, feel free to weigh in. Do you agree? Check it out:


I've had to pay my price.

The things I did not know at first,

I learned by doin' twice.

Ah, but still they come to haunt me,

Still they want their say.

So I've learned to dance

With a hand in my pants,

And they rub my neck,

And I write 'em a check,

And they go their merry way.

Chances are you recognize the words to Billy Joel’s The Entertainer. In it, he’s talking about the music industry. Still, there are similarities with what Billy weathered and the reality of publishing. And that’s the point to all these Be a Star postings—the book biz is show biz.

Authors usually make a few mistakes and have to learn from them. No matter how big you get, editors and agents will have their say. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had to learn to dance in a much different albeit figurative style than I did when I started out. And then of course, you’re going to hand over a royalty check one way or another.

It would be nice to proclaim an objective for success in the entertainment industry then plot out a bunch of steps to achieve it. Rarely do I ever hear of such a journey. It’s more like: the artist settles for whatever he or she can get just to build credentials and ultimately the business winds up using them however it wishes. That’s why you got to love what you’re doing.

Take, for instance, the phenomenal Jamie Foxx—Oscar and Grammy winner, mind you. This guy is so freakin’ talented. Singer, musician, actor, athlete (that’s right, he was a quarterback) and comedian. One would think all he had to do was jam on piano and wail that amazing voice to ‘make it’, but he got his break through comedy.

And he had to dance with a hand in his pants just for that.

Eric Marlon Bishop chose the last part of his stage name in homage to Redd Foxx. The ‘Jamie’ part came about because Eric noticed at a comedy open mic night that women were usually being called up first to perform. So he wisely adopted an androgynous first name.

For grins, I just have to throw this in here as well. Oscar winner Tom Hanks was a stand-up comedian. Kevin Spacey (yep, another Oscar winner) did comedy too.

In a candid interview, Jim Carrey said, “People kept telling me ‘this is going to be your big break’ every time I’d get a part.” Perhaps you recall that he had a major role in the film Once Bitten in 1985. When that happens, a star is on their way up, right? Well, it took 9 more years before Ace Ventura really launched his career. As an author looking for my big break, stories like Carrey’s help me to keep perspective.

We writers long to have audiences pay us to tell them stories. Of course it’s going to be competitive. You’ll have to fight to win them over.

Gusto Dave is an urban fantasy and YA western steampunk author represented by the Belcastro Agency

1 comment:

Julie Luek said...

Encouraging or discouraging? Or just realistic. I recently accepted, eagerly I might add, an unpaid bi-weekly writing contribution on a major website so that I could claim the job in queries and on my resume, and to practice writing to an audience. Yes, we pay our dues.

Having worked a job in institutional bureaucracy for over 20 years, paying dues and seeing little promotion for my efforts, I like these dues much better. Thought-provoking article and great examples.