I still can't name names until we finalize a deal, but there are two major publishing houses (major meaning even even people who've don't read much have heard of them) vying for I Think My Teacher is a Superhero. There's another smaller publisher interested as well... we think. We expected to have a deal finalized by yesterday, but one editor is on vacation and the other made an offer but needs to get the acquisitions people to sign off on it before it's official, so we won't be able to make a decision until Monday.
When I got the email detailing this around three o'clock yesterday (6:00 back East), I said, "Well, that's a letdown," and Rachel, my agent, smacked me back into perspective:
|Okay, you win. This is a major, major let down. Huge. But, please don't tell any new writers that your manuscript went to acquisitions meetings at three major publishing houses (I'm including Random House), because then you might just realize how good you have it. And we wouldn't want that to happen now, would we?|
The truth is, I am spoiled. I've had a lot of success in my life. One thing that kept coming to me throughout this experience was a story from 2002 when I was working as a sportscaster in Panama City Beach. I was covering a celebrity golf tournament and set up at one of the greens to get some shots. While waiting for the next foursome to tee off, Ray Wilson struck up a conversation with me.
Back in 1994, Ray Wilson made his NFL debut as a back-up safety for the New Orleans Saints. After getting on the field in three games, we was either traded to or was cut and signed with the Green Bay Packers (I can't find any evidence of which). Ultimately, his NFL career was over with a stat line up six games played, zero games started, and zero tackles, fumbles recovered, interceptions, or any other statistic that shows up in a box score.
He asked about my job and I told him I had out some resume tapes, trying to get to a bigger market, and he asked how tough it was to get a job. I explained that you have to start in small markets (Yuma and PCB for me) and try to move up. There are 212 media markets in the country and they have an average of fewer than three news stations each (i.e. Yuma has only two because its ABC affiliate is the station from Phoenix; PCB has just two because the local CBS station is out of Dothan, Alabama) and each news station employs an average of two sportscasters, though that's always dropping as more stations rely on sports packages produced by networks or just have a feature reporter or a weather guy go cover any important local sports. On top of that, there are thousands of new J-school graduates every semester trying to break in. When a job gets posted on TVJobs.com or any other broadcasting site, a newsdirector can expect at least 80 resume tapes within a week and a total of more than 150.
Ray was quiet while I got some video, but he wasn't just being polite to avoid causing background noise. He was doing some math. "So it's actually harder to be a sportscaster than to play in the NFL," he pointed out.
At first it seemed unlikely, but he laid it out. If you figure an average of five sportscasters per market, that's 1060 jobs. Throw in another hundred or so for national outlets like NBC Sports and ESPN and FoxSports, and you're still around 1200. There are 32 NFL teams, each with a roster of 53 players. That's 1696 guys without counting practice squads.*
He was right. My crappy job put me in an elite upper-99.999% class. I was making $20,000 a year, working 60-80 hours a week, wallowing so deeply in debt that for one month I ate nothing but rice, ramen, and fish and squid I caught myself from a pier down the beach from my apartment. From the time I arrived in Florida, Terry Cole, the station GM, treated me like a bastard son from a wartime tryst who'd shown up unannounced at his front door and actively tried to make my job duties so miserable that I'd quit, but despite all that I was the envy of thousands of people who would have traded their souls for my misery.
Ray was a prime example of someone who understood exactly that. He made it to the NFL... but played only a handful of snaps before his career was over. It would be easy to look at him and call him a failure because he doesn't have even a tackle to his credit, but that overlooks the fact he even made an NFL roster, something millions of people dream about but never come close to accomplishing.
In the end, I blame being raised during the Reagan era. Like too many Americans, I have that Gordon Gekko mentality. Only where the Wall Street hustlers say, "Sure, I have a million dollars, but you know what would be even better? Ten million," I say, "Sure, I have a deal on the table for a four book series with a major publishing house, but you know what would be even better? A Newberry medal and a movie deal."
Of course, considering what the Reagan era has begotten our economy today, maybe I should just shut up and start working on the second book in the series.
* In point of fact, I should note that it's actually harder to make an NFL roster since those 1696 guys play several positions that are not interchangeable. Of the 53 men on a roster, only five to seven will be defensive linemen and a player who is built for that position and has played D-line his whole life isn't going to make an NFL roster as a wide receiver or a punter. So really there are only about 192 potential job openings for him and for other positions (i.e. kicker) there are even fewer. Still, Ray's heart was in the right place and his point was still valid.