After I started blogging in December about the onrushing death of the newspaper industry — as exemplified by the shrinkage, corporate-wise, of the Times-Dispatch and its parent, Media General — I continued to think about the topic a great deal. So much so, in fact, that I had the idea to write a proposal for a nonfiction book, which, after a week of writing, I sent to my agent.
She got back to me not long after that and told me, bluntly, that the book would never sell to a mainstream house.
People aren’t buying newspapers today, she told me . . . so who would buy a book about newspapers?
While that fact is increasingly significant, I still thought it was a good idea. 48 million people read a newspaper every day, and that doesn’t count the millions of readers of a few thousand community weekly papers — and a large number of American who don’t read any papers at all, but are interested in business, the economy, futurism, and publishing.
I can try to get another agent who might believe in the book – hell, I got Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and NYT bestselling author Edna Buchanan to agree to write the foreword for me – but then I started thinking about a less traditional publishing route, where I could capitalize on publishing on the Web and stir up some viral word of mouth.
Yesterday I contacted Jeff Jarvis, the guy who wrote What Would Google Do? and who has a blog all about journalism, technology and the death/rebirth of news, and I asked for his advice — is there a venue on the Web where a book like this could be published, maybe week by week, and raise not only public interest, but some money? Is there a venue where a potential publisher could see it?
His response, like my agent’s, was brutally honest.
No. There isn’t a market for a book about a dying industry.
He had already tried to market a book of his own, and his publisher didn’t even want to hear about it.
If Jeff couldn’t sell his book, then what chance would I, a mere 14-year veteran of ad sales and marketing, ever have?
If you’re even remotely interested, the introduction is here. I based it on a blog post about the RTD ten months ago, but I’ve expanded it and opened it up, setting the stage for the rest of the now-dead book which was to be about the potential reinvention of the industry.
Here’s the title:
SUICIDE BY STUPIDITY
THE SLOW AND AGONIZING ALMOST-TOO-PAINFUL-
TO-WATCH EXTINCTION OF THE GREAT METROPOLITAN DINOSAUR
A Tough Love Guide to Kick Newspapers Off Their Brontosaurian Asses and Into the 21st Century . . . or Die
Oh well. Thank you anyway, Jeff — I appreciate your honesty.
So it’s time to put this project behind me and ramp it up with the novel. My agent wants rewrites, and I agree.
More than I ever wanted to admit, it’s time to cut. It’s time to sing.
It’s time to leave the past — and the dead — behind.