Why I Cancelled My First Book Deal

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Eighteen months ago, I canceled a book contract with a major publisher because I realized that I had sold out for an advance and the desire to be chosen. Under their auspices, I would have ended up writing a sanitized version of the book I was meant to write. So, a few weeks into the process I returned the money, felt like an asshole and wondered whether I would ever get the chance again.

Let me be clear, I don’t have anything against the publishing industry. And I obviously still believe in print. I have many friends who have traditionally published wonderful books about making amazing things happenuncertaintynon-conformity and impact.

Those are great books.

Mine wasn’t going to be. The nature of the book is irrelevant, but what is relevant is that it would have been an average book written for average people. And the sad part is, I knew that when I signed the contract. I flat out accepted a deal to write a book that I knew wasn’t me.

Why?

Because the truth is that I’m still the fat kid in 5th grade that just wants the cool kids to pick him for kickball. Because of a pressing desire to be chosen by the well-fed demagogues. To be validated by the the important folk. To be “successful” and “well-respected”.

The greatest expression of human frailty is the desire to be wanted. And to conform to that desire even when the collateral damage includes visceral components of your own ideals.

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It wasn’t the publisher’s fault. It was mine.

For the sake of a little money, possible fame and fitting in, I agreed to become a hired gun instead of an artist.

And every single time I sat down to write a few words, I felt like such a coward. Like such a fraud. Abdicating everything I held dear for a paycheck and a ticket to the show.

So, what did I do?

I walked.

And I promised myself right then and there, that I would never again sacrifice my art at the temple of mediocrity. And I promised myself that someday I would handcraft my own book with my own ideas on my own terms, and that I would make it for my own people, my tribe, for the misfits just like me.

Six months later, I started writing a private newsletter entitled The Pursuit of Everything. My first subscriber was my Mom, then Melissa, then my Mom unsubscribed, and I was back down to one. (Note: She did resubscribe a few months later). Today, there are thousands of people here each month, and a hundred thousand who downloaded a free manifesto I published a few months ago at launch.

Next week, I’m choosing me.

Matisse said the importance of an artist is bringing new signs into a language. I hope this project embodies that for the misfits.

Next week, I am launching the most important project I have ever worked on. A project to fund the making of my very first book. No publisher. No distributor. This is a truly independent book project. My band of Misfits and I are designing, printing, publishing and distributing the book on our own. Could I get a book deal today? Sure. I’ve had quite a few literary agents and publishers reach out to me since launching this site. But I’m doing it my way, because I have a promise to keep to myself, and if it works (and Lord knows if it will!), I want it to serve as an example. To prove that we can stand in defiance against a world that wants to relegate us to the area behind the red velvet rope until they deem us worthy.

To prove that you do not need to be validated. And if you want to publish a book, you don’t have to wait for the intelligentsia to think you’re special enough. You can choose yourself.

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I’ve developed what I think are some seriously badass Kickstarter rewards, including one on one video calls and personal deliveries. I hope you will find them valuable and snatch some up quick because most of them are extremely limited, and I hope you will help me get the word out next week. It’s sink or swim time for me, but hey, greatness is only ever a possible outcome when the prospect of utter, unmitigated defeat is also on the table.

So here’s to changing the world!

From Charleston

Your Fellow Misfit,

AJ

Ps – If you would like to view a sneak peek at one of the limited edition prints we’ve created for the No Brainer Reward click here.   Let me know what you think.

Written from: a little hotel in Charleston
Image: Toward the Horizon

I NEED YOUR HELP. WILL YOU BACK A FELLOW MISFIT?

Two years ago, I canceled a book deal with a major publisher because I realized that I had sold out for an advance and the desire to be chosen. Today, I am deciding to choose myself instead. But I need your help.

Will you back a fellow Misfit?

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