This is the odd story of how my book T’ai-Chi for Seniors came to be.
I had spent over 30 years in the martial arts field, both as a student and an instructor, and I was happily doing my own thing. My “thing” at the time included public T’ai-Chi exhibitions in local parks and malls (which were covered by the local newspapers), seminars in public libraries, teaching special-needs groups (domestic violence, autistic) and appearing daily for a week on a local television news program as a sort of “guest teacher” for their viewing audience.
All of this was interesting and exciting, but I still had my school and clinic to run and I didn’t really examine the marketing potential of these venues.
My website at the time was pulling in around 100 views per month – not exactly AdSense Heaven. But it was turning out to be a way for potential students and patients to get in touch with me – I guess it was an InterNet business card before the concept was even adopted by the mainstream. One day I received an email from a place called New Page Books; looking at the title of the email I muttered to myself “Great! Another piece of spam!” I opened it and was shocked: these guys wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing a book about T’ai-Chi! ME! They wanted ME!
After spending the next 15 minutes alternately performing my patented “Happy Dance”, throwing up in the loo and pumping my fists in the air while my cat Pyewacket looked on in disdain, I sat down at the keyboard and fired off my reply …
To Whom Etc. :
I am in receipt of yours of 6/03/93, re: availability of services (authoring) for proposed property. If I can find time to fit your request into what you must realize is an INCREDIBLY busy schedule, then I might be able to offer you some little help in this matter.
Be it known that I expect no less than $10,000USD as an advance, royalties equal to or exceeding 75% of the RETAIL LIST price, and all expenses paid for what will surely be a whirlwind world tour. My normal requirements usually include the services of a half-dozen brunette virgins (in-call only) but seeing as how you are a young and struggling company and I am feeling magnanimous I will forgo this requirement.
Fax me at XXX-XXX-XXXX if these conditions are satisfactory.
Yours in Supreme Mastery,
Sifu Philip Louis Bonifonte, OMD, PhD Chinese Health Institute
“You’ve Tried All The Rest – Now Try The Best!”
This missive being sent post-haste I retired to the library to partake of a snifter of brandy and a good cigar, all the while congratulating myself on my marketing acumen.
The reply was not long in coming, as I had expected; WHO could turn down such a gracious offer?
Dear Mr. Bonifonte
MR.?!? Did they not see my titles???
We have received your email and, truth be known, it caused quite a stir in our offices. In fact, it has been photocopied and passed throughout the entire building. Thank you for the great laugh.
At this point, I begin to suspect all is not well …
Listen up, bubbie – these are the industry-standard terms we’ll give you; NO negotiations!
You’ll receive $3,000USD advance, 3% royalties on ADJUSTED amounts (subtracting the advance, returns, hold-backs, review copies, overstocks, understocks, damaged copies, spit-upon copies and copies that have sat too long on the local bookshop shelves, foreign rejections, foreign objections and any and all such copies as we deem non-salable), and not a penny more.
Such a paltry sum they have the NERVE to offer to ME?!?
You’re responsible for your OWN marketing – good luck with that!
I feel that they must have a smirk on their face at this point – this is not going well at all. Pyewacket jumps in my lap, wondering what’s going on.
Virgins? You MUST be joking, Mr. Bonifonte. You’d have better luck shacking up with Big Foot – we’ve already SEEN your profile pictures.
The dastardly dogs! How DARE they?!? I jump up in rage, Pyewacket sinks her claws into a tender part of my anatomy and I scream loud and long …
Let us know if this is satisfactory.
Yours, I.M.A. Spinebender, Editorial Acquisitions
My reply was short and succinct, as well it should have been, considering all of the condemnations and filthy insults that had been hurled in my direction … I’d show THEM a thing or two …
Dear Mr. Spinebender:
I’ll get started right away.
It turned out that the acquisitions manager had been given the task of finding a writer for a book on T’ai-Chi for an elderly population by the “board”, and had come across my name on the Net due in large part to the coverage that the local newspapers and television studios had done on me. I found out even later that they had contacted several students of mine for recommendations – THAT was a shocker!
Finally, they said they liked the way I wrote on my website – that it seemed that I was capable of writing in a clear and expository manner, suitable for the target elderly audience they had in mind.
… little did they know …