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“Fatherhood doesn’t sell.” They were the words I had become uncomfortably used to hearing. I didn’t care. I couldn’t let myself care.
I hope you don’t mind if I get a little personal today. I don’t really know how to present this book without becoming so. It’s all a very personal thing for me as a dad; as a parent.
When the girls split last June, I wanted to run. I wanted to leave. It didn’t matter where. It was a time when being a good dad ranked just slightly lower on my to-do list than “survive.” At a time when my son needed a strong and a real dad more than ever, I for some reason wanted to be something less. Even in those dark moments, the irony of such feelings wasn’t lost on me. I’ll share a lot more about that tomorrow.
What emerged from those moments was a book called The Real Dad Rules. I wrote it for myself. I wrote it to save my son. I wrote it to save what was left of me. More than anything, I wrote it because I needed to be held accountable to the world for how I raised my son from that point on. I also decided to put it out there for any other dad or mom that would pick it up.
You see, I knew that to pull myself out of my despair, and to really be a good dad to my son, I would have to lay down some serious parenting rules. And then I’d have to follow each of those rules at any cost. I called them my Real Dad Rules. I’ll talk about that tomorrow, too.
It was in early October that book agents started contacting me. I signed on with a well-known agent at a renowned agency in New York City; he was a man with a long list of big titles under his belt; a man who specializes in books for men. I showed him my layout for The Real Dad Rules and he thought it was a slam-dunk. So, I got to writing it.
I started with a book proposal. We spent two months dialing it into perfection. I wrote two chapters as part of the proposal and was anxious to see what would happen. In early January, my agent began submitting the proposal to major publishers.
In the first week, we got back three or four rejections. That’s to be expected with just about any proposal, so I wasn’t too worried. We also had a couple of publishers show trace amounts of interest. He was confident. I was confident. After all, it was a slam-dunk.
By the next week, the interested publishers all came back saying the same thing. After looking at it harder, it was just too risky. “Fatherhood doesn’t sell; it has never sold,” they all told us.
I immediately sat down and started writing the rest of the book. We kept getting more rejections. All saying the same thing. I kept writing anyway.
Why I kept writing, I still don’t fully know. I could have started over on something that would have been easily sellable to the publishers. With a platform like mine that wouldn’t be too difficult. But… I knew that I needed to write this book, even if no publisher wanted to buy it. I knew it was a book like no book on fatherhood that had ever been published (another pitfall in the publishing world). I also knew that I needed to finish it in case it was rejected by everybody. I knew that it would be much harder to find the motivation to keep going on it if that did happen.
And I did finish it. In fact, I wrote the entire first draft in twenty days.
During that time, something strange happened. Publisher after publisher started saying they wanted it. Editors at some of the biggest publishing houses in the world told us they would come back with an offer. A couple of them were so confident in their ability to make an offer that I started counting my unhatched chickens and making life plans around a book deal that was sure to come.
And… one by one they all came back from their final acquisitions meetings and said… no. “Fatherhood doesn’t sell.”
You see, in this economy, and with the current book industry unknowns, publishers aren’t taking any risks.
And, that’s what The Real Dad Rules is, I guess. It’s a risk. It’s a risk because I’m “not a doctor”. It’s a risk because I’m “not a celebrity”. It’s a risk because a book like this has never been published before. It’s a risk because (in the words of one editor) “nobody seems to care about being a good dad anymore.”
My agent called me after the last (and most promising) of the editors came back with an unexpected “no.” He told me there wasn’t much more we could do. So, we shook hands across the telephone and went our separate ways.
I spent the next three months editing, organizing, rewriting sections, and working on the book. In truth, because of that, I haven’t brought home much of a paycheck since last October. Things started getting pretty meager around here. But I couldn’t care about that. Something inside of me kept telling me that I needed to do it anyway, even if it was completely on my own and I never made a dime from it. Even if it broke me. So I did. Perhaps, some might think, foolishly. I hope not. The message of this book is everything to me. It is everything I have. It is the grand culmination of all my love as a parent. It is something I had to do.
For moms, too.
The reality is, I can always find a way to make more money. I can always downsize my cost of living. I can always switch careers. But I won’t always be able to offer a piece of my very soul to the world. I won’t always have that platform.
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