Finally, Wax Pack has a home. Thank you, University of Nebraska Press.
Over the past three years, I have learned a lot about the book publishing business, such as: It's really, really, really hard. I knew as a first-time book author and general nobody (I'm kind of the Buddy Biancalana of writers in terms of name recognition), it would be hard to get a book deal, but I didn't quite know it would be this hard.
Through this process, I've learned that mainstream book publishing is dominated by an oligarchy of five fiefdoms, known "in the biz" as THE BIG FIVE. This would be your Penguin, your Simon & Schuster, etcetera (I just made the bold decision to actually write that word out for the first time in my life; I hope I spelled it right). Getting a book deal (i.e., an "advance") with the Big Five is the dream, because then you can actually get paid a decent amount of money to write your book (it's called an advance because they pay you up front, and then (hopefully) recoup that money through book sales). Even then, if you ask any book author not named Cheryl Strayed or Michael Lewis to break down their earnings per hour, you will be appalled at how few digits there are to the left of the decimal.
So--following my epic 7-week road trip in 2015 that I chronicled here, I pitched the book to THE BIG FIVE, and over the ensuing three years, experienced the drip, drip, drip of rejection as I was told over and over that I had a fantastic idea and great writing, but, sorry pal, you don't have the platform we need to justify taking a risk on you. That's what non-fiction book publishing is all about in 2019--platform. 100,000 Twitter followers, a recurring talking head role on ESPN...these are the elements of a platform. Hell, Esther the Wonder Pig got a nice book deal because, guess what--she has 500,000 Instagram followers. Boom. Best-seller.
Dejected, rejected, down two strikes, I realized that Wax Pack had, fittingly enough, become the very embodiment of its principal theme: the underdog. The same way the story champions the unexpected wisdom of players like Rance Mulliniks and Don Carman, Wax Pack is an underdog itself, unloved by the gatekeepers at THE BIG FIVE but still bursting with heart and potential. I have never stopped believing in this book and if you're reading this, I don't think you have either.
Enter Rob Taylor, editor at the University of Nebraska Press, a small press in an underdog state that happens to specialize in baseball books. Back in November, I dashed off an email to him explaining the book's premise, and within hours, he had written back saying he was all in, provided he could get approval from his higher-ups. I would have to settle for a tiny advance, and I would not have the prestige and glamour of THE BIG FIVE, but fuck it, prestige and glamour are overrated.
And so now I'm asking you, the small but fierce band of loyal believers in the underdog, to help me prove the gatekeepers wrong by making this book the ultimate underdog story of book publishing. When the book is finally released in the Spring of 2020, go to the store and buy 1 copy for every Facebook friend that you have. Kidding. Sort of :)
Cups of Coffee Consumed on Road Trip: 123
The Wax Packers:
Wax Pack: On the open road in search of baseball's afterlife is the story of a single pack of 1986 Topps baseball cards and the attempt to track down each of the players inside nearly 30 years after they were bundled together with a stick of chalky bubblegum. (Yes, I chewed the gum. Gross.)
A going-of-age book of what it means to truly grow up (or just my way of desperately clinging to childhood memories of mullets and mustaches), I chronicle the elliptical 11,341-mile-when-it-should-only-be-7,000 road trip adventure to find my MLB heroes of the past and to tell the story of what happens to our baseball players after the spotlight has faded. It's a story of second (and third) chances, of our national pastime, and of the loss of innocence.
Wax Pack is due out on shelves in Spring 2020 from the University of Nebraska Press. Click on the images of the cards below to read more about each player.
One Pack. No Turning Back.