I Am Not As Smart As I Like To Think I Am

I Am Not As Smart As I Like To Think I Am


Leonard Zwelling

Have you ever felt stupid because of decisions that you have made—especially ones involving money? If not, you are a singular sensation.

I have been trying, in vain so far, to publicize my last book and get the screen industry interested in my novel. Good luck with that. It’s much harder than getting into medical school especially because I thought I knew what it took to get into medical school and I was close to being right. In this writing business, I am out to lunch.

My latest lesson came in the way of a man to whom I was introduced who made claims about being able to sell my book for me and help me break into Hollywood. He seemed to have a plan and I had his contract appropriately vetted by attorneys. That’s the good news. The bad news came on the deliverable side. Not much happened beside me writing checks.

He was able to introduce us (my co-author and me) to screenwriters who adapted part of my novel for a pilot of a TV episode. It’s good, too and the additional charge my co-author and I paid for the documents was well worth it. This man, let’s call him a publicist, claimed to have many media events set up for me. Curiously, none were in Houston, the site most likely to be receptive to any book I write. The interviews on CSPAN never appeared. Nothing outside Texas ever appeared. In short, I found myself sitting at Hobby Airport recently waiting to get on a plane to Dallas for a TV appearance only to find an hour before flight time that the appearance was cancelled and that the radio gigs I was to do were tentative.

I contained myself no longer and parted ways with the publicist by phone.

I learned several expensive lessons here.

First, this is a dangerous game in which to play with your own money.

Second, despite this man having come highly recommended and him seeming to be knowledgeable, he was way over his head charging very high fees for low productivity.

Third, books are a tough racket. Hard to break into and hard to make any money.

Hollywood is harder, but we’re not giving up. We are plowing away at book proposals and polishing the novel. We are adapting novels to screenplays and working overtime trying to cook up a break. That’s the game. It’s fine.

But despite what I thought was a tad of sophistication on my part when it came to business judgment and street smarts, I got taken.

I will try not to let it happen again. But—it probably will. The cost of an education is high whether formal or not. And just because you may be accomplished in one venue, doesn’t mean you have any abilities or judgment in another. Yes, it was educational. It was also humbling.

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