by Tom Matlack
Co-founder of The Good Men Project
Book Publishing: Death or Rebirth?
Let me tell you a little story. A year ago my VC partner and I (collectively we have been involved in starting Television Food Network, a 15 million subscriber weekly magazine, and 30 other media-related companies) decided we wanted to publish an anthology of first person stories by men about manhood. We collected a Pulitzer Prize winning author (Charlie LeDuff), an NFL Hall of Famer (Andre Tippett), a New York Times war photographer (Michael Kamber), a Sing Sing inmate gone straight (Julio Medina), a fantasy baseball legend (Mark St. Amant), a poet Laureate (Robert Pinsky) along with normal guys (black, white, straight, gay, rich, poor, married and divorced) with stories to tell about being fathers, sons, husbands and providers at this turning point in man-history.
We hired the best agent in the business, wrote a detailed book proposal, and went shopping for a publisher. Fifty (that's 5-0, including a who's who list of the literary world) turned us down. They told us guys don't read, would never read any kind of anthology, and most certainly wouldn't read an anthology about men. Apparently we are all mindless fools. The publishers also said they were focused exclusively on the "sure-thing" celebrity books in the wake of deteriorating economics. Just about that time we noticed a well-received anthology in the New York Times Review of Books written by women during menstruation.
What the hell?
My partner, James Houghton, and I decided to launch our website anyways and run a national essay contest for guys who wanted to write about a defining moment in their struggle to be good men. The response was astounding. From all across the country we got submissions and thousands of visitors to our site and fan page. (Mind you none of this little endeavor has ever been for profit. James and I formed a foundation to help at-risk boys if we ever got the book off the ground and passed the hat to pay our expenses.) As a result of the outpouring of interest, we decided to just go for it.