In 1996, I attended my very first writers conference. I had been writing my syndicated newspaper column for about two years at that point, and it had made the leap from a couple of Canadian newspapers and into the US market. I was doing guest appearances on radio talk shows, and even stores like Barnes & Noble were inviting me to do readings of my columns at their stores, despite not having a book to promote yet.
I went to the conference sure that I could get a publishing deal for a collection of my humor columns. Sitting in the large hotel ballroom, I listened to a group of agents telling the audience what they were looking for. Virtually every one of them commented that they liked to see authors who had already developed their own platform. In eager anticipation, I went to the microphone and described my column, and asked how I would best move into the book market.
One of the agents took the microphone, looked down from the stage, and said, “You'd have to be some sort of an idiot to think any of us up here would be interested in something like that.”
Well, I certainly felt like an idiot at that moment. I went home and looked at the books on the shelves that lined my office. Apparently Erma Bombeck was an idiot. Lewis Grizzard was an idiot. Garrison Keillor was an idiot. Dave Barry was... well OK, Dave and I both agree that, while we may not be complete idiots, we are maturity impaired.
For two more years, I shopped that book idea around to publishers in both Canada and the United States. Finally a friend mentioned a publisher located in a small seaside community on the British Columbia coast. I will forever be grateful to Howard White, the owner of Harbour Publishing for taking that first chance with me. Justice Is Blind – And Her Dog Just Peed In My Cornflakes was released in May of 1999.
In 2000, when it received the Stephen Leacock Award of Merit for Humour, I took a copy of the book and sent it to that agent. I pointed out that I may still be some kind of an idiot, but at least now I was a best-selling, award-winning idiot, and she was still a pompous ass.
Now, as I prepare for the launch of my 7th book, I am glad I chose to ignore that woman. I hope anyone else who has encountered her and her overinflated ego, didn't let her get to the them either.