When we embark on a new project, one that we have absolutely no experience in, I believe most of us do not think it is going to be as hard as it actually is. Maybe I am wrong on this, but for myself I had no idea the Barbie perfume making business that I started was going to be so time consuming. When you get an order placed from going door to door in your neighborhood for hours, then you actually have to make the perfume on your little pink kit, and you inevitably run out of the correct solution or something just breaks, it is disheartening. I’ll give myself a little bit of a break there cause I was only like 8. When I moved up to selling pillows door to door, you just under estimate how much the materials are going to cost you. Stuffing and fabric aren’t free, and your labor ends up meaning you are working for free. Jumping a bit to the bunny business (I only sold them as pets.. not snake food- hated those people) it was always just one more rabbit I HAD to HAVE. This meant more food, more cleaning, more time sucked out of my life. When I moved on to opening a tanning salon with my business partner James, I was stepping into something even bigger, a brick and mortar business. This included buying tanning beds, rent, rewiring, gas bills, electric bills, phone bills, accountant, insurance, business license, and just the time sucking of your soul into an endless day after day of just going to the same location and sitting staring at a clock waiting to be relieved. Oh, but wait you also get to clean peoples sweat off the beds 10, 20 times a day.. Yay me…. When I ventured into the “glamorous” world of of pageants and modeling I thought it would be a breeze… ha… You need dresses, and swim suits, and suits, and pictures, and comp cards, and head shots, and more pictures, and classes, and entry fees, and people ripping you off, and stamps, and envelopes, oh and did I mention more pictures? And gas and airline tickets and someone to take your shift at the tanning salon business YOU started and shoes, and money, and more pictures…Ok..ok I thought lets run pageants and get into acting… I can act… Its just saying words…playing pretend. Time to get more pictures! Wait I didn’t just nail that audition? I need to take classes.. and take more pictures? Well I can pay for them by producing pageants for Hawaiian Tropic…easy. What?!?! the location didn’t pay? But the event is tomorrow? I don’t have enough girls? uh!? I had 30… they just reconfirmed… there is a party on a cruise to Mexico and they are all ditching my event?!?! But But.. I need to pay for those 50 casting director workshops at $35-$50 each so I can meet casting directors so one of them can call me in for a one line part that I won’t get. Boy did I ramble, but you know what.. I don’t give a shit… it’s my blog…. to FINALLY get to the point of this blog….MY BOOK
When my daughter walked into my room on the 18th anniversary of my fathers death and started asking me random questions about a grandfather she had never met I decided to write my life down. I wanted my kids to know who I was, that I was a real person and not someone that just heated chicken nuggets up for them in the microwave and changed the TV station for them. I wanted them to know the truth. I never knew what was going on in my dads mind. It still bothers me. I hand wrote on a legal pad upon legal pad for days and days. I started from my first memory, wrote a few pages a day (some more- some less) and after several weeks… BOOM I had started an immense project. I also went through photo albums to remember… there were lost and lots of tears… or sobbing… But now what? What should I do with this stack of legal pads that only I can read because my handwriting sucks ass. Well I thought…. mind as well type it in.. write a book. I wrote a couple scripts once, handwriting all this shit on legal pads HAS to be the hardest part right….???? NOPE, wrong again! After deciphering my handwriting and getting all this crap in my computer I knew that.. ok it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good. Yeah maybe a word is spelled wrong here or there, maybe I’m missing a few periods, but I am going to find me an agent. Why not, let’s get this published. I can share my story. Maybe I can help people that have been through this, plus the Hawaiian Tropic stuff is pretty cool. Never been a book about Hawaiian Tropic, I can beat Ron Rice to the punch. While I was writing my book I was also reading other peoples autobiographies and biographies… lots and lots of them. I was obsessed. Plus I wasn’t on my OCD medication at the time, so I was cruising with this project. I read a tell all book about a girl that had lived in the Playboy mansion and I called her agent. I left a message with his office and he called me back ON VACATION…. I couldn’t have been cooler. He wanted me to send him the manuscript, which I did and he had someone in his office read it. They left me down easy that my rambling piece of cramp needed work, however, they saw something in it. They suggested I hire a professional writer to ghost write for me. She did a book proposal, an introduction and 3 sample chapters for the low low price of $5,000 and then if the book got sold she would charge so much to write it.. blah blah… Well… $5,000 later the agent did not like it…..It just was not tell all enough for him and to be honest I wasn’t cool with going that route. This project was about my fathers death and my struggles, and me rising above it. “The Last Hawaiian Tropic Girl Standing” book was not going to happen. However, now I had a bug up my butt. I would send the book proposal and sample chapters out to new potential agents. Which agents? I had no idea that I could have just bought a book entitled “Jeff Hermans guide to publishing” that had every agent, what they represent, and their contact info in it, so I went about it the “Vanessa way”. I read more books to see who their agents were and I had my assistant find what ever she could on line. I didn’t have a professional query letter… (which I have now).. I just did it “My way”… I was obsessed with Shirley MaClaine at the time, so I emailed her assistant. I said that I knew her agent would be out of my league, but did she, the assistant, know of a literary agent that might be interested in my story. Well I hit pay dirt, she did. I contacted said agent and she was interested in my story so I sent her the book proposal and sample chapters. She was interested in more and requested the entire manuscript…. then she read it….. She wanted me to rewrite it, so I did…. she read it again…. she suggested I hire a professional editor… so I did…. I was ending my career with Hawaiian Tropic and venturing into acting yet again so this process/ expense took over a year. My editor did a fantastic job. He turned it into a real book. It had always been two books; one about my fathers suicide and how it affected me and my life and then my Hawaiian Tropic days. He made it into one. It finally flowed. Sent it back to agent…. took her 6 months to read… she took a pass. She thinks it could hit mainstream, but it is not the book for her in her wheel house. She does a lot of spiritually related books and it doesn’t touch enough on it.
DEVASTATED…. that was at least a two and a half year total process with her. Now what???? Well…. we do it the right way now and my editor has me buy the Jeff Herman book, he composes a query letter for agents, he has me do a website, have people read it and give testimonials, write a synopsis, pick 20 agents out of hundreds by reading about them, going on their websites, ect., send out the query letters. We hear all the time how Harry Potter was rejected by hundreds of agents and publishers and that gives you hope, but getting the rejection after rejection emails over and over again gets to you. It is time to sit back and think… what was my goal again?
The last rejection letter was from an agent that said he was ready to represent me, but discovered that “my platform” was not strong enough yet”. I needed to have a list of confirmed speaking engagements and book signings or no publisher would want to take on the book. I go to “How am I supposed to have speaking engagements if I don’t even have a book published yet?” Life is always a catch 22. Just like in acting you cant get an agent unless you have a reel, but you can’t get a reel unless you book projects. Well, you just have to submit yourself and book your own projects and then you can get a reel made and hopefully an agent will like it… then if you get an agent maybe you will get auditions and maybe you will book something that actually pays money so you can pay to meet more casting directors by doing workshops so maybe then can remember you to call you in and you will get a big job to pay for all of the shit you have paid for in the past 10 years…. I guess it is kind of like college… ha
So now I’m sitting back. I am thinking. How much more to I want to put into this? I never wanted to make money off of my fathers death. I don’t know how much time and energy I want to put into talking about my book or selling ten copies afterward in a church lobby or community Rec center. I like my life how it is. I like my Sag ultra low budget deferred independent movie career. I have done this leg work when I sent out hundreds of letters offering to make free appearances when I was Miss Illinois Teen and I did it… I made over 100 appearances for free. I spoke to audiences of 10 or 300. Did I help anyone? Probably not. It was probably more for my ego. So if I am happy in my life why torture myself? Why take time away from my kids to speak in front of a handful of people that probably don’t even know why they came? Why don’t I just do what I really want to do? What is that? Well, I want to help people. If I help one person that has gone through a loved one killing themselves know that there is someone out there that has gone through the same thing then that is enough. If someone searches the internet with the key words and it brings up my book on Amazon then I have done my job. If one day a agent or publisher finds my book and wants to expand its reach to a wider audience… super…. So for now I have decided to self publish. I was hesitant to do this as I saw it as failure, but I don’t now. It’s a good book. I’ve put in the time and effort and money… lots of time, and effort and money…. I don’t know how much I will sell it for, but it won’t be much. I don’t want the money and never did this for the money. I started this so my kids would know who their mother was. Why their mother sometimes gets sad and cries. Why their mother has nightmares… a lot…. But I still go on and I hope it helps others go on too.