Buy Michael Gural-Maiello's new book Shuts and Failures!
Michael Gural-Maiello is an accomplished published author, as I will not in this interview, he has written for Esquire and Forbes and has encouraged Blood Is One in its growth and maturity as a website. He has just self published a book called Shuts and Failures, which is filled with material that apparently was rejected from the big publishers. Given his penchant for humor and pop culture and Blood Is One expanded its reach in the realm of pop culture coverage, it really seemed like a no brainer to do an interview with him. Maiello thought much the same thing so... Here goes!
You're pretty accomplished of a writer - Esquire and Forbes don't exactly accept just anyone. Why do you think the material for "Shuts and Failures" wasn't accepted?
I don't feel like an "accomplished writer." I feel like a practiced beginner. I've been publishing journalism since I was 15, when I worked as a stringer for the now sadly defunct afternoon newspaper The Albuquerque Tribune. I have published articles and essays and op-eds in a lot of venues, and I have a few published and produced plays, but I have never had the success I've craved writing fiction (short or long) and humor pieces.
Look, when everything was rejected you have to allow that maybe they suck. I did not want to foist refuse on people. So I have performed most of these pieces in public forums, largely in front of strangers. I made sure they worked in front of an audience and that I stood in front of that audience to take it if they flopped. Some rejected pieces did not make the cut. Some of them did, in fact, suck.
As for the pieces that did not suck but were rejected:
I've been told by a staffer at The New Yorker that it's never going to happen by me submitting to them. They call you, is the line. Why would they call me when they can call Lena Dunham or Simon Rich, who have names and real projects and are a draw? Because I'm funnier, is why, damn it! That, apparently, is not an answer.
As for McSweeney's -- I think it's heavy, heavy competition. I love the Internet Tendency. It cracks me up more often than not. But they have seen, and receive, so much quality material. The editor is friendly and encouraging, but hasn't said "yes" yet.
I guess not everything finds a home just because it works. So, sometimes you make the home.
What made you want to put a Hulk action figure dueling it out with Elmo on the cover?
I don't see why most other books don't have Elmo being beaten up by a super hero on the cover. The Eyes of T.J. Eckleberg could vaporize Elmo on The Great Gatsby. Dr. Doom could have one of his robots crush Elmo on the cover of Paul Krugman's End This Depression Now!
I have a three year old son who discovered (um, okay, I showed it to him) the Super Hero Squad. I started buying him the action figures. But also, he had this Elmo, who I decided was evil. Then I started taking pictures of various little heroes and villains fighting Elmo. These all went on my Facebook page. Finally, I needed a book cover and it just seemed like a great way to end that series of bad photography.
Also, you'd buy a book if Hulk said to, right?
How have your fans responded to this new book?
The ebook world is very crowded. I'm thrilled to have found a small and supportive audience. I am very confident that people will like Shuts & Failures if they'll give it a chance. Those who have taken the very short plunge seem not to be worse off for it.
Are there tips you have for writers or other professionals on moving on from rejection?
I wish I was that guy who moves on from rejection. I'll be bluntly honest here. It enrages me and I don't move on from it at all. I go through periods where a whole other big green monster takes over. I get very jealous. One thing about the arts is that while you're trying to do it, you see everyone else succeed around you and you see people getting behind others. In 2013, nothing goes unnoticed. We know who everybody's parents are (pro tip: everybody is a Coppola). We know if they grew up rich or not. We know who is getting a helping hand and who isn't. That's life, but it's infuriating, sometimes.
I don't think it's about moving on from rejection. It's about not accepting it. The pieces don't die in a drawer because somebody else won't publish them for me, nor will I stop talking about them.
Is writing for book publication more difficult than for magazine publication? How so?
At a magazine there are editors and copy editors and a whole apparatus that helps convince you that what you're doing has merit. You propose the idea. It's accepted. You execute it. It's edited. Maybe there's some back and forth. With Shuts and Failures I hired Vook to actually put it into ebook format and the guy their told me how much he liked the content but, you know, I'm paying them so what's he going to say? I was responsible for copy-editing, cover design, contents and all of that. I used to write for a really good zine in the 90s called Aiding and Abetting and it was good because they avoided looking like it was amateur hour. I really worried over bothering my friends to fork over $2 to get an electronic file full of typos in return. If you're doing your own ebook, all the professionalism is on you.
But, from the experiences of my friends who have dealt with commercial publishers... should you be so lucky, assume nothing. They will copy edit the manuscript but you'd better copy edit it too. You can't trust anyone to care about your own stuff the way you do.