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john blumenthal

john blumenthal
January 05
john_blumenthal (On Twitter)
Curmudgeon. Formidable braggart. Comedy writer. Eight books, 2 movies. Former associate editor at Playboy Magazine. Movies include "Short Time," (major flop), and "Blue Streak" (huge hit, no idea why.) Last three novels were "What's Wrong With Dorfman?" (St. Martin's Press), "Millard Fillmore, Mon Amour," (St. Martin's Press) and "Three and a Half Virgins" (Finalist, International Book Awards.) Latest book -- a spoof of romance novels called "Passing Wind of Love."


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FEBRUARY 2, 2010 3:02AM

I May Have to Wear a Thong to Sell My Next Novel

Rate: 73 Flag

After a five-year stint as a screenwriter, I decided –- stupidly -- to write a novel. At the time, I had a West Coast agent, but he didn’t sell books, so I had to find a new agent, a process I would liken to having your testicles surgically removed by a carpenter.


After a slew of rejections, one agent wrote me a long letter that lauded the novel’s merits. “Funny, smart and full of rewards,” it read.


I was exhilarated… until I came to the second page. In spite of all those “rewards,” she rejected it. Too tough to market, she said. Since most books are bought by women, she bemoaned the fact that I was a man. Had I been a female author, writing about a female character, the novel would have been a sure seller.


I was taken aback. Was she saying that, as a male, I was unpublishable, but as a woman I’d be in line for a National Book Award? Was she implying that I alter things to make readers think I was a female author? Could I get away with it?


Sure, taking a female pseudonym and changing my protagonist’s name to Bambi wouldn’t be that difficult, but what about book signings or talk shows?


Did I crave publication badly enough to start wearing skirts? I’d have to cover my five-o’clock shadow with ten pounds of pancake make-up, relearn how to cross my legs, develop a friendly relationship between a pair of 3-inch heels and the floor, and figure out how to put on a bra without strangling myself.


A quick survey of the nether regions of my wife’s closet revealed that yes, a few of her dresses would fit me (sort of), but coaxing a cleavage out of my flat, hairy chest would be tricky without the aid of a fork lift.


Could I really pull off a George Sand in reverse?


When I finally found an agent to represent me, the rejections continued to pour in –- this time from publishers. “Smart, funny and wise.” (Rejected);  “A ripping yarn.” (Rejected); “An accomplished and witty book.” (Rejected.)


My agent advised me to write a mystery about a lady detective.


I retreated in disgust, but still toyed with the moronic idea of rewriting the book as a female. Finally, I decided that such an alteration (not to mention my inability to discern the logistics of a thong) would destroy the book’s integrity, such as it was.


After all, would Hemingway have won the Nobel Prize for The Old Ma’am and the Sea? Would Jane Eyre have worked as Jake Eyre? Can you imagine Judith the Obscure, or Mrs. Ulysses, or Tex of the D’Urbervilles or Mom Sawyer or One Day in the Life of Irene Denisovitch or Moby…. er…never mind.


I lamented: If only I had been born female (or at least a guy who liked wearing pant suits.) Am I bitter? Not really. Rejection comes with the territory.  The novel eventually sold (with the male protagonist intact) and, since it was a two-book deal, my next one was also about a guy.


But now I’m working on a mystery, featuring –- if you’ll excuse the expression –- a lady dick.


My pen name is Jane Blumenthal.


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Oh but I thought you already were a woman...good grief, this is such a shock!
Christ, John, I am in the process of trying to find an agent for my novel, "Eyeballs, Crocodiles and Whores." (no joke, that's the name, and everyone hates it except me and Tom Robbins.)

Yes, THAT Tom Robbins. He dedicated a book to me while we were living together, "Still Life with Woodpecker," but now has gone MIA, on an "open-ended Sabbatical" and is not available to weigh in......or to help me find an agent. His agent, Phoebe Lamore, my friend from back in the day, is now retired and in ill-health.

I am on my own looking for an agent, but I made my living as a whore writer for twenty years, a good living, and now I'm committed to writing fiction. (In Mexico, as you know.)

Without an agent, you cannot get a publisher. What's busting my ass reading your post is that even if you GET an agent, a good agent, which I assume you have with your credentials, there is no comfort zone.

But hey.....I'm a broad writing a comedic thriller based in San Blas. Ask your agent if she's interested!

(I posted a chapter here, one only, a chapter not germane to the plot, just a bit of color: "American Assholes need Mexican Buttplugs.")

Please keep us posted, John. (and when are you coming to Sayulita????)
Sexism in literature is alive and well which is why so many women (J.K. Rowling anyone?) still conceal their gender. It's probably not surprising it works the other way as well. Hope your new name works out for you!
I thought you were O'Really.

I got the same reactions to my book. So I decided the world wasn't good enough for it.
"Sure, taking a female pseudonym and changing my protagonist’s name to Bambi wouldn’t be that difficult, but what about book signings or talk shows?"

Hey wait, didn't they make a movie like this? I'm pretty sure they did!

Oh yeah and in reference to your title, shave down there with the thong, there's enough 70s bush out there!!1

The meditations on femalehood will be good for you.
You might just have the balls to pull this off. Oh that's a mixed metaphor isn't it?
I was going to say something about it takes balls to write as a woman, but I see someone already made the reference. I've got to get an earlier start on these comments_ rated
I'm sure you will be there as Jane or John or even Jane-John, whatever that means.
I yearn for your rejections! Also, think you're on to something with "The Old Ma'am and the Sea".
Tex of the D-Ubervilles! That's a must-read.
John! Don't do it! Please! I beg you! It would be a travesty of talent, not to mention you'd be one ugly broad!

Go crazy instead ... a kinda West Coast Jack Douglass ... or a Max Shulman. The world NEEDS another one of those; someone so insane that they make sense. I already see the raw talent in you. But for God's sake, do NOT impersonate a female, even as an author. There couldn't possibly be enough Nair to pull that off (see Bag Balm), not for long. Just go nuts (the right way) ... and you get an {{{R}}} for reckless!
John, John, we hardly knew ye . . .
Pretty amazing rejections, if you ask me. I should be so lucky. Most of mine are simply thanks, but no thanks or a deafening silence. You're a talented writer...obviously. But to parapharase the immortal words of Tina Turner, "What's talent got to do with it?"

Enjoyed your posted as always.
Oh John, when will people get it? Never psuedo names won't help. It takes a special touch to be a women, usually one that is scorned for everything that is femine and beautiful about her, are all up to the ruin of did you say, yours truly. Women is the ruination of man, so even in being clever, which is something most men are not, even when it is well written in such movies as "Mame", and "Funny Girl", it just is for entertainment. Men being men, demonstratize women in all most all ways that it matters. We know that, but it is from our own pedestal that we are falling.
Even though your post is hilarious, and a timely, well written piece- I'm afraid I am going to have to reject it....

"Why?" You ask.

My answer,"I did not come with a free coffee mug, a steak dinner, and tickets to that new play I have been wanting to see."
I truly enjoyed Dorfman! Bought it my local Border's - liked the title, one of my criteria for capricious purchases. Thanks for the heads up on the new pen name.
Well, there was that Publisher's Weekly all-boys list of the most important books of the year - and I'm not sure those guys shaved their legs.
The Brazilian bikini wax is the hardest part.
Why, when I read this, am I having images of an illegitimate bastard child of Tootsie and Wilford Brimley (From Coccoon)

Scary, John, scary...
Why, when I read this, am I having images of an illegitimate bastard child of Tootsie and Wilford Brimley (From Coccoon)

Scary, John, scary...
If that doesn't work out you can just go commando ;-)
Witty post. Rated.
There are selling 3 for 99 cents thongs at the 99 cents store, Mr. Blumenthal.

My sister got almost identical rejection letters for her comic novel, but it was believed that her character would have sold better if it were a male.
All you have to do is go into any Walmart and check out the paperback books to see that women dominate the publishing game right now. I have even considered writing under my wife's name and that way SHE could do any promotionl stuff.
Sorry John, the only thing you would sell while wearing a thong is long pants.
Given your author's picture on "Love's Reckless Rash," Ms. Cartwheel, this transformation should be no problem at all. Why don't you post it for all these nice people to see?
are you trying to tell us something deeply personal about yourself and some sort of secret life you're living?

oh god. please. no pictures!
Waiting for cleavage photos....
you told me *months* ago you liked wearing your wife's clothes, john. this is just an excuse to make it look like you do it to get ahead as a novelist instead of liking to strut around in front of the full-length in a sassy dress and heels. pffffft. ;
oh, sweet jesus please post a picture when you do.
Can you camouflage it as a romance? They sell for the cover art alone, I hear. When I was in the Army, back in the '60s, a guy could get busted for being caught with bawdy covers on academic theses (which some genius cooked up and sold a load of in PX book sections to horny GIs who had no intention of reading beyond the title.)

Several friends and I, on the other hand, managed to stash, in full view with no notice whatever from the officer/gentlemen inspectors, copies of Durrell, Miller, Burroughs and other gasp-bringers that were published by Obelisk with plain green, blurbless covers.

Sometimes the light's all shining on you; other times you just gotta stay blu... Good luck, bubba. Oh, and perhaps Jacquelingus or Jennifire would grab more imaginations than Jane. Just like on OS. First you write it, then you luuuuure them in...

Maybe O'Really? would wear the thong for your cover art, which you can send in along with the manuscript. He'p me...I canno' stop...
Oh, just change your name to Jean Blumenthal and leave it up to the imaginations of your readers...
If you're going to go thru the trouble of shaving and waxing, etc, then go for something a little more exotic: Roxanne suggests some naughtiness (we know you've got plenty!), Babs conveys some worldliness, Luvey, RubyDee, and Savannah if you're going for the bodice ripper...
Funny and little known fact: John Grisham, Dan Brown, and James Patterson are actually women, dressed like men. I've been looking at your pic and I think that you can pull this off:)
I suggest you change your profile photo to Danielle Steele. That would be a start.
What would happen if Lee Child changed his photo to that of a woman and renamed Jack Reacher "Jaclyn Reacher"--"a tough-ass dyke who kicks ass on everyone". Or if James Lee Burke changed Dave Robicheaux to Danielle Robicheaux. It just wouldn't work.
Ha. love that you compare finding an agent to having your testicles surgically removed by a carpenter.
The good news is that Word makes it real easy to change 'Poindexter' to 'Bambi' everywhere that it appears. I mean, so I hear...
Yeah . . . good luck with that . . .
Did I miss the picture? I guess OS has standards too.
Jane Blumenthal ! ! You're not serious. Please admit you said this with Thong-in-cheek!
Buffy: I thought you were a woman too.
Ginny: Comic novels don't sell; My wife will be in Sayulita on Feb 17th for a wedding.
Harry: Me? O'Really? Perish the thought!
Rod: Ugly broad? How dare youy use the word "broad." I'm keeping abreat of everything you say fromknow on.
I was told my novel would only appeal to hermaphrodites.
Oh, and add vampires. It's got to have vampires.
I am reeling with this revelation, John...whatever it is. Are you woman playing John Blumenthal playing a woman? On TV? I have the vapors.

Congratulations on the book deal! I'll be looking for it....xox
At least a guy who liked wearing pant suits? Hell, I thought you wanted to be a writer, not Secretary of State.
Will you sing "With a thong in my heart" when you find one that doesn't make your ass look big?
Robfromphila: Wow. That makes 3 people who read it. Are you sure we're not related?
Jeff: Oops. You found me out. The 19th century dress was bad enough. At least they let me keep the mustache.
ClarkK: I heard the Coast Guard lets you wear women's clothing.
tomreedtoon: What makes you say I've never gotten paid for writing?
susanlivingkinky: A leather thong?
Gwool: I often wonder of there would be an international crsis if Hillary wore a dress.
Luluandphoebe: How about Shirly U. Jeste?
cartouche: I hear you wear thongs on your head to rob convenience stores.
What size dress do you wear John? Tell me what you're wearing now. Start touching yourself. Have you been a naughty girl? ...Wait a second. I'm on the wrong website. Sorry.
Cartouthe - I think only Thoth can thing that thong.
Sorry about the misspellings. I'm trying to pee sitting down and type at the same time.
Be happy you're a man. Thongs are not all they're cracked up to be.
I myself, think you could pull that "dressing as a woman" off. Is it better to be poor and proud or rich and embarrassed?
Wow. I've never heard of a writer being rejected because he was male. Strange. I really don't understand the marketing side of publishing. A lot of men read. Women read about male characters. Women read male writers. I'm so confused.
I'd buy whatever you are writing. You're smart, witty, and accomplished. Always a great read and very insightful. Thanks Jane, errr, John.
John, if you wear the thong, I'll sell your damned book!
I am just glad you didn't include a picture of you, the thong..shudder no offence meant!
oh, quitchyerbitchenanmoanin...gender bias? omg...whodathawt. :)

paintings that use my initials as a signature sell...yet ones where i sign my whole name sell for less. weird, eh? now i just use a thumbprint in a box in the corner. the provenance lit says i licked the thumbprint so there's bonafide dna on the painting if anyone desires to check the dna for x or y chromasomes.:)

btw, you had me at "thong." ;)
Now I have the thong song stuck in my brain. Nice work Jane.
I'm confused. Are women supposed to put the toilet seat up or down? Help me, Aunt Mabel!!!
Thongs, they're worse than speedos. I guess you could try breast implants? Boobs always seem to work.
I almost got a hernia trying to craft a funny comment, so I gave up.

Just write the book under you wife's name. She'll get all the money anyway.
Oh that really you ?
Get with the mainstream, dude.
Very clever, rated.
I can hard wait to see what you come up with, Jane. I'm sure you'll be able to write the male characters with remarkable insight, and the female characters with a lustful fervor that will emulate the reality of men.

Face it: It's a woman's world.
Y'know, I'd really like to read "Judith the Obscure" and "Tex of the D'Urbervilles"! The first might well be more depressing than the original, but the second one... ooh la la!

There is nothing on earth that can make James Joyce into an interesting writer, not even gender-switching every single one of his characters. But you get extra points for giving me a funny mental picture of a woman wrestling with a fish for 20 pages ("The Old Ma'am and the Sea")!

Although I hope that your male-centric novels are successful, I hope that you choose to feature a female lead character because you find her interesting, and not necessarily profitable. Regardless, I like lady dick novels. : D
tomreedtoon: J.K. Rowling is following a tradition established by other British writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and E.M. Forster. (The story is the point, not the desire to feature one's Christian name(s) on the cover.) If women aren't reading books written by men, it's because they can't identify with the main character or characters, regardless of gender. This is because most men have no freaking idea how to write women characters. For example, anything written by Robert Heinlein. And, sadly, J.R.R. Tolkien too. (THREE important female characters amongst a cast of MANY heroic males?!?! Come on, Prof. Tolkien, WTF?!?) Just a thought: do what froggy said and write about vampires, if you want to be published and on the bestseller lists. You don't need to change your name to Stephen Meyer, but there is the option of using your initials. And pose on the back cover wearing a thong. ; )
I know it is exactly what you, me and all the writers here don't want to hear, but seriously...consider an ebook and/or self-publishing hardcopies. I have a friend who has worked in the edges of the book biz for decades... and she tells me this: Even 5 years ago self-published authors were completely dismissed by publishing houses etc.... but now? ...When she goes to what used to be a ghetto of self-publishers etc at the BIG Book industry book shows...she finds THAT is where many of the publishing houses are trolling for their next books... a title that has already sold a few (or many) thousand copies on its own... is (in their thinking) very likely to sell many more copies with the help of their clout... a safer bet than taking an educated guess on a manuscript submission...

The trouble is, of course, that there is A LOT of crap in the ebook and self-publishing world... but someone like yourself would easily stand a bit above the rabble... and the publishing houses want to see an 'author' who is at least slightly self-marketing savvy...

My writing career has had peaks and valleys (admittedly more valleys) ... but when I finish my take on the 'detective thriller' genre I'm not going to bother submitting it to the publishing houses or try to get my agent to find me a book agent. I'm going to self or e-publish it....

...and here is another thing... even if you price your own book at say $3.99're going to see WAY more $$ per copy sold than if that publishing house used their muscle to sell it for 14.95 each.

Think about it... Brave New Digital World ...and all that.
You could be the next Ann Coulter or Nicholas Sparks (he's a chick, right?)!
John, contemporary society is so complicated! It used to be that an author would write a book and it would be published--simple! These days we have the art of the second guess happening everywhere you look! "If the thong doesn't fit . . . one must quit (or try a girdle??)."
ASKaPUNK: I've investigated that route. Self-publishing is useless unless you start your own publishing company. Vanity Presses are sure death. Also, it's too crowded. Almost impossible to get through, and no, most publishers don't take these books seriously. I haven't heard of any cases in which they were picked up. Same goes for e-books, unless you're satisfied with 250 sales.
It's difficult to comment on your posts because they are so damn funny, witty and original and I can't find the words to express that. So...this was great. Thoroughly enjoyed. You rock as a writer.
I think you just didn't try hard enough to be a woman John. When I finish my novel, I'm getting breast implants. Although that's more for me than the book. R.

I've heard other male writers (including here on OS) make the same complaint, but I know plenty of women writers who've had their books rejected despite also garnering praise, too. There are soo many reasons that agents and publishers can reject books -- basically anything that's not a guaranteed best seller is subject to that.

And novels definitely draw more rejection than non-fiction. Writers are being told to go with memoir vs. fiction if they can (if they're already basing the book on real life to some degree). From that you get...people like James Frey, who write embellished memoirs in order to sell them.
Silkstone: You're right on every point (you sound as if you speak from experience, minus the cynicism), but you must admit that it is easier for women to sell books in most genres. (Incidentally, romance novels apparently sell 5 times more than all other genres put together.) And it all makes sense -- stats show that women are the main audience, so it's good business sense. I won't argue with that.
tomreedteen: Wrong again. Unsurprisingly.
To be can wear thongs, too; and I advise visiting the Silverlake Lounge for inspiration.

I've read a number of posts from you regarding the nastiness and difficulty of publishing books. Coincidentally, as this comes along, I'm presently being asked by three cohorts of mine to help give them notes as they write books. I'm inclined to let my first note be: abandon all hope.
There's hope: Sexy title, sexy book, sexy author, sexy agent.
Maybe Heidi Montag is outwitting both of us with her new giant cans.