This may or may not be the introduction to my book, This Is How You Pitch: How To Kick Ass In Your First Years of PR, depending on whether or not anyone actually agrees to write my foreword. I have no idea what will happen. But this piece is a raw and uncensored look at how much of a moronic mess I am when I get an idea in my head.
It's very strange that there's a foreword and then an introduction to this book, in the sense that there's usually one or the other. Truthfully, finding the foreword to this book was a story unto itself, one that begun on me reading a piece by James Altucher about finding a great foreword. It exemplifies one of the core principles of pitching; you email someone and want a response and an action.
The aforementioned James is a business reporter turned life guru. His book, 'Choose Yourself,' is mostly about how to be happy in the white person dystopia of the business world. He got Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, to write his foreword. It was fantastic. Punchy. I was green with envy and looked at my own foreword - a 250-word generic pile of shit.
In many ways this was a good summary of what PR is. People found a company, look at another company and say "HEY. I WANT THAT. I WANT THAT FAME. GIVE ME THAT FAME AND MONEY." I didn't real want fame or money, I just wanted someone famous or interesting or noticeable to write a thing about my book. My heart beat with the sickly thumping of jealous and excitement. Perhaps someone famous would write about me? Perhaps that same person would make me famous by association, and I would somehow be amazing?
The truth is that none of these things would happen. As I write this, I have no idea who will write my foreword. I have no idea what's going on with my foreword. This may change. This may become the funniest part of my book - the quest to get something ultimately worthless done by someone with more life experience and more Twitter followers than I have.
I emailed James, and asked who he thought I should use. He said I should go to Steve Forbes, as I blogged for Forbes, and thus my Forbes connections would get me in there quick-sharp. The truth about Forbes blogging is that you don't even have a particularly good connection to the people who write at Forbes, let alone the man who the magazine is named after. Nevertheless, in my insane self-promotional and ingratiating manner, I emailed what I assumed was Steve Forbes' email address with a simpering, pleading demand that he write my foreword. It was ballsy. Tout, my tracking software, said he read it and clicked my blog. I was elated.
Then nothing happened. For days. Days became a week. I moved on.
Two days ago, I received an email:
Dear Ed –
Good luck on your book. PR is often belittled but it is crucial in the arena of communications. A lack of time makes it impossible for me to do the foreword – I’m so sorry.
Which is possibly the nicest "no" I've ever received.
I then got the insane notion that somehow Louis C.K., famed comedian and a man who speaks incredibly beautifully and simply about the human condition, would write my foreword. I emailed a few different emails I thought were his. I emailed Dave Becky, his manager and producer on his FX show, Louie. I called his talent agency (they still haven't returned my call). I offered a thousand dollars. Then two thousand. I was never going to pay that much, but I was at a point when I thought I just wanted a response. I coughed a little. Nothing happened for weeks.
I emailed a client, funded by Ashton Kutcher, asking them if they'd make an intro. Ashton was, understandably, very busy.
I emailed Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit, amazing and passionate writer and advisor to my client, Goldbely. He said he'd read it. Truthfully, Alexis is the right person to write this foreword and I hope he does it. He's reading it now and god I hope he's the guy who writes it.
I emailed Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch. He classically doesn't like PR people, so I thought hey, if anyone could write a funny, disgusted foreword, it'd be Michael. He said he'd read it. I sent a document. I have heard nothing in a few days, which makes sense as nobody but me reads a book in a few days.
Then, while speeding through Google (I have been watching Dawson's Creek, and it's very good) after a few too many coffees and waiting for my wife to get back from an appointment, I accidentally happened upon what someone said was James Van Der Beek's phone number. While scrolling through the page, my phone hitched. I was calling James' private home. His wife picked up. I stuttered my way through the call, red with embarrassment, apologizing profusely, and hung up. I had my assistant call back and apologize and say why I was actually calling - they actually spoke to James, who said that this all went through his agent. I went so red that I matched my Pottery Barn seat cushion. I didn't even know if I wanted him to do the foreword, but I thought I'd ask.
Despondently sitting on Twitter, I saw Warren Ellis, famed storyteller and comic book writer of Transmetropolitan and The Authority, as well as tenures on Iron man and Hellblazer. He was retweeting something about salmon and Kickstarter. I tweeted at him in a rambling tone: "fuck, warren, can you just write my terrible pr book's foreword? i think you are the only person negative enough."
Confusingly, he responded "yes." I emailed him. He responded asking for the book. This was a day ago.
My editor, Nils Parker, also said that I'd have to come up with six figures to really attract talent, to which I said "ah, yes, I'm retarded."
This experience has taught me a few things about public relations and myself.
1) I have no shame. This isn't bad.
At no point, barring my accidental phone call to the Van Der Beek residence, really crossed any lines. I just emailed and asked. I didn't demand. I didn't say that someone must do this or indeed that I was super important. I described my book honestly and was up front about it. I definitely shouldn't have called James Van Der Beek's house. I got responses from really amazing people, and that's saying something of my ability to write and that people do actually respond if you write something that's worth reading. Even if they say no.
2) It's really easy to email someone and there's no reason not to.
If you email someone every 4 days asking them kindly if they'd do something, that's fine. If they say no, that's also fine. If you want to ask someone to do something the worst that they can say is no, as long as you aren't a huge prick. Saying that they owe it to you is a mistake.
3) I really am sorry to James Van Der Beek.
4) A great deal of PR people, and PR itself, is really stupid to its core.
Nothing I did in this process was anything other than being myself and just saying what I wanted. This is what I do every day and I think I got more results than most PR people would (even if they were a big fat nothing) out of sending three hundred stupid PR pitches to three hundred people who won't read them.
If (PR) people just, for a second, put their own personal bullshit, the pressure of their jobs, what they think their 'industry' requires of them, or how intelligent people think they are aside, they'd do a lot better. Nobody responds to that dumb fucker who sends out an email, no matter how short or long, that's just a bunch of garbage about how revolutionary something is. People respond to a thing that is honest and asks them a question or whether they'd like to do something. It doesn't really matter whether they're famous or infamous or a movie star or a robot or Ryan Lawler. It matters that you care enough to give them the respect that they deserve which, in the end, is that they're a human being.
I'm Ed Zitron, and at the moment, I have no foreword.