Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Against All Odds
Quick, name a famous supermodel. Cheryl Tiegs. Twiggy. Cindy Crawford. Christie “the ex-Mrs. Billy Joel” Brinkley. Tyra Banks. I only know Tyra because I watch America’s Next Top Model. I only thought about ANTM because it’s starting up again on Friday. This time it’s girl models vs. boy models. Quick, name a male supermodel. Don’t worry; I can’t either. If a guy wins, will the show catapult him to model superstardom? Will he even have a job this time next year?
Which got me thinking about the previous contestants of ANTM. There have been at least a dozen winners, twelve additions to the ranks populated by Tiegs, Crawford, Banks, and Mrs. Joel. By now at least one of them should be a household name. It doesn’t seem to have turned out that way. In terms of fame, “America’s Next Top Models” have been pretty much invisible.
Adrienne, the very first Top Model winner, had her own reality show at one point, but that was more about her marriage to one of the guys from The Brady Bunch. Caridee English hosted another reality show, and did commercials for a skin condition treatment. Haven’t seen her recently. At least one showed up on Celebrity Rehab and another (one of the plus-sizers) on Celebrity Fit Club. One former contestant hit the big time: she made it onto Dr. Phil because of drug addiction. I recognized another former contestant on a commercial (no lines) and I think I saw one on Project Runway but I can’t be sure because the show didn’t mention her name. The rest may be doing print ads and are therefore off my radar, since I don’t look at fashion magazines.
This troubles me, because one of the prizes each season is a contract with Cover Girl cosmetics. Again, it must be print work, because the commercials use established celebs like Pink, Drew Barrymore, Queen Latifah and Ellen Degeneres. Sorry, ladies, you just lost out on the Cover Girl gig to glamour gal Ellen Degeneres. Welcome to the industry.
To date, we’ve had over 100 would-be Bankses and wanna-be Brinkleys model their hearts out on the show, milk their 15 minutes, and then sink without a trace. That includes the winners. The show’s been running for at least ten years, and I don’t think a single one of those girls has risen to Crawford-level heights. I don’t even know who won last season. I think I missed the finale because Grimm was on. Given the choice between some skinny chick and Monroe the werewolf—hell, that’s not even a contest.
What’s this got to do with anything? Merely an illustration: even with a contract, opportunity and exposure, there’s no guarantee you’ll make it. Or you could make it for an eyeblink and then fade from view. Or the biggest push in the world won’t get you anywhere. Or maybe you will make it. Nobody knows. When someone does make it, it’s usually as big a surprise to them as it is to everyone else.
All this holds true for writing. If we knew for sure what makes a bestseller, we’d only write bestsellers. Thanks to the rise in self-publishing, dozens of new books hit the virtual stands every week. Some will do well. Most will sink without leaving a ripple. At least one will pop up out of nowhere and take off like gangbusters. Ask Amanda Hocking how that feels.
All the promo in the world won’t necessarily make a difference. It can be a brilliantly-written book with a solid, original idea and still go nowhere. It could suffer from pedestrian writing and characters that “give new meaning to the word cardboard” (once said of John Grisham) and hit #1 on every list in existence. Only a handful will hit those heights. The rest will be forgotten in a year. Or faster.
The odds are against your book becoming the Cindy Crawford of the publishing world. That’s just the reality of writing. Nothing guarantees it’ll sell even ten copies. On the other hand, nothing says it won’t. Maybe your book will be the exception that proves the depressing rule. The odds might be 10,000 to one against you, but what if you turn out to be that one?
The only way to find out for sure is to write the best damn book you can and get it out to market, either through traditional methods, e-pubs, or self-pubbing. No one can judge how well your book struts its stuff until you put it out on the runway. You could have a winner on your hands. Slip that dress on it, style that hair, wedge its feet into those tight little heels and who knows? Your book might be America’s Next Top Novel!
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Trivia quiz: When ANTM debuted, it aired on the old UPN network, which later merged with the WB to create the CW. ANTM is the last UPN show still on the air. What show still running on the CW is the last survivor of the former WB? Hint: the boys are hot and the angel needs to smile more often. Heh heh.