Want to be on the New York Times best-seller list? Just self-publish your book, sell 14,000 copies out of the back of your car, and Simon & Schuster will snap you up.
Jeffrey Marx’s originally self-published Season of Life, an account of a football player turned minister and volunteer coach, will appear at No. 10 on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list in The Times Book Review on Sept. 19.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Marx is what Deborah Treisman would probably call “media-savvy”:
…Mr. Marx had written a previous book, “Inside Track,” with the star sprinter Carl Lewis, published in 1990 by Simon & Schuster. But when he contacted his former editor there with a proposal for the book about Gilman and Joe Ehrmann, Simon & Schuster was not interested.
“They certainly weren’t alone,” Mr. Marx said. “Everyone else passed, too. I had a couple of nibbles but no bites, and ultimately I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer.”
In 2000 Mr. Marx had self-published another book, “It Gets Dark Sometimes,” an account of his sister’s quest for a liver transplant and the work that led him to form the Wendy Marx Foundation for Organ Donor Awareness. He did the same with “Season of Life,” then toted copies to a Barnes & Noble store in Towson, Md., and eventually to three other stores in the area.
Newspaper articles led to speaking engagements at prisons, churches, schools, even with the Dallas Cowboys, all of which created more sales. On Oct. 28, 2003, two things happened that Mr. Marx says changed everything: HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” featured a segment about Mr. Ehrmann and the book, and his sister died.
In April Mr. Marx again contacted Robert Bender, the editor at Simon & Schuster who had previously passed on the book. This time, they struck a deal.