I wrote and published these posts back in 2001 when my first book, One Dream: The NFL, was released.
When I was a child, I dreamed of football glory. My plan was to quarterback LSU to the national title, to become a first-team All-American and to win the Heisman Trophy. Then I’d move on to the NFL and step under center for either the New Orleans Saints, the St. Louis Cardinals or the Baltimore Colts. I was ready to be the next Archie Manning, Jim Hart or Bert Jones. I was all set to do United Way commercials and to have Howard Cosell describe my performances as “brilliant.” And I actually wanted more than that. I would play three professional sports at once, finding the time in the winter to soar like Dr. J and in the summer to pitch like Ron Guidry and to hit like Mike Schmidt. On top of all those feats, I would work in an Olympic gold medal or two, preferably in swimming.
By the time I became a teenager, I realized the dream had to change. Athletically, I was better suited to be a writer. My epiphany was only a momentary disappointment. I soon learned that writing was more fulfilling for me than playing sports. But succeeding at it was another matter. Before I submitted a book proposal for One Dream, I had written two novels and failed to sell them. Creating them was a rewarding but frustrating experience. In five years, I’d labored through countless drafts and “earned” more than 100 rejection letters. I’ve already written off the first novel as simply a good education. While I believe the second novel, The Baron of City Park, will sell after a little fine-tuning, my journey to publication has been a slow, sputtering gimp.
Then came One Dream. There was nothing slow about its gestation. From idea to sale to first draft, it was pure blitzkrieg. On the timeline below, I’ve tried to map out how the book came to be. But really, looking back, it seems like it just happened.
The chain of events that led to One Dream actually began one year before the Saints hit Thibodaux when I had just moved back there with my wife Susie. I was practicing law and in my spare time, writing fiction. Journalism, especially broadcast journalism, was the furthest thing from my mind. That changed when a production company, LAFCO Marketing & Promotions, moved in across the hall from my office. LAFCO’s big, bad cameras and fancy computer editors intrigued me. It had been eight years since I’d pieced together a video story, but I suddenly had the urge to do it again.
LAFCO’s owner, Tony Lafaso, read my mind. Tony shocked me when he offered me the position of host and co-producer of The Rickey Broussard Show, a program about Nicholls State basketball. I told him that I’d never been a host, only a reporter, a videographer and a short stint as a noontime sports anchor. And this was all part of the on-the-job training at the University of Missouri, where students make-up the talent at KOMU-TV, the local NBC affiliate. Despite my lack of experience, he hired me.
I loved doing the show. I didn’t mind working at my law firm all day, going home to eat supper with my then pregnant wife, then heading to LAFCO to help edit the show, often working past midnight. The experience renewed my interest in journalism. I was now on the look for other opportunities.
March 9, 2000
I thought my next opportunity would come on this day when the Saints announced that that they would hold training camp in Thibodaux for the first time in 25 years. We were about to wrap up a season of The Rickey Broussard Show, and I saw a television project with the Saints as my next journalistic foray. But first, I was on the verge of a much bigger endeavor.
April 5, 2000
At 1:10 p.m., I officially became the father of my first child, Grace Elizabeth. Gracie immediately enriched our lives. Her presence also motivated me to become a paid writer. But by this time, I didn’t believe I had a realistic chance at doing a TV project associated with the Saints. No big deal, I thought, I’ll do newspaper.
April 11, 2000
I mailed a letter to 40 different newspapers who were in the Saints fan base area but who wouldn’t be likely to send a reporter to camp. I offered my services as a self-syndicated, daily feature writer.
Early May 2000
Out of all the newspapers I queried, only two responded, and both declined. One editor was kind enough to tell me that there was a good reason my services weren’t needed. It was because the Associated Press would provide its member newspapers with camp coverage. How stupid could I be, forgetting about the AP.
I was about ready to scrap the whole Saints camp idea when I thought about a book. Oddly, I’d never really considered writing a non-fiction book. I should have, though, because for one, it’s less of a gamble. A writer can sell a non-fiction book on a proposal while a non-published novelist must write the entire novel before submitting it.
After I decided to write the proposal, it didn’t take long to select my angle. I asked this question: Who has the most to lose at training camp? The answer was the undrafted rookies because for them, it’s probably a one-time shot, where they’ll either grab their dream or watch it slip through their sweaty fingers. They go into camp with no professional experience, no real money, and no guarantees whatsoever.
When I sat down to write the proposal, the first sentence came to me immediately, and I banged out 16 pages in one weekend. I did a little revision on it, but not much. I swear, it almost wrote itself. I showed it to my wife, who, while being my biggest supporter is also one of my biggest critics (she trashed my first novel). When she handed me back the proposal, she was grinning. She wrote on it: “This is awesome — get ready to sweat, write and hold a baby at the same time.” Other readers also had only positive things to say. I felt pretty good about my chances.
May 10, 2000
I began to simultaneously send the proposal to any reputable publisher that published sports books. I mailed out 40 in all. I asked the editors to please respond as quickly as possible. Camp started in two months, and I would need at least a week or two to do some pre-camp interviews. I told myself that the only way I could justify covering camp and the preseason games was if I had a book contract. Otherwise, it wasn’t worth cutting back on my legal practice during that period and spending extra time away from my family.
In a week, I began to receive the all-too-familiar rejection letters. But this time, rejection didn’t equal dejection. The letters actually got me excited. It was like the editors really wanted to take a chance on me, but they were afraid. Some of their comments:
“The concept of following ten undrafted rookies trying to fulfill their dream of playing in the NFL seems very compelling. Unfortunately, this isn’t the sort of project ______ can take on.”
“Sounds like a fine idea for someone to publish, but we wouldn’t do it justice.”
“I’m sorry to say that this is not right for me — it’s my personal belief that the pro game is tougher to sell.”
“Interesting concept — it doesn’t fit our schedule, though.”
“It’s an intriguing idea, but I think it would make a better magazine or newspaper piece than a book.”
Despite receiving several “encouraging” rejection letters, towards the end of May, I was losing some of my optimism, until…
May 31, 2000
I received a long email from Adam Rifenberick of Sleeping Bear Press. He wrote, “I think the trials of a dream are appealing from so many levels to so many different types of people whether it be in sport and/or in life.” But Adam had some concerns. One, he wanted another writing sample, even though he said my proposal was “quite well-written.” Two, he wanted to make sure I had enough access to the ten undrafted rookies.
I sent him another writing sample, and it sufficed. As to access, the Saints media relations chief told me over the phone, “You won’t have any problem getting access to these guys. You can get hours with them.” Well, I learned later that while I wouldn’t get “hours,” the Dreamers would give me what I needed.
June 8, 2000
I took a day off from work to go to the first day of Saints minicamp at their Metairie compound, even though Sleeping Bear still hadn’t decided whether to take on the project. But in the early afternoon, I called my office, and my secretary read me an email from Adam, saying the book was all go. I can’t explain the feeling. On June 22, we signed the contract. I was on my way.
July 15, 2000
I stepped into the media area surrounding the practice field for the opening day of camp. It was a molten but beautiful morning. Note pad, pen and tape recorder in hand, I heard the air horn sound and watched the players charge onto the field. The real story was beginning. There would be ups and downs for everyone involved, but at that point, it was pure promise.
September 3, 2000
My coverage ended with the first game of the regular season. Now, I had the time to write Page One of the book.
During the entire month of September, I put myself in front of a computer at every opportunity. I finally had the excuse to make writing my first professional priority. It was a busy but blissful 25 days.
September 29, 2000
I mailed the 230-page first draft of One Dream to Sleeping Bear. In March, I would catch up with the Dreamers for the Epilogue. For the time being, I had to catch my breath.
April 2, 2001
I turned in the first Draft of the 22-page Epilogue.
July 20, 2001
The book goes to print.
July 27, 2001
The first, sneak-preview signing takes place at Little Professor Book Center in Thibodaux. I show up 30 minutes early at 5:30 p.m. to help set up, but a customer walks in and grabs a book for me to sign. I start signing at that moment and won’t stop until after 9 p.m. In the middle of this madness, New Orleans reporter Glynn Boyd enters the store with his WGNO-TV 26 (ABC) crew. As I sign, Boyd interviews me for a story that will air on the 10 p.m. news. By night’s end, 81 copies are sold. Even with my hometown advantage, I’m shocked. It’s the most successful author signing in the store’s one-year history. Owner David Ameen is so happy he jumps up on the counter and treats the world to his rendition of “Rose from Alabama.”
August 3, 2001
The book is “officially” released.
August 11, 2001
I’m pleasantly surprised by the results of a signing at B. Dalton Bookseller at Lakeside Mall in Metairie. This is suburban New Orleans, and despite the short news segment on WGNO-TV, the book’s New Orleans publicity has yet to kick in. In an hour and a half, I sell 16 copies, 10 to strangers, 9 of whom have never even heard of the book. This is a result, I think, of the book’s “curb appeal,” which was created by Sleeping Bear Press and its cover and jacket designer Felicia Macheske and by photographer Cindy Skop, formerly of The Courier of Houma. It’s also because of the nice back-cover blurbs written by Jim Beseda, Michael Kim and Tom Hoffarth.
August 13, 2001
One Dream is rising quickly on Amazon.com. I’m not sure why. I’m puzzled because on the book’s Amazon.com page, there is no book description, no official Amazon review and no customer reviews. Amazon has yet to feature the book on its Sports or Football pages. So it’s difficult for me to explain how One Dream is the bestselling book in the Amazon category called, “National Football League.” But I’ll take it!
August 22, 2001
I can feel the publicity machine churning — literally overnight. This morning, the book made a one-day leap on Amazon.com from an overall rank of around 53,000 to 7,937. The jump is a result of several things. Last week, WDSU-TV’s Rich Lenz and Steve Paretti produced a first-class, multi-subplot package on One Dream that ran on their 10 p.m. and next-day a.m. casts. Two days ago, I appeared with Eric Paulsen on the WWL-TV morning show, the nation’s highest-rated local a.m. show. Then at some point yesterday, Amazon featured the book on its Sports Page and kept it there until 8:00 a.m. this morning. Finally, last night, I was on WWL 870-AM with Buddy DiLiberto and Mike Detillier for their entire 7 p.m. hour. The 50,000-watt, clear-channel giant reaches into as many as 42 states. I’ve always enjoyed listening to the Buddy D and Mike combo, and I got to see first-hand just how talented they are. Buddy has also written a new book, When the Saints Came Marching In, with photographer, Michael Hebert. His book celebrates last year’s Saints’ dream season in vivid pictures and in clear prose.