Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Maybe This Time

A theme song is appropriate, to set the mood. Music can give you a clue as to what is about to happen when the event unfolds. So we've chosen "Maybe This Time" as the backdrop to the latest incarnation of Jann Wenner's officially sanctioned biography.

The man who invented Rolling Stone magazine has led an interesting life, and one that the general public would be keen to read. The rag is about to turn fifty, and it's those in the over-fifty demographic who do most of the reading and book buying these days. That same demographic grew up on Rolling Stone, an icon of their youth and a symbol of a lost era. Before there was an AIDS epidemic and smoking weed was highly illegal and thoroughly counter-cultural.

Mr. Wenner has danced at this ball before, however. He sat down with Lewis MacAdams, a longtime friend, and spilled out his heart until about half the book was done. Then the subject decided he couldn't do it after all. As you can imagine, Mr. MacAdams was anticipating literary success and financial benefit, only to lose a great deal of his time at no profit. Mr. MacAdams no longer considers Mr. Wenner a friend.

Then along came Rich Cohen, a contributing editor to Rolling Stone. His literary agent worked up a deal for a reported one million dollars, but again Mr. Wenner couldn't go through with it.

Maybe this time. Joe Hagan will get lucky. Maybe this time Mr. Wenner will stay.

Joe Hagan is also a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, so he's no stranger to Mr. Wenner either. He, too, has signed on a literary agent to shop the potential biography and PJ Mark of Janklow & Nesbit has a writing sample in his office for publishers to peruse. Asking price? Now it's up to around one point five to two million dollars, give or take.

Maybe this time?

Two publishers have been burned on the book. Will a third take a chance with a big advance that may not pay out?

Mr. Hagan swears to Jaysus that it's going to happen. He's already delving into the magazine's archives, with unfettered access. The subject of the bio really, really, really wants his story told because he's getting on in years and doesn't want his story lost to death. So this time, it will happen. No half-finished books, no proposals going nowhere.

But what kind of guarantee can an author give the publisher? A return of the advance after the money is spent? Maybe, if the advance is small enough, with the bulk of the author's pay-out to come from royalties on a finished product that is laid down and selling through before Mr. Wenner again decides that this isn't the time for an unrestricted expose of his life among rock's glitterati.

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