How To Busk Your Way Into The New Yorker: How Heth and Jed Weinstein Went from Street Performers to Published Authors
The other day, we got one of the best emails an author can get. It was from two dudes and it said, “Recently we released a memoir (Soft Skull Press) called, Buskers: The On the Streets, In the Trains, Off the Grid Memoir of Two New York City Street Musicians. We never could have done it without you AND your book The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. We wanted to say hi and thank you!” Of course, we wanted to know more. So we wrote back and said, “Do tell how it all happened!” and they did. Here’s their story:
We would be hanging out at a party, getting our drink on, and guests would find out we were street musicians. That’s when the Q’s & A’s would fly fast and furious. No shit? How much do you guys make an hour? (between $0.00 & $200.00) Do you need a permit to play on the streets? (not unless they catch you) Is there a union you had to join? (what are you, nuts?!) And folks ate up our juicy busking war stories. Like the time we beat a mugger into submission with our trusty microphone stands after he helped himself to about two hours worth of hard earned tips. The conversation would almost always end with: “You guys should write a book!”
Yes, but how do we do that? The answer remained a mystery until destiny intervened. A mutual friend at Simon and Schuster recommended we pick up a copy of Arielle and David’s book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published—that’s when the veil of confusion lifted. EGGYP provided the road map we desperately needed for organizing our thoughts into a solid proposal. With our confidence bolstered, we spent the next six months meticulously focusing on each and every component, until the Outline, Overview, Competition, Sample Chapters etc… became a part of what several literary agents eventually deemed “the most thorough book proposal they’d ever seen.”
Next, by adhering to the guidelines in the righteous chapter, Locating, Luring, and Landing the Right Agent we managed to concoct a rather killer query letter. Here is an excerpt . .
My brother and I are street musicians in a duo called Heth and Jed ( www.hethandjed.com ). Perhaps you’ve seen us playing in the subways. Over the last four years we’ve performed in excess of 1,000 shows, and sold more than 50,000 copies of our independently released CDs–all without ever leaving New York City. Together we’ve written a proposal for a book entitled, Buskers: The-On-the-Streets, In-the-Trains, Off-the-Grid Memoir of Two New York City StreetMusicians. We’d be thrilled if you would review our proposal and consider representing us.”
Then it was GO TIME! With the book proposal and query letter “in the can”, we plunked down twenty bucks to join publishersmarketplace.com and sifted through a list of the Top 100 Deal Making agents. After boldly firing off an arsenal of query letters we sat back and hoped for the best. Within hours our inbox was filling up with top agents requesting a look-see at our proposal. For the first time we held out tentative hope that we might someday know the thrill of having our magnum opus published. The more we sat and thought about the whole thing, the more surreal it became. Here we were, two accomplished musicians who couldn’t get a record company to give us the time of day, but within hours of the initial mailing, the gatekeepers of the literary world appeared to be welcoming two guys with the combined SAT scores of around 900, with open arms.
In the end, we met with a bunch of prominent agents and eventually signed with Andrea Somberg at the Harvey Klinger Agency. We swear we didn’t sign because she was the only one schmoozing us over pitchers of Brooklyn Lager . . . or maybe we did! At any rate, she was way cool and we believed she could sell our book.
Soft Skull Press subsequently published Buskers and our band was finally on the musical and literary map, receiving recognition not from the previously envisioned Rolling Stone or Spin Magazine, but in the form of book reviews from such sweet ass publications as theNew Yorker.
Presently, our book continues to unlock unexpected creative doors as we begin the process of adapting our story for the stage. Having our book “out there” has also separated us from the generic rock n’ roll pack and we couldn’t have done it without Arielle and David by our side. Like those two rockers from Aurora, Illinois once famously said, “We’re not worthy!”