When we’re interviewing for new staff, we’re often talking to people who are currently working at a publishing company, and we’ll often ask why they’re looking to move to an agency. The most common response is a variation of: “I realized that I want to work on the books I like, and at the publishing company, I’m having to work on books the publisher can publish.”
And for me, I don’t think that’s ever been truer than in our work on Gil Griffin’s JUMPING AT THE CHANCE, a wonderful fish-out-of-water story about fish swimming very very far from America’s coastal waters.
Twenty years ago, I was like many Americans. Australian Rules Football was this weird thing you heard about, mostly as a strange joke about the strange things you’ll find watching TV in the middle of the night. Then, in 1999, I went to Australia for the first time, and I went to see this strange thing for myself.
Well, let’s just say I was mesmerized. I sat in the Melbourne Cricket Ground and watched a Kangaroos game, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.
It was, yes, a little bit strange, but it was strange in the way of some wonderful Baskin Robbins flavor, taking a chunk of this sport and a ribbon of that sport and a base of a third, and then it all comes together and it tastes wonderful. It was kind of like soccer, because people couldn't throw the ball but rather had to dribble, pass like a volleyball dig, or kick, which is kind of being like three sports act once. It was kind of like US football with big goalposts to kick through. It was kind of like a clean-skated game of hockey because it was free-flowing and free-form. I could hardly pick up every little quirk of the rules, but the basics emerged easily enough, even from well up in the stands with no native guide.
And like a Baskin Robbins flavor you really like, and which goes away at the end of the month, I was eager for some future opportunity to taste footy. When I got that opportunity on my second trip to Australia in 2010, it was just as enjoyable to go to the MCG and take in a footy game.
Subsequent to my 2010 trip to Australia, I discovered you could still find the occasional footy game on ESPN 2 (and now on Fox Sports networks) As I got to watch more and learn more about the game and the teams and the history… Soon enough I’m DVRing whatever game is on my cable package, watching all of them, hanging out at The Australian at 1am on a September Saturday to watch the Grand Final, as the AFL’s Super Bowl is known.
Twenty years ago, it was this strange thing, and now it and tennis are my two favorite sports.
Stranger than Australian Rules Football is the fact that Brandon Sanderson’s Tor editor, Moshe Feder, is also an AFL fan, a bigger one, one for longer, much more passionate than I, and one day, two-and-a-half years ago, knowing of my kindred interest in AFL, he sent me a link to this wonderful article by Gil Griffin on US NCAA basketball players looking to make their way into the AFL.
And after I read the article, I knew this needed to be a book. I had no idea where or how I would sell such a book, because major publishers in the US prefer to buy books about baseball and football, golf and tennis, and other sports better known in the US. But that wasn’t going to stop me. Because I’m an agent, and I get to work with the books I want to work with.
So I reached out to Gil Griffin. He was game to give it a try. We worked up a full proposal, and we sent it out to all the sports publishers in the US, and of course, we came up snake eyes. But as Australia is part of the British Commonwealth, we also reached out to our friends at the Zeno Agency in London. Maybe a British publisher that better knew the Australian markets would end up buying the book. And that didn’t happen.
But John Wordsworth, who had just come over to the Zeno Agency from working at the British publishing house Headline, somehow knew the right person who knew somebody, hooked up the proposal with Nero Publishing in Australia, and by some magical process I still can’t quite believe happened, this passion project that I was never sure would find a home managed to find a pretty much perfect one. In Australia, the book came out at just the right time in 2016, with a couple players featured in JUMPING AT THE CHANCE making their marks in the AFL.
And this year, JABberwocky is delighted to bring you the first US publication of JUMPING AT THE CHANCE, updated from last year’s Australian edition.
I am pleased as punch. I’m still not sure what success it’s destined for in the US. But it’s a great story that has only gotten better since I first came across it in 2015. Players from a country that knows virtually nothing about the AFL are making an impact on footy in Australia, not conjecture or hypothetically but by taking marks and kicking goals and scoring points.
And deep in my heart, I am sure that the right person is going to stumble across JUMPING AT THE CHANCE on the right day and realize what a great story this is. It’s a story we’ve seen five or fifteen times in the movies that I never, ever tire of, the story about the baseball pitchers from India pitching in the show, the story about the kids from a poor school beating the kids from the rich school, the story about the coach from another planet having the winning team with students nothing like himself. Oh, sure, it’s set against the background of Australian Rules Football, but if Adam McKay can find a way to make complicated financial stuff understandable in “The Big Short,” we can make a movie where people understand enough about the AFL to revel in the triumphs of Jason Holmes and Mason Cox as some of the first players to emerge from the AFL’s American Experiment. And when that happens, I’ll be happy not just because more people will buy JUMPING AT THE CHANCE, but because I’ll have succesfully shared my love and passion for footy with the world at large.
C’mon, Mate! Take the first step with me. Click on over and check out Gil Griffin’s JUMPING AT THE CHANCE. Here's an Amazon buy link, which has just gone live, and more to come as the metadata spreads.
- The Brillig Blogger
- A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.