Monday, July 11, 2016
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Part 8. (Conclusion)
Below is the review I came across that I promptly e-mailed to Lenny, with names and libel concerns removed.
Lenny Leopold: Leave me Alone
Posted by girlwriter
I have, for the past TWO MONTHS been dealing with this asshole Lenny Leopold. I sent a pitch in response to a Craigslist posting, which turned out to be to this guy who called me and said that he wanted $600 to read my script. As in, he liked my pitch and therefore wanted me to sign an exclusive contract with him as my manager before he even read the script.
1. Real managers and agents read scripts before they sign contacts
2. Real managers and agents don’t charge you to represent you
He says it’s just an advance. But the thing is, the only thing he’s ever sold or published appears to be through vanity press outlets; there are no movie deals on even his own factually dubious page. All of his credits are really old and not terribly impressive. He apparently has some connection to Bill Cosby, which I guess was impressive some time before I learned to talk.
He was also involved in a major, major scam called __________. It basically scammed writers out of money and gave commissions to “agents” that referred writers to get scammed — “agents” like Lenny Leopold.
He keeps sending me e-mails and calling me, he will not leave me alone, even though I have REPEATEDLY told him I was not interested and told him REPEATEDLY that everyone I know in the industry told me HE IS A SCAM. And on top of that he is a jerk on the phone and can’t be bothered to introduce himself, remember your previous conversations, and he mispronounced the word “bible”. Really.
So, just to be perfectly clear here, what it appears he does is troll Craigslist and then harass and bully people into giving him money. That’s certainly what he has been doing to me.
I hesitated from posting anything because I’ve seen him threaten other bloggers who are honest about his behavior and I didn’t want to get into it, but other people need to know exactly what this man is doing to me. And if he comes here to defend himself I will simply add that to the list of things he is doing to harass me.
Lenny Leopold: LEAVE ME ALONE
Here is his contract:
Literary Management Agreement
1. By this agreement, ____________(Author) appoints Lenny Leopold (L.L.) as her literary representative. L.L. agrees to use good faith efforts to place Author’s , manuscript/script, currently entitled ____________” (Work)and subsequent (hereafter “Work”),with a Publisher , Studio, Production Company, , , Television Network for a film/book. etc acceptable to the Author and to exploit and turn to account such other subsidiary and television and film rights in and to the Works as may be appropriate under the circumstances. We may use and/or employ subagents and corresponding agents for such purposes. L.L. shall make no agreement on the behalf of the Author without the Author’s written approval.
2. In return for services rendered L.L. in connection with the Work, Author agrees to pay and irrevocably authorizes L.L. to receive in its name, all monies due to or to become due to Author and to retain as its commission fifteen percent (15%) of all gross monies payable to Author . An advance on commission of Six Hundred Dollars ($600.00) shall be paid on the execution of this agreement.
3. In addition to the aforementioned commissions, L.L. shall be reimbursed for the expenses incurred on behalf of the Work (not to exceed a total of $100 without written permission), including photocopying, messengers, cables and overseas postage in connection with submissions for sales, both foreign and domestic, long distance telephone calls, copies of the published book when purchased by the L.L. for subsidiary rights submissions, and other similar and related charges. L.L. shall invoice author quarterly for such expenses or deduct same from funds received by L.L. for Author’s account.
4. L.L. shall provide a quarterly itemized account of all expenses to the Author and no expenses shall be due and owing until that itemized account is produced.
5. All funds received by L.L. on behalf the Author shall be held in Trust by L.L. and L.L. shall exercise a fiduciary duty with regard to those funds and on behalf of the Author.
6. The Author shall have the right to an annual audit of the financial books and records of L.L. with regard to the Author’s account and L.L. shall produce all records relevant to the Audit. L.L. shall give the accountant conducting the audit access to all financial books and records relevant to the Account. The Audit shall take place at the principal place of business of L.L. unless the parties agree to a different location.
7. Any written notice called for by this Agreement must be sent by registered U.S Mail, return receipt requested, or by FedEx, DHL or UPS overnight courier to the addresses set forth in this Agreement.
8. This Agreement represents the complete understanding between the Author and L.L. and supersedes any prior oral understandings and may not be amended except in a writing signed by the Author and L.L.
9. This Agreement shall be construed under the laws of the State of California.
10. This Agreement is effective on the date of the final signature.
And an official opinion on it:
“Putting on my former lawyer hat (practiced corporate entertainment law for many years, law degree from Harvard, former VP of Legal Affairs for an entertainment co, former director of legal services @ NY’s Volunteer Lawyer for the Arts – just providing creds to let you know that I have a lot of experience in this sort of thing), NEVER pay some dude to read your script as an advance on his future manager commissions. This is a scam – you’ll never hear from him again. Real management agencies won’t ask you to pay them – where’s the incentive for him to do anything? And there’s no term, no ability for you to get out of it — I have too many comments on this management agreement to post in a small space. But needless to say, it’s something you shouldn’t sign.”
Shortly after sending this article in the body of an e-mail without any supporting text, Lenny messaged me his response, claiming the article’s author was a hack, insisting I “go fuck” myself. And with that, I never heard again from Lenny the Book Crook, but a girl can dream.
What a fucking mess. And when I say this, I speak for Lenny and myself. Naivety only goes so far, especially in this business.
I wrote Lenny a response, hoping he’d leave me alone afterwards. As per usual, I was naïve.
“Just wanted to let you know that I am meeting with agents and hopefully in the next few years, you will see my book out there on shelves.
“I’m assuming since you never replied correctly to my e-mail, you would not take on a project without $150.00. This makes me question whether this was ever for real or always a scam.
“Have a good year.
Now I’ll admit that was bitchy, but I was annoyed to hear from him again. Furthermore, I am often a bitch, so none of this should come as a shock to my readers. The next few weeks, I began receiving an e-mail a day, offering to take me on for one-hundred and fifty dollars. Lenny’s e-mails were seemingly never ending and always offering the same thing. This grew heavy, just seeing my inbox implode with this crazy person’s continuing level of instability. Finally I caved and sent an e-mail.
“Hey again, Lenny,
“Regarding your offer, I will NEVER EVER pay you a cent to represent my amazing story. That’s not how it works, except when it’s a scam. You, my friend are a scam artist. I’ve spoken to a number of different agencies that have offered lower retainer percentages to the book with no down payment on my end. I am more so writing to let you know that you will never see my book until it’s on shelves. You can kick yourself then for your childish games with a few hundred dollars.
“That is all.
True, this got way bitchier, but I grew so tired of receiving contact from this book crook. Lenny’s quick response was priceless, however. Keep in mind that I am not changing or correcting any of his spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Enjoy the irony in that.”
“Hey is not correct enlish when writing someone; You’re not paying me anything, you covering your expenses, which you will find out every agent, receives expenses, we work for you, and all writers pay from them.
“I reveive them up front, so when I deal with disingenuous flakey people who can’t make up their mind, like you, I’M covered.
“You wrote me, and asked me what I sold so that’d fine, but you knew my terms going in, so why bother aksing now?
“However that said, I wish you the best of luck, and by the way, in parting, please look at all the books I have sold. For $150, that could be you. I don’t think you’re going to find many with my credits.
“DO NOT CONTACT ME AGAIN, I’M NOT INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS WITH YOU.
I’m not even going to begin to go into the spelling mistakes here. His grammar is horrifically atrocious, but so was he. I could have just left it alone, but at this point I had read several different e-mails from him and was tired of the nastiness. Still, I was coming down to this George Costanza mess of a man’s level. I responded to his e-mail with a negative review I had come across (among many) online concerning this alleged book agent.
Following this e-mail, Lenny then called me. Not an hour had passed since I received the e-mail, and luckily I had read it, but he was coming on a bit too strong. Firstly, as per his agreement, this e-mail was not without a plethora of mistakes and inconsistencies. Also, it looked like a school child had penned it. I was still being told who I could and couldn’t speak with, while he was trying to sell me on the “Lenny Experience”. Needless to say, I wasn’t sold. I had grown disinterested in sharing any more time discussing my work with this crack pot. Clearly he didn’t know what he was doing. As a literary agent, I would assume basic grammar would be in one’s wheelhouse. This was not the case with Lenny. If he saw so much potential in my work, five hundred dollars or one-fifty wouldn’t make the difference. Assuming he was such a big deal and saw the potential, he would invest his own measly pennies after securing me into a properly written agreement.
As I answered the phone, Lenny started off on a tirade against my friends, yet again. “Do not speak with anyone, but me.” This was his governing instruction. He wasn’t wavering. On top of that, he continued to try selling himself to me, still reminding me of the financial responsibilities of so. I politely declined working together further. “You’re great Lenny, but I just can’t commit to something like this right now. Thank you for the time. I wish you the best.” After hearing my admission, the phone went silent. Lenny had hung up on me. I remember thinking, “Let it be. Good riddance.” And with that, I moved on from the topic.
An hour later, I received yet another call from this George Costanza crackpot. Was he just sitting by the phone with nothing to do? If there was so much out there for him to do and be a part of, what was he concerned with me? Ridiculous.
Answering his call, Lenny went on yet another tirade, this time claiming I had offended him. Why the fuck are you calling me back, then? Why not just wait for my apology? He continued to badger me about my friends, acting a fool. This transitioned into his personal attacks on my abilities to make a decision. “You clearly don’t know what you’re doing. You need someone like ME to guide you.” The conversation went nowhere and I found myself pandering to a child. I had to promise to mull it all over in order to get him off the phone. Hanging up, I couldn’t help but release a sigh. Ten minutes later, Lenny called me again. I ignored the phone and it rang a few more times that evening from him. The following morning, I woke up well rested having had a chance to mull this all over. Don’t get me wrong, I knew this was not something I wanted to sign onto, but I couldn’t help but fear this man may never get the hint. I penned the following letter back to Lenny:
“I appreciate your time and I am touched by the interest. As far as my friends, they are all people I know and respect, who have proven to me their time and dedication. Given that track record, I’d prefer if you respect that and possibly respect the fact that I’m not without an independent though. I would want to feel sure of this if I were to ever consider signing with an agent.
“If you and I were to have proceeded forward, resulting in you sending my book out to publishers, I wouldn’t ever be consider pulling out. As of this moment, we’ve committed nothing to each other.
“As far as money is concerned, I’m going to be completely honest with you, because that is my nature. I had a very rough year for a number of reasons between medical, personal, and work related issues. I’m broke. I don’t have a penny to my name and I’ve had to be resourceful with my bills and what little money I have. I have a broken headlight, have been driving without car insurance, currently have no health insurance, and I’m often worried about having enough to eat. I’m in a slightly desperate situation, but I’ve been in a bad place before. I’m not going to commit to you at this time, especially not before I’ve taken outside meetings to discuss my publishing potential.
“I am one of the most loyal people you will ever meet. I’m loyal to a fault. This often get me into trouble. Had you offered to represent me without having brought up the $500.00 fee, I would have already been signed.
“I appreciate your deep interest in this project, but some of your emails and phone calls are coming across somewhat angry and aggressive.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day and either will be my writing career.
“I thank you for the time and wish you lots of success in the future.
Within less than an hour, I received a response. Sending him that letter, I was hoping to appeal to a level of human understanding. Either he would offer me the moon at no price-point (which was obviously impossible) or he would back off. Clearly I was in the wrong just for engaging with such a creature. This short e-mail message Lenny sent back to me was laughable. Clearly I was playing with an open wound.
“I told you to forget about the $500,00. It’s 150.00 for you. I’m on BORAD…..I think you may have something, we will make a good team.”
Clearly I was talking to crazy and rarely is there any sense of rationality there. Lenny was not receiving the message of my e-mail and somehow thought ‘BORAD’ was the way to spell ‘board’. That’s what I’m assuming. And his contract agreement stated $500.00, not $150 or $500,00. I just ignored the e-mail. Lenny called me a few more times over the following few weeks, but I declined the calls. I didn’t receive an e-mail after that, assuming I was in the clear.
About a month and a half later, out of the blue, Lenny reached out to me. He sent me the following e-mail without any warrant:
“Raanan. Call me. I gave you a break at $150.00. it’s just for expenses. You see my credits, just the books I sold. Cheers, Lenny.”
There wasn’t even a paragraph break for pleasantries. I didn’t understand why I was hearing from him now, but chose to ignore this e-mail as well. An entire span of six months passed before I heard from Lenny once again. Out of nowhere, I received another e-mail of the same short nature as the one above. Clearly this guy needed one-hundred and fifty bucks far more than I did. Still, I had no reason to respond. The following day, I received another similar e-mail. At this point, things were changing for me and I began seeing real potential for a book deal.
Shortly after receiving an agent “agreement” from Lenny Leopold – the book crook – I was pretty convinced his whole operation was a sham. I was being sold faulty insurance from the likes of George Costanza (the immortal ‘Seinfeld’ character). There were far too many inconsistencies, spelling errors, and copied pieces to said contract. Immediately after receiving his documentation, I proceeded to google Lenny. First came his ‘IMDB’ page, where I discovered I was not too far off with the George Costanza comparison.
Lenny looked about in his early to mid-fifties, with a dirty porn star mustache in the vain of large penis legend Ron Jeremy. While Ron had quite the career when he was younger, he now resonates as more of a has-been with a rather large belly and homeless man persona. At least Mr. Jeremy has a large appendage to account for. I discovered that Lenny Leopold had no balls as I continued to read up on this mess. His dirty persona had been bleeding through the telephone, but encountering a photo of him online was another story. The porn-stache was indisputably amazing in the worst way possible. He looked like he should be offering children candy before taking them on a ride in his windowless mini-van. There was a cheap cigar strategically placed in his mouth with a touch of saliva dripping from his hairy lip. Was this someone I would want to represent me? Living in Los Angeles, the world of pretention and entertainment, this didn’t look the kind of guy I wanted to launch my career. Who was going to listen to this washed up man?
As I continued to peruse Lenny’s ‘IMDB’ page, I discovered that he had really done anything to relevant to the times. There was no way that his delivery of promises was going to happen. Having said that, I was naively hopeful that this would lead to something. Sometimes I need to have my head bashed into a wall before bad penetrates. I can be very trusting of people, especially when they’re telling me what I want to hear. Leaving Lenny’s prehistoric biography on ‘IMDB’, I moved forward with my Google initiative. I began reading a series of posted articles online claiming Lenny to be a fraud, taking people’s money and delivering nothing. While I had an idea that it may go this way, I kept thinking back to our conversation where he praised my work so heavily and seemed sure of the success. I reached out to a few friends and discussed the pros and cons. The one overwhelming message delivered from my conversations was to refrain from any financial commitments. “Do not give anyone a dime, Raanan. A real agent isn’t going to ask you for a dime.” I decided that I would test Lenny. Sure his agreement was laughable, sure he looked like a creepy pedophile, and yes, he was asking me for money. That being said, he did help procure some big deals back in the days of rotary phone and maybe he knew talent. Had I been able to procure an agreement with no promise of cash on my end, perhaps I could be on my way to success? Looking back, I feel a bit stupid now, but let’s paint that as naivety. That sounds a whole lot better. Let’s go with naivety.
Once I had put together my thoughts, I called Lenny back. I explained that a financial transaction wasn’t going to happen; not now, not later. He wasn’t receiving my response well. Lenny began throwing around names and connections, telling me why I needed him. “No one out there can do what I can for you.” This was a big promise from a guy trying to squeeze five-hundred bucks out of me. As we continued to chat, Lenny began to wear me down. I shared my conversations with friends and he grew upset that I was speaking to anyone other than him. We were back on the playground at recess in school and I was being chastised for talking to someone else. Lenny began explaining that I shouldn’t be friends with anyone else on the playground. No dodgeball for me. Perhaps a solitary game of one playing tetherball, going forward. “From this point on, you only talk to me about the book, Raanan. Don’t let others get in your head.” Sure, let Lenny in my head, but none of my closest friends that share my best interest at heart. Lenny then told me to take a few days to myself and really “think about” my best plan, which he assured me was with him.
About forty-five minutes after getting off the phone, I received the following e-mail:
“I have been thinking about your constantly changing your mind, listening to your friends; who may or may not know anything about publishing…Ask them to get on the phone tomorrow and sell your book; see what they say. We know the answer…….LET ME EXPLAIN THIS TO YOU ONE MORE TIME. Let’s say I received no expense from you; and you talked to another friend; or whatever, and you changed your mind again…I would be out expenses. Be embarrassed with my editors and or publishers……I have the skills to sell your book; either you do it; or I’M out.
“I gave you every possible break in the world, your book is different….do you want it to sit on the shelf, and gather dust.
“Or would you like to see it a list of publishers from Simon & Schuster, Random House, Harper Collins be reviewing your book……Let me know, or I wish you the best of luck……My list of accomplishments is more than you could ever ask for. Jay Leno would be proud to have me be his agent…Let’s move forward, we will meet, bring the executed agreement, the VERY SMALL $150.00 and next week, it will be at all those publishers and more.
“Just do it.
“Your future agent.
Shortly after Lenny and my phone call, I received the following e-mail containing the contract: (I use the term “contract” very loosely here.)
“The agreement is in the body of the e-mail. This book sounds so different, I feel good about it, when I read it, I will also give you notes, before I take it out.
“Raanan, I have given you a break on expenses, I’m going to give YOU a life changing chance.
“We will meet possibly tomorrow, or Monday. Bring the executed agreement, the hard printed version of your book, and the tow-hundred dollar Cashier’s Check for expenses… Meet me at Starbucks, like we discussed… figure around 11:00 AM. This could be a break through book (no one knows) but it’s very unique… I know I’m dying to read it.
Firstly, we didn’t discuss or agree upon two hundred dollars. Secondly, he included directions to a completely different Starbucks in Culver City. I excluded his driving directions from your eyes, only because it holds no consequential part to the story. Then he signed off, but not before including the “agreement” or “contract” with me:
“Literary Management Agreement:
“1. By this agreement, Raanan Lewis (Author) appoints Lenny Leopold (L.L.) as his EXCLUSIVE literary representative. L.L. agrees to use good faith efforts to place Author’script/manuscript (Work and hereafter “Work”), with a Studio, Publisher DVD, Production Company, Television Network, Internet (Publisher) etc acceptable to the Author and to exploit and turn to account such other subsidiary and television and film rights in and to the Works as may be appropriate under the circumstances. We may use and/or employ subagents and corresponding agents for such purposes. L.L. shall make an agreement on the behalf of the Author without the Author’s written approval.
“2. In return for services rendered L.L. in connection with the work, Author agrees to pay Lenny Leopold $500.00 in US Funds by Cashiers Check of which (Two Hundred Dollards) of (for expenses on execution of this agreement & irrevocably authorizes L.L. to receive in its name, all monies due t to become due to Author and to retain as its commission fifteen percent (15%) of all gross monies payable to Raanan Lewis.
“3. THIS PARAGRAPH IS DELETED
“4. In addition to the aforementioned expenses, L.L. shall be reimbursed for any additional expenses incurred on behalf of the work (not to exceed a total of $100 without written permission), including photocopying, messengers, cables, and overseas postage in connection with submissions for sales, both foreign and domestic, long distance telephone calls, copies of the published script when purchased by the L.L. for subsidiary rights submissions, and other similar and related charges. L.L. shall invoice author quarterly for such expenses or deduct same from funds received by L.L. for author’s Account.
“5. By signing this agreement, your duly state you own the script SPECIES
“6. All funds received by L.L. on behalf the author shall be held in Trust by L.L. and L.L. shall exercise a fiduciary duty with regard to those funds and on behalf of the author.
“7. The Author shall have the right to an annual audit of the financial books and records of L.L. with regard to the Author’s account and L.L. shall produce all records relevant to the Audit. L.L. shall give the accountant conducting the audit access to all financial books and records relevant to the Account. The Audit shall take place at the principal place of business of L.L. unless the parties agree to a different location.
“8. Any written notice for this Agreement must be sent by registered U.S. mail, return receipt requestd, or by FedEx, DHL, or UPS overnight courier to the addresses set forth in this this Agreement.
“9. This Agreement represents the complete understanding between the Author and L.L. and supersedes any prior oral understandings and may not be amended except in a writing siugned by the Author and L.L.
“10. This Agreement shall be construed under the laws of the State of California., and be in force for one year from date of execution of agreement=
“11. This Agreement is effective on the date of the final signature. Please make out cashiers check in U.S. funds to Lenny Leopold.”
Reading this agreement, a few things became very clear to me. Firstly, his grammar was atrocious. All of the “typos” and grammatical mishaps included above were actually part of the official agreement sent to me. Like an episode of any crime show will tell you, “The names have been changed to protect the innocent”. That’s only half-true, as the names that were changed were only done for libel reasons. Lenny Leopold is about as innocent as Charles Manson. At least Mr. Manson was brilliant to match his horrific insanity. Lenny Leopold was a moron – plain and simple. I made sure to copy his agreement verbatim with all mistakes kept included. So, his issues with grammar aside, here was a downloaded agreement obviously plagiarized from someone else’s file. Did he not catch the reference to the film ‘Species’?! I’m pretty sure that my book has NEVER been title ‘Species’ or anything like that…
Lenny’s agreement also had a number of financial arrangements set up throughout this shit-mess of a document. I kept re-reading, trying to find the part where I sign over ownership of my soul along with that of any children’s down the line. This “contract” – if you can call it that – had more inaccuracies and new agreements than anything discussed. He was clearly trying to get one over on me. I may have been wet behind the ears when it came to contracts (Hell, I may still be naïve to such things), but this shit show would only take a dummy to fall for such things. You can flatter me all day, but if you shit in my lap, I don’t want much more to do with you. Unfortunately, this is just how it works, at least in my world. The money he had originally requested had been amended so many times between our phone call, his e-mail, and the end result of the agreement. Somehow the “five hundred dollar fee” never truly wavered. Lenny’s crazy talk was what seemed to shift. Reading this agreement over and over again, I couldn’t help but think this was a joke. Had a group of friends gotten together to organize this as some sort of prank? This agreement seemed like the best way to sign away my life to an idiot. None of this seemed favorable to me.
You’d think this would be the end, but you would be wrong. Lenny wasn’t going to disappear this quickly. He was looking for a new victim and it seemed that was me, the alleged writer of the film ‘Species’ (according to the shit-ass contract). As I began to do some research on Lenny – something I should have done far earlier in the process – the plot only began to thicken.
Lenny may have seemed somewhat out of touch with the present state of the literary world and he may not have read my work, but I thought I was selling the shit out of it. All I needed was one person with the right connections. Right? Perhaps this was the case, but Lenny was not getting a penny from me. I was in a place of desperation, having just lost my job without an idea of what would come next. While I wanted to shift all focus into publishing a book, it wasn’t yet written and I didn’t even have twenty dollars to spend on securing an agent. Lenny was not a great salesman, but I was sold. In actuality, Lenny sounded like a crooked old man on the other end of the phone from me. A lot can be translated through a telephone line and I felt like I was talking to a swarmier version of the Jason Alexander character ‘George Costanza’ from the great TV sitcom ‘Seinfeld’. If ‘George Costanza’ could maintain his unappealingly gross persona on the program, maybe Lenny could as well. While I could feel the sweat dripping from his forehead spilling over through my cell phone, he was loving everything that came from my mouth. I couldn’t fault him for the flattery. As I said before, flattery will get you everywhere with me. While it was going somewhere, I couldn’t help but say no to the money. I wanted his help, but I knew money was not meant to be exchanged for a proper agent’s representation.
As quickly as I said no to his request of a “five hundred dollars for your future”, he turned on a bit of the charm. This George Costanza-esque character was desperate. I could feel the pathetic desperation through the phone, but I had all my own dire circumstances. Perhaps we would be able to help each other. And maybe I was the big client he had been waiting to appear. He kept asking me if there was a dollar amount for a successful future. “Don’t you see how little this five-hundred dollars will be in the great scheme of things?! You won’t even remember that money when you’re on TV answering questions from Jay Leno!” As enticing as this was, I couldn’t help but wonder why he was asking me for this money if so much was going to happen for me.
I stood my ground, refusing to pay the five-hundred dollar fee. The conversation did not stop there, however. Lenny continued to play his sales-speech on me. While the flattery had done wonders, I wasn’t in the position for paying any money. As he continued pressing me for funds, I kept explaining that I would not be paying a dime. Eventually he wore me down and I opened up to him. “I can’t afford that right now. I’m really sorry, but I have a load of past due bills and this just isn’t something I can do today.” That’s where I fucked up. I should have kept my ground about the money. There was no reason to explain or go into detail as to why I wouldn’t be sending Lenny money. Just by saying that I couldn’t afford the fee right now gave Lenny the room to further negotiate. I should have stood firm on my stance, but this was my first time speaking to an agent in any right, so I thought he would back off feeling some sort of empathy. This would have been the case with a hotshot agent sitting in his Beverly Hills digs, but as I said before, this was the George Costanza of literary agents. Chances are he was sitting in a coffee shop asking for free refills and a complimentary muffin while creating an office space among paying customers.
Lenny then changed his sales speech. “Well, how much can you afford right now? I’ll adjust our agreement to allow you to pay the bulk of the money down the line.” How would I be paying down the line? Isn’t that when I’ll be pulling in the big bucks? Lenny had no consistency to his behavior, although looking back, he had one specific strain of thought: money. Once he began asking me for money, the issues never faded. Whether he was cutting me a deal or not, he was still going to obtain some level of financing from my side. “How about you pay one-fifty up front, with the manuscript, in order to get it out to the top publishing houses?” It never really occurred to me that given my current state of lacking material, there was no way that I was going to have something good enough for a publishing house. Any good agent would have told me that from the get go, but we weren’t dealing with that, but rather with Lenny.
The conversation hit a weird plateau as I had no intentions of sending him a dollar and he seemed convinced that I would be. “Let me send you our contract and we can schedule a meeting for next week. How’s Monday for you? At the Starbucks on Robertson and Olympic. See you then.” He didn’t even give me a chance to respond. As I hung up the phone, I had a mixed wave of emotions. Did I really have an agent? Was I going to figure out a way to send Lenny money? Could I write an entire manuscript during the course of a weekend? I didn’t have the answers to any of these questions, but I was reeling with excitement. As any writer can tell you, rejection is a big part of this world. Rarely does someone experience a lack of “no’s”, but I wanted to believe this was going to be the case for me.
This Craigslist advertisement changed everything for me. Looking over the ridiculous nature of this posting placed publicly on Craigslist and the ridiculous grammar mistakes, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was how it was all going to happen for me. I wanted so badly for it to be this easy, responding to a Craigslist posting, that I chose to ignore the obvious red flags. Tom Cruise wasn’t discovered through Craigslist and neither was Chelsea Handler, but maybe this would be different for me… All I could think about was how great this story would be if it was that easy.
I e-mailed this Craigslist advertisement as quickly as I finished reading the posting. Within five minutes or so of sending an e-mail, I received a response:
“Do you have a completed script; or manuscript; if not; do you have a budget for a writer; I will call you.
There was no addressing of me or my name, let alone his insane overuse of semi-colons. I happen to have quite the love of semi-colons, but even I know when it’s that overdone. He included a list of his credits beneath his name. They were all exciting large credits, but for a different time. Lenny’s huge list of accomplishments were no longer relevant by at least twenty years. There were a number of projects that had his name attached to them, but not one had been after 1991. While I saw the red flags once again, I was somewhat overcome with excitement at the potential of being picked up by an agent. This was the first time I so much as contacted an agent and here I was with a response in under ten minutes. I went into this with a certain naivety that must have read from my e-mail to him. Judging by the fact that no reputable agent lists their submission requirements on Craigslist, I should have known, but as I’ve said before, I didn’t.
Lenny called me a few minutes after sending me his responding e-mail. You’d think his open schedule of availability to get back to me this quickly would have suggested a lackluster roster of clients, but I just thought my “one sentence” was that compelling! Receiving his call from an unknown number, we began chatting about the book and what I hoped for its future. At the time, I wasn’t more than twenty pages in, but I knew my long-winded self and figured I could finish within a few months with the right team behind me. Lenny explained how brilliant he thought my idea was and how unique it would be. “I see big things for you, Raanan. I want to blast this. Get ready for Leno, Letterman, and all the talk show circuits. This is gonna be huge and I only represent the biggest projects!” After the initial excitement of having this man represent me wore off, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was working on currently. Who were his big projects? I began probing him with questions and his response seemed understandable. “Well, I’ve become very successful over the years, repping so many of Hollywood’s biggest talents. The last few years I’ve taken a back seat because nothing has really inspired me. Your idea for a book is the first in a long time that grabbed me. I want to read your story and I want the world to know who you are!” Flattery will get you everywhere with me and here he was, appealing to my senses.
As the conversation continued on, he began pressuring me for a finished manuscript. The truth was that I only had twenty or so pages at the moment and that does not make a book. Some of my blog posts are just as long as that. Lenny was promising me fame, success, and money. “You’re not going to know what hit you.” Still, he hadn’t read more than a few words from me, matched with our telephone conversation. I overlooked all of this, taken by the excitement of it all. Lenny wanted my finished manuscript the following week. I can easily churn out a good fifty to sixty pages in less than eight hours, so I thought: “No problem.” The problem with this method is that while I can write so much in such a short time, it’s often the furthest from polished. You wouldn’t expect Kim Kardashian’s makeup to be painted in less than six hours, so how could I think a book would be? Still, I was taken with all of this and Lenny wanted it all to start happening as quickly as possible. I agreed to have the book in his hands, claiming I needed the weekend to just edit things. Really, I was planning to spend the weekend without a lick of sleep, writing away.
The other caveat of Lenny and my initial agreement was going to be money. While I am more than well aware of money-thieving practices under the allure of a business, I couldn’t help but silence my rational mind. I wanted so badly, so quickly, to believe this was all legit that I couldn’t acknowledge the murky nature of this all. Lenny asked me for the one-time fee of five-hundred dollars. This was needed to ensure I was serious about the project and pay for overnighting my manuscript to different publishing houses right away. When I raised the slightest doubt as to this agreement, Lenny grew pompous. “I have worked with the biggest names in Hollywood, entertainment, and literature, and I have the best connections you’ll ever see. You can go to any agent you like, but I will get your book read at ‘Simon & Schuster’ and names like that. Isn’t that what you want?!” It was, but I didn’t have five-hundred dollars to give. And, if I was going to be such a huge success, landing me on talk shows like Leno and Letterman as quickly as tomorrow, shouldn’t there be some money fronted on his end? If he was going to receive a percentage of my earnings when I did hit it big and I was paying for the overhead fees now, what was he bringing to the table outside these amazing contacts from so many years ago?
A number of years ago, I was talked into a monthly subscription for a modeling agency that recruited me one day. I was told that I would be the next biggest thing to hit the modeling world. Foolishly, I took the flattery as well as the bait. I began paying almost fifty dollars a month for well over a year without one single audition coming my way. Given my clear naivety for anyone offering to help me with my dreams, I had a little more perspective with Lenny than I had when I began my “modeling career” years before.
Sometimes I wonder how this whole “writing” endeavor really started. I have always had a flare for the pen, but then again, I’ve also had a talent for the penis. As I’m not out there cementing a life as a porn star, this makes me question why I started writing. But, there’s always time. If ever a hard day comes when my abs are in true form, who knows what will happen…
Either way, my writing came along somewhat organically. I have always shared my commentary with friends and colleagues alike over the years, finding many people promoting I start a blog or pen a book. Growing up in the oppressive world of Orthodox Judaism, I never had a flare for the teachings of my childhood. I wasn’t a very motivated child when it came to school, most often concerned with an overwhelming sense of discomfort with my surroundings. On a daily basis, I was declared stupid by adults and teachers alike. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would have a talent for anything even slightly intellectual.
The five years I spent in Los Angeles changed my perspective on all of this. I may not be a Harvard graduate or an alumni from Cornell University like Ann Coulter, but I’m also not a ‘Fox News’ correspondent proving my intellect higher than it could have been. For years in the concrete jungle of Southern California, friends and acquaintances alike urged me to start a blog or put the pen to paper. I contemplated this many times, but it wasn’t until the latter half of my LA stay that got me truly motivated. After a number of years in the luxury sales industry, I found myself without a job. I didn’t have a clue as to what I would be doing next. A close friend at the time urged me to start penning a book. “Write about your life, Raanan. There’s so much there and if anyone has enough to say that will fill a book, it’s you!” All of a sudden, my journey had real purpose. “I’m going to write a book.” This was the next step in my life. Oprah (Lord) knows I have a lot to say and have experienced a shit ton of crazy experiences. I couldn’t help but think: “Why not?!” And with that, I began on this journey, remembering that I may not have a degree from Cornell, but more people (that I like) enjoy hearing me speak than Ann Coulter...
Finding the right platform to begin this process, I was urged to find an agent. Acquiring representation in Los Angeles is about as common as sunlight in Southern California. This is a sought after need of most that move to town. It would be far easier to find a job waxing a Kardashian’s gorilla bikini area than procuring your own agent. Everyone wants representation and a level of infamy in the pretentious place I called home for so long. I didn’t know where to start and I had no idea what to do. Seeking advice from friends in the industry, I found myself with little assistance to excelling this journey.
One day, while scouring Craigslist in hopes of a job, I found myself in the “ETC” section of the site. All of a sudden, I found a job posting promising everything I had ever wanted. “Sell your Book or Manuscript” was the posted title along with the financial compensation listed as twenty-five thousand dollars or more. New to the scene, this promise of quick money was the most enticing part. True, I’ve never heard of my favorite writers acquiring their book agents through Craigslist, I was overly optimistic. I wanted this to be true, so I looked past the initial red flags. David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, and Josh Kilmer-Purcell (My three heroes) never found their literary routes through Craigslist, but perhaps my journey would be different. As I clicked on the Craigslist posting, I found the following advertisement:
“Looking for writers that have a compelling story to tell. If you have a story that you believe in, and you can’t believe it’s not at your local Barnes & Noble or on Movie Screen, then e-mail me.
“Say in one sentence what your story is about? You can’t… Then how do you expect to sell your movie or book; You can’t… Do the best you can.
“You could make $5,000, $25,000, $125,000, $250,000, it all depends on your story and if it connect with public?
“This is not a guarantee you will make it, it means you could make it, it depends how strong your story is.
“You make money by the number of books you sell, or how much your script sells for.
“You must be committed and motivated, and have a passion for your story and believe in it.
“I’ve worked with every and any celebrity that is anything, you want to work with me.”