Writing a book is something that I aspire to do one day. Sadly, I lack both the patience and the determination to actually do it. Nick Miller does not. For the past two years, the 28-year-old had been steadily working and reworking his novel- Isn’t It Pretty To Think So?
until its release earlier this month.
The book, if you haven’t read it, is a hipster’s wet dream. The story drifts dreamily through those familiar fantasies outsiders always have of Los Angeles – celebrities, partying, sex and drugs. The main character, Jake Reed, frequents the hippest hotspots and watering holes, runs with a crowd of C-list reality stars and lives in a Sodom-and-Gomorrah-inspired mansion in the Hollywood Hills – where every fantasy he’s ever had easily comes to life. But woven throughout the scenes of unadulterated hedonism, there is also a coming-of-age tale about a regular guy who wants to be extraordinary– he just doesn’t know how to do it.
When I met Nick recently, I asked him if his book was a memoir in disguise. I didn’t know him, but the writing, to me, still felt like it was peering into his diary.
He denied it:
“Although it reads like one, it’s definitely not a memoir… I’d say there are several semi-autobiographical elements to the book, in that the places… where the protagonist spends his time are places I’m quite familiar with. And, admittedly, some of the characters in the novel are very loosely inspired by shades of real people I’ve spent time with. But much of the novel, like the final third, is entirely imagined.”
I still have my doubts, though. It’s hard to say how much of the book is fantasy. Like Nick, Jake, admits he is a struggling writer who has a predilection for alcohol and is somewhat of a ladies’ man. Certain key incidents, such as the first time Jake tries cocaine or the way he outrageously quits his marketing job, also suggest experience.
During our encounter, I couldn’t help but be taken with Nick. He’s charming, modest, and completely dismissive of the fact that he devoted the last few years of his life to writing a book. There were no traces of an inebriated boy at the bar. It seemed that the writing process, had curbed some bad habits.
“I quit drinking to stay focused,” he says. In fact, Nick admits that he spent most days and nights hiding in his room “neglecting my friends and family, and avoiding any romantic entanglements. I talked to myself a lot. I paced around my room.”
He admits that the process “was filled with really high highs and really low lows” that mirrored his extreme personality. Insomnia, panic attacks and doubt became a part of his daily routine, yet he describes those shining high moments as “pure bliss” or “pure joy.”
Nick among stacks of his newly published book
Perhaps the most extraordinary facet of Nick’s writing process is how public it was. Since he began a tumblr blog in 2010, Nick has amassed a steady readership of online fans. This built-in audience has been privy to sneak peeks and excerpts from his novel, before it was even really a novel. But this is no ordinary group of well wishers composed of family and friends, but a massive army of more than 100,000 fans who bombard his site with thousands of responses of encouragement and little red hearts each time he posts – whether it is a photograph or a single quote.
These fans would eventually become the backbone of his Kickstarter campaign, which would provide funding to support Nick while he worked on his novel. It was his good friend and soon-to-be publisher Jesse Young who would orchestrate the campaign and push Nick into the spotlight. After he received a handful of rejections from literary agents, Jesse says that he persuaded Nick to let him publish the book himself.
“I knew he had something good on his hands, and I knew that trying to convince traditional publishers and agents of this fact through unsolicited queries would go nowhere.”
About 56 percent of Kickstarter campaigns fail – moreover only about 32 percent of publishing projects succeed, according to Mashable.
In just 40 days, Nick surpassed his goal of raising $12,000. Jesse would later tell me that he believed in the success of Nick’s book so much that he even helped to support him financially during this time, providing him with a place to stay and even making his car payments.
Nick, who says that he has “always dreamed of writing a novel” suddenly had the money and the support to do so.
So that’s exactly what Nick did. He wrote every day until he had a first draft and then quit his job, (incurring quite a bit of debt) yet he avers, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Isn’t It Pretty to Think So? was published earlier this month, in both paperback and digital formats. It recently peaked at No. 300 on Barnes and Noble book, No. 4000 at the Amazon Kindle store and No. 10,000 on Amazon's paperback bestsellers list.
And the reception has been more than positive -- you might say Nick has cultivated an online reputation as a literary talent.
Die-hard groupies attest that his writing is reminiscent of Kerouac or Hemmingway. Zealous fans on Twitter agree:
Still, he says, not everyone is supportive.
“Some of my parents’ more conservative friends still like to pull me aside and say, ‘Now that you’ve finished with your book writing hobby, what are you really going to do with your life?’" he says.
Like Jake, Nick is not quite certain where his future will end up. But is anyone certain?
I can’t help but think of my own future. And how badly I want to write a book and have friends and fans believe in me so much that they’d be willing to support me too.
I ask him, for me and for all of us out there who have yet to pursue our dreams – especially the scary ones that can leave us in a lot of debt. How do you really go after something, when you know you can fail?
Nick is unsympathetic. “If you fail, who fucking cares? Fail with a smile. And then go try again.”
Perhaps, this is how a regular guy becomes extraordinary.
Visit http://aboutnickmiller.com to learn more about Nick Miller.
Click here to purchase his book on Amazon.
Follow me on Twitter: thisjenkim