I’ve seen many book pitches over the years from authors and publicists hoping to cajole me into reviewing a particular book. The pitch from Cedar Rapids native and Mount Mercy University graduate Matthew Udermann ranks among the oddest.
“CR Native Writes/Published Book in 3 Months” read the subject line of Udermann’s email. A short window for creation doesn’t often correlate to a high level of quality when it comes to books. But Udermann not only creates quickly; he wants potential reviewers to read quickly, too: “If you’d be so kind to take 10 minutes to take look (it’s a ‘non-novel’, so you’ll get the flavor quickly), and offer a ‘book blurb’ (25 — 100 works of what you think), I’d much appreciate it.” (The typos were in the original pitch.)
Instead, I replied asking for the full book rather than the excerpt he had attached. With what appears to be his trademark alacrity, Udermann sent “One in a Million — Life to the Fullest” right away. The book presents a collection of activities one might undertake and the likelihood that an American accomplished that activity in 2013. It’s attractively packaged with good graphics, and it simply couldn’t be more upbeat in tone as Udermann encourages us to define our goals and pursue them passionately.
The book has a certain quality of hucksterism, however, an impression highlighted by a card inserted in the book that informs readers how to purchase more copies or hire Udermann as a motivational speaker. Also, some of the “goals” included in the book seem peculiar at best. We are given the opportunity, for example, to mark in the book that we intend to survive a car crash or have plastic surgery in our pursuit of a full life. And there are other anomalies, too. We are told that 0.7311 percent of Americans visited the Eiffel Tower last year, but that only 0.5068 percent visited Paris, the city in which the tower can be found.
Still, “One in a Million,” which is due to be launched in April, does highlight the wealth of opportunities our world presents for adventure. The execution is imperfect — perhaps due to an overemphasis on rapidity — but the spirit of optimism and adventure is nevertheless palpable.
Rob Cline is a writer and published author, marketing director for University of Iowa’s Hancher and director of literary events for New Bo Books, a division of Prairie Lights.