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Ben Tanzer

Ben Tanzer is the author of the books 99 Problems, You Can Make Him Like You, My Father's House and So Different Now, among others.


"Ben Tanzer combines part Nick Hornby, part Neal Pollack, and part good ole' fashioned Midwestern denial in this funny, meditative coming-of-age journey from selfish assholedom to poignant modern fatherhood."

– Gina Frangello, author of Slut Lullabies and My Sister's Continent

"You Can Make Him Like You is Woody Allen meets Tom Perrotta--an honest, compelling look at desire, marriage, fatherhood, and all the beauty and ugly in between."

– Lindsay Hunter, author of Daddy's

"Every page of this novel reverberates with wit, wisdom, and a bone crushing honesty. Ben Tanzer is that rare writer and this is that rare book: dudes will want to have a beer with him (and maybe listen to that new Hold Steady album, too), women will want to sit down and talk, and everybody will want to read this book again."

– Dave Housely, editor of Barrelhouse and author of Ryan Seacrest is Famous

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You Can Make Him Like You

When Publishing a Book Becomes More than Publishing a Book


When I think about You Can Make Him Like You I feel incredibly lucky to have published it; to have been any part of it at all means the world to me. My goal as a publisher has always been to honor great writing with great design, but YCMHLY went beyond that -- it became a journey unlike any other book I’ve had to the good fortune to be a part of.

So, let’s see if I can trace this correctly. I’d seen Ben Tanzer’s name around. I knew he had a book published by Orange Alert, a place that had been an early supporter of my own writing. That book took its title from a Bob Dylan song, so obviously I was intrigued. But before I ever got a chance to pick up one of his books Ben submitted a short story to Artistically Declined Press’s .pdf ebook series. The story was great and I was excited to have a writer whose name I recognized, but with whom I’d had no personal experience submitting something. I accepted the piece within a week, and within days, maybe hours, Ben friended me on Facebook.

Ben and I exchanged a few messages and he mentioned he had finished a new book. He very cautiously made sure I didn’t feel like he was soliciting me when he told me he thought I would really dig the book, that he felt there was something going on -- some sort of connection that made him feel like this book would up my alley.

Being the careful person I try to be, I told him I wasn’t looking for manuscripts, but to send it to me anyway, that I would like to read it. It was, after all, titled after a Hold Steady song. Naturally I was intrigued.

I knew within a few pages of starting You Can Make Him Like You that it was something special. I quickly emailed my publishing partner at the time and she responded in a manner that affirmed my initial feeling, that this was a big book. A book any small press would be lucky to get its hands on. A book that could easily be published by any major publisher. So for a relatively new publisher like ADP we both felt we better snatch it up. Quick.

Tanzer is not only a relentless book writing machine, he’s got an enthusiasm that spreads to all he associates with. Putting YCMHLY together was a great experience. It wasn’t without its difficulties, but where some writers might approach the publishing process as a self-centric journey, Tanzer focused on it as a team effort. Where I was constantly concerned with doing right by him and his book, he was constantly concerned with doing right by the press.

Sometimes you publish a book and the relationship with the writer is just about the book and there is nothing wrong with that. They can be fantastic relationships. But with Tanzer it went deeper. Our conversations never ended -- rarely did they break for more than a day. It felt like I was talking to someone I’d been friends with my whole life. At AWP 2011, as we geared up to release YCMHLY, I met Ben Tanzer for the first time in person and we split a hotel room. Even if you’ve talked to someone a million times through emails it can still be awkward in person, but that wasn’t the case.

We’re moving toward the one-year anniversary of YCMHLY and the book’s seen some exciting successes. But more than anything, even more than being a part of publishing a fantastic book by a fantastic writer, the most exciting thing to me will always be how it gained me another brother.

I published YCMHLY because it was well-written and because it spoke to me both as a man, husband, father, and writer. While I might not relate to the particulars of the protagonist’s adult coming of age journey in the book, I recognize the soul of that journey. The urge and desire to be the best version of yourself as a man, friend, husband, and potentially a father without any sort of knowledge or road map for how to get there. I recognize the urge as a writer to deal with difficulties in relationships and coming to terms with what it means to have all the labels of man, father, husband, etc.

People often talk about “women’s fiction,” books that speak to women about their lives and mindsets, while entertaining them. Tanzer writes the very best kind of men’s fiction, and I don’t use such a label chauvinistically. Tanzer writes about every aspect of a man, whether flattering or not. He does it with soul, and that’s what makes people gravitate toward his writing and his personality. It’s why his books appeal to both men and women. It is what makes him the best sort of friend and brother from another mother, because What Would Tanzer Do? wouldn’t be a bad credo for any of us as writers or people.

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  1. Samuel Snoek-Brown said on 02/27/12 at 12:56 am Reply

    This is a fantastic tribute to Ben Tanzer and a wonderful account of how to publish a book with heart. By that I mean that it’s clear how much you care about every aspect of the book publishing process, and most especially how much you care about the writer.

    Thanks for sharing this, man! Fantastic piece.

    Have a blast in Chicago this year!


    Ryan W. Bradley said on 02/27/12 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks, Sam. I definitely got into publishing because of how much I care about writers, and how much I care about the treatment they and their work deserve. I hope I am always to honor that with and that it is always evident in how I operate!

  2. Jordan Blum said on 03/02/12 at 10:23 am Reply

    Wonderful post, Ryan. I think you really express how small presses seem to be [at least] partially more concerned with the quality and uniqueness of a book than with its mainstream appeal. In other words, it’s better to publish a special book and earn less money than to make a bit more money with a generic, commerical book. And I agree that there should be “Men’s fiction,” and it doesn’t have to revolve around stereotypes. I’m definitely interested in reading this book now.


    Ryan W. Bradley said on 03/05/12 at 11:46 pm

    Thanks, Jordan! I wholly agree. And I express to folks all the time that for me it is more important to put books I love in print, and do so in a beautiful manner than anything else. I run ADP on passion, not on business acumen 🙂

    I hope you get a chance to pick up the book, and if you do I hope you enjoy the read!

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