Page 46 - Vol. VI #10
P. 46

 My first novel is rejected thirty-eight times. This is many years ago when the big publishers in New York had a stranglehold on the book industry, and my hard work, sweat and blood is turned down by every one of them. When my agent reaches the end of the list, she starts over, right back at the top, beginning again alphabetically with the “A’s,” as in Arbor House and proceeding to the “B’s,” as in Ballentine’s, and so on and so forth. At this point I’m twenty-seven years old, but I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and I want it badly. To be published. To hold it in my hands, my own words, typeset and bound between hard covers. I dream about the art work on the dust jacket. I want to see my picture on the back, too, beneath a glowing endorsement from a famous writer, something mod- est along the lines of my being “a brilliant new voice in American writing.” They could substitute magnifi- cent or astonishing for brilliant and I wouldn’t mind. I’m not picky.
On Selling a Book to New York
Book One
My editor quits her job several months before my novel is released. An older, more experienced writer friend of mine says I should be worried. Your editor, he tells me, is your most important ally in the cut- throat, corporate world of publishing, and without an advocate in your corner, without someone to guide your precious manuscript through the dark, often cronyistic labyrinth of the book business, you’re in deep trouble. I choose to believe differently. I choose to believe that my friend is just bitter because the novel he published didn’t sell well. Besides, the editor who replaces the one who bought my book assures me that she “loves it death,” and though she doesn’t always return my calls when I check in to see how things are going, I assume it’s only because she’s busy, still figuring out the ropes of her new job.
Fortunately, though I’m already a heavy drinker, it has yet to affect my ambitions or output as a writer. Hung over or not, I keep a strict schedule, rising at four in the morning to squeeze in a couple hours of writing before I have to go to work. I do this five or six days
When the novel is released, I receive a handful of reviews, with the book industry journals weighing in first. Publisher’s Weekly gives it a good one but some misguided, mean-spirted jerk at Kirkus pans it. Each Sunday I’m excited to get my copy of the venerable New York Times Book Review, hoping to find my book and picture plastered on the cover, and each Sunday the venerable New York Times Book Review makes a mistake and puts some other, less worthy title on the front page. So I flip through the whole thing, assum- ing that at the very least I’ll discover a glowing fea- ture review, but each week I am disappointed. There is not, in the end, even the mere mention of my exis- tence. And in terms of other publicity and fanfare, the publisher neglects to send me on a nationwide tour
of book stores, universities and book clubs. I do not appear on any of the morning TV talk shows. There are also no radio interviews. I give a few signings at local bookstores, but after the first one, well attended by family and other writer friends, I don’t draw more than six or seven people, and that’s counting the store clerks.
a week. Fortunately I also have an agent who works hard for me, a rare breed in a business of bottom-lines and fleeting loyalties, and it takes her more than a year to get through the alphabet. This is ample time for the musical chairs of the publishing industry to lose and replace more than a few editors and execu- tives. In this case, the President of Arbor House is out of a job, and his loss is my gain. A young editor there wanted my novel the first time it crossed her desk, and if not for her boss, who nixed the idea, I would’ve undoubtedly already hit the best seller’s list. I am, however, a forgiving man. I harbor no resentments. After a grand total of thirty-nine submissions, my novel finally finds a home.
Of course this is good reason to break out the bottle. Sometimes I drink alone, but mostly I drink with my best buddy who also happens to be a writer. Unlike my regular non-writer friends, he never tires of my whining and complaining, often matching or better- ing my own sob stories with ones of his own. It’s our own private little pity party. But eventually it comes to an end and we return to work, consoling ourselves with the belief that we must learn from our experi- ence, shake it off and move on. Real writers write despite all obstacles, rejections and disappointments. We are tough. We are resilient. Writing is what we
The advance is small, about enough to pay a couple months’ rent on my rundown one-bedroom apart- ment, but I’m grateful to get it. Thirty-eight rejections has a way of humbling a person, especially us sensi- tive, artistic writer types, and regardless of the money, or lack of it, I am ecstatic. Nine months from now I’ll be a published novelist. Fame and wealth will follow soon enough. Everything is falling neatly into place and I couldn’t be more pleased.
But there’s a glitch. 37
JaMeS brown

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