Visited my doc the other day, clutching my list of ‘things-I-must-remember-to-ask-him’ in my sweaty hand. It doesn’t matter that we’re in autumn/winter; my hand always sweats when I go to the doc. Also, my brain goes into an ‘oh-lord-the-doc’s-again’ fog and I usually forget why I’m there; hence, the list. It was going to be a quick visit. (Mind you, I say that every time. I’m a glass half-full person.) I thought I’d be out in 5. But, we got talking about authors and literature and…
‘Have you heard of James Lee Burke?’ the doc says.
Yes, I say, I know the name.
I wasn’t lying; the name did ring a bell. But, I was in the fog zone, so that was as far as it went right then. I googled him when I got home. He’s a crime novel author, and a darned good one at that.
‘I saw a documentary about him on the TV the other night,’ the doc says. ‘One of his novels (the Lost Get-Back Boogie) was rejected over 100 times (111 times over a 9 year period) before it was finally picked up. When it was published it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize! How about that? I thought it might encourage you.’
I’m still working out whether I’m encouraged, disheartened, numb, bemused, annoyed… I mean, everyone and his flipping dog rejects the thing and it’s nominated for the Pulitzer?!! That’s just WRONG. My doc said, ‘Who makes these crazy decisions? It’s a miracle that anything decent gets published.’ Amen, brother, you’re preaching to the choir.
I don’t have any expectation that one of my books will ever be nominated for a prestigious award (but fingers crossed, and please-oh-please-oh-please). However, I’ve read, reviewed and edited enough books to know that my latest effort isn’t too bad. In fact, I dare to say it’s pretty good. But, I thought that about the other rejects. sigh.
I think it’s high time we get the accountants back to the bean-counting room, and out of the editorial decision-making. Too often I’ve heard: the editorial staff all loved it, but the money people don’t think it was worth the risk/didn’t think it’d sell enough/don’t think there’s enough profit in it. I think the literary experts should decide what’s worth publishing, and then the marketting wallahs can actually do the marketting (instead of leaving it to the author), and the accountants can go back to balancing the spread sheets, investing the profits and counting the cash. I realise it’s a revolutionary concept, but I reckon it’s worth a try. It’s so crazy, it just might work!
One thing I have learned from Mr Burke’s example: You’ve got to have bucket-loads of self-belief and a tonne of perseverance (or sheer bloody-mindedness). Okay: putting shoulder back to the wheel, nose to the grind-stone and (despite the uncomfortable and, let’s face it, ridiculous pose)…pushing…pushing…