Monday, May 09, 2005

Resilient writers

Catherine Wald is currently beating the drum for her new book The Resilient Writer -- tales of rejection and triumph by 23 top authors.

Catherine and her book are noteworthy for a number of reasons, so let's go through them.

First, the book. It consists of interviews with 23 writers who tell us how often, and how painfully, they were rejected, and then how they finally made it to success of one kind or another. More specifically, the writers are Elizabeth Benedict, Mary Kay Blakely, Chris Bohjalian, Wesley Brown, Frederick Busch, David Ebershoff, Bret Easton Ellis, Janet Fitch, Arthur Golden, Joy Harjo, E. Lynn Harris, Kathryn Harrison, Bill Henderson, Wally Lamb, Betsy Lerner, Elinor Lipman, Bret Lott, M. J. Rose, Esmeralda Santiago, Bob Shacochis, Amy Tan, Edmund White, and William Zinsser.

Chris Bohjalian, for example, opened 250 rejection letters before he sold his first short story. Joy Harjo submitted three different collections of poetry to the same publishing house until she was finally accepted; and E. Lynn Harris published and hawked his own first novel, though he is now published by Random House.

If you want a taster of the book's contents, you can find the interview with Arthur Golden here.

Should Catherine's book appeal to you, and it certainly looks interesting in principle, it is available at a modest cost from both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. The author's purpose is to provide both inspiration and guidance. And if, she says, her book convinces some people that the writing life is not for them, then that might not be such a bad thing either.

Catherine's latest also illustrates a circumstance which modern authors have to deal with, namely that they are well advised to devote some time and attention to marketing their own work.

In Catherine's case, she is published by a relatively small press, Persea Books. Unfortunately, unless I am pressing the wrong buttons, the Persea Books web site does not seem to have been updated recently. And although Catherine's book is listed on both major English-speaking Amazon sites, the UK site carries almost zero information about it. Such are the problems created by small presses -- and even big ones from time to time.

Very sensibly, Catherine is running her own push for the book. This has involved sending out a press release and a Q and A sheet, and she is shortly to go on a virtual book tour, details of which will be given here when I have them.

Prior to writing The Resilient Writer, Catherine had also made a notable mark on the scene by master-minding The Rejection Collection, a web site which collects all sorts of other information about the problems of rejection. This has about 3,000 visitors a week and features a variety of material, ranging from bitter complaints about the shortcomings of agents and publishers (a never-ending story) to much more constructive items such as the interview with Bill Henderson of Pushcart Press.

Meanwhile, over at the Book Standard, there is an interesting piece about how some of the big publishers are using the ramifications of the web to find new ways of generating that all-important word-of-mouth recommendation which steadily builds sales. Nowadays there are even companies specifically set up to help firms to provide free samples of books (and many other products) to people who have volunteered to act as publicity agents for anything that they feel able to endorse. Definitely worth a look.

1 comment:

Anastasia said...

This has to be the second site I'm glad I've found this week. The first one was a fantasy-thriller writers site here in Australia and his section on the realities met me after I woke up to recieve a rejection letter. The section, I suppose, would have been a horrific read but for some odd reason it made me feel better. It didn't jingle those 'I'm not torturing myself. Am I a masochist?' bells but it was interesting just the same.

The link is
http://members.ozemail.com.au/~irvinei/index.html

But I'll definitely look up Resilient Writers.
It's funny how, depending on one's mood, one can feel isolated in relation to rejection. A person will often make it personal and it's important to separate one's self from a rejection letter.