I rarely write about the novel I published some six or seven years ago. In fact, until very recently, I would have preferred if it had never been published. This was the third novel I had written, and I got an agent for it very quickly. In fact, this agent called me a week after I put it in the mail, called and told me that she had read it on only three hours sleep and despite being exhausted could not put it down.
I was thrilled. She was a good agent with contacts at all the major publishing houses. She represented a number of bestsellers. And almost as soon as I hung up the phone with her, I decided that she didn’t count. I would only know if the book was really any good, and therefore if I was any good, when a publisher said, “Yes.” Unfortunately, even as she was sending emails explaining to whom she would be submitting, I could not imagine the book selling. It felt no more real than me winning the lottery.
And so it didn’t sell. Editor after editor said, “Good, but not for us.” This made perfect sense to me. This is what I felt I deserved. Finally, she was out of editors to send to and I found a tiny, tiny publisher whom I convinced to publish it. It was a terrible experience. They were a year late publishing, the final product was filled with typos, I had to beg for my two author copies, and I was only paid half of the pittance I was owed. And yet this matched exactly how I felt about the book. I didn’t believe it was really any good, and so the book received the treatment I felt it deserved.
However, at this time, if I read anything at all I read only The Greats. I did not read my peers, the other men and women doing their best to write and publish books that were not perfect or canonized but were worthy of being read. Recently my wife pulled that book of mine from our bookshelf and said, “Hey. Look at this.”
So I did. I had not read a word of it since it had been published. But on this day I sat down with this old thing and read a chapter or two and discovered that I had been wrong: if that book had come across my desk now I would have wanted to interview its writer. I returned the book to its spot on the shelf feeling relieved. How nice to rewrite an ugly chapter of my publishing history. And how reassuring to see once again that the world gives you exactly what you ask for.
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