I love it when my blog readers send me articles. One I received, recently, was in reference to my remarks about J.K. Rowling’s new mystery, The Cuckoo’s Calling, which she wrote under the pen name, Robert Galbraith. (Aug 6, 2013) The book sold 1500 copies before the identity of the author was discovered. After that revelation, it shot up to the New York Times Best Seller list. The article I received, however, was not about Rowling but about Chuck Ross, an author whose name, I suspect, isn’t a household word.
Like most of us who put pen to paper, Chuck Ross wrote a novel he believed was worthy of serious attention, or so writes Bob Green in his CNN Opinion column. Full of hope, Ross sent his manuscript to several publishers but before long, the rejections came flying back. The verdict against him was unanimous which made Ross question his sanity. He decided to set up a test to determine who was crazier, him or the publishers.
He began by retyping a copy of the novel, Steps by Jerzy Kosinski which won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1969. Next, he sent it out under his name to the top publishing houses in the country. All of his submissions were rejected. Houghton Mifflin, who published 3 of Kosinski’s books wrote Ross a letter about his work. It noted similarities between his novel and that of Jerzy Kosinski’s, but added that, as a whole, the story didn’t hold up and “gives the impression of sketchiness and incompleteness.” If that response didn’t stupefy, the one from Random House, the company that actually published Steps did. His submission didn’t warrant any comment. They sent him a form rejection letter. (http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/21/opinion/greene-rowling-author/index.html?eref=igoogledmn_topstories#cb=f326fa319d1129c&origin=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnn.com%2Ff32428fde219822&domain=www.cnn.com&relation=parent&error=not_authorized )
Ross got the same reception from 13 of the top literary agents as well. One wrote that Ross’s style was too fragmented and too dreamlike and held no interest. (Ibid)
Exasperated, the plagiarist went to the American Booksellers Association convention to confess his sin and allow the publishers to see what fools they’d been. Did they show embarrassment? Remorse? No. They laughed and shrugged, “So What?”
“So What?” I huffed when I’d finished the article, as incredulous about their attitude as Ross must have been. I can think of any number of answers to “So What’?” For a start, it may be true that failure to pick up a few good novels may have no drastic effect on a publisher’s bottom line, but it deprives readers of choices and the good writing they deserve. “So what?” discourages an author’s inventiveness and encourages him or her to stick to beach reads that sell. “So What?” means literature is reduced to pap. That’s “So what!”
(Courtesy of www.nag.co.za)