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A true story about getting published

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  #1  
Old 09-04-2015, 01:26 AM
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Default A true story about getting published


There's this testimonial I read a couple of years ago on some internet-forum that keeps spooking through my head and that I'd like to share with you. I did not download it at the moment and couldn't find the site back afterwards, so I have to bring it anonymously and less than 100 % correct, due to imperfect memory.

There was this young man with great writing skills who decided to become a writer. Not just a writer, he was going to write a masterpiece. He had these insights, he understood what was actually wrong in the world today and he was going to put this in a brilliant novel. So he started writing, frantically, up to sixteen hours a day, and finished a thick novel in a few months time. He sent it out to numerous editors and the few replies he got were polite refusals, without explanations.
So he decided to write an ever better novel and this time use an agent to get it published. He wrote the novel, sent it to numerous agents and got few replies, all refusals.
Year after year he continued writing novels he knew were great and receiving nothing but refusals. Until finally one agent did respond, saying:
"Dear Mr. X. I read your novel and must admit your writing style is very good, one might even say brilliant. Unfortunately, you are not a very nice person and this shines through in your book, so nobody will ever publish it. I'm sorry."
The young writer thanked the agent and never again tried to get a novel published.

I think here is great food for thought. Does your personality unconsciously reflect in your writing and so influences your chances of getting published? Did this young man do the right thing when he stopped writing or should he have tried to somehow detach his personality from his writing? And if so, how?
I look forward to your comments.

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Old 09-04-2015, 07:19 AM
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It sounds like the content was the issue.

The young man had a choice. He had one person reach out to him and give him insight into the problem. He chose to abandon writing rather than address the problem. It's like they say, "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink."
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Old 09-04-2015, 08:07 AM
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Hey Marc.

Interesting question. How does a writer divorce his personality from the work? After all these years of writing the question never occurred to me.

Is it even possible? And in doing so, would it be pleasing to the writer?

Case in point is To Kill a Mockingbird. She wrote the book and many people worked on it, rewriting the parts which contained her racist views. She got a best seller out of hers and other efforts. Did they erase her personality?

Just got called to breakfast. Maybe more on this later.

Have a nice writing day.
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Old 09-04-2015, 08:13 AM
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I revisited this question when I was posting on the favorite opening paragraph thread. It's possible that the personality does come through. Maybe it's the combination of word choice and punctuation. I'm not sure. I do know I'll be thinking about more, though.
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Old 09-05-2015, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Marc Haertjens View Post
There's this testimonial I read a couple of years ago on some internet-forum that keeps spooking through my head and that I'd like to share with you. I did not download it at the moment and couldn't find the site back afterwards, so I have to bring it anonymously and less than 100 % correct, due to imperfect memory.

There was this young man with great writing skills who decided to become a writer. Not just a writer, he was going to write a masterpiece. He had these insights, he understood what was actually wrong in the world today and he was going to put this in a brilliant novel. So he started writing, frantically, up to sixteen hours a day, and finished a thick novel in a few months time. He sent it out to numerous editors and the few replies he got were polite refusals, without explanations.
So he decided to write an ever better novel and this time use an agent to get it published. He wrote the novel, sent it to numerous agents and got few replies, all refusals.
Year after year he continued writing novels he knew were great and receiving nothing but refusals. Until finally one agent did respond, saying:
"Dear Mr. X. I read your novel and must admit your writing style is very good, one might even say brilliant. Unfortunately, you are not a very nice person and this shines through in your book, so nobody will ever publish it. I'm sorry."
The young writer thanked the agent and never again tried to get a novel published.

I think here is great food for thought. Does your personality unconsciously reflect in your writing and so influences your chances of getting published? Did this young man do the right thing when he stopped writing or should he have tried to somehow detach his personality from his writing? And if so, how?
I look forward to your comments.
I think personality does come through. Can a writer detatch? No. Become a better person by choice so it will naturally improve? Yes. Diet I find is the best way to improve character. Exercise also helps. An intelligent person is more likely to be nice naturally or a master villain. I'd say this man was arrogant and conceded. "He knew his novels were good even though no one would touch them. That makes me think he has no hope of changing and having his writing accepted. For if I were repeatedly turned down then told I was a jerk, when someone finally explained why. I would seriously think about whether or not I was a jerk and why I can come across as a jerk in my writing. It is true a writer is a jerk. Because a writer writes for villains. It is equally true that a writer is an extremely competent and compassionate person. And it must be that perfectionist and endlessly patient personality that narrates otherwise you look like a jerk. If a writer can't be every range from good to evil than that person is likely to struggle as a writer. This is strictly my opinion. But here it is.

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Old 09-05-2015, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Marc Haertjens View Post
There's this testimonial I read a couple of years ago on some internet-forum that keeps spooking through my head and that I'd like to share with you. I did not download it at the moment and couldn't find the site back afterwards, so I have to bring it anonymously and less than 100 % correct, due to imperfect memory.

There was this young man with great writing skills who decided to become a writer. Not just a writer, he was going to write a masterpiece. He had these insights, he understood what was actually wrong in the world today and he was going to put this in a brilliant novel. So he started writing, frantically, up to sixteen hours a day, and finished a thick novel in a few months time. He sent it out to numerous editors and the few replies he got were polite refusals, without explanations.
So he decided to write an ever better novel and this time use an agent to get it published. He wrote the novel, sent it to numerous agents and got few replies, all refusals.
Year after year he continued writing novels he knew were great and receiving nothing but refusals. Until finally one agent did respond, saying:
"Dear Mr. X. I read your novel and must admit your writing style is very good, one might even say brilliant. Unfortunately, you are not a very nice person and this shines through in your book, so nobody will ever publish it. I'm sorry."
The young writer thanked the agent and never again tried to get a novel published.

I think here is great food for thought. Does your personality unconsciously reflect in your writing and so influences your chances of getting published? Did this young man do the right thing when he stopped writing or should he have tried to somehow detach his personality from his writing? And if so, how?
I look forward to your comments.

I spent a good two decades in the music business, trying to get a record deal. I know of dozens of brilliant recordings by artists that will never get published or see any sort of mainstream success. No matter how brilliant you are as an artist, or how persistent, there is also a third component involved in success. You can call it luck, or being in the right place at the right time, but success requires it.

Rejections are the norm when art meets business. Art and business do not meet in the middle. The idea that if you're brilliant you'll achieve mainstream success is not true.

Just because one dude told me I was an asshole and it showed in my writing (therefore preventing me from ever getting published) wouldn't make me change what I do as an artist. In fact, it would probably make me double down on what I thought was good.

I have the luxury of a good day job, and a well funded retirement, so maybe I don't have to compromise. I can imagine living in another reality, but thankfully, I don't have to.
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Old 09-06-2015, 01:37 PM
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Good thing for Bukowski that he was such an exemplary human being in real life or he would never have been published.
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Old 09-06-2015, 02:51 PM
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Nick. I value every laugh I get. Thank you for making this evening better.

Bukowski a nice guy and acceptable writer to be published! Just writing that caused me to laugh again.

Thank you again!

Have a nice writing day.
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Old 09-06-2015, 04:23 PM
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Times change. Would Bukowski get published today? I'm not saying he wouldn't, just asking. The agents and reps of today may not choose to publish Hemingway, for example. There's just no way to base current expectations on past actions.
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Old 09-06-2015, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by wrc View Post
Nick. I value every laugh I get. Thank you for making this evening better.

Bukowski a nice guy and acceptable writer to be published! Just writing that caused me to laugh again.

Thank you again!

Have a nice writing day.

I have fun entertaining myself (hey, no one else is up to the task) and when someone else gets a chuckle too - well I believe in going with the flow as long as it is going my way.
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Old 09-06-2015, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by poirot View Post
Would Bukowski get published today?
I would sell everything I have to keep cash flowing from me into efforts to publish him if I came across his ... ahem ... talent languishing on the internet.

Actually there is a writer that I support in spirit and tried to buy some work from for a cash amount (it was deflected) who I believe has what Chinaski had (whatever the hell it is) so I know I am not simply retorting.

So yeah, Bukowski would get published today. I would make it happen.
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Old 09-06-2015, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Pierce View Post
Good thing for Bukowski that he was such an exemplary human being in real life or he would never have been published.
In fact, I was thinking more or less the same about Bret Easton Ellis when I wrote the initial thread...
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Old 09-07-2015, 01:03 AM
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when somebody tells me a true story they read on the internet my first thought is how true is internet truth
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Old 09-07-2015, 01:33 AM
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Originally Posted by wyf View Post
when somebody tells me a true story they read on the internet my first thought is how true is internet truth
I agree one hundred percent. I think a lot about truth myself, see my current signature, if it hasn't changed meanwhile. But I do try to distinguish between truth and honesty, and this story (which I really did read) sounded honest enough to me. That's exactly why it stuck (which truth often doesn't).
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Old 09-07-2015, 02:58 AM
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I think this story has more to do with the importance of getting right with yourself than it does about getting published.

And I think his problem was that he tried to write a brilliant novel rather than to tell a story brilliantly.

There's a difference. The one is all about me, see what a writer I am; look at meee...

The other is about the story, bringing the scenes, the settings, the people and their emotions to life. Fuck the writer.

When you can do that I believe you have a better chance of being published, regardless of what an asshole you are.
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Old 09-07-2015, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Nick Pierce View Post
I would sell everything I have to keep cash flowing from me into efforts to publish him if I came across his ... ahem ... talent languishing on the internet.

Actually there is a writer that I support in spirit and tried to buy some work from for a cash amount (it was deflected) who I believe has what Chinaski had (whatever the hell it is) so I know I am not simply retorting.

So yeah, Bukowski would get published today. I would make it happen.

So this writer you know is published, right?

If the answer is 'no', then you can only say you'd try to make it happen.
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Old 09-07-2015, 06:59 AM
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I think there is truth in what Prodigal said.

And my earlier point is about traditional publishing, because nowadays anyone can self-publish. The point is that agents and reps have a large number of submissions and have the luxury of being particular.
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Old 09-07-2015, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by poirot View Post
I think there is truth in what Prodigal said.

And my earlier point is about traditional publishing, because nowadays anyone can self-publish. The point is that agents and reps have a large number of submissions and have the luxury of being particular.
Exactly! I know of a spectacular concept a writer I know came up with who has the comprehensive ability of a sheep! One of the least intelligent animals alive thanks to human selective breeding. I would however for the story's sake punch it out if need be to get the story up to par. In the days of printing presses being the only means to get your story out there editors had free reign! If they didn't like something they could refuse to print it. To Kill a Mockingbird is actually a good example of that as Nick Pierce pointed out on a different thread. Racial views were edited out meaning the editor deserves a fair amount of credit for hashing it out with a racist! An infuriating process no doubt! But necessary for the book's popularity.
So would Bakowsky get published today? Yes! Would he be as popular is the real question. The answer to that in my opinion given that this is the first I have heard the name is NO!!! Jewels Vernes was an imaginative writer but too long winded for my liking. Were his stories good? They were made into movies weren't they? Popularity is the only thing a serious writer cares about. Bakowsky does not get taught in schools in my area so he's even less popular than the writers of classics, much less modern best sellers. So if the writer has a major jerk complex, finding an editor with extreme patients to change it from a good idea to a well written book is what's needed. Just make sure that person has fifty percent of the credit and earnings as they're likely to be putting forth at least 50% of the work with a writer like Bakowsky. (Assuming from the derogatory compliments made about him that he's like the aforementioned writer I know)

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Old 09-08-2015, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by poirot View Post
So this writer you know is published, right?

If the answer is 'no', then you can only say you'd try to make it happen.

The answer is 'yes'.


But do continue to underestimate my ability to make things happen.
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Nick Pierce View Post
The answer is 'yes'.


But do continue to underestimate my ability to make things happen.

Sorry. I wasn't assuming. Just asking.

Out of curiosity, was it traditionally published or self-published?
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Old 09-08-2015, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by poirot View Post
Times change. Would Bukowski get published today? I'm not saying he wouldn't, just asking. The agents and reps of today may not choose to publish Hemingway, for example. There's just no way to base current expectations on past actions.

This is kind of a dishonest question. Bukowski writing as he did in the 50's 60's and 70's?

If he were writing today, his work would be completely different, as would Hemingway's.

This smacks of calling into question the works of past geniuses.

It also feels like the bar for great novels, works of art, is being set at 'traditional' publication as it exists today. I would question this line of thinking on its merit. One has only to look at the publishing industry as a whole (since the Internet) to see the holes.

The art world is in upheaval. I don't know where it will land when it comes down, but I'm sure none of us can make these kinds of comparisons with any certainty.
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Old 09-08-2015, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by brianpatrick View Post
The art world is in upheaval. I don't know where it will land when it comes down
I think you're right there. We're living strange times (but weren't all times strange?)
I don't believe in much, but I do kind of believe in the pendulum-motion of history. Underground, avantguardia, they'll all be back, soon.
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Old 09-08-2015, 09:34 PM
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Originally Posted by brianpatrick View Post
This is kind of a dishonest question. Bukowski writing as he did in the 50's 60's and 70's?

If he were writing today, his work would be completely different, as would Hemingway's.

This smacks of calling into question the works of past geniuses.

It also feels like the bar for great novels, works of art, is being set at 'traditional' publication as it exists today. I would question this line of thinking on its merit. One has only to look at the publishing industry as a whole (since the Internet) to see the holes.

The art world is in upheaval. I don't know where it will land when it comes down, but I'm sure none of us can make these kinds of comparisons with any certainty.
The question is no more or less dishonest than the implication that the writer described in the original post would get published because Bukowski (or Hemingway, or fill in the blank) WAS published (past tense). My point, which you have repeated in a different way, is that what happened in the past does not work as a template for current events. So you are agreeing with me.
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Old 09-08-2015, 09:41 PM
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My reason for asking if if the author in Nick's testimonial is self-published is because if self-published, and I'm not assuming it is, if it is self-published then that means there is no basis for concluding that the author in the original post story would be able to get a contract with an agent or publishing company. So far, there's not enough proof for me to believe that Nick liking his work would be enough to get him published (excluding self-published).
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Old 09-08-2015, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by poirot View Post
The question is no more or less dishonest than the implication that the writer described in the original post would get published because Bukowski (or Hemingway, or fill in the blank) WAS published (past tense). My point, which you have repeated in a different way, is that what happened in the past does not work as a template for current events. So you are agreeing with me.

No. I am not. What happened in the past, will always work in the future. That is: brilliant writers will find a way, regardless of time and place and current conditions. Comparing writers of the past with current publishing standards is disingenuous. The 'smalls' will always produce the great writers of the future. The innovators, and legends will push themselves from the muck, and bunk the system.
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Old 09-09-2015, 03:02 AM
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I've read some really good novels with unlikable protagonists. It doesn't really prompt me to try to psychoanalyze the author, and I'm a little skeptical that any agent would, unless he was having a bad day or something.

And while an author's personality will no doubt be reflected in his writing on some level, I certainly wouldn't make any assumptions about it. They are characters after all, and perhaps the character or characters and their particular world view and behavior are an exaggeration of the author's, or maybe the author has the insight and imagination to create a kind of character that isn't anything like himself.

But if it's a good story, I wouldn't care if the author was a jerk. There are probably lots of authors who aren't very nice people. I doubt any agent or publisher would care all that much either if it's a book he thinks he could sell.

Just to add something:

Marc, I didn't mean to sound dismissive of your OP. I just think the vast majority of writers don't need to be concerned about it. Like I said, probably our personalities show up in our stories and characters to some extent. That might include the flaws that many of us have. It seems to me that's probably what would make the writing authentic, and you wouldn't want to try to somehow filter that out or over-think it.

And if it is true, maybe the agent was just a bad armchair psychologist and the writer was insecure and too quick accept the analysis. Who knows?

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Old 09-10-2015, 01:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Marc Haertjens View Post
But I do try to distinguish between truth and honesty, and this story (which I really did read) sounded honest enough to me. That's exactly why it stuck (which truth often doesn't).
it may be honest (the person who told you believed it) but its very unlikely to be true.

its just not the way things work. people don't say stuff like that and I cant think of any publisher whod tell somebody they weren't a nice person based on a manuscript. its an urban myth if anything.
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Old 09-11-2015, 07:06 AM
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Once upon a time I would have said what I recalled Binx saying about valuing the quality of the writing. Not anymore. I want my work time to be reasonably enjoyable, and working with a difficult person does not meet that criteria. Given an inbox full of unsolicited manuscripts, I'd rather work with ten reasonable authors than one difficult one, no matter how brilliant or how much money he/she might bring in if published.

The situation is that a larger percentage of the population is currently writing than ever in history. That's going to impact agents and publishers. It already has. Self-publishing was created.

For the record, I'm not saying the guy in the original post's story has no chance of being published. He can do it himself, if he's done trying agents and publishers. Or he can keep working at it. There's just no way to reasonably predict his success in getting traditionally published or making a living writing if he self-publishes.

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Old 09-11-2015, 10:52 AM
Binx B
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The idea of trying to psychoanalyze someone based on a work of fiction seems pretty iffy to me. Plus, I'm not an agent, and I didn't read the manuscript.

And while the point brought up in the OP about how our personalities might show up in our writing could be an interesting topic, I think there are just too many variables in this story to take it seriously.
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Old 09-11-2015, 11:02 AM
poirot (Offline)
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Every manuscript also comes with a cover letter. Or should.

No. It wasn't, if it actually happened, just the manuscript.
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