Professor Clayton Childress recently wrote a blog post for The Conversation.com/ca that offers up summer reading tips based on his expertise from studying the publishing industry. The full post is available on Conversation website. We have posted an excerpt below.
Five Amazing Books to Read this Summer
July 13, 2017
This summer, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, don’t re-read Harry Potter. Likewise for Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is commemorating its 50th anniversary this year.
Instead, embrace a little known fact about both books: their successes were prefaced with massive rejection. Twelve publishers rejected JK Rowling’s Potter before Bloomsbury agreed to an initial print run of just 500 copies. One Hundred Years of Solitude beat seemingly insurmountable odds before it was published. It was also dismissed by literary elites the world over before becoming a classic.
In a more recent example, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Sympathizer (2015) was rejected by a baker’s dozen of publishers. The list goes on and on: In 1950, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl was rejected by 15 publishers, with one explaining that “even if the work had come to light five years ago, when the subject was timely, I don’t see that there would have been a chance for it.” Moby-Dick was so bad it was supposed to end Herman Melville’s career. Lord of the Flies was rejected by 20 publishers and sold so poorly it was out of print within 18 months. After John Grisham’s first novel failed to sell, he promised his wife he’d give up writing after one more try.
For unknown writers, success is random. I’ve spent the last decade of my life studying book publishers, and everyone in the book publishing business knows how difficult it is to get published and to gain success.
During my research, Delia Falconer’s The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers (2006, Soft Skull Press) came up in a marketing and distribution meeting. On mention of the novel, the 20 or so people around the room let out sighs of agony and grief. Falconer’s book, the book they all adored so much, had failed to find the audience they agreed it deserved. They loved it so much that while publishing and promoting it they had suspended what they knew: all hits are flukes. For books, quality and success are, at best, distant cousins of one another.
So, when picking books to read this summer, don’t reach for Harry Potter or One Hundred Years of Solitude. Rowling and Márquez don’t need you. Instead, spend your time reading authors who do need you: the future Rowlings’ and Marquez’s whom fate has yet to shine on.