This is such an inspiring story from the New York Times, and at the same time you read it and weep. But there are still small independent publishers out there so maybe it's time to finally send your manuscript out.
47 Rejections, Then the Booker Long List
Donal Ryan, a civil servant from Limerick, Ireland, wrote two novels. He sent them to agents and publishers and got back 47 rejections over three years. Finally an intern at Lilliput Press in Dublin fished “The Thing About December” out of the slush pile. Around the same time, an editor at Doubleday Ireland took interest in “The Spinning Heart.” Suddenly Mr. Ryan had a two-book deal, and from there his fortunes only improved. The Booker Foundation announced last week that “The Spinning Heart” had made the cut for the Man Booker Prize long list.
Such things happen. Paul Harding had trouble finding a home for his debut novel, “Tinkers.” He signed with Bellevue Literary Press, a small publisher, but “Tinkers” remained so obscure that The New York Times Book Review ignored it. Then it won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.
These stories hearten struggling writers and everyone else who struggles too. They allow us to believe that our luck could change at any moment; that if we persevere beyond the point of reason and perhaps good taste, we may finally succeed.
These stories also remind us that there is no science to evaluating literary work. Especially with fiction, editors like what they like and can only guess at how the reading public will respond. Sometimes a novel performs exactly as expected. Sometimes an astronomical advance portends a flop. Other times the publishing world greets a manuscript with a collective shrug — and it takes off. Bloomsbury offered J. K. Rowling a meager £2,500 advance (about $3,800) for the first “Harry Potter.”
These stories, finally, tell us that a healthy book industry is a diverse one, in which it’s possible for a talented author to knock on several doors before resorting to self-publishing. The more gatekeepers, the better the odds for the next Donal Ryan.
As it happens, the industry is going in the opposite direction. The news about Mr. Ryan came on the heels of a merger between Penguin and Random House to form the world’s largest publisher, with more than 25 percent of the global book business. Assuming the merger unfolds in the usual manner, the company will announce layoffs due to “redundancies,” meaning fewer imprints with fewer editors looking for the next Donal Ryan.