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Buy Read Love

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Desperate Writer Acts Out


Aspiring novelists know the rules. Wait, wait, wait. With hat in hand and heart in throat. Keep fighting the good fight, and paste on your best "Next stop, victory!" smile after each rejection.

Is it any wonder the writer hungering to be heard grows desperate? Sometimes, desperate enough to resort to desperate acts. Some lash out with inappropriate communications directed toward the editors and agents they see as gatekeepers. (Don't try this at home, kids! And always remember, you catch more flies with honey-flavored professionalism than death threats! And bribery is not only useless, it makes your submission seriously suspect.)

Others look for "shortcuts" involving those they believe might help them. I suspect every editor and agent out there grows expert at deflecting recommendations from well-meaning relations and acquaintances trying to give some friend (or friend of a friend) the proverbial leg up. Published authors are often asked to read and recommend unpublished manuscripts (something we have to be very careful about due to concerns about our own writing time and potential lawsuits.) And occasionally, the truly frustrated reach out to anyone they think might be sufficiently famous to make some gatekeeper listen.

According to the London Telegraph, one such Hail Mary actually worked for British writer Ruth Saberton, 37, after she met nothing but silence regarding her romantic comedy manuscript, Katy Carter Wants a Hero. As the Telegraph puts it:

The college tutor sent the manuscript to several publishing houses but had no reply and was on the verge of giving up.

But when her mother-in-law mentioned that Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan had a country retreat nearby she decided to take them a rough copy.

Mrs Saberton drove to their secluded house and placed a 400 page manuscript on the doormat and a note through the letterbox asking them to read it.

Now here's the amazing part, Richard Madeley, who hosts a TV book club along with his wife, actually read the thing. More amazingly, he loved it and offered to write a positive review and a foreword. Three months later, the British publisher Orion bought the book, which was released today in the UK and will come out in the US on Sept. 1st.

Am I advocating desperate acts? Not especially. As is the case with nearly every author I know, I broke into print via the usual channels: agent slush piles, contests, and gobs of perseverance. But I do understand the Ruth Saberton's desperation. And I can't help smiling at the idea of a literary Hail Mary paying off.

7 comments:

Christie Craig said...

Colleen,

I think we've all been at that place where it would have seemed like our last resort. I'm tickled it worked out for her. Not sure I'd have had the guts to do it, but a part of me is happy it worked out for her.

Colleen Thompson said...

It's apocryphal stories such as this one, coupled with frustration, that inspires people to try. But a writer can go too far and alienate the very people she's trying to impress. Tough call.

Suzan Harden said...

It must have been a pretty exceptional book, but the whole mom angle has a Psycho feel to it.

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Irene said...

This is better than slipping the ms. under the stall door in the lavatory...editors in particular hate that.
But still, it is an act of pure desperation. She's lucky she didn't get arrested for trespassing.
Patience (and a good manuscript) is a virtue.

Sarah Duncan said...

And it would be even better if it were true - she's been on Facebook denying it all weekend. Bet her publisher's PR dept love her.

Seriously, to get published you don't need to do stunts, just write the best book you can, network sensibly and be persistent - but writing a good book is the No 1.

Miss Saberton said...

Hi folks! Please don't believe everything you read in the Daily Mail! They phoned me while I was teaching my Year 11 class(GCSEs in 5 weeks!) and I asked them to call back later. Oops. The true story in on the BBC site - I am not a psycho doorstep stalker I promise. And this really wasn't a short cut, I already had an agent and wrote for Little Black Dress. Richard's support just gave me the boost I needed to keep on with my manuscript when I was ready to throw in the towel. My writing journey is on my website www.ruthsaberton.co.uk if you want to know the details. Happy writing!
Ruth x