Thursday, March 25, 2010

High-Concept Memoir = Kafakaesque Nightmare, No?*

Here's from today's mailbag about a press release received by a newspaper editor:

Dear Writer, Rejected: Thanks for your blog, which I recently discovered. When I received the press release below — not once, but twice — I thought of LROD. I know nothing about this writer or his book, but I hope the misspellings in the release ("tiles and tribulations"?) are intentional somehow. Just for fun, I blogged about it and stuck in a shoutout to you here. Anyway, thanks again, and maybe I'll contribute a rejection (one of the ones I get, not the ones I give to people who mistakenly send our paper fiction) one of these days.
    Okay, take a deep breath, here comes the most amazing press release ever released into the wild (the subject line alone exhausts me):
From: "Jennifer Gorski" <>
Date: March 15, 2010 2:40:49 PM EDT
To: ----
Subject: "Tearing Down The Walls" to Help Aspiring Writers get a Critique of Their Work from a Publisher, Because of Publish This Book 
Unbelievably, I was fed up with the byzantine quest of trying to get a book published. So, I (Stephen Markley) decided to cut to the chase and simply write a hyperkinetic, high-concept memoir about trying to publish a book — Publish This Book, (that book to be precise) out March 2010.

     So a big part of "Publish This Book" is about the maddening Kafka-esque nightmare of trying to break through as a writer in the cutthroat world of publishing. Writers spend months, years and decades crafting a manuscript and honing a book proposal, only to get the standard form rejection letter: "We're sorry, but this does not meet our needs at this time."
    Breaking down this wall between the writer and the industry is the idea behind a new promotion by my publisher, Sourcebooks. And yes, as soon as I describe this idea to you, it will sound as if these people have all lost their minds, but Seven Days readers will benefit from! Here's the gist to the “Tearing Down The Walls” promotion:
    You have a novel or a non-fiction book proposal, right? Well all you have to do is buy a copy of "Publish This Book" (because they are not doing this solely out of the goodness of their hearts), and send in the receipt or order confirmation along with your proposal. Then, in a few months (depending on how many people take them up on this), you will get back a critique written by a Sourcebooks editor or my agent, Julie. The promotion is set to run through May 9th (so get cracking).
    Some ground rules:
  • A proposal includes a one-page synopsis of your book, along with up to 5,000 words of your manuscript
  • Submissions can be sent to or you can go here for the submission form on Sourcebooks' website (all rules are found here!)
  • This in no way guarantees you a book contract, but trust me when I say that getting any kind of feedback, advice, and/or words of encouragement from the Stalinistic publishing world is an awesome opportunity for any aspiring writer and something I would have given organs for a couple of years ago when I was struggling to find a publisher or agent to look at my book 

Again I repeat… getting someone in publishing to respond to your manuscript, now a days is a very big deal and an opportunity I know I would have jumped all over back when I was banging my head against the wall trying to get something published.
     Believe me, I'm on your side when I say that Julie, Sourcebooks and my editor Peter are all insane for taking this on. I told them as much in a recent meeting -- that they have essentially opened themselves up to critiquing every Twilight rip-off and right-wing crank's manifesto (my dad is already madly preparing his!) in all of North America. 
    So help aspiring writers in your area know about this opportunity by talking about this. Don't waste this chance: tell people to buy a copy, prep their own books and deluge my publisher. If you would like a copy of my book to review or want to talk with me, please contact Jennifer Gorski know, or 630.536.0542.
 Stephen Markley
Author of PUBLISH THIS BOOK, out spring 2010 from Sourcebooks
No More Form Letters!
The Publish This Book “Tearing Down the Walls” Promotion
So you work on your manuscript for months, carefully craft a proposal and pitch letter, and send out your heart and soul to agents and publishers. And what do you get in return? A form letter saying “Thank you for your submission, but it does not meet our needs at this time.” Really? 
We at Sourcebooks and Julie A. Hill and Associates know how you feel. Well, now we know, thanks to Stephen Markley and his hilarious, innovative, and amazing new memoir Publish This Book. You see, sick of getting rejections that say nothing, Stephen decided to cut to the chase and write a memoir about how hard it is to get a book published. And then try to get that book published—a book about its own creation.
Crazy, right? Well, he convinced us, getting agent representation from Julie Hill of Julie A. Hill and Associates and finally publication by Sourcebooks. And after reading his whole manuscript, we see how hard it is for you out there. So in honor of Stephen’s achievement, and all aspiring writers, we’ve decided to tear down the walls that keep writers from honest and helpful feedback about their work from the publishing industry. That means: no more form letters, but an actual critique of your submission from an agent or publishing company 

How Does It Work?
1. Purchase a copy of Publish This Book.
2. Between March 1 and May 9 submit your proposal along with a proof of purchase (receipt order confirmation, etc.) at email to or by mail:
Sourcebooks, Inc.
Att: “Tearing Down the Walls” Promotion
1935 Brookdale Rd, suite 139
NapervilleIL 60563
3.      Wait 2-6 months (While you’re waiting, why not read your new copy of Publish This Book? It’s amazing.)
4.      Receive a 2-4 paragraph critique of your submission.
The Rules
·         What You Can Submit for Critique: your submission may include a one-page synopsis of your work and a sample chapter not to exceed 5,000 words, on which the critique will be based.
·         You may include additional biographical, marketing, competitive title analysis, or other information as you desire, but we only guarantee to read and critique the synopsis and sample chapter. HOWEVER, YOU MAY NOT SUBMIT MORE THAN 5,000 WORDS OF THE ACTUAL MANUSCRIPT.
·         Submissions must be entered on the website between March 9 and May 9. No earlier or later submission will be accepted.
·         Participation in this promotion guarantees you a critique and a critique only. In no way should you expect your submission to be under consideration for publication—please follow normal submission procedures for such requests.
 The Questions
Q: So, if you like my submission you’ll represent my book, right?
A: No. As above, participation in this promotion guarantees you a critique and a critique only. However, we reserve the right to invite any participant to later submit their work under our official submission processes.
Q: Why do I have to wait so long for my critique?
A: It takes time to read submissions and write a critique. The reason most agents and publishers send form rejection letters is simply that we receive thousands of submissions each year, and if we were to write critiques for each one, we’d never do anything else (including sleeping). So, for this promotion we’re taking on the challenge of writing all those critiques, but if submissions flood in we’ll need time to respond to everyone properly.
Q: Why do I have to buy this guy Stephen’s Markley’s book?
A: As hard as it is to get published, it’s just as hard to break through as a first-time author. And here’s the thing: Publish This Book is really good, and we think aspiring writers especially will love it. So, we came up with this idea as a bit of a win-win: you get the chance to break through the “form letter wall” and we can increase the chance that people will read, love, and spread the word about Stephen’s book.
Q: Are you going to be mean about my submission?
A: No, we would never be mean. However, it is important to note that our guarantee to critique your work is not a guarantee to like your work. We may just love the work, and that will be great. But our critique may provide feedback that isn’t what you were hoping to hear. Or it may be a bit of both. Just know that in any case, all feedback and criticism will be constructive.
Q: You’re really doing this? Are you crazy?
A: We may be. We may end up digging out of a mountain of paper for months to come. But if it means more people read Publish This Book and spread the word about how great it is, we’re more than happy to make that happen.
Julie Hill, Julie A. Hill and Associates
and Peter Lynch, Sourcebooks, Inc.
 Publish This Book: “[A] sprawling, self-referential account of [Markley’s] efforts to sell a book about his efforts to sell the book he’s writing at that very moment… compelling, emotionally resonant passages.” - Publishers Weekly
Fed up with the Byzantine quest of trying to get a book published, Stephen Markley decides to cut to the chase and simply write a hyperkinetic, high-concept memoir about trying to publish a book — Publish This Book (this book to be precise) , out this March 2010.
As Markley begins his project to write a book about himself trying to publish a book, he also starts to fill the pages with a catalogue of everything that has happenedin the process. What he does not realize is that “Life” will come to intrude on the narrative in ways he could never have foreseen. His best friend reveals that he is about to unexpectedly become a father. The girl he loves makes an abrupt exit from his life. Something bad happens with the economy or something (did anyone hear about this?). And against all odds, he actually finds an agent for his wild, uninhibited manuscript, making the whole thing terrifyingly real.
    This is the modern day saga of a plugged-in, hyped-up, idealistic, ambitious, arrogant, audacious, unyielding young writer, who's tired of waiting his turn. Like any work that claims gleefully and irreverently to be about nothing, it's really about pretty much everything—from the pitfalls of narrating your life as it unfolds to those tumultuous early years of adulthood when the promise of youth still holds the capacity to inspire awe. This is a story of tiles and tribulations— follow along with Markley as he tries to find his true voice within his work and in life.
    “With such enormous talent, [author] does not hide his flaws and vulnerabilities. He acknowledges his weaknesses, embraces them, and uses this self awareness to boldly drive toward his dream… this book should be enjoyed in a place where it is socially acceptable to laugh in wild bursts, maybe even cry a little, and cheer on a rising star.” - Hilary Blanchard
    Out NOWPublish This Book is not only a comical page-turner, but also one man’s true story on how to overcome rejection and still maintain the desire to pursue important goals while combating life’s greatest challenges.

Publish This Book
Stephen Markley
March 2010, Sourcebooks
978-14022-2935-0; 480pgs; $14.99 US / $17.99 CAN; Memoir, Humor; Trade Paper

Jennifer Gorski
Senior Publicist,  Sourcebooks
O:  630.961.3900 ext. 242
D: 630.536.0542
1935 Brookdale Road, Suite 139
NapervilleIL 60563
*Pictures added by me.


Kay said...

interesting ida. Love the photos. I follow your blog because as an artist I like to feel not so alone in the rejection game. I even pay entry fes for the privilege of being rejected without any explanation. Well you know that bit about "misery loves...whatever!".

Anonymous said...


Hey W/R can I get your opinion on something? Given how fricking hard it is to get a short story published in a lit journal that carries serious weight, do you still think it's worth the effort to keep trying to get into that upper tier when you are writing a novel? In other words, is all of the time and effort spent on short fiction (which is time away from the novel) worth it in terms of helping pub the novel?? (okay, yes, I got another Glimmer Train rejection today. :-) )

Anonymous said...

That was the saddest train wreck I have seen in a long, long time.

ponco said...

Wow, to think that I'm the intended audience for this book....Sorry Stephen, I just have better things to do.

Boondocks Journalist said...

I'm the editor who received this, and now this press release is at a point size where I can stand to read the entire thing, I see just how ... exuberant it actually is.

The photos are a nice addition, too.

I don't want to knock the promotion or draw any conclusions about the publisher, of which I know nothing (though I did check their site to make sure they're not a self-publishing service). But who wrote and edited this thing? I've read releases for actual self-published books that were terser and more eloquent by far.

Anonymous said...

This makes me hate reading.