I wrote this in 1999 for the magazine of Mensagenda, the magazine of Minnesota Mensa, where it appeared in the May edition. Not too long after that, Dead End Street Publishing put it on their web site followed by an appearance in The Inditer, what was once a wonderful E-Zine with great writers.
ON PUBLISHING, PERISHING, & NOVEL SOLUTIONS
by Marty Gallanter
My fantasies of riches, recognition, literary awards and a prime spot on the Tonight Show erupted in volcanic fashion when I actually typed "THE END" on the final draft of my first novel. The book was (and still is) called STREET MONEY and, of course, contained the perfect mix of sex, violence and mystery for a prime best-seller and a wonderful movie. When my boss, and writing mentor, dubbed the work a "page turner," the last remnant of doubt flew through the windowless wall of my New York office and out among the crowds on Sixth Avenue. Not long and I would leave the IBM Selectric and my low level copy-writing job at the United Jewish Appeal. The year was 1981 and I was thirty-three, just the right age to be a superstar.
Enough. There's nothing new in this part of my story. I did leave the copy-writer's job, but to rise in the ranks of the second largest fund raising organization in the United States. The work was good. Eventually, I ran departments and earned six figures. I watched the sun rise over Paris, Rome, and Jerusalem, led a life that could only be described as successful.
And it's a good thing too, because the manuscript never went anywhere. After, two agents and enough rejections to build a bridge over the Sixth Avenue traffic jams, I put STREET MONEY in a drawer and worked on THE DUSK OF AQUARIUS, a novel based in my experiences as a commune dwelling hippie. I finished the work in time for the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of Woodstock.
The reviews were better and the rejections took longer to garner, but the end result was the same. This time the refusal bridge could have been constructed as a companion to the one in Brooklyn. My career had moved downtown to New York's court district where I raised money for The Legal Aid Society of New York and where my office window overlooked the city's most famous span. I did Noble work, wrote grants and found money to hire public service lawyers who fought for the poor, prevented homelessness, and did an assortment of other fine things.
My days were passed with the rich and powerful of the richest and most powerful city in human history. My articles appeared in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and even TV Guide. But the DUSK OF AQUARIUS failed to move the publishers. Now they were telling me that I had written a good book, but not "commercial" enough. Approximately every third editor was a frustrated writer who admired my talent and my ability to tell a story. A few of them might even have meant it, but none bought the book. The manuscripts took longer to come back and with more tatter than a single reader could produce. I just knew they were being devoured by multiple editors at each house and sooner or later someone would say yes. No one ever did. My newest agent, a hard-working young woman, kept encouraging me and my hopes remained high. But she was wrong.
By now I had passed 45 and my self-image as a youthful media star had dimmed a bit. My agent got married and moved to Hungary with her new husband. No, really. I'm not kidding. All of sudden, I was without representation and DUSK OF AQUARIUS joined STREET MONEY in the filing cabinet.
Every year I would read published novels that were inferior to my own. An opinion, of course. Could be wrong. Not an opinion, but actual fact is that hardly a major publishing company in the United States makes a profit. Most are owned by huge entertainment corporations and the accounting of virtually all shows that they are "red line" divisions, the ones that lose money. My opinion also, and one shared by those who know more than I, is that the American publishing industry is certainly not maintaining or advancing American literature. So if the publishing companies do not make money in a capitalist society and do not advance literature in a so-called literate society, why do they continue to exist?
1992 - on a private jet on the way from New York to Washington, DC to visit with the now late Justice William Brennan, retired from the Supreme Court. The plane belonged to Philip Morris, whose chief counsel was a member of the board of The Legal Aid Society. The chief counsel for Time-Warner, another director, was also on-board. The opportunity came and I asked the Time-Warner man why his corporation owned not one, but two money-losing book companies. He shrugged his shoulders and said something about an entertainment giant not being a giant without a publishing house and how they were needed to get material for the film division. This was not the place to pursue a philosophic or personal issue, so my italicized question above remained unanswered as it is still. But it no longer matters to me. I've lost interest.
A writer's hope still drives me back to the computer screen (I gave up the Selectric after the first novel) to tap that faucet of whatever makes a person think they are creative. I wrote A LITTLE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS," novel number three, without consideration for commercial value. Yes, I sent it to publishers but not the big ones because they won't accept submissions without and agent and I can't find one. Not a real one. My prospects come from a book that chronicles hundreds of tiny houses, most publishing three or four books a year. Many of the submission letters were returned because the companies no longer existed. Some asked to read the work.
I'm 54 years old now and I gave up the New York scene for rural Minnesota in 1993. I learned the Internet, learned to teach it to others, and designed a few web pages of my own http://www.themadhatter.net. I work at a small college in Eastern South Dakota raising money and writing literate letters to donors and foundations. Usually, I like my life. Sometimes, but not often, I miss seeing the sun rise over Jerusalem or riding on a company jet. Two weeks ago, I opened an envelope from yet another publisher and for the first time the letter said something different. "Yes," they said, " we would love to add your book to the list." Still, there was a hitch.
Dead End Street Publications http://www.deadendstreet.com , the first to recognize my talent with the right answer, is a new company that publishes electronically. While they do print a few old fashioned books on paper, most of what they sell is either downloaded from the Internet or sold on CD ROM. I always dreamed about flipping through the pages of my own book, but dreams change and so can I. After all, Amazon.com handles their list and that can't be bad.
The contract is on my desk and I'm going to sign. Maybe I can help promote a new company with a concept that will both make money and advance literature. For a 54 year old, that may be even be considered promoting a revolution, something I haven't done since the Sixties. Finally, when the "book" comes out next Fall, I will, after eighteen years, have a become a novelist, and that new status will have been achieved via a novel solution. That's good for a whole new volcano of fantasies.
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