When Barbara Cartland was asked if she thought anybody could write a book and have it published, she replied:
“I can’t remember what it was, but I think it was called Wings of Love. I finished it, and sent it in under a false name, and with false details about myself, to a publisher. They returned the manuscript, saying that I ought to go on writing and perhaps I would have a chance in the future. I then changed the author’s name back to mine, and sent it to my usual publisher, and it sold enormously well, like all the others.”
Lately I have watched quite a few films where a struggling young writer is trying to get his/her work published, only to receive generic rejection letters that sound exactly like this one I received years ago:
Thank you for your inquiry. We are sorry that we cannot invite you to submit your work or offer to represent you. Please forgive the form letter – it is necessary given the large volume of submissions we receive.
We wish you the best of luck elsewhere.”
One such film is “The Words” that I watched last year. Even though it was released in 2012 I hadn’t had the chance to see it before. The genre of the story, mystery-romance, is close to my heart not only as a reader but as a writer too since I like to write mystery-romance novels myself.
The film opens with a public reading of the famous author Clayton Hammond (played by Dennis Quaid) from his book “The Words”. In his book the author tells the story of a fictional character Rory Jensen (played by Bradley Cooper), a struggling young writer living in New York who tries hard to get his book published but gets repeatedly rejected by publishers and agents.
Being ambitious he then finds a job in the mailroom of a well-known literary agency, managing the mail. One day he succeeds in personally giving his new manuscript to the senior agent of the firm. Months pass by before he hears from the agent and his book finally gets published. It becomes an overnight success and makes the bestsellers list. But unfortunately the book he wrote is not his. No one knows this except himself. He copied the text word for word from an old manuscript he found in an antique leather briefcase that his wife bought him during their honeymoon in Paris.
Eventually he confesses this to his agent and wants to make things right by the real author (played by Jeremy Irons). The agent refuses saying that he will not allow Rory to drag his agency and its reputation down.
It’s the sad reality of the publishing world nowadays. To quote from the film:
“We all make choices in life. The hard thing is to live with them.”
What’s ironic is that according to some Swiss newspapers even the film “The Words” has been copied – the plot is similar to that of a 2004 novel Lila Lila by Martin Suter, made into the German film Lila Lila released in 2009 – which is about a young unsuccessful author who discovers an old manuscript and is pushed by his girlfriend into publishing it. He too becomes an overnight success but later is confronted by an old man who knows the real author. He then publishes a second book about how this all happened.
Brian Klugman and Lee Stemthal the writers of “The Words” claim they knew nothing of Suter, his work, or Lila. They had no idea. Weird or what?
In the latest publishing news, on the 16th of February 2018, The Guardian International published an article about James Dashner, author of the bestselling young adult Maze Runner books. The article states that Dashner, after being accused of sexual harassment, has been dropped by his US publisher Penguin Random House. Dashner is also working on his first adult novel, The Waking, which had been lined up to be published by one of Random House’s imprints. Dashner was later dropped by his agent too.
Next in line was “13 Reasons Why” author Jay Asher who had also been dropped by the Andrea Brown agency after accusations of sexual harassment.
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote:
“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words, it’s expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”