“…every book has to be perfect (not too long or short and well crafted) and come with a marketing plan. Which means you have to have quotes, a website and a list of bookstores where you can do readings. Every book that sells to a major New York publisher, whether it is a mass market, trade paperback or hardcover must be able to guarantee 25,000 copies sold, or it will not be published by a major publisher.”
Scientist, doctor and researcher with over 50 major awards in science and a professor [of] medicine at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. James Levine’s debut RIVER OF WORDS, the surprisingly hopeful story of 15-year old girl whose poverty-stricken family sells her into sexual slavery and she lives in a cage on the streets of Mumbai, but uses writing and imagination to transcend her reality, to Cindy Spiegel at Spiegel & Grau, for six figures, in a pre-empt, by Natanya Wheeler at the Lowenstein-Yost (who found the manuscript in the agency slush pile) (world).
With no apology, my idea of a good book does not include the ugliness of sexual slavery and locking fifteen-year-old girls in cages to be sexually abused by whomever pays their owner’s price. I cannot even imagine the kind of society that would find something like this entertaining, never mind the society that condones it. I cannot imagine anyone thinking this is good fiction. I could see a nonfiction exposé, yes, all profits from the sale of the work to go to stopping these practices worldwide. But to sell a work as FICTION containing, even ENTERTAINING, the gravity of this situation — the enslavement of children for perverted pleasure — NO. Is this the whole name of the game now? Fiction must be gruesome, too horrible to contemplate, filled with abuse and sordidness?
There are a couple of authors in my writing group who also write the gruesome and the sordid as their chosen venue. I live with Pepto-Bismol when I must read the unforgivable sins of their characters. Would I buy the works? No. Not one. I do not add books to my collection which cause me anguished nightmares. I will not nestle a tome of unseemliness and ugliness next to books of lasting endearment such as the works of Conrad Richter (The Trees, The Fields, The Town), Charlotte’s Web by Garth Williams, and All Creatures Great and Small and the rest by James Herriot, the Retief series, the Polifax series, or even next to Evangeline Walton, Greg Bear and more modern authors.
If I can’t have fiction which transcends the filthiness rampant in the news, the barbaric celebration of lewd misconduct, then I simply won’t buy or read.
You know what’s sad about Ms. Reid’s post? The fact that Janet Reid used it as a good example of something which came from the query slushpile. Do you want to know what probably drew the agent’s attention? The author’s credits (Notice them placed as the opening line in the PL deal blurb.) — ” Scientist, doctor and researcher with over 50 major awards in science and a professor [of] medicine at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. James Levine’s….” Why didn’t Janet Reid pick something else that was more demonstrative of a regular author selling a good, as opposed to sordid, work of fiction?
Yet, I believe in T.W. It’s a potent story. Oh well. If you only have one shot, I guess it’s best to do the “for sure, for sure, good buddy” book, even though it isn’t my primary style and genre, but a secondary subgenre. Hmmm. Wish I could ask someone…like a literary agent.