If I’m a novelist, and if that’s why I was first picked up by a New York literary agency, why am I now focusing on two works of nonfiction? Simple: nonfiction is easier to get into print, and to gain an audience for.
I have four novels that I’m happy with. My agent was very big on these works, two in particular. But when he couldn’t get them published–and he’s been quite successful for other writers–I decided to write Living the Artist’s Life, knowing that nonfiction was easier to get into print. Besides, I realized the book filled a void, and that most artists did not have the necessary information for navigating the waters of the art world, let alone much reassurance. The result? Publishers typically told my agent that the work was “too unorthodox, too unique” to find an audience. Did I see red? In varying shades. Why? Because I could feel an audience responding to the book as I wrote it. All writers, and artists, know what I’m talking about when I say that.
After punching several holes in our bedroom walls one night (which my wife covered the next day with enlarged photos of the kids, bless her), I realized I had to leave my agent and go my own road. I had endured 177 rejection slips on various books over a period of 25 years. I KNEW there was a market for LTAL and most of my other books, and anyway a small press had offered to put out LTAL. This press lacked the glamour of the big houses in NY, but I felt any kind of start was better than nothing. I was still young, full of drive and humor, and confident that the smaller publisher could make things click. Well, in time they did.
That brings us to Everybody’s Game, and the novels that should follow. Do I now think that EG will be brought out by one of the big houses, along with the novels and screenplays? Probably. When? Don’t know; depends on what agent I wind up working with.
What, if anything, did I gain from 177 rejections? Those years in the wilderness forced me to write at my absolute best; I may never had done this had I been published too young. Too much success, too young, can be more of a curse than a blessing; besides, I don’t think it was my time then, for multiple reasons. The rejections humbled me, toughened my discipline, and made me grateful for what I had. The work quit being about me; instead the focus went onto my books, and therefore the readers, which is where it needed to be all along. I learned this over time, and over the grueling process of rejection.
What then are the novels about? Ah, we’ll cover a bit of that tomorrow.
On art-related subjects, one of my assistants uploaded a few of the Richard Raney pieces today, this in preparation for his show Friday. I’m very pleased. If you want a look, here they are: http://www.leopoldgallery.com/Raney.htm Yeah, he’s a talented dude all right. Intend to make headway for him.