Monday, July 21, 2008

Edgar Sawtelle and the Millions of Would-Be Novelists

Now, this is good news. It seems the reading world is going ga-ga for David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which I've not yet read.

The Boston Globe said that the book "is proving that readers can still fall hard for an old-fashioned literary epic by someone they've never heard of." Personally, I think anyone who took a college-level literature course understands that already, but we are talking about the general American public and I'm just happy to hear that they're still reading.

I love that this guy's book took a decade to complete. I can relate. I came upon the original idea for my novel in 1995. I penned scores of pages of notes before I wrote the book's first few dozen pages, but it wasn't until after 9/11 that I realized how quickly time and life could be erased. (Indeed, that idea became an important theme within the novel.) If I were to sell this novel by the end of the year, it'd probably be nearly a decade between the time I actually started to write it and its eventual publication date. And that's a best-case scenario.

This comment in the Globe is also telling:
One thing is clear: No one is buying this book because it's similar to something else they've read recently.

Having spent many hours now on Agent Query and other sites, I know there are thousands of people out there with novels, memoirs, works of nonfiction, short stories all hoping to get published. Probably millions more have ideas that they believe would make a great book. Many of the writers even seem capable of stringing sentences together in interesting ways, so I believe the possibilities for wonderful literature are endless.

One of my challenges is getting a sense of what other books might be similar to mine. In other words, who is my potential audience? I've read lots of items about how you compare novels, and I suppose if I knew of a book that was exactly like mine, then mine would be superfluous at best. I've even asked my readers who my style reminded them of; what other writer did they think of when they read my book...

I believe that ultimately this is the agent and publisher's problem to resolve, but from what I've read, they like to have a good idea before they even review a book by an unknown quantity like me.

For all I know, perhaps my competition is David Wroblewski. At least now I'll be able to read his work and find out.

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