I May Have to Wear a Thong to Sell My Next Novel
After a five-year stint as a screenwriter, I decided –- stupidly -- to write a novel. At the time, I had a West Coast agent, but he didn’t sell books, so I had to find a new agent, a process I would liken to having your testicles surgically removed by a carpenter.
After a slew of rejections, one agent wrote me a long letter that lauded the novel’s merits. “Funny, smart and full of rewards,” it read.
I was exhilarated… until I came to the second page. In spite of all those “rewards,” she rejected it. Too tough to market, she said. Since most books are bought by women, she bemoaned the fact that I was a man. Had I been a female author, writing about a female character, the novel would have been a sure seller.
I was taken aback. Was she saying that, as a male, I was unpublishable, but as a woman I’d be in line for a National Book Award? Was she implying that I alter things to make readers think I was a female author? Could I get away with it?
Sure, taking a female pseudonym and changing my protagonist’s name to Bambi wouldn’t be that difficult, but what about book signings or talk shows?
Did I crave publication badly enough to start wearing skirts? I’d have to cover my five-o’clock shadow with ten pounds of pancake make-up, relearn how to cross my legs, develop a friendly relationship between a pair of 3-inch heels and the floor, and figure out how to put on a bra without strangling myself.
A quick survey of the nether regions of my wife’s closet revealed that yes, a few of her dresses would fit me (sort of), but coaxing a cleavage out of my flat, hairy chest would be tricky without the aid of a fork lift.
Could I really pull off a George Sand in reverse?
When I finally found an agent to represent me, the rejections continued to pour in –- this time from publishers. “Smart, funny and wise.” (Rejected); “A ripping yarn.” (Rejected); “An accomplished and witty book.” (Rejected.)
My agent advised me to write a mystery about a lady detective.
I retreated in disgust, but still toyed with the moronic idea of rewriting the book as a female. Finally, I decided that such an alteration (not to mention my inability to discern the logistics of a thong) would destroy the book’s integrity, such as it was.
After all, would Hemingway have won the Nobel Prize for The Old Ma’am and the Sea? Would Jane Eyre have worked as Jake Eyre? Can you imagine Judith the Obscure, or Mrs. Ulysses, or Tex of the D’Urbervilles or Mom Sawyer or One Day in the Life of Irene Denisovitch or Moby…. er…never mind.
I lamented: If only I had been born female (or at least a guy who liked wearing pant suits.) Am I bitter? Not really. Rejection comes with the territory. The novel eventually sold (with the male protagonist intact) and, since it was a two-book deal, my next one was also about a guy.
But now I’m working on a mystery, featuring –- if you’ll excuse the expression –- a lady dick.
My pen name is Jane Blumenthal.
Check the bestseller list.