December 2, 2010

So you want to write a novel?


Anybody who has ever spent even an hour or two in the slush pile will recognize the aspiring novelist in this feature-length cartoon from David Kazzie:

So how do you plan to get your book published? asks his exasperated listener.

I’m going to take a copy to Random House.

It’s going to be a best seller, he assures us. He’s probably right.

He’s also taken a page from Kanye West‘s book. Mr. West, who collaborated with co-author J. Sakiya Sandifer to produce the 52-page, spiral bound, officially titled Kanye West Presents Thank You and You’re Welcome, memorably declared himself a “proud non-reader of books. In a Reuters wire story, West explained that he preferred doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.”

Likewise, budding novelist doesn’t see the point of having to have read books before writing them: I’ve been living my life, not wasting my time reading, he says.

On all sides the barriers to publication have steadily given way and although a few fastidious nay-sayers, like the dumbfounded bear in the cartoon, may stomp their feet, Kanye West and budding novelist are having the last laugh.

Let’s look at a recent #1 New York Times best seller from this past summer.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Justin Halpern started Twittering his dad’s musings on August 3, 2009.

For a week or so after he created the account – the Twitter feed called Shit My Dad Says”- Halpern had five followers, all of them friends.

The Times reported September 2, 2009 that Halpern had signed with an agent and was considering offers from book publishers only three weeks, then, since the Twitter account had been noticed beyond Halpern’s own circle.

By the end of the next month Shit My Dad Says had been sold to HarperCollins, who published it under their It Books imprint in May of this year. A November 10th 2009 Wired story reported that CBS plans to make a television show based on the 73-year-old’s goofball musings.

The New York Times Best Seller list for June 20th, 2010 has the books at number 1. Tonight, on Amazon, Shit My Dad Says is #21 in “Books.”

As a recent post on the Shit My Dad Says Twitter feed has it: “You don’t have to be good to succeed. You just gotta be the least shitty option.

Dan O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Melville House.