Yesterday, we excerpted from and linked to a piece by Edan Lepucki, in which she talks about letting go of a first novel that didn’t sell. Today, we excerpt from and link to a rebuttal from Kristen Tsetsi.
“Magic 8 Ball,” I asked, “will my first novel be published?”
“Magic 8 Ball, am I a man?”
Edan Lepucki, in her recent article in The Millions, briefly plays with the idea of a) showing her cleavage in her author photo or b) falsifying her bio to make herself seem exotic (foreign) and male (thought to be more skilled/serious writers) as a means of getting the attention of publishers who haven’t been interested in her novel, which was (less interestingly) written by “an American woman living in an uncool neighborhood in Los Angeles.”
I’ve thought about this, too. And, like Lepucki, I gave it consideration “not entirely seriously, and not entirely in jest.” It’s occurred to me as a woman not-yet-beyond-relative-youth that in this country (and most others), breasts will sell just about anything. A “serious” writer posing topless with her manuscript? Sure, it reduces her to a sex object and reeks of desperation, but all evidence points to It Would Probably Work. As long as the book gets published in the end, isn’t it worth it? And isn’t it the people suddenly giving it attention because of a pair of breasts, and not the author, who should be ashamed?
Like I said, I’ve thought about this. I’ve also thought about creating a male, and fully Albanian, pseudonym (“Tsetsi” is exotic enough, but “Kristen” doesn’t have that foreign flair).
Because like Lepucki, I’ve been close to publication, and now I’m faced with a dilemma not so different from hers: what to do if a book doesn’t sell.
Like Lepucki, I’ve had an agent. But way back before finally acquiring that agent, a long line of query rejections had been blissfully interrupted by emails – and a phone call – from fairly big-name agents who said things like, “We love this, but literary fiction is hard to sell, and even harder when it’s coming from an ‘unknown.’”