Literary musings, and news you can use, with Amye Archer
Why your book won’t sell and why you shouldn’t care
Perhaps the easiest way to tell this story is to tell it backwards. This is the reverse story of my book, Fat Girl, Skinny.
- August 2012 — My agent told me that almost every publisher she knows is “sick of memoir where nothing spectacular happens to the author.” And my memoir is one of them. I wash dishes. I cry into the dishwater. I have let everyone down. Including myself.
- July 2012 — My agent was bracing me for this. After a phone call in which she admitted that there is a real possibility my book won’t sell, I hung up the phone and sprinted across my yard with tears in my eyes. I then fell, sprained my foot, and ended up limping around all summer.
- January 2012 — After seven revisions of Fat Girl, Skinny, my agent, Meg, signed me to a contract. I was in Kohl’s when she called. I hung up and cried, this time from joy. I started telling everyone in the checkout line that I had an agent now. They didn’t seem to care and in fact, some looked ready to call for help.
- Summer, 2011 — After two dozen rejections from agents, and thanks to an opportunity from the Wilkes University’s MFA Program, I was matched with an outside reader for my manuscript. Meg Thompson, from LJK Literary (now Einstein Thompson) read my book and filled three single-spaced pages with quotes and lines she “loved.” I cried with relief all the way home from Wilkes-Barre.
- September 2010 — After almost two years of working on it, I send what I think is the final rewrite of my book off to my mentor, Beverly Donofrio, expecting shock and awe. I am sent back a hand-edited version with copious notes and a final message that says, “not done!” I sigh and get back to it. I have not yet broken.
- June 2009 — I have this idea. I want to write a book about being overweight, and then losing that weight, and write about the disappointment I felt when things didn’t get better. I wanted to share my experience of losing 100 pounds, and feeling more lost than ever before. I was convinced people would relate to the idea of being a “fat girl” in their minds, no matter how much they weighed. I put my daughters in daycare and wrote, even though my husband was killing himself in an exhausting job and I should have been working, and I should have had my babies home with me. We all sacrificed, you see, for my art.
I’m telling you this because a writer friend of mine, whose talent is matched only by his extraordinary story, called me yesterday to seek my advice. His memoir is being rejected all over the place, and he’s at his wit’s end. His family needs him, his family is counting on him, on this. And for a moment I almost geared up to deliver my usual “hang in there, it will get better” speech, when I paused. I thought about my book, about how it has broken my heart over and over again, but how in the writing of it I have gained so much. I have discovered a strength inside of me I never knew I had. I have made peace with mistakes and choices that used to haunt me. But more importantly, I have left something here for my daughters: a concrete manifestation of what I, their mother, have struggled with most as a woman, and the hope that they too can overcome heartbreak and insecurity. I used to think I had to sell my book in order for it to be a success. Now I know that the writing of it was the accomplishment and the journey I was meant to experience.
“Hang in there,” is what I ended up saying. “This part right here? The pain? The heartbreak? This is what separates the men from the boys (or the women from the girls). After all, if you were writing your book just to sell it, it wouldn’t hurt so much.”
Amye Barrese Archer is a writer and teacher in Scranton. You can read more about her at www.amyearcher.com.