Erin Hosier is trying to figure out how to deliver your soulmate every damn day.
A book is a relationship. Or at least it represents one for a lot of people, not just between reader and writer or writer and writer's significant other, but for all the other people involved in the "making-of" process. So it's no wonder that when we go about doing our jobs, agents and editors like to use and abuse the phrase "falling in love."
I didn't know it was love the first time I felt it. I just felt restless and amped up, like I was too excited to sleep. I couldn't stop my brain from creating images of its jacket. I looked up its subject on the Internet. I thought up new titles. I knew I would sell it and to whom. Then I did sell it and the author set about writing it. I read the manuscript at the writer's halfway point and marked it up with red pen. At that point on, I would have utter confidence in its chances for success. The editor called it "our little book" and I made a note that we couldn't trust her—how dare she see it as anything but HUGE? She would be surprised, then promoted, when the book debuted on the bestseller list. There were flowers, framed portraits, champagne. It felt rare and fleeting, and when it ended I cried.
"I didn't fall in love
," Gerry Howard
, the Doubleday editor, said almost sarcastically, when I called for a response on the novel he'd been sitting on for a couple of weeks. "No kidding?" I said, "That sounds pretty mild, for you." I would finally meet the guy responsible for the careers of some of the most influential writers
of the last 20 years, in person, for sushi, after years of being on the receiving end of his barbs. The real thing wasn't as scary as I'd planned. Despite a hardcore Brooklyn accent, his suit appeared to be ready for its close-up on The 700 Club. I reenacted a recent rejection by him I'd heard from another agent in the office (back when editors and agents messengered manuscripts back and forth to each other). If this is your idea of a hot love scene then you and I have very different ideas and expectations of literature...
read my favorite line. He laughed at my impression, then actually blushed. I told him I call him "Scary Gerry
" whenever referencing him to other agents.
"Stop it," he said, "You're going to give me a big head."
It's true I have a huge professional crush on Gerry Howard. He's probably the only editor who consistently rejects me that I don't hate for it. His playing hard-to-get keeps me coming back. Ditto, Lee Boudreaux
of Ecco. OMG, do I fantasize about getting in with her! Not only is she brilliant, and manages to stay at once commercial
and dignified, she is also gorgeous and from the South. I've had dreams about her. I get a charge out of talking even to her assistant. Riverhead's Sean McDonald
is another one. Don't even get me started. I consider him a friend and we've never done a book together. Why am I so hung up? Each rejection is a heartbreak. I cry silent tears of longing and regret even though his rejections make me feel as meaningless as a fashion show. My relationship with the editors is just another example of the requisite passion I must mine in order to effectively do my job.
I am guilty of that which I ridicule. I "didn't fall in love" probably 337 times last year (and that's not even counting the men I didn't fall in love
with). There were so many manuscripts I could just not get it up for, that I didn't want to commit to. It's not that the manuscript didn't look good, didn't present well, it's more like I didn't want to read it just then—anything really—I was just not really in "a reading place" at the time. And though I plan to retire with a large bookshelf, full of beautifully bound books that I had something to do with bringing into the world, I just can't see this manuscript being the beginning of anything that will end up on that shelf. Somebody else's shelf, now absolutely. I wouldn't be surprised if someone else has that enthusiastic response you certainly deserve, it's not you, it's me.
What does it for you lately?