MaxBarry.com
slippery when wet

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Fri 22
Jun
2007

The Response

Writing I heard back from Bill, my editor, about my new book. It wasn’t good news. It wasn’t bad news, either. It was kind of inexplicable news. I’m still trying to digest it.

My fear, of course, has been that Bill would say, “Max, you know this book you’re so excited about… well, it’s not so great.” Every time this has threatened to overwhelm me the last couple of weeks, I shooed it away, because I knew in my heart that surely that could not be true: this was a great book, my best, even.

And it turns out that Bill does think it’s great. So too, apparently, do other people he’s shown it to. I pushed him on this, in case he was doing that thing where you say only nice things to the author because my God they’re temperamental, but no: I really think he considers it quality.

That’s the good news. The bad news is he can’t publish it.

It’s hard for me to explain why. It’s hard for me to understand why. I think it has a little to do with the nature of the story, and a lot to do with the nature of the publishing business. I can’t relate the details here without being immensely unprofessional, even for me, so that will have to do, sorry. But the situation is incredibly bizarre, like something out of one of my books. (One of the published ones, ha ha.)

Bill is a genius editor. When he says there’s a publishing problem, I completely believe him. I know he’s looking out for me and my career. He’s proven his skill and dedication over a couple of books.

There are options. I have to believe I can get this book out there somehow. Surely we’ll figure out something.

Surely.

This is a very weird feeling.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Marleen (#2741)

Location: Berlin, Germany
Quote: "I want more expensive shoes in one place than I've ever seen in my whole life."
Posted: 4356 days ago

Oh, that's some bad news for you and for the rest of the world.

On a 1-73 scale, exactly how bizarre is the situation? If it's > 65 then you should write a book about it, heh. I have a feeling that it'd fit in nicely with your other published ones!

Jonathan (#3166)

Posted: 4356 days ago

How about we each mail you a check, and then you can email us the book as a PDF? Cut out the publisher entirely...

Seriously, this is outrageous. Hang in there.

Phill Sacre (#1822)

Location: London, UK
Quote: "Computers are like air conditioners. Both stop working, if you open windows."
Posted: 4356 days ago

Um... is the story about an author who tries to publish a really controversial novel but can't?

I suppose you could try publishing it as an "e-book" on your website. Or maybe you could just photocopy a whole bunch of them and send them to people for, you know, like, money. If not more.

Or maybe you could storm into the office of whoever it is who will object to your book being published with a machine gun and yell "Listen, bitches! You gonna publish ma book!" and then let rip, whilst laughing manically. I've always wanted to do that (well, except for the yelling about book publishing part).

I'll fetch my coat, the taxi's on its way...

Dan (#3126)

Location: New York City-ish
Quote: "The main thing about Van Gogh…is that he painted pictures that astonished him with their importance, even though nobody else thought they were worth a damn. --Kilgore Trout"
Posted: 4356 days ago

I assume your editor is astute and awesome, like you say, but still--didn't a lot of people tell you 'Syrup' was totally unpublishable? And then didn't they drop you right before 'Jennifer Government'? So, at the least, we are aware publishers and editors make errors.

I recall reading a story about Michael Chabon's latest, 'The Yiddish Policemen's Union' (which is an amazing, amazing, amazing book). He handed in his 'final' draft and his editor suddenly got all scared: the book was not up to snuff and they'd given the author *seven* figures. The editor flew out from NYC to wherever Chabon lives on the West Coast, and they parsed the book, page by page. For Chabon the book was already 'done', but he ended up spending another eight months working on it, all at the behest of his editor. At the end, Chabon compared the final product to the previous ('final') draft, and couldn't imagine having thought the book was complete, before the extra eight months of work. Maybe you'll have some kind of similar good-bad fortune.

I hope you keep us in the loop, if you are able.

Karan (#1376)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Quid Quid Latine Dictum Sit, Altum Viditur - Anything said in Latin sounds important"
Posted: 4356 days ago

To second/third/fourth the above comments, e-books! There's got to be a way around the "man" of publishing? Sure it's nowhere near the same thing as having the book in hand, but it's a way around.

(my money's on something out of Syrup :P)

Adam Czarnecki (#3160)

Location: Michigan, USA
Posted: 4356 days ago

Oh no! What a mixed bag of emotion, I'm sure.

Is self-publishing an option???

Machine Man subscriber Michael Crider (#3054)

Location: Colorado, United States
Posted: 4356 days ago

Max, the enjoyment I've gotten out of your books was worth many times the bills I put down for them at Borders. If it comes to it, I'm sure I'm not the only one who'll pay more than the price of a hardcover to get my hands on The Exceptionals, no matter what form it takes. Sell it through a publisher, put it in an eBook, smuggle the pages into a General Mills factory and send it out on the inside of cardboard cereal boxes - if you can get it out there, we'll buy it and read it.

John Reynolds (#2534)

Location: New York, USA
Posted: 4356 days ago

^ i'm with that guy.

Machine Man subscriber Lossenelin (#3167)

Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Posted: 4356 days ago

I agree with whats been said about self publishing, you have an established fan base who will buy the book. I don't like the ebook idea so much though (reading novels on screen is more eye strain than I enjoy) If you were to do a small print run that sold out some publisher is bound to say "hey we want a piece of that!" and publish your book.

And if it didn't sell out, you could pretend it did and keep at the extra copies yourself, then once the self published edition of the book becomes a collectable item, you can sign all your left over books and cash in on eBay. Its a perfect plan really.

Machine Man subscriber sean kearney (#3037)

Location: Denver, CO
Quote: "patternhunter@gmail.com"
Posted: 4356 days ago

Wow! Just hearing about this is like getting kicked in the balls.

Sign me up for one who would buy the PDF without hesitation!

- sean

Rob2Kx (#1125)

Location: Canada
Quote: "Anything for laughs even if it kills you"
Posted: 4356 days ago

Release it on the internet?

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 4356 days ago

There's more than one publisher in the world (as J.K. Rowling discovered while H.P. was being rejected by 19 of 'em). If this book is not of the correct type (I suspect we have a genre problem here, no?) for Doubleday I'm sure your agent will be able to place it elsewhere. If I recall correctly Random House/Doubleday own, like, 2,597 other imprints (from Ballantine to Knopf, etc. Their website tells me Knopf own Shocken Books, that's sounds promising!) covering every imaginable genre and publishing niche. Hell, send it to Scribe, then you might actually get this one published in Australia *before* the US/UK, which would make a nice change.

Jeffrey (#2286)

Location: Right here
Quote: "Mathematics is a powerful language. Just look at how mathematicians destroyed the housing market."
Posted: 4356 days ago

Now I really want to read this book and find out what exactly makes it unpublishable. This isn't some scheme like in Jennifer Government and the whole Nike shortage thing is it? I don't the cops would like me shooting someone for this book lol.

Linnea1928 (#2654)

Location: Rosemount, MN
Posted: 4356 days ago

Max, I know you are going to try really hard to find a way to publish this book, especially since you have told all of us (your fans) how good it is. A creative guy like you has to be able to do this; I have faith in you that you will solve this problem!! PLEASE!!!

liam (#3168)

Location: canada
Posted: 4355 days ago

Damn the traditional publishing model, Max! Put the new book out yourself! I'm sure you'd have no problem shifting enough copies via this site and the word of mouth praise of your many many fans, to make it both profitable for you and your agent.

If your agent loves the work but the publishers won't publish it, then you're doing something right. Keep it up and we'll keep reading.

Michael Ricksand (#2212)

Location: Terra
Quote: "You do not have a right to be stupid."
Posted: 4355 days ago

Reading this was like the part of really good books where events give you a feeling of being meaningless; an emotional version of the colour grey.

Andrew Riley (#1970)

Location: Parker, Colorado, USA
Quote: "Predictions are difficult, especially about the future."
Posted: 4355 days ago

Here's my brilliant idea.

Do a small print run (100 copies) through one of the online publishers. Number and sign them like painters do with prints. You could sell them through your website for $100 each and I bet you'd sell out within an hour. That's ten thousand dollars. My God - I'm a genius!

But when you take my brilliant idea and run with it, put me down for the first copy. I'm putting $100 + shipping in escrow as we speak.

ryandake (#2199)

Location: scenic monterey, ca
Quote: ""The rest is not our business.""
Posted: 4355 days ago

wow, max, that must hurt. i can't imagine why a book would be unpublishable.

print on demand. i'll composite the book for you, that way i'll get to read it first. and then i'll buy it, too.

hang in there!

Stephen (#3170)

Location: Dublin
Quote: "Now, a question of etiquette - as I pass, do I give you the ass or the crotch?"
Posted: 4354 days ago

An idea might be to get pre orders going. If you can go to the publisher and say you have X number of people already committed to getting the book it might help smooth over a few problems.

Theres no greater motivation for any company to get past problems when theres guaranteed money there.

Lottie (#3093)

Location: Sheffield, UK
Posted: 4354 days ago

If it's any consolation, I just bought Company. =]
Chin up, it could be worse. (Lol, worst phrase ever.)

Mick (#2190)

Location: East Coast, Australia
Posted: 4353 days ago

Whatever the problem is, I'd definitely hold off on making any decisions at all, at least for several months. (Unless, of course, your editor already has a swell idea.)

Personally I wouldn't go the self-publishing route; costs too much, and writers make very little money as it is, unless you're Stephen King or Rowling. Selling it online via the site, as a PDF... Not a terrible idea if you don't mind low sales. It won't cost you any money, but it won't make you any either.

If those are the only viable options, I'd seriously consider putting that baby in a drawer, write the next novel, and bring out The Exceptionals again at a later date -- see if the market changes in the mean-time. Plenty of writers do that kind of thing.

Steve (#3172)

Location: Melbourne
Posted: 4353 days ago

What a kick in the guts. It's a shame when something original equates to something that is unpublishable.

I can't wait to read it in whatever form it is released in the future

Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 4352 days ago

Oh god, I'm so sorry! I wish I had something useful to say... I have no experience with this kind of thing. This just sucks. I really hope you find a way to get it out there. I know you will.

You will perservere!!

<3 Emily

Greg Karber (#1568)

Location: gregkarber.com
Posted: 4352 days ago

Abuh...

I know it's extremely unprofessional to reveal any details yourself, Max. But if anyone else knows any details, you know, and you wouldn't mind sharing them with me, then drop me a line at gXkarberX@XgmailX.com (remove the X's, of course) and please share what you know.

This is obviously worse news for Max than myself, but I feel disoriented still.

Best of luck with the book, Max. I hope you find some way to make it available to all of us, but if not, then I look forward to your next book.

Perhaps, and feel free to just ignore this completely, but you could tell us a synopsis of the book and nothing else? Maybe so then we could deduce it ourself? I don't know--that seems dumb even typing it out. But we've (I've) been waiting for any tiny morsel of information and it feels like the scheduled all-you-can-eat buffet was just cancelled.

Peter Larkins (#2811)

Location: Sydney
Quote: "Never let logic get in the way of a good MKTG idea ..."
Posted: 4352 days ago

I think the general consensus is "self publishing", Max. Cafe-press does books (apparently), and there are roughly 50,432,177 other 'on-demand' printing solutions out there.

In terms of laying out / typesetting the manuscript prior to (self) publication, I'm sure there are plenty of your readers out there who would be more than willing to help. Take myself for example - qualified designer (among other things), possessing fully-legit versions of all the latest Adobe design software, experience laying out / typesetting various 'zines in the heady days of the early 90's (and various bits of marketing crap in the not-so-heady days of the present), and willing to help for nothing more than a mention in the acknowledgements page (hell, I've done sound-tracks for people's film trailers for less !)

So yes, the option is definitely there, as I'm sure you know ...

David (#1848)

Location: Texas
Quote: "Delighted!"
Posted: 4351 days ago

Did he mean the book was unpublishable in general, or just by HIM?

Bummer about the wrinkle, Max, but there's no question it will get worked out.

Joey (#1080)

Location: Tampa
Quote: "Don't fight with ugly people. They have nothing to lose."
Posted: 4351 days ago

i really hope you can publish it, and i'm looking forward to reading it any way that i can.

Tim (#3178)

Posted: 4351 days ago

I must confess I can't imagine what would make this novel unpublishable. Unless there's something about the content that might expose you and your publisher to legal action. Or you you've laid a major smackdown on Mohammed or something. Or, you know, the book causes tumors in every tenth reader.

As a writer myself, the self-publishing route isn't very appealling and I suspect (presumptiously) it isn't to you either. I'm sure I'd want the legitimacy and reach of a major publisher. Besides, without knowing the real issues here, it's not clear that self-publishing solves whatever problems you have to deal with here.

I hate to suggest it -- because it smacks of semi-self-censorship -- but is there a way that rewrites could solve things?

In any case, I'm ready to buy it, however you end up distributing it.

Tim

howard (#810)

Location: uk
Quote: "err"
Posted: 4351 days ago

As per others I think PDF and paypal come to mind, just name your price!

Ekki (#3181)

Posted: 4349 days ago

You use OpenOffice, right? Just make a PDF of it, the feature is embedded. As the gentleman above says, name any price you'd like, I'll pay you via paypal.

Ekki (#3181)

Posted: 4349 days ago

Can I have an advance copy? You have my email, right? Sorry. Just thought I'd ask.

Damn it, I've never wanted a book this much. :D

Please don't edit out the parts they don't care for, I want to be able to read this unadulterated.

Flynn (#520)

Location: Chicago, IL USA
Quote: "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
Posted: 4346 days ago

Ok, Max...no more books written in Ghatanothoan. Those books that written in unpronounceable words tend to have a pesky habit of summoning up Chthonian demons (and for some reason they always wind up climbing the ladder in the Marketing department).

Seriously though...buck up, camper. There is always a way. That's why the universe is so big. We'll look forward to reading it someday in a way that will make you fabulously wealthy.

Simon (#3192)

Location: Melbourne
Quote: "I'd rather be arrogant than wrong"
Posted: 4342 days ago

Try www.lulu.com

Phoenix (#2361)

Location: Somewhere in New Zealand
Quote: "You mean I have to narrow it down to a single quote? I feel a bit like a kid in a giant candy store who's been told they can pick ONE piece of candy..."
Posted: 4339 days ago

Don't waste all your hard work! I know pdf seems like an easy way to get the book out and it's certainly the way things seem to be going technology wise. However, call me old fashioned, but as much as I want to read this book, it just doesn't seem worth it in pdf format.

There's still nothing like an actual book. What else could I use to prop the door open in the morning or as a firestarter?! And not to mention that curling up in bed with a good laptop just doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy. On top of that you've got possible file corruptions (the equivalent of opening up your book one day and finding a large, charred hole right in the most exciting and important piece of the book) and the job of trying to explain a pdf to people who are, say "technically challenged" (*After half an hour of explaining* “Wait, wait. Okay, so I turn it on…) I could go on but I think you get the drift.

Good luck Max :)

Simon (#3192)

Location: Melbourne
Quote: "I'd rather be arrogant than wrong"
Posted: 4338 days ago

Tim (#3178), the only thing I can think of is that there is a book with a very similar plot either just released, or in the process of being released. Max your book is not about a boy wizard is it?

blab (#1632)

Location: The Sandwich Isles
Quote: "Adventure is just poor planning"
Posted: 4337 days ago

So sorry to hear this. Must've felt like a punch to the gut. Although the consensus of the authors posting comments seems to be that self-publishing lacks legitimacy (and lucre) I'm with Jonathan, Michael Crider, et al. Just think, not only can you now become a member of the samidazat but maybe the selected --er-- few of us blogroupies who didn't live in cities where you jetted in on your book tour could still get a signed copy of your work.

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