Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Genesis of a book

Share |
Genesis of a book

Finally, I got to hold my new book. It's a little like cradling a new-born baby, although, from what women tell me, the work of birthing a book is considerably less painful. However, it often takes longer.
All books, once published, look more or less equal. Each occupies its distinct physical space, with an intoxicating whiff of fresh ink and paper providing a pheromonal come-on to potential readers. However, each also has its own story of conception and collaboration to tell, sometimes involving sojourns in the Desert of Rejection, or the vast time-space anomaly created when overloaded people volunteer their remaining time and energy to the often thankless task of running a literary press.
My contract with my current publisher spelled out in several places that authors had to agree to be patient. This is indeed a virtue, especially with a poetry book, as there's seldom a rabid, Harry-Potter-crazed mob breaking down bookstore doors for the next poetry title. Perseverance is another important virtue. In my own publishing history, it's sometimes taken several submissions and rejections before the right publisher appeared.
However, I comfort myself by recalling that one of my favourite books, Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, was initially rejected by 121 publishers -- a Guinness world record for an eventual best-seller-- who couldn't figure out whether it was autobiography, fiction, philosophy, self-help, or actually about Zen and bike fixing (in truth, it's all of these). It has since sold four million copies, apparently making it the best-selling philosophy title yet.
Perhaps each book's journey is the path it needs, be that an easy or tragic one -- the author of A Confederacy of Dunces committed suicide, believing his book would never find publication. It was issued after his death.
I'll be launching my latest book, Time Slip, on Sunday, May 30 at 2 p.m. at Bar Italia on College Street. Join me for a few publishing anecdotes, an aria by Lara Solnicki, and the launch of thre e other new Guernica titles.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

John Oughton

John Oughton is the author of several books, including Time Slip: New and Selected Poems, published by Guernica Editions.

Go to John Oughton’s Author Page