Even for successful writers, the traditional publishing industry is brutal

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

A sad story and it raises the puzzle, yet again, of why publishing is such a strange disaster of an industry:

That novel was called Lightning Rods, and it came out two months ago, with the much smaller press New Directions. She tried at various points over the past decade, but Ms. DeWitt could not get the book published before then. The book should have seen the light of day almost 10 years ago, when it was bought—after lengthy negotiations—by Jonathan Burnham, Ms. DeWitt’s editor and the editorial head of Talk Miramax. He bought the rights and paid Ms. DeWitt her advance, but the novel never surfaced.

…Many writers have gone mad trying to finish a manuscript, but Ms. DeWitt, who has a history of depression, is one of the few to lose her mind from the process of trying to publish one. The industry beat her down and wore her out. Mr. Burnham said she was “completely enveloped” in every detail of Last Samurai—from the choice of type to the layout of the page. It drove her to the edge. Like Lightning Rods, Last Samurai had also been bought by one publisher—Rebecca Wilson at Weidenfeld—before being published by another. After reading Ms. Wilson’s comments on the manuscript—“crap comments,” Ms. DeWitt says—she wrote to her agent, Stephanie Cabot, then at William Morris, and said she would commit suicide if she had to keep working with her. She then wrote to Ms. Wilson, thanked her for her comments and informed her she was going away to work on other books. She wanted to “protect her book from the publishing process.” She retreated to a house in Chesterfield in the north of England and started a number of novels; Lightning Rods was the first that she finished.

She wrote it, she said, because she “felt like she was getting fucked from behind through a hole in the wall” by the publishing industry.