There were a number of things I found interesting in yesterday’s New York Times piece about Kathryn Stockett’s first novel, The Help.
It was Amy Einhorn’s first book for her new imprint; it’s sold almost 500,000 copies in hardcover, amazing numbers for a literary first novel; and it’s a book written by a Southern white author that has two black protagonists. It’s been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird. But what really struck the agent in me was that the novel was initially rejected by almost 50 agents before it was picked up. That is a stat that should be inspiring to aspiring authors and probably a little frustrating for us agents who work so hard to find great material and wonder how we missed something that then goes on to be so successful. But that’s the way the game is played: you win some, you lose some, and the take-away for me from this story for authors is that confidence in your work, persistence, and of course a good dose of luck and timing, can make all the difference. It’s a great success story, and in a time where there are so many grim reports about book publishing, it’s refreshing to see a story about a book that got it all right, even if it had some stumbling blocks along the way.