Shortly after I bought my first PC, I started my novel about the first wave of African American journalists to go into mainstream media in Chicago in the early 1970s. That was back in late 1985. I finished my novel six years ago, then spent a good year trying to find an agent to represent it and me.
It was the most belittling and discouraging professional exercise I've ever experienced. I systematically sent letters out to dozens of literary agents. Frequently form letters were what I got in return, perfunctorily encouraging me--after they expressed no interest.
In a dozen instances or so I got letters asking to see the first three chapters. All but three of those interested agents sent personalized letters gently rejecting my labor of love. The rejection letters from the other three came after I'd sent the complete novel.
In every case, those who read it told me that the novel was well-written and that the characters were well-developed and interesting. Then came the but... One was bothered because the novel has a number of flashbacks. Another liked it but basically said it was too long. The third didn't really say why not.
I thought I understood their hesitations back then. I think I understand them even more today.
My novel, originally entitled The Corliss Column or A Generic Suicide Note, is 119,000 words or about 500 pages long. Too much book for a first novel. It is also not a commercial effort. It's not a mystery novel or a how-to book. No mainstream celebrity, I've not been trashed in the pages of the National Enquirer nor has my private life been teased in a promotion for Access Hollywood. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck haven't the foggiest idea who I am. Neither does Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews.
There are a couple of other reasons why an agent might not find me and my novel a top prospect. I'm no thirty-something so they are unlikely to get three or four decades of steady income off my production. After many false starts, I didn't really get serious about completing my first work of fiction until I had turned 50 and came to the realization that if I didn't do something soon I could end up on my deathbed speaking in short breaths about the novel I was going to write.
When I finished the novel five years after a concerted, disciplined effort, what I had in hand was a story about my protagonist, Pierce Trotter, and other black journalists' efforts to overcome hidebound, institutional racism in the news media--a pre-existing condition that is the book publishing industry suffers from as well.
Today, of course, it's a new game; sort of. While the law of last-hired, first-fired is still in effect, resulting in an disproportionate number of minorities losing jobs in the cut-backs, both the mainstream media and the book publishing industries are on life-support: Therefore the embedded racism rampant through both industries will go with them.
And while my novel, newly-named Sweetspeare's Sirens, a Tell-All Memoir by Pierce Trotter, is historical faction, I choose to look forward not back. I've decided to use the new media to publish my novel about the old media.
Beginning tomorrow, I'm going publish my book 140 characters at a time on Twitter. My tweets will show up on my other social media outlet, Facebook. Once 500-900 words have passed through Twitter and Facebook, they'll appear on MonroeAnderson3.0, a contemporary expression of the name on my birth certificate Monroe Anderson III, the new blog I've created exclusively for Sweetspeare's Sirens. Nearly finally, the novel post will appear in longer-form on my Facebook page until somewhere, someday it materializes as a hardcopy book.
Meanwhile, I'll be cutting the length of the novel by 40,000 words or so as I shoot it out into cyberspace.
A warning: Since Sweetspeare's Sirens is set in the '70s and '80s, there's lots of sex, drugs and Rhythm & Blues. There is also some raw language.
My latest venture into social media may also morph into performance art. We'll see as my experiment evolves.
I hope you'll follow me on this electronic journey. It should be some trip.