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  Ishmael Community: The Annals of Ishmael

Ishmael Rejection Letters?!

    Early Ishmael rejection letters from literary agents...not put here to criticize them for overlooking Ishmael as a novel that the public was obviously hungry for, but rather to provide more of the stepping stones that led Mr. Quinn from the beginnings of Ishmael (aka. The Book of Nahash, and Another Story to Be In) to the present.

    Dear Mr. Quinn:

    Thanks so much for sending me THE BOOK OF NAHASH, and please forgive the unconscionable delay in setting back to you. I can offer the usual excuse -- too much to read and too little time to read it in -- but the fact is that the last few months have been unusually dreadful. Almost every client felt compelled to turn in a 1000-page manuscript ("since things are so much slower in the summer," they tell me), and to top it all off, I've been ill and out of the office much of the summer. Again, my apologies.

    I found NAHASH to be a most intriguing piece of work: I delight in the debunking of myths. Your style is clear and accessible, although the tone of the thing left me rather dissatisfied. The story and its message seem to be competing for the dominant role, and that made me a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps that ambivalence of tone is necessary to this kind of writing -- it is widely featured, after all, in such best-sellers as the Bible and the Talmud -- but I think a modern presentation should lean more heavily on the telling of the story, and let the point make itself more discreetly.

    And now I must drop the bomb. I think it would be very difficult, if not downright impossible, to find a publisher for this book. Personal reinterpretations of our cultural mythology, and contemporary applications of those interpretations, are hard to put over even when the author is quite well known. I'm afraid I can't be very sanguine about your chances, however well you may succeed in your presentation.

    I'm sorry that, after all this time, I don't have better news for you. Let me just say that I personally found your ideas and your treatment to be fascinating. Would that a trade publisher might feel the same. With my doubts, though, I know I'm not the right agent for this project.

    Good luck with this.

    Dear Mr. Quinn:


    We certainly admire you for tackling some highly esoteric subject matter and succeeding in many ways, however Carlos Castaneda was very much a fly-by-night phenomenon; he was allowed to exist due largely to the sensibility of the 60's and he's very much tied into the frailty and naiveté of the times, especially from a marketing standpoint.

    Those were days when love and peace and karma and "good vibes" were very much the bywords of the times, but this of course proved transitory; these innocent ideals were not destined for long lasting success. Today's audiences have reverted to conservatism to a good degree -- they are more interested in practical subjects than esoteric subjects which of course reflects directly on sales figures in the publishing marketplace. Hence, the modern reader is far more likely to purchase a computer book or something that offers practical advice than a work which deals with more arcane subject matter.

    Of course nothing could delight me more than to be able to report that this work has enormous commercial potential, and that we will be rushing it out to all possible markets fully confident of a swift and positive response from editors and publishers alike -- after all, we make our livings by successfully bringing worthy scripts to the marketplace and reaping commissions on their sale.

    As you've probably discerned by now, however, this will not be possible in this instance for reasons which are many and varied; there are problems in the text itself and there are marketing considerations which all combine to make this a project we won't be able to sell for you -- we simply can't see marketing this script profitably in the contemporary publishing marketplace.

    Furthermore, it's also my sad duty to have to inform you that no amount of revision could possibly turn this into a salable manuscript, since the flaws in this manuscript intimately bound up in your central underlying conceptualizations and the nature of the marketplace itself; they drive straight to the heart of this script and make this material totally and completely un-revisable.

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