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Reflections of a working writer and reader



A ‘Good News’ Story

Publishers Weekly has a story about the acceptance by William Morrow of Gordon Campbell’s novel, Missing Witness.

“This story is like a fairy tale,” said Betsy Burton, owner of the King’s English (bookshop) in Salt Lake City, Utah, who remembers the day Campbell, a good customer, came into her store with a massive manuscript. “This happens with alarming frequency—that customers will come in with a 20-pound novel they want me to read. I usually tell them I’ll read 50 pages, because my general rule is if you don’t like it in 50 pages, you’re not going to like it.” Burton not only liked the first 50 pages, she loved the entire manuscript, which Campbell, a trial lawyer by day, titled Missing Witness.

After consulting with longtime friend and Harper Collins sales rep John Zeck, she mailed the manuscript to Carolyn Marino, executive editor at William Morrow. “I thought I’d never hear from her, but three days later she called me.”

Campbell flew to New York, with his daughter, but without an agent, and within a week the novel was sold. William Morrow will publish the book in September, the week during which it’s author becomes sixty-five.

5 Responses to “A ‘Good News’ Story”

  1. pluto says:

    Great story!
    Betsy Burton sounds a kind soul too, not to just say to people ‘sorry, too busy to read your stuff — go find an agent’.

    jb says: Hi Pluto. Yeah, let’s hear it for Betsy. All the Betsy’s . . .

  2. May says:

    When I read your story I thought that it had happened in the past, when people were more willing to listen to each other.
    I find it sad that most writers will never see their work published. From what I understood by reading their journals, it is not economic success that counts the most for them but the possibility to reach an audience.

    jb says: Hi May. I suppose people are motivated for differing reasons. The possibility of reaching an audience is certainly one of the most common. But I’ve met many writers who simply can’t help themselves. They love words and language and need to spend time there.

  3. May says:

    That’s true. This happens also to ordinary people who are not real writers.

    jb says: Hi May, 🙂 I knew a real writer once who was almost an ordinary person.

  4. May says:

    I love it when people make me laugh!
    It happens so rarely with grown-ups.

    jb says: I promise you, May, I’m gonna still try to do it when I grow up.

  5. Lee says:

    Here’s my cue to say you can reach an audience without being published. Even real people do it sometimes.

    jb says: Reminded me of Flannery O’Connor Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.