Photo by Ken Mohnkern.
Used under a Creative Commons license.
When I was a boy, 5000 bottles of Merlot ago, I thought by age 47 it would be a lot easier to break into the limelight. Now I know how Kilgore Trout felt. The man had hundreds of books written, and the only magazines he could find his name in print, were rags that were very poor by pornographic standards. Wait a minute; at least he was getting published regularly.
Based upon my recent experiences in trying to find a reputable agent and/or a publishing house, it appears that American icon Kurt Vonnegut, like his creation Kilgore Trout, would only be published in tasteless porno magazines in today’s totally absurd literary world.
What do I mean?
I have spent the better part of three months sending out 90% intact Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions to various agents and publishing places disguised as The Perfect Martini, only to be rejected time in and time out by all BUT ONE agent, who recognized my sample 20 pages as the first 20 pages of Breakfast of Champions.
Think of that dear reader! If Kurt Vonnegut would be, say my age of 47, we wouldn’t know of him and his characters, because the publishing world would have ignored him. Or as two publishing houses said to me in their little ratty form rejection notes in envelopes THAT I PAID the postage for: “Unfortunately, we have to take a pass,” or “We made our selection, and sorry your story didn’t fit our needs.” I wonder how these two press houses being university affiliated will feel when they get the notice from me about whose writing THEY actually did turn down? For you see, Kurt Vonnegut’s books have always done so well with the university crowd.
Not only am I a huge fan of Vonnegut as a reader; his writing has also served as a sort of teacher for me to try my new trade as a writer of fiction. Although, it is very hard for me to picture Kurt Vonnegut receiving rejection after rejection from notable agents and agencies who after turning you down, do not even send you a personal rejection slip, but scribble a few lines on the original query and mail back to me in my pre-paid stamped addressed envelope how “the work doesn’t fit their need.” “Thanks, I’ll take a pass.” My favorite is: “Not taking on new writers.” How does that one strike you? Imagine how these uber-agents will feel when I inform them how they have rejected the work of Kurt Vonnegut?
This leads me to question a few things. One, obviously, did the agents I query even read the submission? Two, if they did, did they ever read Vonnegut? Three, if they didn’t ever read Vonnegut, what are they doing selling themselves to authors as literary agents who know fiction? And most importantly, four; has an agency or publishing house ever bought a stamp?
I think Mr. Vonnegut would appreciate this story. At least he would admire my imagination in attempting to shine a very small light on today’s publishing world. For sure, Kilgore Trout would be pretty happy with my attempt to kick the publishing world right in the tush, and hopefully shake it out of the slumber it is in when it comes to non-linear fiction, unknown authors, non-celebrity books, diet books, fantasy books, how-to-books, legal books, horror books, and did I mention non-linear as well as unknown authors?
I have been warned by many, that my attempt might embarrass a few people. Agents and publishing houses might boycott me. That this ”hoax” of mine will backfire, because Kurt Vonnegut has only been dead for a short time and the book I picked only 34 years old. My response is two-fold. What, they won’t publish me? They are ignoring me already! Furthermore, I turn to Kurt Vonnegut himself for help.
In 1954 he was hired by “Sports Illustrated.” Knowing very little about sports he was given a picture of a horse which was jumping a fence. Vonnegut spent some time pondering what to write as the caption. His one line was: “The horse jumped over the f—ing fence.” He walked out after leaving that masterpiece.
I guess you could say like Vonnegut, I’m taking a chance.
And, so it goes.
Sam Moffie has published two novels, Swap and The Organ Grinder and the Monkey.