Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Glenn Cooper: success story by skill and by chance

Glenn Cooper's bio reminds me of another great writer: the late Michael Crichton. Although in comparing lists of accomplishments, Crichton looks like a slacker. But even over achievers find good timing plays an important part in their successes and Mr. Cooper is no exception. Author of Secret of the Seventh Son with a sequel to be released in 2010, Mr Cooper has written an original blog (not seen anywhere else) just for us.

I'm so pleased to share this forum with novelist Glenn Cooper. -- Dawn

Glenn Cooper in his own words:

When Dawn asked me to guest blog I had a look at her site, saw that it was dedicated to two of my favorite subjects, synchronicity and writing, and couldn’t refuse, could I?

As an author in the midst of a rather startling debut phase of his career, I’m new enough to the world of publishing to tell any aspiring writer: it CAN happen to you. It’s not easy, the odds are against you but if your work ethic and talent match your aspirations, then climb into the ring and let synchronicity work its old black magic.

Here’s my story, with a heavy emphasis on the synchronicity angle. My day job was in medicine and biotechnology. Days and weekends were for writing, and juggling family things, of course. Sound familiar to your situation? For 20 years I wrote screenplays, sold a few, had one produced as an indie film which was great, but hardly a writing career.

A couple of years ago I had an idea for a project about fate and predestination – a thriller, and began it as a screenplay. Fate and predestination! The seeds of synchronicity. After five pages I thought it would make a better novel – but I’d never written one of those. Hmmm.

Cut To: one year and 110,000 words later and I had a completed manuscript. LIBRARY OF THE DEAD. I thought it was pretty good (but I always convince myself my stuff is pretty good) so I got one reader who knew me and one who didn’t and both of them thought it was swell. Emboldened, I set out on the dreaded task: finding a literary agent.

First stop – find a book on finding agents!

Second stop – write a query letter.

Third stop – ignore the advice in the book about sending them out in manageable bunches and blast away with 66 queries.

Fourth stop – wait for the rejections.

Except ONE. Yes, one in 66 said yes, and here’s where synchronicity comes in. This was a very good agency with a brand new agent who had just lost his marketing position at a major publishing house following a merger and consolidation. Jobless, he decided to try his lot at agenting, specifically tasked with looking for thrillers with fresh angles. So, if two publishers hadn’t merged and this fellow hadn’t been prodded to the agency side and he hadn’t staked out thrillers as his turf and I hadn’t queried just as he was finding his desk, then everything else that followed wouldn’t have happened.

Within a month the deals started to roll in. First the UK at a hot auction which Random House won. Then auctions in Germany, France, Spain, Italy. Then a US deal with HarperCollins, then a total of 28 translations in over 40 countries!

The book, published as LIBRARY OF THE DEAD internationally and SECRET OF THE SEVENTH SON in the US has been a top-ten bestseller all over Europe, the debut novel of the year in Italy and has sold over 500,000 copies so far and counting. And I now have four thrillers under contract and have left my day job.

And here’s the kicker. Shortly after making my deals, my synchronicity agent decided on another career path and left the agency! So, having intersected with him at the right time and place for both of us, I plunged back into the water to snag a really, really famous agent who rejected me the first time around and I’m now his client.

The moral of the story? Don’t give up. Trust yourself and trust fate to do its fickle thing. You might not succeed. Not everyone does. But you surely will not succeed if you don’t keep trying to write and make connections. Writing and synchronicity.

Glenn Cooper


Ann Hite said...

I love that you admit to the synchronicity in your new career. I think it plays a big part on that final acceptance. No matter how good the manuscript has to be in the right hands at the right time. Thanks for this post. It is encouraging.

Glenn Cooper said...

Ann, Anyone who doesn't admit to the role of synchronicity in getting published has his/her head buried in the sand, Glenn

Glenn Cooper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TextileTraveler said...

Great column! Thanks for the inspiration. I've never forgotten the best tip I ever heard from a writer: he set out to collect 1000 rejection letters. Yes, 1000. Of course, his book was accepted long before he reached his "goal," but he said it was exciting getting those rejection letters and adding them to his collection. What a wonderful attitude, I thought!