Wednesday, June 17, 2009

50 x No = Barry Eisler's NYT Bestseller

By Don Helin

Barry Eisler.jpg

NY Times bestselling author Barry Eisler agreed to be the debut authors' mentor to address "Internet Marketing," an issue of prime important to all of our members.

When asked what one thing in his background would most surprise his readers, Barry replied, "A bunch of things, but probably the most relevant is that I received something like 50 agent rejections before hooking up with the agent who first represented me." He hit a hot spot with many of the debut authors when he added, "When you haven't been published, it's easy to develop the habit of looking at published authors as having been born that way."

The key according to Barry is to persevere in a field characterized by tremendous subjectivity and me-too-ism until your success seemed in retrospect ordained. He reminded us that Stephen King wrote four or five novel-length manuscripts that went unsold in a foot locker beneath his bed before Carrie sold big to print and film. This was comforting to many of us. Indeed, there is hope.

In addition to be a friendly guy who is easily approachable, Barry has a great sense of humor. When asked what's the funniest thing that happened to him on his road to publication, he replied, "I disdained the notion of a sequel to Rain Fall--until Putnam came in with their very attractive offer for the book and a sequel, to which I agreed without even pausing for pro forma dignity fig leafs like insisting on how it was going to be all about the character and the art."

He admits to being shortsighted in not recognizing Rain's series potential. "The guy is such a storm of internal contradictions and desires that the sequel ideas keep generating themselves based on changes in his character which in turn are based on events in the stories." Barry has written six Rain books and thinks each has been better than the one before. All of his readers will certainly agree with that. He now lives in Tokyo and says, "I can feel his presence particularly strongly, and have a feeling he and I will meet again."

Barry remembers vividly the moment he got "The Call." "It was 6:30 in the morning California time and my agent's call woke me up with Putnam's two-book offer. I don't think I got back to sleep for a week after."

When asked if there is anything he would have done differently now that he looks back on his debut., he replied, "I would have argued for a different title and packaging approach. This is your business, nobody else's, and you are ultimately responsible for your own success or failure. You owe it to yourself to make sure things are being done right and that you have the means for knowing whether they're being done right."

Great advice, Barry. Thanks again for your help and we're all looking forward to the next John Rain novel.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the encouragement, Barry! Although we--as debut authors--are past the rejection phase, it often feels there's still a tall hill in front of us. It helps tremendously to hear from someone who is up ahead on the road a bit.


Barry Eisler said...

Thanks, Drue, and if anything I said has been helpful, I'm glad. Lots more "Things I wish I had known when I was starting out" info on the For Writers page of my website, too.