October 18, 2014

Horse 1778 - Some Remarks on "Paperback Writer"

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It's based on a novel by a man named Lear
And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

Book editors and people who accept manuscripts, will generally have a stock of material called a "slush pile". I have heard it said that some of them will only read through the first few lines of a work and the decide based on that, whether or not the book is worth publishing.

Even the whole process of getting novels to print in an increasingly digital market place is becoming ever so more difficult. I would expect that in most circumstances that Mr McCartney's book would either remain unread, or met with a rejection letter like the ones that a certain beagle may have met with:
"Dear contributor, thank you for submitting your story. We regret that it does not suit our present needs. If it ever does, we’re in trouble."

Many novels meet with rejection letter after rejection letter and so, it can be like repeatedly banging your head against the wall. Have you thought about self-publishing? Thanks to that same digital revolution which has rendered the traditional bookstore a dying breed, self-published books no longer carry that air of desperation that they used to. If this is your first novel (it took you "years to write") then this might be the way to go.

The only Lear that I have heard of was either a pre-Roman Celtic king who may or may not have been legend or the 19th century writer, Edward Lear who was mainly known for his literary nonsense.
The problem with either of these explanations is that neither King Lear or Edward Lear actually wrote any novels; Edward Lear's work was mainly poetry and journal work. Maybe Mr McCartney speaks of some other Lear of otherwise unheralded fame. If so, is Mr McCartney openly admitting plagiarism or theft of work?

It's a dirty story of a dirty man
And his clinging wife doesn't understand.
Their son is working for the Daily Mail,
It's a steady job but he wants to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

This is vague. Does the dirty man with the dirty story want to be the paperback writer, or does his son who is working for the Daily Mail want to be the paperback writer?

This aside, given the Daily Mail's reputation for generating moral outrage on every single page, or its online version with the now infamous "sidebar of smut", the dirty story is either going to be a tale of intrigue where someone is exposed or it will just be a tawdry story of filth. Could you please elaborate which it is?
If I was the publisher, this would probably end up being the blurb for the back of the book. A description this vague would do well because it doesn't really give the plot away at all but still leaves you with enough of a question to make you think about parting with your money.

It's a thousand pages, give or take a few,
I'll be writing more in a week or two.
I can make it longer if you like the style,
I can change it round and I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

Charles Dickens' "Bleak House" chimes in at 989 pages, James Joyce's "Ulysees" is no pushover at 933 pages; both are hefty tomes which even in paperback, if they hit you in the back of the head after being lofted at you, would give you a headache. "A thousand pages" isn't a small novel, it's a mighty epic.

Does it really need to be longer? It sounds on the face of hit that it might be prolifically prosaic and may need to have massive chunks taken out of it. Can you retain the feel of a thousand pages by making it quicker? Would you have a snappier and harder-hitting story with the benefit of an editor and a redraft?

If you really like it you can have the rights,
It could make a million for you overnight.
If you must return it, you can send it here
But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

This is something of a cultural give-away. In the 1960s, maybe writers only really had one manuscript but now all one needs to do is print off copies as demanded,

I'm not sure about promising the rights to a work that easily though. Writers like to retain copyright and arrange contracts later; once the work goes into print. Given though that this is Paul McCartney presumably who has written this book and he was pretty well much at the height of his fame at the time. the claim that "it could make a million for you overnight" might have a fair ring of truth about it. How many of the screaming girls that are seen in newsreels of the day would have snapped up copies of this book? I think that it could have easily passed the 1 million copy mark within a week.

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