Friday, December 20th, 2013

A Failed Attempt to get "Marvin's Novel" Reviewed In the Winnipeg Free Press

Correspondence with Morley Walker, books editor of The Winnipeg Free Press


Hi Morley,

I’m writing to you now in the hope that you will consider having my just-published novel, Marvin’s Novel (see the link below), reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press. This is a self-publishing venture born of years of frustration. Let me tell you the story.

When I was still teaching psychology at the University of Manitoba I would get up at four in the morning to write. It was my passion. In addition to my columns that appeared in such newspapers as The Guardian, The London Sunday Times, The Globe and Mail and The Winnipeg Free Press, I wrote a novel, Multiple Choice, that, with great trepidation, I showed to Carol Shields. Generous Carol. It was 1995 during the professors’ strike when she took me out to lunch, sat across the table from me with her sheaf of notes and interrogated me about the novel. She actually took me seriously! Buoyed by our conversation, I sent the manuscript to an agent in New York and started work on Marvin’s Novel. I showed Marvin’s Novel to Linda Holeman in 1999 when she was the Writer in Residence at the Millennium Library. She made some suggestions for changes and said that I “should get it published.” Well I tried and while Marvin’s Novel was making the rounds, I took early retirement, started writing short stories and yet another novel, Something’s Brewing, which I have just begun sending out to traditional publishers.

I’m happy to say that some of my short stories have been published (in The Dalhousie Review, The Antigonish Review and Geist, among others) and now, thanks to self-publishing, Marvin has seen the light of day as well. The decision didn’t come easily. It’s “vanity” publishing, after all. But what convinced me to try this, aside from the fact that old age is closing in on me at an alarming rate, were 1. Learning, from discussions I have followed on The Writers’ Union of Canada’s listserv, that more and more of my colleagues—tired of interminable waiting for manuscripts to even be looked at by publishers and/or agents—are trying self-publishing themselves. (And indeed, at the last AGM union members voted to allow self-published authors to apply for membership.) 2. The demise (Stoddard, Key Porter and McClelland and Stewart) of some publishing houses and the mergers of others (Penguin and Random House) thus reducing the numbers of viable outlets for one’s books and 3. Ironically, the purchasing of self-publishing companies by huge publishing conglomerates (Simon & Schuster, for example), that is yet another indicant that self-publishing is perhaps the only viable route to one’s work seeing the light of day.

Anyway, that’s more or less it. I look forward to hearing from you.






Thanks for the note.

Are you a TWUC member?



Yes I am and for many years...



I have maintained my policy of not assigning self-published books. But a few months ago, it was suggested that if I wanted to get with the times, TWUC membership might be the place to draw the line.

Have you printed copies? Or are you keeping it as an e-book?



I have printed copies—hard and soft cover...



I gave it some thought and have decided to take a pass.

My reasons:

You are releasing this into the blizzard of fall titles. At this time of year it’s impossible to get reviewed even a fraction of the high profile titles.

The content of your book has no news value.

As an experienced writer, you’ve likely shopped it around to established publishers, who have made the same calculation as I.

If I am going to break with past practice and start reviewing self-published titles, I want to start with something more compelling.





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