Sunday, March 6, 2011

Romantic Comedies

I love 'em.  I mean the movies.  The older ones more than the newer ones.  I love Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray together.  I love Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable or Joel McCrea.  Very enjoyable movies.

When I started my writing career I thought I was going to make movies.  I wasn't so keen on the whole book thing, so everything I did was directed to getting me to Hollywood and making movies.  When I got into television (thank you, Kate) I thought I was on the medium fast track.  But there was so much I didn't understand about the process and the culture out there.  I was the wrong age and the wrong sex.  And I wasn't going to consider a sex change and plastic surgery.  

So I came back home and took the romantic comedy script I had written and turned it into a book.  Oh guess what, no one wanted it.  Then one day I happened to meet an editor from NYC.  I think she was at Three Rivers Press, not small peanuts.  This is about 15 years ago just to put the thinking into a time-frame.

I told her about this book and I pitched the whole romantic comedy thing.  People love the movies so dearly and there are no books on the market like that, it seems a natural.  She looked at me kindly but as if I was indeed quite pathetic and said "If there was a market for that kind of book, you'd see them in the stores."

I think it took me a long time to recover from this.  I mean a really long time.  I think I actually went to non-fiction for a number of years and did a book on gingerbread construction that was published by Harry Abrams, then went on to the cook books.

Meanwhile over in England people like Jill Mansell, Helen Fielding and a host of others were busily churning out romantic comedies (aka chicklit) to great success.  Soon it had caught on here.  Apparently women who loved romantic comedy movies did want to read them as well.  Hmmm.  But I was doing something else.  And that's fine because I'm not a chicklit writer and we were years away from digital.

So here I am today with a book NYC couldn't understand in a category they didn't believe was viable nominated for the Best Romantic Comedy of 2010.  Isn't that just something?

Yes it's personally very gratifying but I spent all that time, typing with 9 fingers (did I tell you I cut the tip of my finger off?  It bled for nearly 3 days and I was in the hospital that whole time) to tell you, to assure you that the great smart muckymucks in NYC publishing do not know everything.  They do not sense the trends, they don't even recognize them.  They don't know what's good.  They can only pontificate after the fact.

I find it distasteful in the very least that the same NYC publishers who rejected and ignored Amanda Hocking in March 2010 come crawling back mere months later offering her a contract they wouldn't have deigned to consider earlier in the year.  You think that demonstrates their editorial wisdom?  I don't.  I think it demonstrates how venal they are.  Their imprimatur counts for nothing.

But as my television agent, Barry Weiner, so wisely said "If they treat you badly and then come back to you, make them pay."  Money is the only thing they understand.

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