"From the section I read of your untitled novel, it seems too fragmented and dreamlike to be a good commercial bet."
"Thanks for having sent me your untitled novel. You write clearly and well, but I felt that the novel jumped around so much that it did not hold interest, and I would not be the right agent for it."
When Ross went public with what he had done, he expected the publishers and agents to be a little embarrassed that they had turned down a National Book Award-winning novel.
But, he told me when I interviewed him at the time, "I guess not. I went to the American Booksellers Association convention to talk to the publishers about what I did. They all thought that it was very amusing or silly. They agreed that it probably could happen again tomorrow. But the attitude was, 'So what?'"
As lovely as the J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith saga is, what would have made it even better, and turned it into more of a cliffhanger, is if Rowling had gone the Chuck Ross route:
If she had, without revealing her identity, sent "The Cuckoo's Calling" to publishers cold -- if she had submitted it and let them think that it really was by a novice named Robert Galbraith.
Would any of them have snapped it up?
It may be a terrific book -- but so was "Steps." And without Kosinski's name on the manuscript, "Steps" couldn't find a publisher. Or an agent.
Even though it had already won the National Book Award.
What a business. It's enough to drive even Harry Potter to drink.
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