At Davis & Dash, one of New York's most prestigious publishing houses, five new authors will be publishedbut only one of them will be a bestseller. They have worked long and hard to write their novels of romance and murder, drama and love. But the story behind the stories is even more exciting. And the vicious competition to get the right agent, the perfect editor, and the choice spot on the bestseller list must be seen to be believed.
Master novelist Olivia Goldsmith, bestselling author of The First Wives Club and Marrying Mom, takes a scathing and hilarious inside look at the deviously cutthroat world of publishing. She pierces egos, produces the dish, and punctures more than a few careers in this one-of-a-kind novel where dreams come true and writing is its own reward.
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About the Author
Olivia Goldsmith is the bestselling author of The First Wives Club, Flavor of the Month, Fashionably Late, The Bestsller, Marrying Mom,and Switcheroo. She lives in south Florida and is no longer young or a wife.
Read an Excerpt
Terry was looking down at the pilled cuff of her sweater when she saw Robertaapproaching. Roberta had an even sadder look than usual on her plain face.Terry was not surprised. Business at The Bookstall had dropped off a lotover the summer, when any West Sider with disposable income uses it to getout of Manhattan on the weekends. But now, with Christmas coming, businesshad not picked up, probably because of the superstore that had planted itselfon twenty thousand square feet just two downtown blocks away.
Roberta was a little woman, small-boned and birdlike. Terry liked the waythe older woman looked. Her skin had those tiny, even fine lines that fair-skinnedbrunettes are often saddled with, though Roberta's hair had gone from brownto gray long ago. Now Roberta laid her hand on Terry's ratty sleeve. Reluctant,Terry looked into Roberta's sad brown eyes.
"I have some bad news," Roberta said, but Terry didn't need tobe told. She'd seen it coming. Still, Roberta was from the old school, theone where people took responsibility for their actions and felt they owedexplanations. She lived up to her name: Roberta Fine. "I don't thinkI have to tell you that it's not your performance, and that it's certainlynot personal," Roberta began. "You know how much I've enjoyedworking with you the last year and a half." Terry, a writer, heardthe nuance. She didn't need Roberta to continue, though she did. "Buteven on a part-time basis, I simply can't afford . . ." Roberta paused,shook her head, and briskly licked her lipsfor a moment, as if moisteningthem would make the words come out more easily. "The only other option. . ." Roberta began, then stopped.
Terry merely nodded her head. They both looked over at Margaret Bartholemew.Poor Margaret. Older even than Roberta, lumpy Margaret was hunched in thecorner, awkwardly packing a box of returns. She lost her grip and half adozen books fell to the floor, one of them tearing. No credit for that return.Roberta closed her eyes briefly and sighed. She lowered her already quietvoice.
"I can't let Margaret go," Roberta almost whispered. "Sheonly has this and Social Security. Without a place to come to each day,people to talk to, well . . . I've been over it a hundred times, Terry,but I just can't"
Terry smiled and shook her head. "No problem," she said. She triedto muster some humor. "I mean it. It's not like you were paying mewhat I was worth."
"A price beyond rubies," Roberta nodded, her face still serious.She patted Terry's pilled cuff. Then she sighed again. "The truth is,I don't know how long I'll be able to keep the store going. But that's notyour concern." Roberta shook her head. "After twenty-seven years,you'd think that people would have some loyalty, that they would . . ."She paused. In all the time Terry had known Roberta, first as a customerat The Bookstall and later as an employee, she'd never heard Roberta bitter.Well, she didn't hear any bitterness now, exactly. Just disappointment and,perhaps, a little hurt surprise. Terry knew all about both of these feelings.
Roberta just shrugged her birdlike shoulders as if to end the conversationand reached up to pat Terry's arm. "You're young and talented. You'llmove on to other things soon. But I'm so sorry, dear." And it was that,the word dear, that made the tear slip out.
The tear had been Terry's only surprise. She had seen the end comingandnot just the end of her little part-time job at The Bookstall. As she swungnorth up Columbus Avenue, Terry was numb. She carried her pilled sweater,a hairbrush, and a few other personal belongings in a biodegradable Bookstallbagalong with the copy of Alice Thomas Ellis's new short-story collectionthat Roberta had inscribed and insisted Terry take as a gift. Terry feltno anger, no pain. After all, the job hadn't given her enough to live on,not even in the limited way she lived, including the tiny income from themanuscript typing she did on the side.
Terry thought of Roberta and how the older woman had called her young andtalented. So why did Terry feel so old and used up? After she had finishedher Columbia dissertation, and after she'd spent the tail end of her loansand grants, she had managed to support herself for the last eight yearson marginal jobs at copy centers, word-processing services, and then atThe Bookstall, while she wrote, edited, rewrote, submitted, and resubmittedher manuscript, her magnum opus, the book that explained the world as shesaw it. And she'd failed.
While friends around her took real jobs, got promoted, married, and movedon, she'd only written. And not just writtenshe'd also tried to sell herwork. She wasn't one of those slackers who was so terrified of rejectionthat they never attempted to be published at all. Terry had tried. She'dkept careful lists. She knew how to research. She'd figured out the best,most literary editors and submitted the book to them at the ever-dwindlingnumber of publishing houses in New York, holding her breath while an editorconsidered her work, living through the rejection and watching her targetshrink as one firm was subsumed by another. Well, the corporate-acquisitionballet hadn't mattered in the end because they'd all rejected her.
On Sunday, August 31st, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Olivia Goldsmith to discuss THE BESTSELLER.
Moderator: Welcome, Olivia Goldsmith! Thanks for joining us on this Labor Day weekend. Enjoying the barbecues, we hope?
Olivia Goldsmith: Hello to all.
Loretta Mehan from Westport, CT: I read that the rights for THE BESTSELLER had also been bought by Paramount. The casting for FIRST WIVES CLUB was so ingenious, who do you see playing the main characters in THE BESTSELLER on the big screen?
Olivia Goldsmith: Great question, but I don't have a great answer. The truth is that writers have so little input in casting in Hollywood, even if I had an opinion it wouldn't matter. My opinion is therefore of about the same weight as yours. And we can both cast it. Maybe George Plimpton for G.O.D. I'm not sure if he would take the job.
Fiona McGovern from NYC: Although I loved the character, having spent a good deal of time in the UK, I felt as though Camilla Clapfish often lost a little of her Englishness, and sometimes her dialogue was stereotypical. Feel free to disagree with me, but I was wondering what or whom you based her character on?
Olivia Goldsmith: I consider what you say a fabulous compliment. In every novel that I have read by the English, they don't come anywhere near capturing an American voice. Julie Cooper is a good example. Good writer, but she can't make her American characters speak "American." I was very careful with Camilla's vocabulary and syntax. If I erred, it would be by sometimes going for the stereotypical, rather than being "un-British."
Nancy from Philadelphia: So many suicides and deaths! Is the industry really that perilous?!
Olivia Goldsmith: Virtually. The Terry character was based on the author of A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, which was rejected by every publisher, and the author committed suicide. His mother took the manuscript around, just as Opal does. Her son wound up winning the Pulitzer prize posthumously. By the way, I don't want to win anything after I'm dead. If there is anything, I want it now. Otherwise, don't bother.
Silvia Rosenstein from Westchester, NY: Olivia, I was wondering -- did you actually spend time in Italy when writing about Camilla's time there? Your descriptions seem so specific.
Olivia Goldsmith: I wasn't in Italy when I wrote those chapters, but I've been to exactly those places I described -- in Florence, in Assisi, and San Gimignano.
Incognito from NYC office: I have been in the publishing business for 11 years now, and outside of memos and manuscripts, it seems like I rarely have time for pleasure reading -- but I just got wrapped up in THE BESTSELLER. You named so many names and poked fun at so many places. Did you receive a lot of flack from industry people when Harper released THE BESTSELLER?
Olivia Goldsmith: YES! (laughter) I got a lot of anonymous mail, not unlike your anonymous name. Most people had a sense of humor, but one of them -- an author, whom I spoke well of in the book -- went ballistic and threatened to sue. The paperback has his mention cut out.
Rick Whitland from Chicago, IL: What inspired this book, other that your personal experience in the industry? Was there one incident in particular that inspired you to sit down and put pen to paper?
Olivia Goldsmith: This novel started with Camilla Clapfish. For some reason, I could just see her, and knew her story. But it wasn't interesting enough to make a book, so I decided that if I wrote about five novelists, and made it into a horse race, I could write a satire of the industry. I have no idea where the Camilla Clapfish character came from.
Mick from Evanston, IL: Is there any way to get into the business without an agent?
Olivia Goldsmith: Oh yes. The best way is to see if you can connect with an editor who publishes books similar to yours. It doesn't have to be done in person -- in fact, person-to-person sometimes hurts. But if you can find some way to open a correspondence -- one page of your novel, or a letter that compares your book with another the editor published, or simply praising the editor. It might take months to get a response, and then, it may not work, but there are a hell of a lot of editors out there. They crave attention.
Mariah from Cambridge: All of your books get down to business and tell it like it is. What will be your next fictitious tell-all exposé?
Olivia Goldsmith: Well, my new novel (I don't know if it qualifies as a "fictitious exposé") is about what I call the John Derrik Syndrome. You know how he married Ursula and then traded her in for Lyndsay Evans? And then traded her in for Bo? Well, my story is about a man who has a mistress who looks just like his wife, but younger. When the two meet, they band together and trade places, because the wife has always wanted to be treated like a mistress, and the mistress wants the security of being a wife. New Line Cinema has bought the rights, and I just finished the screenplay.
Allison James from Arizona: Hi! I really liked your new book. How long does it usually take you to complete a book, and when is your next book coming out?
Olivia Goldsmith: It varies a lot, Allison. FLAVOR OF THE MONTH took a little over two years. THE BESTSELLER took only nine months, but that's partly because I didn't have to do so much research, because I knew a lot about the publishing business.
Morgan Dietz from Atlantic Beach: Susan Baker Edmonds has a house in France...do you own a home outside of the United States?
Olivia Goldsmith: No. Do you think I'm like Susan Baker Edmonds? Now I'm really depressed.
Alex Signon from Bristol, CT: How involved were you in the BESTSELLER contest associated with the book's release? And can you tell me more about the winning entry? What is the author up to now?
Olivia Goldsmith: The winning entry was FLORA'S SUITCASE. It's the story of a Jewish family that leaves New York and moves to South America. It is a lyrical, very evocative story. And the author was born in Colombia. Right now, she is working with an editor to get the book in shape for publishing. The contest was my idea, and although I couldn't read anything close to the 7,000 entries submitted, I was very close to the project. The problem was that there were close to two dozen good submissions. That part was very upsetting. But I am happy that someone has won the contest, has a book contract, and we'll see her work in '98. Her name is Dahlia Rabinovich.
Paula Crist from Bellevue, WA: A few of the characters in the BESTSELLER are absolutely hateful! No offense, but I am sure you agree, since I think that was the whole point. Which character did you dislike the most?!
Olivia Goldsmith: Oh boy, I can't stand Gerald Och Davis, I really hate Pam Mantis, but I think the worst of all is probably Professor Daniel Gross. Isn't he just horrible? The weird thing to me is that it is so much more fun writing the bad characters than the good ones. I LOVED writing Pam Mantis.
Carol from Sonoma: What is your opinion of the big superstore bookseller versus the established corner bookshop? How do you support the Robertas of the world?
Olivia Goldsmith: I feel very loyal to the independents because they serve such an important purpose. America will be a much, much more bereft place without them. The superstores, in my mind, have done something else: They have created a reading audience among people that -- previous to this -- may not have read very much. Plus, they provide a kind of "discount service" for people who buy a lot of books. Books have become very expensive. It's hurting the industry.
Michael Barks from SanFran: There is so much muck being published today, it is hard to sift through it all. The Gerald Och Davises and the Peet Trawleys. And as you mention in your book, so many great novels go unnoticed. How can I find them? What magazines and newspapers do you read, and what resources do you draw upon for book news?
Olivia Goldsmith: Oh, the most important sources are my friends. I am friends with some very good readers, so I count on their recommendations as they count on mine. My sister is also a discerning reader, so she and I trade off a lot. Next to that, a good bookseller is very important. I have a personal relationship with a couple, and I trust their tastes. As far as book reviews and publications, I find they only represent one opinion. I read The New York Observer, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times. I like the book section of the Los Angeles Times very much. I don't have time to read most of these, so I always have good books surrounding me, more than I can read. Knowing you have a good book to finish is a tremendously luxurious feeling.
Allissa Ford from Stamford, CT: What do your read for pleasure when you aren't spending your time writing? What would you recommend that you've read lately? And what do you think of the latest bestsellers on the list at the moment?
Olivia Goldsmith: I loved STRAIGHT MAN by Richard Russo. I really like all of his books. He's one of the few male writers who paint male characters that make me deeply identify, or at least understand. I love THE RISK POOL. Right now I'm reading Anthony Trollope's AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY. I read it once before, but a long time ago, and I'm loving it. I just finished Joyce Maynard's WHERE LOVE GOES. Very good.
A fan! from Tampa: You have another book out called MARRYING MOM, right? Was it released after THE BESTSELLER? I just heard about it. What is it about?
Olivia Goldsmith: Yes, it was released after THE BESTSELLER. It is set in Florida, so you might laugh at the very beginning. Movie rights have been sold to Paramount. It was, for me, a very short novel, which made it very difficult to write. But it is a riotous look at aging for women. Doesn't that sound like a fun fest?
Tabitha Mannis from LA, CA: What did you do before you were a bestselling author? And what was your experience like getting published?
Olivia Goldsmith: Before I was a bestselling author, I was a rejected author for three years. I wrote obsessed, borrowed money from friends, and overate out of anxiety. Before that, I had a successful career and was a first wife.
Janice from Portland, Oregon: Do the books you described in THE BESTSELLER exist? If not, how did you go about making them up? They seem so distant from your own work.
Olivia Goldsmith: Thank you! I had fun making them up, and making each one seem like an actual manuscript that each of these characters would interest themselves in. They are very different than what I write. In the first draft of the book, I included some quotes from the fictional novels, but that didn't work. I really couldn't write like Susan Baker Edmonds, or Gerald Ochs Davis.
Piedmont from SoHo: What advice would you give to a young writer looking to be published?
Olivia Goldsmith: Persevere. It is unbearably difficult when you are unpublished to continue writing, and it is unbearably difficult when you are published to be satisfied with what you've produced, and go on to write another one. You doubt yourself every minute. You never get away from "the job." Be sure you have some kind of physical activity that you do every day. That is the important part of my advice to you. The rest is to simply prevail. There is a way.
Moderator: Thank you again for joining us, Olivia Goldsmith! And thanks to all who participated. Olivia, good luck with future projects -- any final thoughts before we go?
Olivia Goldsmith: I'm happy that THE BESTSELLER lived up to its title. It would be very embarrassing if it didn't. Thanks to all for the interesting and literary questions. Good night.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The writer is doing great. I want more of her books and wish this was a movie too. It is great. I reccomend it to everyone. The plot and characters come alive.
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