The novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess was a twenty-one chapter book. The American publisher published it as a twenty chapter book. Just eliminated the last chapter. I wish I had heard that transatlantic conversation and I imagine in my fiction mind that it might have gone something like this. I am sure Mr. Burgess will not mind being a part of my fiction mind.
Anthony: What happened to the last chapter?
Publisher: We did not like it.
Anthony: I'm the writer. I wrote the book.
Publisher: Mr. Burgess, don't be boring. When you give a book (manuscript really) to a publisher for 'treatment' it is not your book anymore. It is now our book. We can do anything we want to do with it.
Anyway, the British publisher published all twenty-one chapters. Makes you wonder what the Bible would have been like without Revelations at the end of the New Testament, or Moby Dick without the final chapter that includes the sinking of the Pequod, or . . . ah, forget it.
More imagined fictional conversation:
Anthony: Well, ok--I guess. When do I get my money? I'm eating the putty out of the windows over here.
Publisher: You'll get your money, if there is any, when we decide to send it to you. But let's return to educating you about the publishing business. You are obviously an ignoramous and will benefit from listening to us. Do you honestly think God only gave ten commandments to Moses? An editor met Moses on the way down. He, the editor, knew the Jews were dancing and drinking and were not going to have very long attention spans. Moses showed up with only ten commandments and was a hit. No thanks, as usual, to the brilliant editor. Wake up and smell the burning bush Mr. Burgess. Your scribbling is only the start. We are the finish.
Anthony: Ok . . . I guess . . .
Publisher: You see Anthony, when you give a manuscript to a publisher it is exactly like putting one of your children up for adoption. It's not your child anymore. It is someone else's child. Lay people of intelligence understand this intuitively: writers have to be taught this. We now have two staff people here who just handle incoming calls, and faxes, and letters (letters for God's sake), and emails from an author (?) named Dana. This little jackass expects truth and dignity and fair dealing for his stories related to Thailand (zero market). We have decided to eviscerate his scribbling with our publisher raptor claws and break him on the wheel of our indifference, criminality, and illiterate stupidity. At any rate Anthony, regarding the subject of editing, you may benefit from reviewing this quote by Thomas McCormack.
"The success of any novelist depends on a partnership, not unlike that of lovers. The writer woos, and counts on having an 'ideal intended audience' out there--readers with a sensibility that cherishes and appreciates the special strokes the wooer has to offer. If he's lucky, the first of those readers will be an editor, a soul-mate who can guide him to make his performance even more winning."
This quote is the publishing industry's song and belief Mr. Burgess. We actually believe this presumptive soul destroying crap. You see, Anthony, removing your last chapter was just editing; something we are qualified to do and you are not qualified to do. You are a scribbler, we make novels. Think of us as lovers, but we are always on top.
Anthony: Ok . . .
Publisher: By-the-way, if you run into Dana tell him we have assigned his manuscripts of his books Snakeskulls and Silver Suited Teddy Bears, Fa Chronicles, Boardwalk Follies, and Tranny Adventures to a twenty-six year old woman who hates men, thinks sex is dirty, can't spell the word punctuation, and who thinks a blog remark about her cat on Facebook is 'writing'. We are going to crush this jerk. He'll become roadkill smear on the publisher's highway and another excuse for us to start drinking early.
Anthony: Ok . . .
Publisher: Oh, and one more thing Anthony; it might interest you to know that with our profits we have decided to diversify by purchasing a tombstone company. We will be offering tombstone services to all of our writers. All tombstones will say:
ONLY A WRITER
Get with the program Mr. Burgess. You are only a writer. Probably most of your books that are purchased are not read to the last word. Do you honestly think that people finished reading most of Hemingway's boring drivel? It's all a game. You are lucky we did not cut out ten of your chapters to save paper, binding, ink, warehousing, and shipping costs. How about showing some gratitude?
Anthony: Ok . . .
Publisher: Wait until Dana-the-Jackass finds out we are not even going to have sales reps deliver his books Snakeskulls and Silver Suited Teddy Bears, Fa Chronicles, Boardwalk Follies, and Tranny Adventures door to door to bookstores. We are just going to do airdrops. The airdrop costs can be deducted by our tax man and we will tell Dana we distributed his books. He'll probably send us a nice chatty friendly email thanking us. What a laugh. And do you know what else this so-called writer wanted?
Anthony: No . . .
Publisher: He wanted to paid in a currency more favorable than U.S. currency. Wait until he finds out that we are paying him in Issan buffalo chips. Jerk. But to be fair, it is not all downtime with this jerk. He makes us laugh so hard our systolic blood pressure has dropped office wide a few points. So in a wierd way, having a few of these little turd wannabe writers in a publisher's stable is good for our health.
Anthony: Ah . . . I have a list of concerns here regarding my novel.
Publisher: Ok, Anthony, gotta go. I've got a guy from Australia named Marc Holt on the other line. He wants to know if we will consider publishing his Thai stories (no goddamned market) and he is using Dana as a reference. Can you believe this? Dana as a reference. The office dog got to laughing so hard at this that he lost control of his bladder. It was ok. We used Chick Lit manuscripts to clean up the mess. Honk if you love the publishing business.
Anthony: Ah . . . about my money. You know, the advance that you promised me that has still not arrived, and the royalties part of my contract?