In the mail today I received a sample of the finished dust jacket of Primacy. After opening the package, I did what I suppose every author does upon receipt of such things.

First, I gaped at it in awe. Second, I studiously avoided reading the copy, for fear of finding an embarrassing typo. Third, I broke down and read the copy anyway, finding no embarrassing typos but at least one disconcerting hyphenation. (How did everyone miss that?!)

Finally, and most important, I wrapped the cover around a book of comparable size — appropriately enough, Story by Robert McKee, from which I’ve learned much. I wish I could report that the thing looks like a million bucks, but the truth is I’ve looked at it so many times and in so many permutations that I’m inured to any impact. Fresh eyes will have to judge.

Still, it’s something, this step. It’s the reality of a finished book creeping ever closer.

“Great things,” it has been said, “are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

Who said that? Some great statesman? A famous career coach? A billionaire who sweated the small stuff?  Nope. Nope. Nope. The answer is Vincent van Gogh, artistic genius and crazy person.

With those words as inspiration and this dust jacket as one sample in the series of “small things,” I go forth into a quiet period, what I hope will be the calm before the storm, with official publication five weeks away.

Will the storm ever really come? Who knows.

But meanwhile, a series of small things…telephone meetings with the distributor’s marketing people and with my publicists…checks to write (getting tired of these!) in support of all that…emails to old friends with media connections, trying not to sound too pleading…ideas for short pieces I could write.

Oh, and time to roll up the sleeves and really get to work plotting the next book.

For being a successful novelist (or artist of any kind) is not a sprint but a marathon. Self-published author Henry David Thoreau, I just read, printed a thousand copies of his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and sold only three hundred. But that didn’t discourage him. Five years later he wrote and published Walden.

A few years ago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York had a show of van Gogh’s earliest sketches, those from when he was just learning to draw and paint. What made them remarkable was their very ordinariness, few signs that this man would one day paint his way into eternity.

He might have given up then, but great things “are not done by impulse.”

One brush stroke at a time.

Last week: Publishing Primacy — Folio 18: The Value of Nothing

Next week: Publishing Primacy — Folio 20: Crossing Borders: A Eulogy

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Publishing Primacy posts every Wednesday by 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time

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J.E. Fishman, a former Big Six book editor and former literary agent, is author of the thriller Primacy, which Publishers Weekly called "appealing" and Kirkus called "good, boisterous fun." His mystery novel, Cadaver Blues, was serialized in 2010 on TNB and you can still find it here if you dig deep enough. It's now available in ebook and paperback. His financial thriller, The Dark Pool, was published this year, and his new series of police thrillers, Bomb Squad NYC, will be published in February 2014. He blogs here and at the Huffington Post. Please visit and follow him at his very fancy and expensive official author website.

6 responses to “Publishing Primacy — Folio 19: Small Things Brought Together”

  1. Look like you are on your way. Well done:)

  2. Paul Clayton says:

    “I go forth into a quiet period, what I hope will be the calm before the storm, with official publication five weeks away.” “Will the storm ever really come? Who knows.”

    I’m sure you mean ‘storm’ in a positive sense. And I believe that it is, since any mention of the book, any comparison, even any controversy is good for a book. I’m sure you’ll be as busy as a sailor on an ancient ship during a storm, and loving it.

    I like the quote from Van Gogh. Vincent is one of my fav people. I love the story of his falling out with the religious establishment over his wanting to actually help the poor miners instead of just leading them in prayer. He was a man completely consumed by his passions and mostly they were connected to his art. I’m sure you’ll be consumed for a year or so with promoting this book and that is as it should be.

    As an aside to all of this, a modern Van Gogh, neglecting self to recreate the visions that enthralled him, would probably be forcibly hospitalized and medicated. A modern Van Gogh who so grisly demonstrated his love to a woman he did not know would probably be issued a court ordered restraining order.

    Anyway, don’t forget to enjoy the process. Roller coasters are great fun!

    • J.E. Fishman says:

      Well, yes, I hope I will be busy promoting. Just got off the phone with P.R. people about planned “radio tour,” etc. Bravado aside, I am scared sh**tless.

      You’re right about van Gogh. Today his creativity would be drowned in Prozac. But the ear thing? Come on! If some guy sent my daughter his ear I’d be the one needing the restraining order. I’d be after the guy with a baseball bat.

  3. Paul Clayton says:

    Yeah, I guess you’re right. Every father wants a guy for his daughter who would give the shirt off his back for her, but the ear off his head… Perhaps not.

  4. […] Last week: Publishing Primacy — Folio 19: Small Things Brought Together […]

  5. Jeff Crook says:

    Mine happens next year sometime, maybe in May. And it doesn’t even have an official title yet, so the best I can do is, “My novel _________ comes out _______, 2011.”

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