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The Hardy Boys and the Case of the First Sale
by Larry Mike Garmon
Three months. I had waited long enough. How long does it take to read
a one-page query and two sample chapters? I'm not an impatient fellow,
but THREE MONTHS? I could have written the whole book and started another
in that amount of time.
I called information in New York City for the phone number of Mega-Books,
Inc., the packager who was responsible for publishing the new Hardy
Boys Casefiles mass market paperbacks.
A woman with an accent distinctively not Oklahoman but otherwise cheery
answered the phone, and after I explained my concern, she put me on hold.
A few moments later, a man who identified himself as Dave asked if he
could help me. His accent also was distinctively not Oklahoman but his
tone was sleepy or perhaps indifferent or perhaps overwrought.
I told Dave I had sent a query with two sample chapters about a Hardy
Boys Casefile in which the Boys bust an international drug ring run
by a mysterious character called The Colonel, and I was concerned because
I hadn't heard a reply concerning my idea in three months. I was nervous
but determined and hoped I sounded assertive and professional.
I heard a shuffling of papers through the earpiece. A few moments later
he said, "Oh, the drug story. We can't use it."
A pause. A pregnant pause. A pregnant pause from which no birth was forthcoming!
I was hoping I hadn't audibly gasped at the news that my great idea was
rejected, and if I had gasped, I was hoping he hadn't heard my breathed
disappointment. A thousand questions went through my mind, the foremost
of which was, "Why?"
So I asked it.
"We stay away from certain topics: sex, drugs, you know, adult themes."
Wait. I had done my homework on the new Hardy Boys Casefiles series.
Before sending off my proposal, I had bought the first three in the series
(only five had been published at the time of my phone call three months
later), and I had read and re-read, noted and denoted, underlined, highlighted,
and scribbled marginalia in, about, and for each one. I had inscribed
upon pages and pages of yellow paper analysis of characters, settings,
sentence structure, themes, plot devices, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
I had done enough research to complete a Hardy Boys Casefiles master's
degree . The series had been started to keep high school boys interested
in the franchise. I knew that. The series was a bit more serious than
the middle reader series. I knew that. In the new series, the Hardy brothers
used guns, fist-fought evildoers, flew jets, had credit cards, and used
rougher language. I knew that. Frank and Joe actually kissed girls in
the Casefiles series. I knew all of that.
My first proposal was to make the series even edgier. After all, in the
very first Casefiles novel a car bomb planted by terrorists had
blown up Joe's long-time girlfriend (since the 1930's!). So why not have
the brothers destroy a drug cartel that had infiltrated Bayport?
"We stay away from certain topics: drugs, sex, you know, adult themes."
My mind raced with and then erased completely all the ideas and dreams
I had of being a published writer, or being able one day to tell others
I had gotten my start ghostwriting Hardy Boys mysteries.
I was opening my mouth to talk the editor into reconsidering his decision
when he blurted out, "If you'll send me another idea, one we can
use, I'll consider it."
There was hope.
I wrote another query, wrote two chapters for the proposal, and sent
it all off within ten days. This time, I had the editor's name and addressed
everything to him with a reminder about and a thank you for our conversation.
Another three months! Egad and golly gee! Frank and Joe could have defeated
all the world's terrorists, cleaned up the environment, and brought The
Beatles back together by that time!
So, I called again and asked for Dave personally.
I again heard the shuffling of papers Through the earpiece.
"We can't use it. It doesn't fit our needs."
Two personal rejections. I was hurt, and then I was mad. With both queries
and sample chapters, I had sent the prerequisite SASE return envelope
and had not received the perfunctory rejection form letter. Instead, I
had been rejected verbally—twice.
I was set to tell Dave that I didn't appreciate NOT getting my rejection
form letters when he said, "You know, we can't use your ideas, but
you write well. I'll tell you what, I'll give you an idea, you write up
a précis, an outline, and the first four chapters, and I'm sure
we'll use you."
He threw out an idea, and I said, "Okay" and then "Thank
you", and got to work.
One month later, I returned home from teaching and heard the following
message on my answering machine, "Mike, I've sent your précis
and sample chapters to Simon and Schuster. Give me a call so we can discuss
the story in detail. There're some things about it we want you to be sure
to include. You should be receiving the bible in a few days and a contract."
First sale. Case closed.
One year and four more sales later, I was in New York City, having been
invited by Bonnie, the new editor of the Hardy Boys Casefiles
series. I had only worked with Dave on that first book, and he had since
changed roles within Mega-Books. During that one year, I had sold Mega-Books
more Hardy Boys Casefiles stories than any of their other ghostwriters,
and Bonnie wanted to meet me.
I arrived in New York City in the afternoon and Bonnie took me to dinner.
Dave came along also.
Feeling confident, I told Dave of my anxiety and disappointment about
the rejection of the first two ideas and how upset I had been and how
my SASEs were never used. I then thanked Dave for giving me the idea for
the first book and having confidence in me as a writer.
Bonnie laughed and said, "Dave was just trying to get rid of you."
I was stunned. I looked at Dave. He turned a bit red.
"He thought you were just some nut because you kept calling him
and pestering him. No one does that in this business unless he's crazy.
He thought if he humored you long enough, you'd give up."
I was flabbergasted and couldn't say anything.
"What Dave didn't realize is that you are crazy, but you're persistent.
And it doesn't hurt that you're a good writer."
© Copyright 2007, Larry Mike Garmon
Visit Larrys websites http://LarryMikeGarmon.com and http://AgathaPixie.com