Not that people ever ask me for writerly advice but a bit of advice I would offer to any budding hack is that an article is never dead. Even if it has been spiked some of what you put into it will at some point resurface elsewhere. You must never give up.
Last year an editor at the Spectator asked me to write something on literary mavericks tied to the death of publisher Peter Owen. I duly did lots of research, probably too much, spoke to everyone I knew in publishing and produced a thoughtful article that to be honest was a bit worthy It would have worked in the Bookseller but not the Spectator so I wasn’t surprised when they didn’t run it. The editor then left the Spectator and the article was finished.
Or so I thought. I spoke with Alexander Chancellor at the Oldie earlier this year and he liked the sound of something about publishing and suggested I talk to his deputy Jeremy Lewis who used to work in publishing in the 70s and 80s. After a long and amusing chat with Jeremy, I rewrote the article to make it a lot more gossipy. It was slated to run earlier this year when Alexander Chancellor died. I felt like Lena Dunham in that episode of Girls where her editor dies and all she can say at the funeral is “but what about my book?” Then Jeremy Lewis died. There was now no chance of my article appearing.
In April I had a boozy lunch with an old journalism crony in New York and I told him about my article. He asked to take a look and said that it might work for his website. I thought he was just being nice but I sent it to him last month and he liked it but said it needed to be even more gossipy and anecdotal. So rather than ask serious questions to serious publishers, I called up some gossipy journalist cronies and they all said the same thing: read Jeremy Lewis’s memoirs, Playing for Time, Kindred Spirits and Grub Street Irregular. They are perhaps the best books about publishing ever written. If I’d read them back in June last year then this article would not have had such a long gestation.
Anyway click below to read the article. I’ll put it up on my site in its entirety in a couple of weeks: