There’s a good article in the USA Today about John Grisham. It’s the 20th anniversary of Time To Kill, his first novel about a young 10-year old woman who got raped, her father who took revenge into his own hands, and the lawyer representing him. It was an autobiographical story for Grisham and a great book. However, writing a great book doesn’t necessarily mean it will fly off the shelves. The article states:
When Grisham finished A Time to Kill in January 1987, it was a stack of legal pads. When typed, the manuscript was 900 pages.
The first chapters went out to a couple dozen publishers and agents. The rejections stacked up.
That April 15, after Grisham returned from his accountant frustrated, broke and about to borrow money to pay his taxes, agent Jay Garon called wanting to represent him.
Wynwood Press, a small company in New York, bought the manuscript a year later and printed 5,000 copies of A Time to Kill — at a length about a third shorter than the original manuscript — in June 1989. Grisham ordered 1,000 himself. Wynwood didn’t have marketing muscle, so Grisham concocted his own book tour.
“I had this scheme where I would throw a party in my local library and the whole town would show up and I would sell a lot. I have pictures of kids climbing on stacks of A Time to Kill.” But when the party was over, he still owned most of the copies.
It’s an interesting story – especially since we think of him as being so successful.