The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1939
Publishers Exploring For Talent
By W. J. CASH
Site, ed. note: Methinks, at least in so far as fiction goes, we have returned to once upon a time--at least, based on what we hear. Where are you Blanche and Alfred?
For more on the meeting with the Knopfs, to which Cash refers, see the introductory note to "O. Henry Passes the Test" - April 16, 1939.
One of the most common delusions among young writers and of older ones who have not got on is that it is very hard to get a hearing from a publisher--that the dice are stacked against publication even if you have something good. That is very soothing to vanity, perhaps, when a manuscript comes back with a rejection. But it is far from the truth.
Maybe it was true once upon a time. I have a notion that it was. For back before the war, most magazine publishing office chairs were held by professors and in those days there was a sort of fixed writing tradition into which the neophyte had to fit himself if he expected to have much chance of selling print--a tradition neither very bright or very distinguished but heavily stylized and easily recognizable to all the initiated. Moreover, all these magazine publishing chairs were inhabited by people who made scared rabbits look like roaring lions--people who were themselves excessively squeamish and who lived in perpetual dread of offending an even more squeamesh public. They took no chances, preferred to buy from established names as much as possible.
WAR WROUGHT CHANGE
But all that is going with the winds blown up by the war--the other one. When the neophyte sends a manuscript into a magazine office these days, he may be sure that it will be read--if not entirely, certainly closely enough to determine whether it has possibilities. And if it has possibilities, it will be read several times before it is returned, if it is.
And as for the publishing houses, having lunch with Alfred and Blanche Knopf in Greensboro one day last Summer I was struck by the fact that, though they had presumably come there to give me hell for not having turned in a long overdue manuscript, they were quite as much concerned with the question of whether I could put them on the track of some new writers who had potentialities of producing something worth printing.
LOOKING FOR TALENT
Last week, a representative of a publishing house called me, in passing through town, and asked me the same thing. And in the course of the last six months I have had several inquiries by letter from men I know in the publishing business which were concerned with the same purpose.
Indeed, from what I hear from other people as to the extent of these inquiries, I gather that before long the problem of young writers is going to be how to keep themselves in hiding for a decent period of apprenticeship. Especially in the South, which is just now the favorite hunting ground, the landscape is being gone over with a fine-tooth comb, and if any writers escape they are going to have to be expert in the development of protective coloration.
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