”Stands shoulder to shoulder with Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose“
Being compared to The Name of the Rose — that’s “not too shabby” as a friend of mine would say. The book that won this high praise is called The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis. It’s hit the shelves with an impressive media splash, but it almost didn’t make it into print. And therein lies quite a tale! According to Publishers Weekly, “It took a determined agent, a writer wiling to rework the manuscript (for years), and dozens of booksellers who read and liked an early draft to turn around its fate.” In a nutshell, here’s what happened:
The historical novel set in Renaissance Italy took Michael 12 years to write. Once he started researching, he became obsessed with the idea of teaming up Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli, best known for his classic, The Prince.
When he finally had a draft in hand, Michael sent some information over the transom to Daniel Lazar at Writers House, a prestigious literary agency. Just 45 minutes later, Daniel emailed him asking for the entire book. So far, so good! The manuscript went through a couple of redrafts before it was sent out to publishers. No takers. A second round of revisions and a second pass at publishers, which produced just one nibble. Then a former assistant of Dan’s who now owns a bookstore asked to read it.
Now came the “aha!” moment. Daniel was convinced this was a special book, but no one was biting. So he and Michael decided to print 60 paperback copies on Lulu and send them out to booksellers. It generated dozens of comments. Daniel sent the book out a third time, with more edits and booksellers’ enthusiastic quotes. The third time was the charm: Doubleday bought the book in a “significant deal” and is publishing it in 10 countries. Wow, what a story! What a dedicated agent and what an innovative strategy. Something to think about. Write on!