John Sayles: 20th-Century Crybaby?

John Sayles, novelist, seeks a binding agreement

John Sayles, Oscar-nominated creator of “Return of the Secaucus 7,” “Lone Star,” “Matewan” and other movies, is having trouble getting a book deal.

The situation is almost entirely traceable to the publishing industry’s economic woes, and it’s raising eyebrows, because Sayles was an accomplished fiction writer long before he made his first film. Weighing in at a whopping 1,000 typed pages, “Some Time in the Sun” is his first novel since 1990’s “Los Gusanos.”

“This is really astonishing,” says Ron Hogan, senior editor of, a website devoted to publishing news. “I mean, this is John Sayles! You’d think there would be some editor who’d be proud to say, ‘I brought the new John Sayles novel to this house.'”

Raise your hands, all of you who have read a John Sayles novel.

Cue the crickets.

OK, I thought so.

See, Sayles, there’s this thing now called the Internet. And these other things called eBooks.

You, John Sayles, have the stature, visibility, and savvy to help push the needle away from the dying dinosaurs of print towards the eBook future:

What needs to happen:

ONE eBook gains a Word of Mouth (WOM) reputation
(Note: there are over 16 million eBook devices now [iPhone/Touch])
– genuine word of mouth or PR-assisted?
— PR-assisted cannot move something that’s shit
— only genuine WOM matters
— WOM moved The Fountainhead in 1940s

Unknown contributing(?) factor: Blog Book Tours

An eBook with WOM cachet and must-read-ness that’s available only as an eBook (in a format that cannot be printed out) could help push the needle from print books to eBooks

WOM must be of such scale to achieve Internet escape velocity
– must enter mainstream culture, not be confined to Internet Culture

If you believe in your book, put up or shut up.

Help move that needle, Sayles, and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

No one out here is feeling sorry for you.

11 Responses to John Sayles: 20th-Century Crybaby?

  1. clindsay says:

    Um, I actually have read all his novels.

    * raises hand *

  2. Mike Cane says:

    That’s one hand versus thousands of crickets.

  3. shayera says:

    I’ve read Union Dues.

  4. Mike Cane says:

    The crickets are still in no danger of being outnumbered.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’ve read his excellent work. However, now that you’ve revealed yourself as a fool, I’m going to stop reading you.

  6. Mike Cane says:

    >>>I've read his excellent work. However, now that you've revealed yourself as a fool, I'm going to stop reading you.

    And if Sayles goes eBook, make sure you DON'T come back here, moron.

  7. rjnagle says:

    Wow, I can't believe you are dissing John Sayles.

    He's best known as a filmmaker, but he also writes his screenplays and is extremely well known for his writing talents.

    The problem is that even with his cinema track record, he has appealed to a narrow audience (although I think this would be less of a factor for book publishing). From my standpoint, his name has such cachet that it would be an easy sell for a publisher.

    But we are leaving out a few important facts: 1)is the novel actually any good? and 2)do people actually read 1000 page novels anymore? and 3)does Sayles expect his books to make the advances they made 20 years ago?

    People who have succeeded under the old system find it hard to try the indie method (even when it makes sense). With somebody like Sayles, it probably makes sense to shop it around.

    In the meantime, I can't wait for the LA TImes to write articles about the injustice that Robert Nagle's novel still is unpublished.

  8. Mike Cane says:

    >>>Wow, I can't believe you are dissing John Sayles.

    >>>He's best known as a filmmaker, but he also writes his screenplays and is extremely well known for his writing talents.

    Yes, I have seen Sayles' movies and like them. He's a very good writer.

    But he gets no sympathy from me for crying about the current state of *paper* publishing when he can go the route he did with his *films* — independent. He believed in his *films*, why not this *book*?

  9. Moriah Jovan says:

    2)do people actually read 1000 page novels anymore?

    I do.

    I'd be more likely to read it in E than P at this stage of my life, though.

  10. Zoe Winters says:

    Because there is still too much "stigma" for indie producing novels, and there isn't for indie filmmaking or music for that matter.

    It will take a certain number of people who can write and package that writing well, to beat back the stigma and make it so much silly noise.

    Not everybody wants to be part of that group though, because it's a risk.

    It's also possible it just never occurred to him to go indie with his book. He may not know enough about publishing or how to create his own imprint, or how to publish on the Kindle and such.

    There is still a lot of noise and most of it sounds like "Lulu" and "authorhouse." Not everyone is thinking in this direction yet.

  11. finnegan flawnt says:

    i am so with you, mike, i can almost smell you. not a sayles friend or foe, i believe in your proposed needle therapy 4 publishers. 10 years from now we'll have to search scholarly articles for references to their motley crew. cheers man, way to go.

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