Next February will mark the 30th year I've spent with Peter as one-half of a happy couple. We aren't married, so we use our first date—February 7, 1978—as our anniversary date. We have two separate apartments and have lived apart for all but four of our 30 years together, so we've enjoyed the best of both worlds: each other's company when we want it, and “me time” when we don't. We've heard many times over the years that we're “unusual,” that we have a “great story” and that we should “write a book!” But as we learned, you can possess all the “must haves” publishers talk about—an uncommon topic, writing chops, proven interest in your subject, a “platform”—but none of it matters if what you're saying is not what people want to hear.
Peter and I have published articles about our relationship, in magazines and in Peter's online column. We've talked about it on the radio and even appeared on TV several times—on the old Sally Jessy Raphael show and twice on Donahue.
One TV appearance usually led to offers for others, but after a while we started asking ourselves: why are we putting ourselves out there like that—and enduring at least a teeny bit of public humiliation defending our lifestyle—without having something to sell, like everybody else who publicly humiliates himself? So we decided to take our friends' advice and write that book. After all, we are both published authors, and one of my previous books has sold 450,000 copies. We both had decent platforms: I had been an editor at a national women's magazine, Peter works at the biggest newspaper in New Jersey and appears on TV weekly in his role as theater critic. Telling our story in book form seemed like the logical next step.
We set to work, writing a great proposal and signing up with a good literary agent. We already had major coverage to demonstrate there was an interest in us and our controversial topic. But as it turned out, getting ourselves on TV or into the pages of a women's magazine was one thing; getting a book advance was another. Year after year, rejection followed publisher rejection.
Things didn't change when I became a literary agent in 1996. At first I thought, Hey! Now I'm wielding the power to get books published—including Apartners, the title Peter and I had given our work-in-progress. And while I never did a hard sell to editors, you know how you always wind up talking about your relationship over lunch (well, at least I do). Sooner or later my lunch companions would all blurt out, “Linda, what a fabulous story! Have you ever thought about writing a book?”
And I'd reply calmly, “Well, in fact we have. We have a proposal. Want to see it?”
And every one of them turned it down.
It's taken me the better part of two decades to absorb the harsh facts of book publishing, first as an author and now as an agent: it follows—rather than sets—the trends. Every editor and publishing executive talks about wanting to be “edgy” or having an author with a “unique voice” but only if there's already a proven market for such edgy books with unique voices. It may be the dawn of the 21st century, but women still want to get married and they still want to live with their husband. As an agent, I've done very well with books I've represented like Date Like a Man... to Get the Man You Want and What to Do When You're Dating a Jew, and I expect the same with the forthcoming Dump That Chump—all hardcore how-to-find-a-husband books—not to mention the upcoming Modern Bride Survival Guide. As for poor Apartners? I literally can't even give it away.
So Peter and I have abandoned the fight and have resigned ourselves to the situation. The book buyers who made He's Just Not That into You and Love Smart megasellers simply don't want to hear our message about love-without-marriage/love-with-independence. Fine. Go ahead, girls. Learn the hard way. There will be plenty of coping-with-divorce books out there when you're ready for them.
|Linda Konner is the author of eight books and the president of the Linda Konner Literary Agency.|