Gerard Jones is well-acquainted with rejection. As the author of Ginny Good, a poignant memoir exploring the lives of four individuals in San Francisco beginning in the 1960s, Jones was turned down by nearly every agent, editor and publisher in the western world, which led him to create www.everyonewhosanyone.com, a comprehensive directory of literary and talent agents in the United States and Canada. For over a decade, the site has served as a valuable resource for aspiring authors, and perhaps a bit of a warning as well, advising them that getting a book published is never as easy as one might think.
Originally hailing from Royal Oak, Michigan, ten miles north of Detroit, Jones describes his childhood as “idyllic,” complete with building forts in trees, playing kick-the-can, knocking out streetlights with slingshots, having block parties on Halloween and hanging American flags on the 4th of July. When Jones was in high school, he and his family moved to California, setting into motion the events Jones recounts in his memoir.
In 2004, though, after several years of corresponding with agents and publishers, Ginny Good was released by Monkfish Publishing.
Jones has recently released Ginny Good in its entirety for free on his website, along with a corresponding (voice only) audio book. In addition, he sends the multimedia version of the audio book on .mp3 CDs through the mail by request, also for free.
With very few exceptions, every writer becomes intimately familiar with the concept of rejection. But you have perhaps embraced that rejection better than anyone, at least outwardly. What inspired you to create everyonewhosanyone.com, and what were your initial goals with the site? Did you envision fame and fortune, or was it merely a way to shine a light on the process of finding an agent?
Here’s a reverse chronology of the history of the site and an article
about its origins:
What’s the most scathing rejection you received?
I’ve forgotten. They were mostly just non-responsive and silly.
Ginny Good was published in 2004. When that happened, did it feel like the culmination of all of the work you’d put in to that point, or was it more of a feeling of relief?
I was done screwing around with GG and was doing other things. My website got a little blurb in some magazine, the publisher read it, thought my book might come with a bit of built-in hype and contacted me. I turned him over to my agent and they did a little publishing deal. I was and am perfectly happy with the way it all turned out. It was cool to go to a bookstore and see your book sitting on a shelf but nobody ever read it. There’s more to getting a book published than getting a book published.
The publishing industry has changed in recent years. Many writers are turning their backs on the big publishing houses and opting instead to self-publish. If self-publishing had been as accessible in the late 90s and early 2000s, would you have gone that route? If so, how do you things might have been different, both for you and for Ginny Good?
“Self-published” means lousy. It means you can’t get a “real” publisher. It means you had to pay someone to publish the drivel no publisher would buy, so, no, I wouldn’t change a thing. No writers are “turning their backs” on big publishing houses; all “self-published” writers want real book deals, except me. I don’t. No big publisher can do my stuff the way I want it done.
Self-published authors tend to express frustration at the arduous process that comes along with finding a “real” publisher, and many turned to self-publishing in order to avoid the rejection, meddling and delays associated with releasing a book through a legitimate publisher. This undoubtedly results in a lot of mediocre authors self-publishing a lot of mediocre books. But in your opinion (especially given your struggles with getting published), are big publishers doing an adequate job of finding and marketing talented authors?
No. They’re doing a horrible job. There are easily as many good self-published books as there are good real published books but that number is very few, maybe two or three a year, of each. Publishers need to make money. The “arduous process” is very simply an assessment of the odds that a book will make money. Agents take on books they think publishers will buy; publishers buy books they think they can sell enough of to make a profit. The people who buy books buy shitty books ’cause they don’t know any better. That’s why agents and publishers buy and sell shitty books. It’s pretty straightforward. People have been conditioned from birth to buy bullshit. If you want to make money, buy and sell bullshit. Sometimes a good book gets published by accident, either because a publisher made a mistake or a good writer had enough money to publish his or her own stuff.
Do you feel as though you contributed in any way to the changes in the publishing industry?
Maybe a little but no more than any of the other seven billion people on the planet.
How have you changed since the early days of Everyone Who’s Anyone?
I think I might’ve gotten older.
Do you view writing as a cathartic experience?
Have you ever written something about yourself, then decided that it was too personal to put into print? If so, what is the line you’ve chosen not to cross? How personal is too personal?
I get pretty personal. I’ve written stuff that’s too gross. The line I don’t or can’t cross I’d most likely define as “good taste.” I’m as personal as can be without being distasteful.
Do you feel respected as a writer?
Sure. I know what I’ve done. It’s really good. No writer in the history of all writing has ever done anything like what I did in the multimedia version of The Audio Book of Ginny Good.
How do you hope to be remembered?
How is Kafka remembered? Melville? Not many people read what they wrote when they were alive. In a hundred years, not many people will remember a single writer on today’s bestseller lists.
What’s the best memoir you’ve ever read? Aside from your own, of course.
Journey to the End of the Night and Death on the Installment Plan. Remembrance of Things Past probably would’ve been but I only got as far as halfway through Within a Budding Grove. Proust had to pay to publish Swann’s Way. Some real publisher bought the other six volumes.
If you could snap your fingers and jump back in time to relive any moment in your life, what moment would it be?
The whole thing, start to finish. A “moment” ain’t worth diddly without what comes before and goes on after.
What are you working on these days?