Getting testimonials for the back of a book is a strange task. I imagine if you have an agent that is what the agent helps with, but I wouldn’t know. I have had my share of rejections from them. Panhandlers will be my second novel published without one. I’ve decided with my third – yet-to-be-finished – novel, I will attempt to go that route again. As of now, I’m cool with just getting my work out in front of the reading public and Waldorf Publishing has been able to do that for me. And they send me a check every once in a while, which is really nice of them because I’m pretty damn sure I haven’t made them much money. So without an agent, I’m tasked with securing testimonials for my work. But how to do that when you know very few writers?
I read the back of books and see New York Times reviews or Newsweek or authors that I admire praising other authors I admire, and I imagine the back of my books having the same glowing admiration. But most of the people I know are metal fabricators or cooks or do some weird shit with computers or brew beer or play music at bars. All cool jobs, but nothing that really convinces the reading world to pick up my book out of the millions out there. Luckily, with Native Moments, Jonathan Fink, a former professor and published poet agreed to read it and write one. Other than that I had quite a few rejections to my queries. It felt like I was back to searching for agents. It was a rather familiar feeling. Of course I swung for the fences in my approach. I emailed my favorite living writers or their agents or their publishers and never heard a response from most. However, a few did respond and one, Brad Watson, even agreed to read it and write one. Unfortunately, he had a new book, Miss Jane, that was soon-to-be released as well and he teaches and it was the end of the semester so he had student work to look at and he couldn’t get mine finished by the deadline my publisher had asked. At least that’s what he told me. It very easily could’ve been that my work wasn’t something he wanted to attach his name to. He could’ve been letting me down softly. That’s cool too. I get it.
However, one of the author’s I sent my work to, did not have the same tact. He simply told me that my work was not ready. That I haven’t put in enough hours towards the craft. That I was in too much of hurry to see my work in print. I listened to him for two hours tell me why he didn’t think I was ready. I told him I wasn’t getting any younger and the book that was being published was something that should have been out 10 years ago and it was time for me to get my work out there and take whatever criticism would come my way. I was ready to take the next step in my writing career and if that meant people thinking my work was shit, I was willing to risk it. Besides, I already signed the contract. Needless to say, I didn’t receive his testimonial either. So, Native Moments was put to print with one testimonial, but one that I am forever grateful for.
As I read the Harry Crews biography I take comfort in knowing that he went through the same thing. His mentor refused to write a testimonial for his first book. Told him it wasn’t ready. That he was rushing the craft. In fact, his mentor would never write a testimonial for him for any of his books. I am not facing that same fate. Dr Allen Josephs, the man who told me Native Moments wasn’t ready (although by looking at the reviews on Amazon, he so far is in the minority), has agreed to write a testimonial for my next novel, Panhandlers.
Here is what Dr Josephs had to say about it:
Things have changed little in the profound South since the days of Harry Crews and Larry Brown. If you like the gritty South noir that began with Sanctuary, you will find Panhandlers–from the piney-woods northwest Florida region—very satisfying. Nic Schuck knows his territory and he knows the inhabitants and their mores–cock fighting, dog fighting, beer drinking, shooting, and the never-ending, gut-wrenching age-old art of mere survival–first-hand. If you want the real story , this is it. – Allen Josephs
I couldn’t ask for more beautiful words to be on the back of my work. Panhandlers will be once again published by Waldorf Publishing and available everywhere September 2018. In the meantime, if you haven’t read Native Moments yet, it is available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold.