Keith Gessen's article, Vanity Fair's How a Book is Born: The Making of The Art of Fielding, is expanded from a piece that appears in the October 2011 issue of Vanity Fair. It reveals the haphazard process of turning a manuscript into a book.
If you've ever read about how an author becomes published, you'll know that luck plays as big a role as talent and perseverance. There is no by-the-numbers guide for how to get your book published, because every book seems to take a different path.
This is the story of The Art of Fielding, a first novel that is currently on the New York Times bestseller list and is getting very good critical reviews. That it is a "good" book is hardly a guarantee that it would be published, let alone be a bestseller.
Gessen's narrative emphasizes the quirky characters that populate the book industry. Author Chad Harbach sent his book to dozens of agents and publishers for ten years, until finding the one agent that loved it. Gessen also tells of the designer who created the artwork for the hardcover and had to change it half a dozen times to please everyone. Then there's the publishing consultant who has "zany" opinions about where the book industry will be in the next decade.
Considering the state of flux the publishing industry is in now, The Art of Fielding took a fairly traditional road to being published, going through agents and publishers and eventually an auction for the rights.
Self-publishing and ebooks are not part of the story of The Art of Fielding, but according to Mike Shatzkin, the publishing consultant Gessen writes about, once people migrate to e-books, there's no turning back. He predicts the demise of half the traditional publishers, most of the physical bookstores, and virtually all of the public libraries in the next fifteen years.
I thought the Kindle Single version of the article would be little more than a padded version of the magazine article, but it appears that there's some real added content. The story of the book jacket design is new to the Single and the section about Shatzkin is beefed up. You don't have to be a would-be author to find this article pretty gripping.