Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Perseverance can pay off

I'm pleased to report that Mark Patinkin's book, UP AND RUNNING: The Inspiring True Story of a Boy’s Struggle to Survive and Triumph is gearing up to be a genuine publishing phenomenon. It has been picked up by the following book clubs as a Featured Alternate: Literary Guild; Doubleday Book Club; American Compass; Crossings Book Club.

Additionally, it has been chosen by Reader's Digest to be a Condensed Book, which will follow publication of the hardcover by about six months.

I'm sure the average reader thinks that most books are available through book clubs, but the truth is they aren't. But the clubs are often the bellwether of public opinion. That Reader's Digest Condensed Books has also picked the book merely confirms the potential this work has for broad public appeal.

What makes this all the more interesting to me is the tale behind the publication of this book....

I'm not sure why he thought of me, but Mark Patinkin was originally referred to me by John Karp, the former Editor-in-Chief of Random House and the newest imprint publisher at Warner Books. I'm a New England boy originally, having grown up just thirty minutes from Providence, so I was intrigued to hear from Mark, a columnist at the Providence Journal. Mark originally sent me copies (the largest photocopies I've ever gotten) of a series of articles he wrote about a young boy named Andrew Bateson. Now, I have to confess that I'm not often called a softie, but I honestly could not get through this series of articles without choking up. Each one would leave me teary-eyed and wondering what would come next. In the accompanying materials, Mark forwarded copies of comments he'd gotten from readers. One, in particular, stood out. The reader said she had never before run down every morning to get her paper with such eagerness. She just had to know what happened to Andrew next.

Now, I'm sure you're asking, "What did happen to Andrew?" Well, while out with his family one night, six-year-old Andrew felt suddenly feverish. Although his parents did not yet know it, Andrew had bacterial meningitis, one of the fastest moving of all infections, at times comparable to Ebola in the speed of its impact on the body.

Over the next three weeks, Andrew laid in a coma as the doctors and nurses fought an often minute-by-minute battle to keep him alive. Overwhelmed, Andrew’s parents pulled away from each other, and their friends wondered if the marriage would survive. His father, Scott, fought anger and depression—at one point, retreating to the hospital's outdoor garden and looking skyward, he yelled, "I hate you! I hate you for this!"

UP AND RUNNING is a riveting medical story, an engrossing family drama, and a story of faith tested to its limits. But even though Andrew’s illness had a terrible price—both of his legs were amputated below the knee, and doctors feared he'd never use his hands again—UP AND RUNNING is ultimately an inspirational true story of triumph over impossible odds. Andrew's astonishing, heartbreaking comeback will make a believer out of you.

Now, to me, this was a slam-dunk. An "Oprah" episode for sure. So imagine my surprise as editor after editor at the major New York houses turned the book down. How could they not see how this would appeal to the hearts and spirits of readers? I couldn't explain it. But I persevered, perhaps inspired by Andrew's spirit of perseverance. I felt this was a story that deserved to be told.

I sat at lunch one day with several other agents, all good friends, enjoying a summer afternoon by the pool. We were telling "war stories," of course, about our experiences with publishers lately, and I told the story of how I had over one-hundred pitches or submissions into this book. They were stunned. Most agents give up after twenty or thirty. Why had I stuck with it? I told them Andrew's story and watched as each fought back tears. One, Denise Marcil, insisted that I take another shot at Rolf Zetterstein, publisher at Warner Faith. After all, this book has an inspirational angle.

I called Rolf and started my pitch. I was astounded to find out that Rolf's son had suffered from bacterial meningitis himself and fought a similar life-and-death battle as Andrew. I cautioned him that he might want to actually not read the proposal, since it was so emotionally powerful and he was so close to the subject matter. He assured me he would get other readers to look and I sent it off.

The rest, as they say, is history. An offer was made and negotiated and suddenly the book that I had made 120 individual pitches and submissions for had found a home at a new imprint there, Center Street. More importantly, it truly seems to have found the right home, as these subsidiary rights sales demonstrate. Center Street focuses on books that appeal to a wide range of Americans, on stories that have meaning in the Heartland. But you don't have to live in the Heartland to appreciate Andrew's story. It's a story I promise will touch you and leave you grateful for all you have.

The book will be shipping early in September and will be in bookstores by the end of the month, but you can order today if you want by clicking


1 comment:

Nancy said...

This is my mantra, that sticking with a good idea, in spite of what others might say, can always prove to fruition.

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