Last night, I was chatting with a friend who is selling a book off of proposal. She was asking me questions about the process, which I couldn’t really remember–it was over two years ago and since that time, I drove myself crazy writing a whole book–so I dug through old correspondence between me and my agent about my proposal and the feedback it was getting from editors at publishing houses.
These were some of the responses I had received back in 2014:
With that said, part of what was so appealing to me about a book like LITTLE GIRLS IN PRETTY BOXES was the way that it addressed gymnastics (and figure skating) through a multifaceted lens, combining commercial exposé with a larger cultural commentary. Dvora’s book is admirably less sensationalist and more investigative and analytical – but again, the lens is far more narrow, diving deep into the sport rather than extrapolating outwards.
Unfortunately, the response from my team here was lackluster about how the “characters” come across on the page. As much I love that Dvora’s reporting is about the sport itself, others felt that it needed more juice, or rivalries, or drama between team members. I can understand the sentiment that we need those personal stories to shine through as a way to keep the material interesting, but I am disappointed that this was the consensus. If Dvora happens to revise the material to focus more on particular gymnasts, which might deliver a more dramatic approach, please let me know.
There were a few other rejections that were similar in tone and content. It’s interesting to read this feedback now that the book is already out in stores and on digital bookshelves and I got the opportunity to write the book I truly wanted to write–a deep dive into women’s gymnastics, treating it as a sport, not as a setting for drama and sensationalism. (It seemed that in the latter rejection, the editor corresponding with my agent really did share my vision but couldn’t persuade others to come around.)
At the time, I was fairly devastated reading this kind of feedback even though none of it was truly bad. I was very convinced that gymnastics needed a serious analysis about the sport itself, not just the pathologies of the sport. I wanted to write a book that examined the history, analyzing women’s gymnastics on its own terms, and staying away from sensationalism. I wanted to write–or at least attempt to write–the kind of sports journalism about gymnastics that you see written about tennis or baseball or basketball.
To read that what was desired from publishers was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do was discouraging, to put it mildly.
Of course, all it takes is one person/editor to say yes. And I’m so grateful that my editor at Touchstone shared my vision of the book and let me write the kind of book about gymnastics that I had dreamed of writing.
Judging from this review in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, I wasn’t alone in wanting to read a deeply reported book about women’s gymnastics either.