This week we got some good news around the Tyrus Books compound. Our 2011 title, Untouchable by Scott O’Connor was selected as a finalist for Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Award (fiction). We were thrilled back in early 2011 when we found out the book was selected for the Discover Great New Writers Program, but to have that book end up being named a finalist out of all the books selected for the program last year? That felt awesome.
(As a sidenote, the ultracool Dead Guy contributor Dale Spindel wrote about Untouchable a few weeks ago. You can re-read that here - http://heydeadguy.typepad.com/heydeadguy/2012/01/what-makes-a-book-a-mystery.html)
Untouchable started out special, and has continued along the path.
As I understand it, the book was originally shopped to larger publishing houses by agent Yishai Seidman of Dunow, Carlson, & Lerner. Though some folks at the big houses were excited by it, ultimately it got passed over for being too dark (and therefore, likely not marketable).
Then it ended up on my desk.
I’d like to tell you that I dug into it immediately, but that would be a lie. I don’t read things as quickly as I would like to (and if you’ve submitted something over the last few months, you’re likely aware of that already). I often require a kick in the ass a few times before I get around to reading something, and even then (this is terrible to confess) I read with an eye towards rejecting the book, just so I can put it behind me and get the agent off my case).
When Yishai called to remind me about Untouchable, I opened the file with my RejectionGun all set to go. But then a funny thing happened. I read the first two paragraphs.
At that point, two paragraphs in, I called Yishai and said—“I haven’t read the whole thing. In fact, I haven’t even read the whole first page. But I know I want this. Let’s get a deal done right away.”
And we did.
Was the book perfect at that point? Nope. The author and Alison worked hard on it to get it into the best shape it could be. But the essence of what makes a book great to me was there in full display even before the two of them fixed any of the particulars.
I had the same reaction the first time I dug into Craig McDonald’s Head Games, a book that would later go on to be nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. When that reaction hits, I trust it. It’s more than words on a page speaking to me at that point. It’s the I Know It When I See It phenomenon, and I can’t explain it any better than that.
Of course, you could buy a book based on the first two paragraphs and later realize you’ve made a terrible mistake. But in this case, the selection by Barnes and Noble for the Discover Great New Writers program happened and then later, The New York Times reviewed the book in the Sunday Books Section. The first novel I’ve ever been involved in publishing that did either.
Guess I got lucky.
Anyway, the winner of the award will be announced in March 7th, and I’ve got my fingers crossed. If you’re so inclined to cross yours, too, that’s great.
Also, unrelated to Untouchable, but about publishing, I was on WGN's Midday News today. You can watch the clip here.