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Garth Nix
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Garth Nix   Garth Nix is the New York Times bestselling author of the Old Kingdom, The Seventh Tower, and The Keys to the Kingdom series, which have been translated into 38 languages and have sold over five million copies. Garth Nix has worked as a bookseller, book sales representative, publicist, editor, marketing consultant and literary agent. He currently lives in Australia.

Buy Garth Nix's Books at the following locations: (downloadable audio books) (independent bookstores)
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This episode originally aired on 02/04/2010 with the following authors:
  • Speculative Fiction
    • Mary Pope Osborne (#1 NYT bestselling Magic Tree House series, former Authors Guild president, 53 million books sold)
    • Cory Doctorow (NYT bestselling Little Brother and Makers, Boing Boing blog, top 10 Forbes web celebs)
    • Mindy Klasky (bestselling and award-winning Glasswrights, Jane Madison, and As You Wish series)
    • Garth Nix (NYT bestselling Old Kingdom, The Seventh Tower, and Keys to the Kingdom series, 5 million sold)
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with Garth Nix

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Bonus Question(s) that Didn't Air on the Live Radio Show

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Matthew Peterson: Let me ask you a bonus question. And thisíll just be a fun little question. I think itís very interesting that you wore so many hats. What were some of the funniest experiences you had as a literary agent or as an editor?

Garth Nix: Thatís a tough question. [laughs] I think, you know, as an agent some of the funny stuff comes from what people send you, where they hope that theyíll make their manuscript look different and stand out. So, you know, you get a manuscript thatís bound in purple fur.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Garth Nix: Or it comes in a fake coffin--itís about three foot long. Unfortunately, while that certainly does attract attention, I donít think it actually helps. [laughs] I never found a really great manuscript in the fancy packaging or that came accompanied by the bottle of Port, whatever. It was always the plainest and most ordinarily professionally presented manuscripts that were the best. And I think that thereís a good lesson there, is that your story, your work, is your best ambassador, and itís much more important to make sure those first few pages work and that you want to read on, as opposed to thinking about how to present it, you know, how you package it or how much purple fur you can wrap around it.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Garth Nix: You know, Ďcause you canít do that at the bookstore. You canít make a reader pick up your book because it has more purple fur than any other book. You know, you canít stand next to someone at the bookstore and explain the story to them and tell them that itís going to get better on page 60, which sometimes, you know, in submissions you get a letter that says, ďHereís my manuscript. Itís slow to start, but it improves by page 50, so stick with it.Ē Thatís not going to work. It has to work from the beginning.

So certainly there were a lot of strange submissions that used to come in. Just another sort of funny stuff thatís hard to answer. And certainly in publishing, itís a strange business. Even when youíve been in the business a long time, things will happen that, you know, defies all explanation. You couldnít work out why that happened. In the same way that often you canít work out, you know, why a book becomes an overnight success or becomes a phenomenon. You know, itís not something you can analyze or repeat. And all you can go on is instinct and your reaction to the text of the song. You can never predict how things will work.

So itís an interesting business. I think part of the attraction of it is in fact that it is so hard to predict . . . every book is a new product and itís not something you can look at exactly whatís gone before and say, ďWell this did Y, so you know, that did X and thisíll do Y.Ē I think thatís one of the things that does make it so interesting.

Matthew Peterson: It is an interesting business. And whatís interesting to me is that I speak to a lot of authors who tell me that they sent their manuscript out to dozens of agents or dozens of publishers and just got rejection after rejection. And some authors have told me that theyíve even gotten letters saying, ďPlease donít ever send your books again to this publisher. Nobody here is interested in you.Ē And then they turn around and sell the book and sell 15 million copies. Itís such an interesting business Ďcause you never know what the public is going to really grasp on to.

Garth Nix: Itís about getting the right manuscript to the right person at the right time and hanging in there despite the rejections. Unfortunately, of course, with every story that ultimately is successful and is sold, thereís probably, you know, 10,000 where they just got the 30 rejections and they never did go on. The ones that do get through are the outliers. But you still have to try, Ďcause you never know.

You know, I also said Sabriel was still my most successful book; Mister Monday would be close to it now, but itís probably still my most. I think it was rejected by, I think, 5 New York publishers. You know, who just didnít like it. But I eventually found one that did like it a lot. If I had just tried those first 5 and had those rejections and then given up, you know, I wouldnít be here now; I wouldnít have all those other books out there. Iíd probably have just stayed in publishing and written just for my own satisfaction, which is, of course, fine. Itís fine to write just for yourself if you want to do that. But I think most writers do want to have their work read.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, yeah.

Garth Nix: Donít think Iím the only exception.

Matthew Peterson: So donít give up. Thatís the advice. The tip for the day. [laughs]

Garth Nix: [laughs] Tip for the day: Donít give up, but also, if something is being rejected write something else as well.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Garth Nix: Donít just keep trying to sell the same book for years and years and years. I think itís important to write new work as well as keep trying to sell the old work.

Matthew Peterson: Well, very good advice, Garth.

Extra Material That was Cut from the Show Because of Time Constraints

We're still transcribing this, but you can listen to it right now.

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