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Book Publishers Didn’t Used To Be Like This

Apollo 17 at Shorty Crater

Apollo 17 at Shorty Crater
Image Credit: Apollo 17 Crew, NASA

The Seventies

The year was 1972 and the month was December. The whole nation watched while Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent about 75 hours on the Moon in the Taurus-Littrow valley. Their names and exploits are almost forgotten today, overshadowed by the first manned exploration of the moon that occurred several years earlier, when Neil Armstrong , Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins first made their lunar voyage in Apollo 11.  In 1972 Nixon was president and the war in Vietnam was still raging. …… Not a great year to be a young man with a selective service card and a lottery number, but nonetheless,  in those times, the publishing scene was much different than it is today.

In 1969, astronauts were quarantined after returning from the moon.

Publishing in 1978

Today, while at the Sioux City (Iowa) library waiting for my laptop to start-up (mine takes  more than five minutes), I randomly picked a book off the  shelves and started reading a short passage by Doris Grumbach about how it was getting a book published in New York in 1978. According to the author, she took the train from Westchester County to Grand Central Station in Manhattan. From the station, she walked over to Doubleday, entered the offices unannounced and handed the manuscript, which was wrapped in brown paper, to the secretary. Two weeks later, she got a reply from an editor saying that they wished to publish the book. Also at that time a literary agent contacted her about representing her next novel, which had already received an option offer from the same publisher.  In 1979, Chamber Music was published and though it has never become the “Great American Novel”, the story has been enjoyed by many and is still in print today.


Doris Grumbach is still alive today and her publishing  account was published in 1999 as part of a collection of short articles, titled The Eleventh Draft, Craft and Writing Life from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her particular article was called A View of Writing Fiction Through The Rear Window. Overall, the book has lots of good stories about writing and living the writers’ life and it  suffices as an excellent distraction, when you writers’ block has taken over and you don’t feel like writing.


Even though I was alive and employed as a carpenter in 1978, I had no interest in being a writer and thus no awareness of how the publishing world operated and functioned. Today, I am all too caught up in “trying to get published”. My occasional success have come from  short articles published on the net and my income per time spent has been marginal. Reading Ms. Grumbach’s account has been most informative, for it shines light on a time, when not so many writers were trying to “break-in” to the literary world and finding a voice and a place to be heard was not so difficult.

Things have definitely changed today. Though the web has made the general public for oriented to the written word, it has also greatly increased the number of prospective authors. In most instances having your work available through electronic media is like falling into a swollen river. …..After the initial shock, you have to fight to get back to solid land. I wish I had good advice to all you struggling writers out there, but my experience has not been overly rewarding.

Milstar Satellite Communications System

Today, communication satellites, such as this Milstar, transmit large quantities of data back and forth between different points on the earth’s surface. Many e-books are now sold by the aid of this technology

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