It is a little known fact that Dick Rowe, the Decca Records PR man who famously dismissed the Beatles in 1962 because "guitar groups (were) on the way out," had a substantial career as a literary agent whose acumen for spotting great works of literature somehow exceeded his ability to spot up and coming beat groups.
Mr. Rowe passed away in early 2006 and his estate presented his archives to Columbia's Harnick School of American Studies. GM was granted a sneak preview of Rowe's correspondence with legendary authors. Here is the first in a series of Overlooked Letters of Rejection.
October 12, 1952
c/o Charles Scribner's Sons
56 Cooper Square
New York City, New York
Grand Hotel et de Milan
Via Manzoni 29
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
Thank you for submitting your promising work The Old Man and the Sea. As a man of some experience in the literary field, allow me to say that I believe you to be on the right track, though, clearly, the book is not yet ready for publication.
A couple of questions for your consideration: Why an old man? Market research shows that 81% of new novels are purchased by those in the 25-40 age bracket. It's the Eisenhower era, after all, be mindful of contemporary icons such as the ever-gaunt Marlon Brando and James Dean. (Did you see his promotional work for the Traffic Safety Council? Outstanding!) I recommend making the protagonist younger and more accessible. Second, why a sea? Don't get me wrong, we have had great success with fishing books in recent years (notably Lance Wedlick's 60 Ways to Fool a Muskellunge and The Happy Armchair Angler's Guide to the Magic of Bait Fishing in Utah), but our nation is bordered by two oceans (the Atlantic and the Pacific). Further, I am reluctant to ostracize our many readers in the middle regions of the country. Perhaps a river or an inlet would be more appropriate.
In closing, do not be discouraged. I am certain you will enjoy a flourishing career as long as the noble General Batista reigns over Cuba.
PS Flawed heroes are on the way out.