Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A New Paradigm in Publishing: Literary Chaos Theory

We continued our conversation, with Hammett explaining his unusual theories on marketing, breakout fiction, and cult fiction.

Hammett: Publishing conglomerates such as Bertelsmann, Holtzbrinck, Pearson, Time Warner, and Viacom have swallowed venerable presses such as Simon and Schuster, Random House, Viking, Grosset and Dunlop, Putnam, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Alfred A. Knopf, Doubleday, and hundreds of others. Even before the current recession, the result was a downsizing of the market, which I find Orwellian. But history teaches us that ideas, even those on the fringe, will find expression regardless of environment. In publishing, I call it Literary Chaos Theory.

Cat: Can you be a bit more specific?

Hammett: Think of Jurassic Park. The genetic engineers said the dinosaurs would never reproduce. Jeff Goldblum’s character predicted that the dinosaurs would find a way according to the laws of Chaos Theory. By definition, the inevitable can’t be stopped.

Cat: So the analogy is?

Hammett: Take e-books or POD titles, for example. They haven’t fared so well thus far, and maybe never will, but they represent the power of words pushing back against the shrinking marketplace and those that control it. E-books didn’t have a uniform platform, but Kindle has given us e-books in a different, more usable format depending on how one defines e-books. It’s evolution. As for print-on-demand, most titles may not be that good, but more and more small presses are using POD technology to cut printing costs. Even major houses use POD technology for some nonfiction titles. Again, evolution.

Cat: Interesting. Any major predictions?

Hammett: I think small presses will merge and resist corporate takeovers. Some already have. Also, some individuals are starting to break marketing and distribution barriers with their POD titles. Years ago Dan Poynter wrote a book on hang gliding and published it himself. It was a phenomenal success, as are his other books, and Poynter’s The Self-publishing Manual is now the bible for those who want to have genuine success with self-publishing. It’s a tough row to hoe, but it can be done if you’ve got a good product and the know-how.

Cat: All of this sounds very do-able, but I’m searching for some radical ideas.

Hammett: Mini presses. People publishing two or three titles a year and selling them at book co-ops. Then again, conglomerates might fail, and if that sounds implausible, just look at America’s major lending institutions. Literacy levels have dropped among college graduates, and in a downsized market, the number of new titles might continue to shrink. That will open up new niches for people with innovative ideas. Or conglomerates might well misread the needs of the marketplace. It happens all the time with tech companies. Microsoft, for example, has made some major blunders that allowed others to capitalize and fill a niche.

Cat: Can you give me a specific scenario?

Hammett: A conglomerate might well decide to sink everything into electronic platforms, only to find that a majority of readers still want paper and ink.

Cat: We started out with a theory about breakout fiction.

Hammett: Right. We come full circle. When the literary marketplace starts to fluctuate or evolve, certain titles will find a niche. That’s the key. Niches will appear for reasons we can’t predict, and hence the term chaos. Titles will breakout or become cult fiction. At least one-third of all cult fiction titles, some now taught in schools, were rejected numerous times or were given little, if any, chance of succeeding. Their subsequent success defies explanation.

Cat: So where is William Hammett’s fiction in this milieu?

Hammett: I think metaphysical fiction will become a separate genre, and my work dances on the edge of metaphysics without being New Age. Other than that, my Lennon novel was sent to people who know, or knew, the Beatles.

I didn’t quite know what to say.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Marketing Fiction: Cross-pollination, Feedback Loops, and Splitting

I resumed my conversation with Hammett the following week. A partial transcript follows.

Cat: So tell me about your marketing strategies.

Hammett: I do online promotion and local book signings, but the one that works best is giving away free copies whenever I can. One segment of my target audience is college students and young adults who are very much into Lennon and the Beatles, so I have friends across the country leave free copies at campus student centers or off-campus coffee bars like Starbucks.

Cat: How do you know the free copies are being read?

Hammett: Several ways. There’s always a sales spike after the free distribution, plus I get email from people in various geographical locations telling me what they liked about the book. I call the technique cross-pollination. Assuming you have the right subject, like John Lennon, and the right venue, like a college campus, people are going to talk about what they like. The word-of-mouth campaign is still highly effective in something going viral. People hear about the book as it’s passed around a dormitory or the workplace. But you can pass around only so many copies, so some people end up buying the book.

Cat: Sounds logical. Is that all there is to it?

Hammett: It’s just the beginning. The feedback loop comes next. If people like a title enough, they put it on their blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or any kind of online personal profile. After that comes splitting. Sooner or later, young adults tell their baby boomer parents about the book, parents who were the original Beatles fans. They, in turn, start telling or emailing their friends about it, and cross-pollination starts all over again.

Cat: In your case, this might not be possible without writing about Lennon. Did you choose him on purpose?

Hammett: Not really. People want to feel good. They’re looking for hope and second chances and want to believe in something beyond themselves. Those were the waters I wanted to fish. Lennon was a logical choice to write about since he tried to exorcise a lot of demons during his life. People can identify with that, and if you have readers identifying with your protagonist, you’re halfway there.

Cat: Do you think John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café could ever go viral or become breakout fiction? Or maybe even a cult fiction?

Hammett: I’ve got a theory about breakout fiction and cult books, but it sounds a bit weird.

Cat: I like weird. I’m all ears.

What Hammett shared next was something I’d never heard about before.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

12,000 Copies Nationwide

Excuse me, but have you written a cult book would not have been a great opening line to use with author William Hammett. Instead, I told him that I really liked John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe and asked him to tell me a bit about himself. I also asked if I could record our conversation, and he had no objections.

He said he’d worked for people associated with The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, a CBS sitcom, a Sci-Fi series, as well as professional athletes, politicians, and people from all walks of life. His latest client, a publicist with a major New York publishing house, had just bagged an A-list agent for a true crime book. I already knew most of this from consulting his websites.

I took a deep breath. “You’re obviously successful. How come you don’t pack in the ghostwriting and just publish under your own name?”

“Many of my clients have clout,” he replied. “And the average title, even from major houses, only sells an average of twelve thousand copies nationwide. Only a very few authors give up the day job. I’m lucky. I pay the bills from my writing. However . . . "

“Yes?”

“I've been thinking about doing more fiction under my own name. I’ve learned a lot about marketing from my successful clients.”

“Care to share the wealth?” I asked.

“Got a couple of hours?”

I was no Woodward or Bernstein, feeling victorious in finally getting a source to open up about the Watergate burglary, but if Hammett wanted to talk of marketing, I was finally going to be able to broach the subject of cult fiction. We scheduled more interviews.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Across the Universe, Across the Web

I wanted to know more about the novel or else I'd be wasting Hammett's time. Googling John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe produced several pages of results. The book was listed on dozens of sites about fiction, writing, and the literary marketplace. It was also on sale at hundreds of online bookstores around the world. This, in itself, wasn't that unusual, but it told me that the novel was competitive. Thefind.com alone was a portal to 119 additional sites where the book could be purchased. I also found a dozen online stores in Great Britian that carried the book, and it was for sale in Japan, India, Portugal, Greece, India, and South Africa. Many online campus bookstores also advertised the book.

The title was "out there," so I knew that a few copies discovered at Starbucks hadn't been aberrations. Whether it could become cult fiction was another matter altogether.

Sitemap

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

... And So He's a Ghostwriter

I hit pay dirt on my first Google search. Hammett's name produced dozens of results in relation to other projects and publications, but he was also a ghostwriter. His professional website claimed that his work for clients had been favorably reviewed by Publishers Weekly and major newspapers around the country. Many of his clients had been published authors and celebrities. One had worked with two U.S. presidents. This explained the accomplished prose style of John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café.

Under his own name, Hammett had published three other novels, one of which also had a slick website but was only available from a small press in Montana. Curiouser and curiouser. Additionally, Hammett had a blog, Chapter and Verse, on which he posted poetry he’d published in respectable literary journals around the country. Most web poetry is quite awful, but Hammett’s was extremely well crafted. The man was wearing many hats: novelist, ghostwriter, poet. Of equal interest was that Hammett was extremely knowledgeable about the literary marketplace. Several of his web pages did a superb job of exploring scams by unscrupulous literary agents and online publishing companies.

The next step was to make direct contact with Hammett. I emailed him and asked if we could speak on the phone about John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café. I made no mention of cult fiction at this point. I didn’t want to scare him off. He sent me a one-word reply: “Sure.”

Sitemap

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Friday, September 25, 2009

Examining the Novel's Promotional Website

I had become interested in cult fiction (no, not fiction about cults) at the age of twenty-seven, when I’d read On the Road by Jack Kerouac. It had an unusual publishing history, the narrative originating with scribbled notes on road trips and ending with a manuscript typed on a single sheet of paper 120 feet long. After some editing, Viking published the novel, which became both a counterculture and mainstream classic.

I began researching the publishing history of my favorite novels and learned that many also had unusual stories behind their publication. (See the Sitemap for more details.) The first step in learning more about John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe was to examine the book’s promotional website, its URL appearing on the back cover next to a picture of the Strawberry Fields Memorial in New York’s Central Park.

The site was slick, and the graphics, text, and layout indicated that someone had shelled out a couple of thousand bucks (minimum) to have the site designed. The site contained a wealth of information on the novel, Lennon, the Beatles, magical realism, and the author, William Hammett. The web designer had been SEO savvy (search engine optimization) so that the site would pop whenever dozens of relevant words or phrases were entered into a search engine. The banner even blinked on and off, like the neon sign of a café. It was a classy site.

Would John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café become a cult book at some point in the future? It was time to contact the author, but I wanted to learn a little bit about him. What I found explained a lot.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Discovering John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe

It’s actually a detective story, but that’s what investigative journalists are: detectives. They like to snoop, ask questions, see what’s on the down-low. I’d never heard of John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café until my sister gave me a copy that her boyfriend had found abandoned at Starbucks. “It’s good,” she said. “And it’s got a little mojo.”

The back cover blurb said that Lennon finds himself standing in Grand Central Station in 2006, unaware that he was assassinated. And there was mention of Lennon taking a road trip. Road trip novels always get my attention. So do the Beatles. I opened the book to page one and started reading.

It was good. Very good, in fact. The prose style had attitude, and the subplots came together in ways that made me slap my forehead and say aloud, “I sure didn’t see that coming!” How come I’d never heard of the novel before?

I went online, but the novel wasn’t on anyone’s bestseller list. It wasn’t even on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. Two independent bookstores in the next county had ordered a couple of copies for customers, and it was online at Amazon, B&N, and Books-a-Million. It also had a Facebook fan page. I checked the inside cover. Okay, it was published by a small press and was flying under the radar, but how can you keep a well written book about John Lennon under wraps?

I called my friend Sara, a teacher in San Francisco and a major league Beatles fan, and asked if she’d ever heard of John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café.

“Yeah,” she said. “Found a copy on a chair at Starbucks. I took it home and couldn’t put it down. I just ordered another copy.”

“Why?” I asked.

“My brother ripped off my copy and gave it to a friend.”

Copies were being passed around after being found at Starbucks in different states. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. I decided to handle the info as if it were a down-low story. Maybe it was cult fiction with an underground following.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Resources for Writers

This page contains sites that are considered informative and professional. They contain invaluable resources for writers at any level. Whether you are seeking to write short stories, flash fiction, or cult fiction, the following sites can help.

American Association of Authors' Representatives

Book Marketing & Book Promotion

Horror Writers of America

Mystery Writers of America

Novelists, Inc.

Preditors and Editors

Romance Writers of America

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writes of America

Writers Digest

Writers Market

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Contact

ct.spaulding@yahoo.com

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace

Most Literary agents naturally keep a keen eye on what is currently being published. They also, as time permits, read many of the literary journals listed below. What follows are debut fiction titles from 2009, plus major literary journals where fiction written by talented young authors may be found. Perhaps some will author breakout or cult fiction.

The following list represents books published by small and independent presses, as well as major publishing houses. All have received reviews by publications such as Booklist, Publishers Weekly, or the New York Times Review of Books.

Beg, Borrow and Steal (Michael Greenberg, Other Press)
Blood Kin (Cedric Dovey, Viking)
A Case of Exploding Mangoes (Mohammed Hanif, Knopf)
Child 44 (Tom Robb Smith, Grand Central)
The Farther Shore (Matthew Eck, Milkweed)
The Girls and Three Brothers (Theresa Rebeck, Shaye Arehart Books)
How the Soldier Repairs the Gramaphone (Sasni Stanasi, Grove Atlantic)
My Name Is Will: Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare (Jess Winfield, Twelve)
Occupational Hazards (Jonathan Segura, Simon and Schuster)
Red River Fever (Rudy Pittman, Booklocker)
A Richer Dust (Amy Boaz, Permanent Press)
Sun Going Down (Jack Todd, Touchstone)
Swan Dive (Michael Burke, Pleasure Boat Studio)
The Well and the Mine (Gin Phillips, Hawthorne)
When Autumn Leaves (Amy Foster, Overlook)

A complete listing of the very best literary journals may be found at New Pages.Com. Below are some of the older, more prominent journals that have produced some of the world's most noted authors:

The Antioch Review

Black Warrior Review

The Hudson Review

The Kenyon Review

Many Mountains Moving

The Paris Review

Prairie Schooner

The Sewanee Review

The Southern Review

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Monday, September 21, 2009

List of Cult Fiction Classics

The following is a partial list at best, and it will no doubt contain titles that some people not only intensely dislike but feel unworthy of the appellation "cult fiction." Every individual can easily build his or her own list, and that, to a large extent, is what cult fiction is all about: books that have a personal appeal to certain individuals. What speaks to the mind and heart of one reader will not speak to the mind and heart of another. The following is intended as a sampling, nothing more, in order to get a better feel for the kind of title discussed on this website.

Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes
Against Nature, Joris-Karl Huysmans
Animal Farm, George Orwell
Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
Axel by Philippe Auguste Villiers de Lísle-Adam
Be Cool by Elmore Leonard
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Farina
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
Candide by Emile Zola
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Carry Me Across the Water by Ethan Canin
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Celestine Prohecy by James Redfield
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Daddy Cool by Donald Goines
The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley
Dune by Frank Herbert
Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
The Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Generation X by Douglas Coupland
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pinchon
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Iron John by Robert Bly
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Lake Wobegon by Garrison Keillor
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
London Fields by Martin Amis
Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Lost Horizon by James Hilton
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The Outsider by Colin Wilson
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Pixel Juice by Jeff Noon
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
Reneé by Francois-Reneé de Chateaubriand
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaves of New York by Tama Janowitz
Something Happened by Joseph Heller
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters
The Stand by Stephen King
Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda
Time and Again by Jack Finney
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
The Van by Roddy Doyle
Walden II by B. F. Skinner
Warlock by Oakley Hall
The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Self-Published Novels

The number of self-published books seems to be growing exponentially with the advent of POD technology. (Many independent presses have been forced to use print-on-demand technology because of tight budgets, and production values can be excellent.) But most self-published books are poorly written, unedited, and lack any comprehensive marketing plan or system of distribution.

That having been said, there are good self-published titles out there, and some occasionally rise to the top, such as the bestselling The Havanese by Diane Klumb, published by lulu.com. The book was featured in the New York Times and honored by Miss Snark herself! Some are acquired by major houses. The Stoneholding, by James Anderson and Mark Sabanc, was originally self-published and later acquired by Books of Wonder Press in Great Britain.

It’s sometimes a question of luck and being in the right place at the right time. If you've read other pages on this website, you’re aware that cult fiction can emerge from just about anywhere—and by any means.

We must remember that John Grisham initially sold A Time to Kill from the trunk of his car. Many Beat poets and writers got their start in “basement presses” that succeeded against all odds. Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia was self-published and was eventually picked up by a major publisher when it became evident that the novel was morphing into a genuine cult book.

Don’t discount all self-published books. A few have considerable merit, and I have no doubt that some of them will eventually attain cult status.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Literary Agents

Gone are the days when writers could send an unsolicited manuscript directly to a publisher. Small and independent presses still take such submissions (with many exceptions), but to be published by a major house, one needs an agent.

Agents are the people everyone loves to hate. They reject manuscripts, some of which, by their own admission, are quite good. Many take a long time to reply to queries or don’t respond at all. Often, requested manuscripts are not returned, and emails as to their status go unanswered. But that’s only a small part of a much bigger picture.

Literary agents are not the enemy. The literary marketplace will support only so many titles, and choices need to be made. The truth is that a majority of agents would love to have the luxury of taking a chance on the work of promising writers (and many do), but the number of manuscripts in slush piles grows while the number of books published each year shrinks. An A-list agent may receive ten thousand queries a year and yet be able to take on only five new clients from that staggering number of hopefuls. It’s not a job I would want.

In actuality, literary agents deserve our thanks. While representing their clients, attending conferences, and going through the slush, they manage to keep an eye out for the unusual turn of phrase, the irresistible pitch, the short story showing promise in a literary journal. Agents are on the side of the written word and would love to be the catalysts for well written cult fiction. In an age of tweets and text messages, I find that comforting.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Literary Fiction

What are we to make of literary fiction in the last few years? It is indeed agented and published, but the market certainly trends toward genre fiction, with literary titles often dying a quiet death on the midlist. With the recent passing of John Updike, have we seen the last of contemporary literary giants? The answer is a resounding “No!”

Authors of literary fiction are, by nature, patient men and women whose writing stems from constant observation. They are self-styled sociologists who cannot rush their study of character, place, custom, or motive. They usually put in a lengthy apprenticeship while writing short fiction for literary journals, honing their craft as they continue to chart the undercurrents of society.

Regrettably, many readers regard writers of literary fiction as pretentious, cerebral, and aloof, men and women hoping to win a Pultizer or the National Book Award. Allegedly, these writers have groupies and walk down the street like Tom Wolfe, dressed in a white linen suit, scarf, and felt hat. Many call literary fiction highbrow or esoteric, with an accent on complicated syntax or intellectual themes. Stereotypes may exist, but consider Papa Hemingway and his short sentences, spare adjectives, and staccato delivery of a story—a style that is deceptively simple. He was a hunter and a fisherman who could sit in the Florida Keys and knock back seventeen daiquiris in a row. Many literary titles do indeed eventually attain the status of cult fiction.

Literary fiction will never die because it tells us who we are. Granted, style and theme may at times be elevated, but literary fiction is a mirror in which the reader can glimpse herself, her family, her job, her world. At times, the reflection is disquieting, even painful. Perhaps it takes a courageous reader to undertake such self-examination. If this is true, it only underscores the fact that we need literary fiction now more than ever.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Breakout Fiction

Is breakout fiction the first cousin of cult fiction or are they identical twin?

In today's publishing climate, most major publishing houses want to see a breakout title by the author's third attempt. But what is breakout fiction? Let's take a look before we compare breakout fiction to cult fiction.

The definition for breakout fiction as set forth by most literary agents and editors (such as Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass) is nebulous at best and seems to set forth elements that editors and agents would expect from any good piece of fiction. Writers, published and unpublished, are advised to find a larger-than-life plot, one that is inspiring in ways that other novels are not. Furthermore, writers are told to develop unusual characters, create many sub-plots, and explore universal themes. But isn't this what all good novels aspire to do?

Maass himself admits that the breakout novel does not always explode onto the scene. Indeed, it sometimes results from a very low tech word-of-mouth campaign, a topic that is covered in some depth on this website. This is where the breakout novel begins to intersect with the cult novel. Either type may break out immediately on its release date or swim more slowly into public consciousness. Regardless, breakout fiction initially does exactly what cult fiction does: it captures the reader's imagination with elements that seem to stay firmly rooted in short-term memory longer than usual so that the reader cannot stop talking or thinking about the novel. It contains passion and excitement and is the buzz at the water cooler.

There are some differences, however. Breakout fiction, once it gains prominence, may be like a supernova, shining brightly in literary skies and grossing millions of dollars. It's the title that everyone on Match.com will cop to reading. By the same token, breakout fiction may be meteoric in nature and flame out quickly, the title forgotten after author and publisher have reaped well deserved royalties for their labors. And there's nothing wrong with that at all.

Many breakout fiction titles do indeed become cult fiction, but if they do, it's because they do more than follow a few sage pieces of advice in plotting and characterization in order to placate the literary marketplace. It happens because a novel has something that appeals to the mythos of a society. It touches a nerve that cannot be defined, nor can its appeal be anticipated. Yes, it deals with universal themes, but it changes the axis of the earth, reverses its rotation. It discovers new themes altogether or exposes the lies of old ones. In short, it has staying power that far exceeds most breakout titles that produce commercial success. It transcends the balance sheet.

Breakout fiction may certainly become cult fiction, but cult fiction has frequently been regarded as anything but breakout. It sometimes takes months, years, or decades for a great novel to achieve cult status. Moby-Dick is the perfect example. The novel quite simply flopped, and it was almost ninety years before its genius was discovered. Cult fiction and breakout fiction, therefore, may be very closely related or they may have little in common. It all depends on the title, the reader, and a moment in history that changes with each tick of the clock.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD

It is a popular literary myth that Jack Kerouac holed up in his Manhattan apartment and wrote On the Road in three weeks while on stimulants. The true story of the novel's composition and publication is a further example of how cult fiction is often born in unusual ways. In reality, Kerouac wrote most of the novel in small notebooks over a span of seven years as he made road trips that would come to define, in large part, the Beat Generation. But this represents only the beginning of the novel’s long path to publication and success.

In 1957, Kerouac taped pieces of paper together, forming a continuous sheet one hundred and twenty feet long. Using the material from his many notebooks, he typed On the Road on what came to be called The Scroll. He used no margins or paragraph breaks. Before Viking Press would agree to publish the work, reformatted to regular textual convention, Kerouac was asked to delete passages deemed pornographic. He also gave several real-life characters fictional names and added new “literary” material, qualifying the book as semi-autobiographical.

The book was published in 1957. In 2007, Viking Press released a more faithful copy of the work, titled On the Road: The Original Scroll. Only slight editing was applied. That The Scroll was then displayed in libraries in the United States and Europe is a testament to the cult status of On the Road.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES

One never knows how a novel will enter the literary marketplace, let alone be labeled as cult fiction. The path to success for John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces is the quintessential example in modern times of how a novel attains cult, or breakout, status. Tragically, Toole suffered many rejections from publishing houses while teaching at a university in New Orleans. He committed suicide at age thirty-two. His completed novel, however, did not die with him.

Toole’s mother was persistent in approaching novelist Walker Percy while he was teaching a writing course at Loyola University. (She herself was not enrolled.) As Percy related the story, he tried to beg off several times, but to no avail. Ms. Toole brought the smudged, typed manuscript, considerably dog-eared, to Percy in 1976. Percy hoped that the novel’s first few pages would be bad enough to justify his putting the work aside, enabling him to give Ms. Toole an honest critique in good conscience. To his amazement, Percy found the manuscript to be excellent, with protagonist Ignatius Reilly railing against the eccentricities and outrages of the twentieth century.

Because of Percy’s clout as a best selling novelist, A Confederacy of Dunces was published by Louisiana State University Press in 1980 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1981. It is now available as a Penguin paperback and considered a quintessential example of a cult book. Toole’s success came through tragedy, although as this website documents, successful fiction can rise to the top in different and unexpected ways. When one encounters frustration or rejection, it is best to beat up some pillows, take a long walk, and then sit at the keyboard and start pounding out the next story. Most successful novelists have suffered rejection countless times. Stephen King gave up after his first four novels were rejected and was talked into trying one more time by his wife Tabitha. Never take rejection personally.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Saturday, September 19, 2009

John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?

The following is the official website for John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe, complete with author contact. It is one of the first tools I used to decide whether this novel had the potential for becoming cult fiction. It is a well developed site, with information on the novel, author, John Lennon, the Beatles, and various genres.

John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe

The following is a synopsis of the novel from the back-cover blurb (used by permission):

John Winston Lennon was shot outside the Dakota Building on December 8, 1980. In November of 2006, he finds himself standing in Grand Central Station, unaware that he was assassinated. Is he a ghost? Perhaps not. On her way home from work, ad exec Amy Parisi sees the former Beatle sitting alone in the Mercy Street Café in Greenwich Village. There’s only one problem: there’s no Mercy Street in the Village, and Amy is the only one who can see the café. In the weeks that follow, Amy and Lennon take one of the most incredible road trips in rock and roll history, one far stranger than any acid-induced hallucination from the sixties.

John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café is the story of a man, the voice of an entire generation, who must face the inner demons that plagued both his childhood and his years as the most recognizable figure in popular music. As he does so, he is given the opportunity to leave his indelible mark on the world one last time, showing how hope and the power of music can indeed give peace to a chaotic world.

If you are one of the millions who has been captivated by a man who was both clown and political activist, then step into the Mercy Street Café and meet the legend from Liverpool. But pack your bags for a magical mystery tour that leaves the rational, Newtonian world behind. You are about to enter the world of John Lennon.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Understanding the Literary Marketplace

The following websites (or their hard copy counterparts) are excellent places to examine current literary trends, the publishing industry, and new titles. If you're looking to spot emerging cult fiction (or simply the latest fiction and nonfiction), the sites below offer a feast of articles and reviews on new titles from large and small publishers.

Booklist

Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal

New York Times Book Review

Publishers Marketplace

Publishers Weekly

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Cult Fiction Websites

The following websites offer much information on the phenomenon of cult fiction for those who wish to research the trend further. One will find discussion of numerous titles and authors, as well as general articles on cult fiction. As stated on this website, there is some disagreement about the definition of cult books and whether or not some titles deserve the label. The sites below are good starting places to examine the issue.

Art and Popular Culture

Auckland City Libraries

Cult Fiction

Greenwood Publishing Group

Library Thing

Monroe County Public Library

Nashville Public Library

What Is Cult Fiction

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

About Cat Spaulding

Cat Spaulding is a thirty-four-year-old journalist and author of the blog Cat Spaulding on the Down-low. She began writing simple stories at the age of eight and has cherished the written word ever since, believing that an author has a sacred obligation to readers to bridge the gap between what is known and what needs to be brought to life with honesty and integrity. In high school and college, she won many short story, poetry, and essay contests, and decided to major in journalism in college.

Cat became fascinated with the phenomenon of cult fiction and underground literature in her late twenties, methodically researching their publishing histories, distribution, and sales. In 2008, she read William Hammett’s John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café, a work of magical realism in the vein of W. P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, cult fiction that spawned the motion picture Field of Dreams. Believing that she might be witnessing the birth of cult fiction, she contacted Hammett, who she interviewed for many hours. Additionally, she did her own research into how and why the novel was quietly making headway. Her efforts are chronicled on this website. She has already begun work on a book of nonfiction dealing with both the phenomenon of cult fiction and underground literature.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Current Trends in Fiction

Literary fiction has taken a backseat to genre fiction in the past decade. Thrillers, mysteries, suspense, romance, chick lit, gay and lesbian, science fiction, and fantasy are all making an especially strong showing in the literary marketplace. And let us not forget the new kid on the block: the graphic novel.

It is lamentable that authors such as Vonnegut, Bellow, Heller, Percy, and Updike are no longer diagnosing our spiritual malaise, and the surge in genre fiction may tell us more about society in general than the actual literary marketplace. As noted elsewhere on this site, however, one should never underestimate the power of a title within any genre to break out or develop a cult following. The Da Vinci Code, cult fiction by anyone's standard, precipitated a sharp spike in “break the code” fiction and gave birth to countless TV shows on the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. Likewise, The Celestine Prophecy gave new energy a few years ago to metaphysical titles, rivaling the hugely successful books on near-death experiences.

In terms of cult fiction, Harry Potter gave the juvenile market a shot of literary steroids. Also, the trend of making picture books into major motion pictures continues with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Where the Wild Things Are.

The horror niche seems to be owned by the prolific Dean Koontz and Stephen King, who terminated his early retirement to write The Cell, Lisey’s Story (oddly labeled a romance), and Duma Key.

Confessions of a Shopaholic, part of a series of books about the novel's protagonist, demonstrates the strength of chick lit.

As for crime and suspense, the popularity of these genres parallels televisions amazing explosion of crime dramas and forensic shows. Readers are hooked on murder most foul as well as “malice domestic.”

Science fiction and fantasy have never really flagged in the market and have remained not only popular through the years, but sci-fi has remained quite accessible for new writers.

Good literary fiction is still published, but the best place to find it is often on the bargain table, where a wise shopper can grab a hardcover for $4.95.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact

Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel

Moby-Dick a cult book? Surely not! Ah, but if one looks at its publishing history, it becomes apparent that it meets all the criteria for cult fiction. It was not always considered “the great American novel,” the quintessence of American letters. Herman Melville’s novel was published in 1851, but it didn’t even sell the total number of copies in its first print run of 3000 copies. Melville made exactly $556.32 on American sales, and he died almost penniless in 1891 while working as an inspector at a New York City custom house.

Upon the novel’s publication, critics regarded the work most unfavorably. The book deviates numerous times from its essential plot of Ahab’s search for the white whale as the author describes details of the whaling industry and how blubber was cut away from dead whales at sea and melted down into the precious oil lighting the lamps of New England. Melville, a seasoned seaman, was determined to be thorough in the telling of his tale, although Melville scholars have noted that the author himself was aware that the book seemed a bit odd during its composition.

Also contributing to the novel’s initial failure was the fact that the plot of Ahab’s obsession for vengeance was highly symbolic and filled with Biblical imagery, strange names, and sub-plots on religion, politics, tribal customs, New England culture, man’s relationship with God, the morality of the Pequod’s voyage, and Starbuck’s definition of the nineteenth century American work ethic. To make matters worse, the American edition was compromised because the novel’s epilogue, in which narrator Ishmael explains that he alone was left to tell the tale, was omitted. Readers were baffled. Who had told the story?

Shortly after Melville’s death, Moby-Dick, as well as Melville’s other fiction, was of interest only to New York City’s literary underground. Yes, for many years, Moby-Dick was an underground novel with a small readership! A renewed interest in the book developed between 1920 and 1940 thanks to writers such as D. H. Lawrence, who believed the novel to be an epic.

Today, the novel’s central themes of obsession and evil resonate strongly with readers, who view Melville’s magnum opus as a marvelously textured work, complex yet brilliant in its quest to define mankind’s duty to an inscrutable God. Its very language has found its way into pop culture, as when the obsessive Khan quotes Ahab’s final curses to the whale in Star Trek II. It is without doubt a work of cult fiction at the apex of American literature.

SITEMAP

About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Literary Fiction
Breakout Fiction
Literary Agents
Self-Published Novels
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding
Contact