BOOK REVIEW: Publishing by Gail Godwin

ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Publishing is a personal story of a writer’s hunger to be published, the pursuit of that goal, and then the long haul–for Gail Godwin, forty-five years of being a published writer and all that goes with it. A student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1958, Godwin met with Knopf scouts who came to campus every spring in search of new talent. Though her five pages of Windy Peaks were turned down and the novel never completed, she would go on to publish two story collections and fourteen novels, three of which were National Book Award finalists, five of which were New York Times bestsellers.

Publishing reflects on the influence of her mother’s writing hopes and accomplishments, and recalls Godwin’s experiences with teachers Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Coover at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop; with John Hawkins, her literary agent for five decades; with John Irving and other luminaries; and with her editors and publishers. Recollecting her long and storied career, Godwin maps the publishing industry over the last fifty years, a time of great upheaval and ingenuity. Her eloquent memoir is illuminated by Frances Halsband’s evocative black-and-white line drawings throughout. There have been memoirs about writing and memoirs about being an editor, but there is no other book quite like Publishing for aspiring writers and book lovers everywhere.


This book caught my eye because I have been in the (indie) publishing industry for nearly 10 years.  Working every day with writers who want to publish a book, I thought this memoir would be interesting.  It certainly was, although I would recommend it more highly for readers who are already fans of Gail Godwin.  I had never heard of her before, so I did have one regret while reading the book — that I had not (yet*) read any of the books she discusses writing and publishing.  If I had, I think I would have felt more connected with her while reading her memoir.

Besides discussing the reading and publishing of her books, however, Godwin also talks about her experiences as a writer – studying under Kurt Vonnegut and writing stories with her mother – and also the changes that she saw happening in the traditional publishing industry over the years (from her perspective as the author).  I found both of these themes in her book very interesting.

*I have reserved A Mother and Two Daughters by Gail Godwin from my public library and am looking forward to reading it.

Favorite quotes:

“Publishing is about wanting for a long time to be a published writer and about the condition of living as a writer for a long time after you are published.”

“If I am an unknown man and publish a wonderful book, it will make its way very slowly or not at all.  If I, become a known man, publish that very same book, its praise will echo over both hemispheres.  You have to become famous before you can secure the attention which would give fame.”

Published by Kelly Schuknecht

Kelly Schuknecht is a marketer with a background in the publishing industry. She is passionate about all things related to books and loves helping authors navigate the world of social media for book promotion. She recently launched the course Marketing Your Book on TikTok.

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