Stephen King wrote the first forty pages of the novel that would later be published as Rage in 1966, when he was a senior in high school. One source claims the original title Getting It On was inspired by the T. Rex song “Bang a Gong (Get It On).” The timing is right: In 1970, King found the incomplete manuscript of Getting It On “moldering away” in a box in the cellar of the house where he grew up, and he finished the novel in 1971, when that song was a hit.
In his essay “My High School Horrors,” King discusses his constant fear of being alone and not being able to connect with people or make friends while in high school, and of being afraid but not being able to tell people he was afraid. Rage arose from the same sense of being an outsider as did Carrie.
Getting It On was almost his first published novel. Rather than submit it to the slush pile at Doubleday, he found a current novel that was similar in tone and sent it to “the editor of The Parallax View,” hoping that would get him a step farther up the submission ladder.
As it happened, that editor wasn’t available so the manuscript was passed on to Bill Thompson, who remembers the book as “a masterful study in character and suspense, but it was quiet, deliberately claustrophobic and it proved a tough sell within the house.” In a recent interview, he says, “It was very good, but nothing really happened in it. It was mostly interior, all about how these characters
changed and evolved under pressure. For me, it was very
compelling, and it had the ring of truth to it in terms of
storytelling. It was like you were right there. You were witnessing
the entire thing.” Thompson requested three rounds of revision, but ultimately Doubleday passed on it. In his formal rejection letter, Thompson offered to send it around to other publishers.
After he had a few books out and had developed some name recognition, King asked Doubleday if they would release some of his earlier books. However, Doubleday didn’t want to saturate the market by issuing more than one new book a year. There was a belief in publishing at the time that there was a limit to how many books by an author readers were willing to buy in any given year. New books cannibalized the sales of recent ones, and everything suffered. That was the theory, anyway, and Doubleday wasn’t willing to test it.
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