For three years, Paul Harding’s unpublished novel, “Tinkers,’’ sat in a drawer. The writer, a former Boston rock drummer who grew up in Wenham, had tried selling it, but nobody was interested.
“I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll be a writer who doesn’t publish,’ ’’ Harding, 42, said this week, a day after “Tinkers’’ earned him the Pulitzer Prize for fiction — the first book by a small publisher to do so in nearly three decades.
The author’s unlikely success story is rooted in a series of personal interactions between publishers, booksellers, and reviewers that launched a book the old-fashioned way. There were no media campaigns, Twitter feeds, or 30-city tours. Instead, the success of “Tinkers’’ can be linked to a handful of people who were so moved by the richly lyrical story of an old man facing his final days that they had to tell others about it.
“This wasn’t social media,’’ says Michael Coffey, co-editor of Publishers Weekly and a big booster of “Tinkers.’’ “It was real word of mouth and somebody picking up a lunch check.’’