Three words: networking, networking, and—actually I can't remember the last one.
Short story collections are notoriously hard to sell, especially for debut authors such as Tom Hanks*. I hate to sound cynical, but who you know is still more important than who you are or what you do or how hard you work or how much talent or skill you have. Fortunately for Tom Hanks, he knows Steve Martin. This is how hard it is to break into the publishing world: the most** likable man in Hollywood had to get help from Steve Martin in order to sell his story collection.
Please note that I am not mad this time. I have read and enjoyed Born Standing Up and The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin. I love Steve Martin and Tom Hanks, and after the last two installments of this series I am grateful to have something that's fun to write about. Well done, Knopf: it's refreshing to see a book deal offered to a celebrity who doesn't need the money or attention rather than to another alt-nazi or homophobic bunny.
*And Uncommon Type: Some Stories seems to be his actual literary debut—no cashing-in tell-all, no book of hard-learned platitudes, no self-aggrandizing celebrity memoir, that humble motherfucker.
**It's possible I meant to write the last likable man in Hollywood.