AALBC .com Platinum Poster
Post Number: 722
|Posted on Saturday, January 31, 2009 - 06:35 am: |
In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on an old manual typewriter. Upon the enthusiastic response of Bryony Evans, a reader who had been asked to review the book’s first three chapters, the Fulham-based Christopher Little Literary Agents agreed to represent Rowling in her quest for a publisher. The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript.
Guess who's sorry now, Carey? I'd say 12 publishing houses.
Look, writing is art. Like all other art forms, writing is subjective: One man's trash is another man's treasure. You can't allow one editor's OPINION of your work to deter you. If you believe what you've written is worthy of publication, then submit it, and keep submitting it, until you've exhausted EVERY publishing house that accepts your genre.
Along the way, if you're fortunate enough to receive a detailed rejection letter that outlines where your story "fell apart" for that particular editor, then take those suggestions under serious consideration and tighten up your ms accordingly. Overwhelmingly, you'll receive form rejection letters that pretty much tell you "Thanks, but no thanks" and nothing more. When an editor takes the time to let you know why your ms didn't work for her, once you've finished cussing her out and calling her every idiot in the book because she failed to understand you, take a step back from your work, separate the art from the artist, and look at your ms through her eyes. One thing you must bear in mind is that when an editor rejects your work, they're doing just that - rejecting your work, not rejecting you personally. They don't know you, all they know about you are the words on the pages in front of them. Allow your inner artist to be pissed for about half a second, let all the self-doubt sink in for about half a second then shake it off and try, try again.
I reject manuscripts every day. And I've received my share of hate mail indicating how completely clueless and incompetent I am; how I just didn't "get it". But every now and then, every now and then, I receive a letter thanking me. And so another thing to remember is that editors don't wake up in the morning thinking, "how many writers can I phuk with today". We don't have quotas, eg. for every one ms we accept for publication, we must reject thirty-three. Truthfully, a good portion of manuscripts that are rejected have nothing to do with the writing. Sometimes it's just as simple as writers not following submission guidelines and/or submitting a work that particular house doesn't publish. Sometimes it's as simple as bad timing - they already have a similar work slated for publication. I just rejected an ms yesterday; I found the writing to be well-executed and the topic fascinating. Alas, it was a non-fic subject that my company doesn't publish, so I had to take a pass on it. And my rejection letter was a simple: Thank you for thinking of [name of publishing company]. Unfortunately, we are not the right publisher for this work. [Name of publishing company] wishes you great success in your writing career. I won't be the least bit surprised when I see that book published. Based on the sample chapters and assuming the rest of the ms is as good, does that work deserve to be published in my opinion - yes. Could I accept that work for publication - no.
And sometimes I receive mss that just aren't "ready yet". The concept is good and the writer has a distinct voice, but the ms lacks a certain "oomph". I like the work, but I don't love it. It's almost publishable, but not quite there. (And no, it's not an editor's job to fix that. If that were the case, editors would acquire everything that came through the door). Each time an editor opens a submission, they're looking to fall head-over-heels in love. Believe me, we kiss a lot of literary frogs in search of our literary prince. You see, I can stand before an acquisition board and fight passionately for a work I'm passionate about, but I can't fight passionately for a work I'm just interested in.
I love my sweets, one of my favorite desserts is lemon creme pie. There's a restaurant here in NYC that makes the best lemon creme pie I've ever tasted. I have gone out in the pouring rain, the freezing cold, and the sweltering heat, to go get THAT lemon creme pie. Over the years, I must've tasted at least a dozen different lemon creme pies. They were all pretty good but nothing special - unlike THAT lemon creme pie. Editors receive lots of pretty good mss but nothing special, nothing they'd go out of their way to acquire, nothing they'd stand and fight for. We're looking for THAT manuscript.