Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm Your Sister's Bikini Waxer's Ex-Boyfriend's Dry Cleaner. So You Won't Mind Doing Me a Favor.

A senior editor at a very top house has my manuscript (adult) that she requested. We had a personal connection (her stepmother was a teacher of mine). She's had the ms for about two months. Do you think my unagented ms will get a good read eventually? (I assume the ones you were talking about were all unrequested. Thanks for the visions of slush that have now filled my imagination!)
The answer is maybe.

Everyone in publishing (and especially in children's publishing) accepts it as part of their job that friends of colleagues, second cousins of friends of colleagues, and hairstylists of second cousins of friends of colleagues will use their "personal connection" to force an editor to deal with their manuscript (rather than an editorial assistant or intern). We don't accept it cheerfully, but we accept it. The world is all about relationships.

We also know that a personal connection is no guarantee at all that the manuscript will be better than the usual run of slush, and indeed it's often worse-- because the people who try this end-run are usually the rank beginners who not only know nothing about the industry, they also come with a bunch of wildly wrong assumptions about it.

Now, I'm not assuming you're one of these people. They don't find their way to my blog, because they don't see why they should be interested in publishing before they get published. You seem quite stable (and are certainly literate enough, from your letter).

But you should know that it is through this lens of apprehension and mild resentment that your manuscript is likely to be read. If it's simply terrific and grabs the editor from page one, then your road ahead may be clear and golden. But if not, the editor may only read the couple of pages that will allow her to write a letter that shows she did look at the manuscript before rejecting it.

Now, I know, sometimes it seems like there aren't hurdles in your path to publication as much as mountains. I know, following the rules of submitting to publishing houses and agents sometimes seems like an enormous waste of time. But breaking the rules is equally so.

I post about the slush to try to convey to people why there are so many roadblocks set up in the way of hopeful writers: because many hopeful writers are simply delusional about what might get published.

It's like there's a mob of thousands outside your office, and you know from experience that a good half of them are loonies. And a spare few are people you would be thrilled to work with. How do you sift through them? Ask the crazy people to raise their hands? Ask the "good writers" to raise their hands?

No. You're going to have to interview them each in turn, and it's going to be a lot of work. And it doesn't help that there are a few of them waving their arms and calling, "I knew your ex-manicurist's rabbi!"


Anonymous said...

EA, thanks for answering my question! Nice surprise today. There's a lot of info that I didn't give for sake of brevity, like the editor knows that a number of agents are giving the ms serious consideration, at least one of them a personal friend of hers. And her stepmother was a famous teacher who influenced my life profoundly, as I stated in my original letter to her. Plus the book is smashing! (It's had a lot of close calls so far.) I don't feel comfortable revealing more than this, but thanks a lot. Loved the rabbi joke.

Miriam Forster said...

"I knew your ex-manicurist's rabbi!"

I'm laughing my head off right now.

Sometimes I hate that the world is full of loons, but if everyone were normal, what would we write about?

Editorial Anonymous said...

Then likely your novel will get a good read.

Now stop teasing my readers with optimistic situations most of them will be unable to manufacture for themselves.


Anonymous said...

I've sent you accolades on more than one occasion, but I just want to say again what a great service you're providing. I work with hopeful authors daily and it's so great to be able to point them to this blog and help them understand what single-minded passion they will need to cultivate within themselves to have any chance of being successful in this business. And it is very inspiring really, because it's such an utterly fabulous journey and you provide a much clearer roadmap through the soggy, boggy (and sometimes groggy)jungle. Thanks and happy holidays, EA!

Anonymous said...

Soggy, groggy...what about bloggy jungle! I knew Janet would like this post. (Hey, Janet.) I'm enjoying it as I wait through another long weekend, wondering if I'll hear from the rabbi, I mean, editor. EA, I couldn't have "manufactured" a better story if I tried!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Anon 11:11 here, but not Janet. Sorry, Original Anon!

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:11, I knew YOU weren't Janet; I was referring to the infamous Janet who has linked this post on her blog.

Anonymous said...

I always WONDERED what that lens was called, hilarious! Apprehension + Mild Resentment -- I think those are on sale at the Sunglass Hut this week.