I have a good friend (who also happens to be a great writer) who you really must meet. I call her Linda, but she won’t mind if you call her Miss Crankypants. She says, “I gripe so you don’t have to.” Enjoy today’s guest post!
One of my writing students was all excited. She’d self-pubbed her first book and written a memoir, and stood pitching it to an editor at a writing conference. Editor confessed that the student’s memoir was a tough sell (in editorspeak, No way, Jose), but what if she designed a women’s devotional on the same topic? Now, THAT he’d be interested in seeing. “Write 12 of these devotions and send me the proposal,” editor said.
Long story short, she hired me to whip a proposal into shape per Editor’s specifications. She and I were both satisfied with the results. She sent her work in and received a quick turnaround email: Sorry, Editor wasn’t as enthusiastic as he needed to be about Student’s project. Student considered taking up knitting instead of writing.
This scenario happens more often than it should. Even seasoned writers latch on to what they believe is genuine enthusiasm for a project, only to learn that their stuff was never really in the running. Once I sent a novel to an editor I know personally, who requested my work and was excited to read an historical by me. A week later Editor claimed the company was only looking for contemporary novels. Say what?
Maybe we all need a rating system to gauge Editors’ reactions, something like the old American Bandstand TV dance show. Songs, not dancers, were evaluated by participants who rated rock and roll classics on stuff like “the beat,” “danceability” and other properties. An editor could respond to my proposal or manuscript on a scale from one to ten, ten being “your story is cool and I will try to get it through committee.” A five would indicate, “Your stuff is great but to be honest, this is a book I myself plan to write and you haven’t got a chance.” That I could live with.
Editors can’t afford to pass up the one story that is the next bestseller, so they cheat by feigning enthusiasm for stuff they know in advance they can’t use. And writers do their best to interpret the smallest positive response as a shoo-in for publication. I wish both would be a bit more realistic, so writers wouldn’t get their egos bruised and editors would still find the diamond among all the dirt clods. At least I’d know whether the historical that just got turned down had a good beat you could dance to.
Linda Clare (AKA: Miss Writerly Crankypants)
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