Writing Doesn’t Matter?
I’m going to address some of the comments that came in last Friday on what was surprising to you about the publishing industry.So I want to start with this one simple truth: If you are an unpublished fiction writer, trying to get published, then the writing matters more than anything.The first comment on Friday’s post said:The most surprising thing to me is that the writing doesn’t matter. I’ve got an email (forwarded from my agent) from a MAJOR editor at a MAJOR house in which he says explicitly that they aren’t really interested in taking on unknown writers no matter how good the writing is or how good the book is unless it’s got a foolproof marketability angle. Here’s a direct quote: “Even if the story is some of the best writing you’ve ever seen or the storyline is so penetrating that you couldn’t put it down, it’s hard to sign an author on a good story alone.”The information from the editor isn’t surprising to me. It’s the interpretation that I find shocking. Let me see if I can explain it:YES, several of the big houses are only looking at previously published authors. Are you a previously published author? If the answer is no, then this information is irrelevant to you, except to point out that those houses are not options for you right now. Don’t worry about it, just put them out of your mind. Find the publishers that are right for you.The information from the editor cannot possibly be interpreted to mean “the writing doesn’t matter.” It means exactly the opposite. The fact is, many publishers ARE looking at newbie writers. And if you are a newbie, what do they have to go on? What do they make their decision on?THE WRITING.So in fact, if you are an unpublished fiction author, the writing is the most important thing, and some editors will say the writing is the ONLY thing that matters. Everything else can be worked on. Platform can be built. But the only way for a newbie author to get published is to write a book that professionals in the industry fall in love with.I know this business can be difficult and frustrating, and there is so much conflicting information out there. But it really bothers me when perfectly legitimate pieces of information are so radically misconstrued.In a related comment on Friday, Nicole lamented the hypocrisy of proclaiming only the “best” or “great” writing gets published. Again, I believe this is a misuse of the facts. If we look at it in microcosm—from the perspective of any individual agent or editor—we find that it’s true: I, an individual agent, definitely look for the very “best” writing that comes across my desk. I may see a lot of “good” writing, but I will only be interested in representing it if I think it’s great. It doesn’t have to be “great” by an objective standard. I simply have to love it enough to call it great. So yes, I only choose to represent the “best” of the writing that comes my way.I doubt you hear people saying “only great writing gets published.” But you DO hear agents and editors explaining that amongst the unpublished authors that come their way, they must often bypass the “good” in hopes of coming across something “great.” And great is in the eye of the beholder.More tomorrow as I continue my crusade to unravel mysteries and clear up misinterpretations.
Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.