Friday, 20 July 2007

Shooting Fish

Picking up on yesterday's blog, there's an article in The Independent ( by Andrew Franklin, director of Profile Books, about why publishers miss good books. It's witty, informative and blood-curdling so if you're a wannabee only read it if you can stare truth in the face. He stresses how many submissions are made. Many are made, few are chosen. You knew that, didn't you? He tells us that 'not every manuscript get the careful attention it deserves. It should not come as a shock that many manuscripts are returned unread to the sender. We need to clear our desks in order to look after the authors whom we do sign up, and the unsolicited manuscripts are often a chore to be dealt with at the end of the day by an overworked intern.'

You knew that too, didn't you? Course you did.

He stresses that publishers have to read submissions from the mad, bad and dangerous to know (not you, obviously. You'd never dream of sending in an MS in green ink). That publishers hide behind weasel messages like 'not quite right for our list' because they cannot afford to enter into a dialogue with a needy and hopeless author - they'd never get rid of them (again, not you).

Most importantly, because you knew all the above stuff already, he stresses the importance of having an agent: 'Publishers now rely on specialists - agents, in fact (think of them as the consultants of the publishing profession) - to supply them with novels, though we all still buy some non-fiction directly from authors. To plagiarise, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that the most celebrated fiction houses now only buy fiction from agents. All serious aspiring authors know this and seek out an agent as an essential stage in the process of finding the right publisher, and of course the best contract too.'

So why am I telling you all this when you knew it already? Maybe some things can't be stated too often. Write the book you want to write, polish it until it gleams, get yourself an agent (and no, I'm not on commission from any agency touting for trade), chant the William Goldman mantra 'Nobody knows anything', submit your work with professional clarity, accept rejection with grace and never give up. That's all there is to it. Like shooting fish in a barrel, eh?

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