Friday, April 16, 2010
78 reasons why your book may never be published
…and 14 reasons why it just might: a review
Why is it so hard?
Because it is supposed to be. Being a novelist is the best job in the world, so it is – rightfully – the hardest job to get.*
I’d heard about this book before, but the numbers in the title intrigued me, possibly because they don’t give whole numbers when divided by 5.
That, and Pat Walsh, the author, clearly didn’t mind the possibility that some writers might be discouraged by the many reasons why their book wouldn’t be published. On the other hand, Mr Walsh is an editor, so he’s familiar with discouragement on both sides of the desk. 78 Reasons turned out to be an entertaining and mostly helpful read.
This book debunks a lot of myths, such as the idea that you need to have connections to be published. Much of the advice is great for writers who are starting out, and the section on finances, which explains managed risks and profit-and-loss statements, would be useful to anyone.
Mr Walsh is also blunt but clear on matters which won’t earn him popularity votes, such as certain topics just not being currently hot in publishing even if they are very important to writers (e.g. cancer). He stresses that all writers are not great at their craft and that no one has the right to be published.
That may reduce the book’s audience a little, but I enjoyed the direct style and especially the anecdotes on life in publishing. For instance, there was the writer who could have had a manuscript endorsed by a Pulitzer prizewinner, but spent so much time first editing and poring over the manuscript that the Pulitzer prizewinner died.
Not to mention the manuscript with many strange references which (the writer explained) were in-jokes about Samuel Johnson, who had nothing to do with the story. No, I couldn’t figure that one out either.
Great writers... know that biting criticism can hurt, but misguided praise can harm.
The advice is divided into sections based on writing skill (e.g. “You Have a Tin Ear for Dialogue”), publishers, agents and just plain bad luck. Finally, though, there are the 14 reasons to keep trying. Not for the overly optimistic or for anyone who prefers the easy validation of vanity publishing, this book is a good addition to a writer’s library.
*Then again, no cool-sounding job ever lives up to expectations. I once met someone who told me she worked for the circus. I asked, wide-eyed and eager, What is that like?
There is a lot of paperwork, she said.
Hey, it’s just like writing!
Update on the giveaway : The winners of the giveaway for Glorious are Ebon Star and BookMarc Blogpants. Thanks to everyone who participated!
Update on promotion: Day 10 (April 15): Submitted an application to the Red Room.