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Merancapeman
September 13th, 2005, 09:21 AM
Do you know why I titled it, "Jumping the Gun"? Because, no matter what I do, I can't rid myself of the feeling that, perhaps, I'm going a little too fast. Now, for intance, I'm wanting to publish a book. However, in such a big world, I'm a little intimidated and, honestly, afraid. I've got 150 pages of solid writing I've been working on and off with for two years, and I'm starting to wonder if anyone is going to like it.

Everyone gets this feeling, I know. Whenever I create something, I'm not afraid to show it, and whenever I get negative feedback I take it in stride and see it as a learning opportunity instead of something horridly malevolent. But how can I know that a publisher will want it? Is it good enough to continue working on? Despite my ever-growing experience, I am at a loss of thoughts.

Peer feedback or critiques may be well and all, but is there a way that one can send a portion (or, in my case, what I have: 150 pages or so) of a book and have it reviewed for worth? Of course, it's difficult to measure worth in art - as all art, be it worthless or not, is art and cannot be rated with money or fame - but according to publishers there is a drawn line somewhere. I'm worried I may not be crossing it, if you get what I mean.

So, in truth, is there anywhere I can send what I have to someone and see if it is publish-worthy? My blood and brain have gone to this project, and I shudder to think what would happen if all that work was kept hidden. I learn more everyday, and one can always make ones writing better, but I would feel comfortable knowing that I have a chance.

Rocket Sheep
September 13th, 2005, 10:19 AM
If you have few hundred dollars spare, there's lots of assessment editors around. If you belong to a writer's guild, organisation, etc, they'll have a list of assessors who might do it cheaper, and also a list of reliable assessors who know what they're talking about.

If you're young enough you may even be able to get a mentor thru your local writing organisation to help you learn to write.

Merancapeman
September 13th, 2005, 11:40 AM
Valid point, indeed. However, I'm never one to pay for such expensive things seeing as how I have no money that I can freely use. What I had in mind was perhaps sending it to the publishing company directly, but the more I think about it the more prepoustrous it seems.

KatG
September 13th, 2005, 03:30 PM
This isn't school sweetie. You don't get any guarantees. A freelance editor works with you to develop your work for a fee. The notes given by such an editor are not an assessment of the publish-worthiness of the work, or shouldn't be. They are to help you turn the book into what you want it to be.

If you send a partial ms. to publishers, they may reject it out of hand if they have a policy against partial submissions. Or they may read it and reject it. Or, less likely, they'll read it, when they get around to it, and maybe be interested in reading more. Which you don't have yet. What you've got is 150 pages of probably first draft, to which you've possibly done a few spot revisions and may or may not have an outline for how you want to develop and end the story. Which tells any reader squat about what you're going to have when you finish it.

Even if you had a full, revised, ready to go ms., though, no one can tell you whether it is publishable or not. Because agents and editors don't agree about what is and what isn't a good, publishable story that they want. And no two readers will have exactly the same reaction. You can have readers review the work for grammar and other concerns. You can get editorial comments for free from critique groups, though quite often those comments are phrased as "you should do this," which is not entirely lacking in usefulness but ineffective and needs to be filtered. And sometimes there are market factors and unexpected events that you can't control for. This is what is meant when they say that writers write in a vacuum. We don't have a safety net. We don't get grades. Expert opinions mean not very much.

I'll trot out my little story once again, because it's my favorite. (Apologies to those who've heard it before.) Richard Marek, who was later head of E.P. Dutton, was an editor and there was another editor who he and others in his department didn't like much. She brought in the ms. of her boyfriend's novel and asked them to read it (which is something editors do.) They read the novel and all agreed that it was awful. But as a joke on the disliked editor, they told her they liked it, assuming that she'd never get actual approval to acquire it for the house. But she did, and the novel was published. It was "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" which became a cult hit and a massive bestseller. To some, it is a literary jewel. To others, as it was to the editors, the book is dreck. So them's the breaks. You'll just have to keep writing the thing. :)

Rocket Sheep
September 14th, 2005, 12:08 AM
In Australia there ARE assessment editors who will give you a full report on the publishability of your ms. Maybe that's because we have less agents because we have less publishers, less 10% to get hold of etc. Anyway, publishers who only take agented work will usually agree to take a ms accompanied by a favourable assessment for consideration particularly if the editor who does it has some standing in the publishing community.

Don't expect feedback from the publisher, Merancapeman, it's not their job. It is your job as a writer to send them something not only publishable but something that fits in with their publishing list. Writers who send off work they've never even had the slightest bit of feedback on are being naive and annoying editors, IMHO. It's this mass deluge of paper that makes publishers close their doors and turn to agents to weed out the good stuff.

Another thing we do differently in Australia (or differently to KatG at least) is we can submit the first three chapters and synopsis for consideration. A lot of writers write up the first five or six chapters, plot the rest, then make up a nice submission package of the first three chapters and synopsis and start marketing that, while starting their next story. Stories don't need to be finished to sell them. You only need to prove you CAN finish them and the quality of your submission will prove that. If you're market savvy, you can save yourself five months of writing time.

Of course, if you have an overwhelming love of the story (which you should have IMHO), then you're kind of compelled to spend the next five months finishing the story while marketing it, anyway.

If you believe in your story then spend the money on an editor. If it's as good as you think it is then it is an investment.

Merancapeman
September 14th, 2005, 07:49 AM
I can't thank you enough for your feedback. I will certainly follow along with your advice. You speak a truth I should have realized already, and I thank you for bringing it into the light, and so the life of a writer, for me, must struggle to continue! Thank you, again, for the advice. :D

MLMarkland
September 14th, 2005, 03:28 PM
For what it is worth, I'd suggest you go ahead and finish what you are working on. Rewrite it until you can't go on, and then do it some more. Then, when you really feel you can't add anything to it, start sending out the complete ms to agents and publishers and start another long form project or write some short stories... rinse repeat.

I don't think there is any substitute for writing and getting it out there.

MLMarkland

Rocket Sheep
September 15th, 2005, 02:15 AM
Yep, do the 100,000 word apprenticeship, as they say, but don't let publishers or agents be the first people to see the results. Use critique groups. They're time expensive but $$ cheap. And if you start getting critiques as you're writing you may begin writing more efficiently. It may save you money later when you approach an editor.

The interview thread a while ago linked to an article that discussed online critique groups and there were links at the end.

Holbrook
September 15th, 2005, 04:17 AM
Yep, do the 100,000 word apprenticeship, as they say, but don't let publishers or agents be the first people to see the results. Use critique groups. They're time expensive but $$ cheap. And if you start getting critiques as you're writing you may begin writing more efficiently. It may save you money later when you approach an editor.

The interview thread a while ago linked to an article that discussed online critique groups and there were links at the end.


Agree with RS here, critique groups are great for bring you down to earth and making you work at learning the basic does and don'ts. Once you have learned what you should do, you learn to bend the rules ;)

KatG
September 15th, 2005, 10:53 AM
In Australia there ARE assessment editors who will give you a full report on the publishability of your ms. Maybe that's because we have less agents because we have less publishers, less 10% to get hold of etc. Anyway, publishers who only take agented work will usually agree to take a ms accompanied by a favourable assessment for consideration particularly if the editor who does it has some standing in the publishing community.

Another thing we do differently in Australia (or differently to KatG at least) is we can submit the first three chapters and synopsis for consideration. A lot of writers write up the first five or six chapters, plot the rest, then make up a nice submission package of the first three chapters and synopsis and start marketing that, while starting their next story. Stories don't need to be finished to sell them. You only need to prove you CAN finish them and the quality of your submission will prove that. If you're market savvy, you can save yourself five months of writing time.


I'm not sure if such editors are acting as editors, working with the authors, or just as freelance assessors -- readers. It was once not uncommon in the U.S. for publishers to employ freelance readers who would give a report on submissions, and that's sort of what this sounds like, only with the author paying for the reader. Or it may be that you have freelance editors who work with authors and then if the ms. improves in their opinion, they refer it to publishers. This is not, however, technically a freelance editor's job, which is to work only editorially with the author, not to market the work in any way. To offer a recommendation to the publisher means the editor is acting as a market broker. Due to a number of scam operations from con artists acting as agents and freelance editors (some of these semi-legitimate,) most legitimate freelance editors in the States won't do referrals or act in any way like an agent or broker, because it's too dangerous. I certainly refused to do it to protect my ass, and because if I wanted the headache of marketing my clients' work, I would have just gone agent again. And a lot of the editorial work freelancers do is with published authors under contract, as it may be in Australia too. So I'm guessing the Australian market is a little less legal and formal. :)

The truth is that reading hopeful manuscripts is only a small part of an agent's job and many agents do no editorial work at all. The profession was invented in Britain to help authors protect their rights from publishers and to give them more opportunity to market various rights in their work on their own, rather than hand them all over to a publisher. The better part of an agent's job still is protecting, advocating, marketing and managing the rights of her clients. While publishers have come to rely on agents to weed through ms. and bring them good stuff, the agents are not substitute editors and are not necessarily a source of feedback.

Partial ms. are sold here too in the U.S., including for some first time projects. The agency I worked for in fact made something of a reputation on selling partial fiction projects. And it's common in romance and children's fiction. But it depends a lot on the circumstances. To be willing to buy a partial, a publisher must feel that the author will reliably finish the work and deliver an acceptable work, which is why they are more inclined to do so for a published author with a track record than a first time author. And for sff, at least here in the States, it's very rare that publishers will buy a first time author on a partial ms. In Meran's case, it sounds like there's uncertainty about even finishing the ms. and being able to provide further material should a publisher request it. So it probably makes more sense to try and finish at least a first draft or near complete first draft before even thinking about marketing the work.

I myself would love to be able to sell my novel with three chapters and an outline, because then I'd only have some tricky rewriting to do and I'd be set to go, but realistically, that's probably not going to work. And as for critique groups, what I've found so far is that they aren't a lot of help for first drafts. They get confused, and start correcting your sentences, even though you're probably going to be changing those sentences in rewrites anyway, and they're unclear about what you're doing. I'd suggest that you struggle it out for another 100 pages, M, before hitting the critique group circuit, unless you hear of a really good one that is willing to work with you on early material.