Thursday, March 28, 2013

"Is this publishable?"


People often ask if their mss. are "publishable." I used to think that was a question editors, agents, and even other authors could answer accurately -- about a finished ms. or even an idea.

But the more time I've spent in publishing, the more strongly I believe that the only person who can REALLY answer that question is an editor in a position to offer you a contract. And even she can only say (in effect, the answer is rarely this blunt):

"Yes, we'll publish this"
"Maybe, if you....."
"No, we won't."

If she doesn't say yes, the reasons she gives or the editorial suggestions she makes may or may not apply to other publishers.

I think, too, that it's tempting to interpret what is essentially a polite rejection as "maybe," or to take comments made without much thought, commitment or hope of seeing your ms. again too seriously.....  For how to interpret letters that don't say yes (sometimes they really do mean "maybe" and say why!), see Alvina's wonderful post, Decline Letters 101.)

Writing a novel takes a long time and huge amount of work; it would be nice if there were a way to tell before it's finished if anyone will ever publish it. But  the only way to find out is to finish it (really finish it -- a first draft may not even hint at the final version!), send it out, and see what happens.

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