Recently I received an email that included the following sentence:
“I know you are a busy woman, but I just wanted to know if I could send you a few pages of my book to get your insight on whether or not it will sell.”
I’m always a little flummoxed by this type of request. There is no possible way that I can tell anyone whether or not something they’ve written will sell, not from a few pages nor from the full manuscript. Even if it is the most brilliant piece of writing I’ve read, I can’t say if it will get published. Plenty of “good stuff” gets passed over in this business and plenty of “dross” makes its way into print.
So let’s assume that this writer has put in the effort to hone her craft. She has read countless novels in the genre she is most interested in, and she has analyzed the works of her favorite author(s). She has worked on her manuscript every day. She has attended at least one writer’s conference. She has joined a writer’s organization and/or found a critique group. She has poured over her copies of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Plot & Structure, The Writer’s Journey, Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, and/or other excellent craft books that are available to her through bookstores and libraries. She has studied the market, making use of The Writer’s Market and/or The Christian Writer’s Market Guide. She has revised and polished her prose and has written a solid, entertaining novel.
Even so, her work may never be published. Maybe it arrives on the editor’s desk five minutes after the editor bought a book with a similar theme or setting. Maybe the publisher’s list is filled for the next five years and they aren’t buying right now. Maybe the book is wonderful, but the publishing house has changed its focus for the future.
When I began writing my first novel, it never occurred to me to ask anyone else if they thought it would be published. I wrote the book because there was a story inside of me bursting to get out. I had to write it. When it was finished and I’d done everything I knew how to do to make it the best I could write at the time, I submitted it to publishers. Nineteen of those recipients rejected the manuscript based on my query letter and partial. Two were interested. One bought it.
So who was right? The nineteen who weren’t interested or the one who ultimately bought it? (That’s a rhetorical question; don’t feel compelled to give a reply!)
I think this quote from Calvin Coolidge is particularly appropriate for writers:
Press on: nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will
not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not;
unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of
educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
That’s good advice, whether you’re writing your first manuscript or your 100th. Press on.
Robin Lee Hatcher (Diamond Place, Hart’s Crossing Book #3, Revell, April 2006) has been persevering for 25 years and in October 2006 will celebrate the publication of her 50th release, A Carol for Christmas (Zondervan).