Home » Revolution: The Price of Admission

Revolution: The Price of Admission

Good evening, everyone. So I hope all of you have made your way over to Brook Street's bookstore and bought yourselves some good books. Thanks again, Jim, for stopping by and enlightening us.

Now I know some of you (including my naysaying coworkers) think I'm crazy for saying and doing some of the things I say and do. Maybe I am. I just find it a lot of fun to look at the publishing challenges square in the face and say, "Pppppfffffff!" I'm not trying to climb any corporate ladders and I'll never be a salesman or a gatekeeper. I can only do one thing and that's carry out this passion for assisting in the creation of excellent books. And though it's appreciated, I don't need any concern about my employer's feelings about my opinions. I'll be fired when God decides it. Until then, I'm too fired up to worry about it.

I have to get home to write, but I want to leave you tonight with this little snip from an article that brought a knowing smile to this editor's face (yes, we can smile, you just can't usually tell we're doing it). Seems like good stuff to keep in mind. This comes from David Milofsky, novelist and professor of English at Colorado State University…

"All [industry] professionals … are often reluctant to express their true feelings about a manuscript, and [therefore] freight their rejection letters with euphemisms. And for good reason. Who needs an argument with an author you're never going to work with? The following glossary, offered with tongue in cheek, might help literary hopefuls decipher messages received…in response to their work:

Interesting = Boring

Has potential = Amateurish

Moving = Show it to Mom

Needs work = Hopeless

Mid-list = Won't sell

Intelligent = See "interesting"

Ambitious = Too long

Spare = Too short

Poetic = Insomniacs only

Plot-driven = Superficial

Excellent = Possible, with a rewrite

Cinematic = Unreadable

Marketable = People will buy anything

Challenging = See "poetic"

At this time (as in, we can't use it at this time) = Never

Experimental = In your dreams

Character-driven = No story

Novel of ideas = No one will read it

Talented = How did you get in here?"


Sadly, it's fairly accurate, but I suggest you don't ponder this too long. Use it to keep in mind who your initial reader is (your editor), and then completely forget you read it. This is what you're up against, but it's just the price of admission as a revolutionary. And you and I both know you can break through that cynicism with your great, polished writing. It happens every day, even today.

And why not you?

7 Responses to “Revolution: The Price of Admission”

  1. Mikal says:

    How terribly funny to see words listed that I’ve used time and again to pretty much tell a writer “Thanks but no thanks” when it comes to their book.
    What’s even worse is the fact that as I get my manuscript written and ready to send out, I’m going to hear those same words. It’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black, I think.
    I better start being nicer to writers when they send their query letters and manuscripts…what goes around comes around! :)

  2. Katy Raymond says:

    Whoa, relevant! I just said this to my hubby two days ago, “I don’t want to become an expert on one topic…etc.” I was telling him about several acquaintances who became “experts,” (they were writing non-fiction, of course) and how they now seem trapped by their expertise (every minute scheduled with speaking engagements, no time to write or be with family).
    Mick, I’ve just recently been told my characters are “interesting” (not like typical CBA characters, the editor said) and an earlier draft was dubbed as having “potential.” If I’d only known!! :)

  3. My list:
    clever = deceitful
    geniuses = idiots
    a snap = impossible
    sincere = sarcastic
    This is a clever list, Mick! Publishing industry types are geniuses to have devised it. After all, when they finally DO find a manuscript they love, communicating their approval will be a snap. ;o)

  4. Finally! An interpretive manual for editor-speak!:)
    So tell me, where do the following statements fit?
    “Nothing specific, just a general sense of not quite there.”
    “I like what you’re doing in this proposal, but it feels like something is still missing.”
    Just curious:)

  5. Katy Raymond says:

    “Yes. Yes…” the editor says, as she studies my essays with a contemplative look on her face. “You’ve really got something here…”
    WHAT? What is it that you think I have? And what should I do with it now? And, most importantly, do you WANT what I HAVE??
    (Whatever it is….) :)

  6. NO Body says:

    tell these editors to quit doodling in words and get busy reading the slush pile. ;-]

  7. Mick says:

    Kelli & Katy, Mary’s right. Half a brain is excessive on most submissions. But as rejoinder to the accusation, when you’re cornered and trying to say something nice, you’d grasp for obfuscation too. Best in this case to surmise discontent and incline thine talents to securing a good edit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.