Some Opinions May Kill

Is it any wonder so many people are joining the independent publishing ranks these days? If you are with a mainstream publisher, no matter whether they are one of the so-called big six houses, or a small press, your future hangs on the opinion of just one person, maybe two if you use an agent. The world of literature is an unpredictable one, littered with great stories that will never be read, purely because of the opinion of an editor or literary agent.

As the writer, you come up with the idea for a story and spend months, years even, writing it. Very occasionally you know that with a specific story you are onto a winner. However, if your agent and/or your editor do not like it, they won’t publish. Simply put, the future of your story is dependent on the personal opinion of one or two people.
The rubbish bins of many an editor’s desk are full to overflowing with rejected manuscripts; the same can be said for literary agents as well, all as a result of their personal opinion. Wait, I hear you cry. They are in the industry and know what sells, so how can you make such a scathing statement? Simple – they are human. Therefore their own particular tastes will colour their decisions. An editor should do just that – edit, not decide its future, while an agent should sell your manuscript and nothing else.
By all means employ an editor to polish your work, or failing that, get beta-readers to read it through. While it is true that many excellently written ‘indie’ published books will be lucky to sell more than a couple of dozen copies, occasionally one or two will break the mould. If you genuinely believe that you have a winner sitting on your computer – be brave. Stand up for your story; defend it to the hilt when the so-called experts tell you it is a load of rubbish.
The sales figures of my latest novel fully vindicate my own decision to independently publish. If a story appeals, it will be taken up by the reading public, despite what the experts may say about it.

7 thoughts on “Some Opinions May Kill

  1. I do agree and I do disagree, Jack. You are certainly right, that acquisitioning editors and agents 'know' the market, but they have been wrong occasionally. Twilight and Harry Potter got rejected by a few, too. But, yes, that's down to personal taste, as you stated correctly.On the other hand, I have read excerpt of books where people believed they had written the next bestseller and the books were terrible. Some people THINK they can write, when in fact, they can't string a sentence together. Then again, once they go for it and publish the thing, they'll quickly learn their lesson. The buying public will decide.


  2. All true Jack. I see that time and again success is more linked to having a budget to promote a book than the writing skills of the author. What really gets me is when some public figure announces a book; they get media coverage and lots of sales whether the book is good or not. The whole system is skewed as always against the little guy whether he has written a Pulitzer Prize winner or not. There's no telling how many such books never see the light of day because of publishers or agents who "know what sells".


  3. I know from my limited experience that I MUST have an editor. My SpaG is atrocious. Since Kindergarten I have failed both spelling and grammar and I guess it would have to be listed as a learning disability because it hasn't improved much in my 65 years.As a result I have chosen writing as my forth career to pursue. Go figure.I think the stars have to all be aligned just right and you best be sucking on a lucky lollypop when the magic happens where you have the perfect story read by the perfect person who brings it to the attention of the perfect publisher and zoooom, the rocket is launched. (I write SciFi…sorry)IF you had enough money you could vault any book to the top of NYT bestseller list, just buy enough copies yourself. It could be a single page that says 'Hi'.Jack knows that he has had descent sales of his Indi book and true vindication will be if he can match and improve those sales with his next book or the one after that because in the end it is if enough people liked his writing to seek out more of his work that becomes the true test of 'success'.MF Burbaugh


  4. I stand to be corrected Stella, but my recollection is that JK and her first Harry Potter were rejected by either 13 or 17 lit agents before one finally accepted to take it on. In either case, that's a lot of very, very dumb agents, who passed up the biggest book in the last 100 years. As I would also imagine that she submitted to well known agents of the time, which says more about their lack of knowledge of their markets and their unwillingness to ever try something new.Airport bookshelves are always full of their brave decisions. Not!


  5. I don't know how successful my stories will be, I do know they are selling. This was after being told by an on-line tutor, I could not write a saleable story. Well, he should know about that. He has not sold in over 20 years. I agree with Jack's article in Angie's diary, there "Literary snobs," think they know everything. As an article of mine said. Joe Public does not have a degree, he has spent his life working and raising a family. If you have an interesting story and can tell it interestingly, then you are half way there.AL


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