What the neighbour wrote

You know what it’s like when you work in publishing. Or maybe you don’t, because like me you don’t publish books. It’s like being a doctor and always being consulted on that twitch in your left little toe.

Anyway, you’re out sweeping leaves, or whatever, when you’re approached by this person in your neighbourhood who says they have written a novel and would you read it? (Remember, you’re a publisher here, not a doctor.) You sigh, smile politely and take the manuscript home to read. Because you can’t say no.

Well, at the acquisitions meeting I went to at Random last week, there was a ‘book’ with a background like that. Surprisingly for our imaginary leaf sweeper, it turned out to be not bad at all. It may actually get published. But I don’t think anyone should expect that their novel will suddenly improve simply because there lives a publishing world person just down the road.

I was allowed to read the last fifty pages of this novel, so that I would know what was being discussed. Others had read the first hundred pages, so not everyone had seen the same part of the story. But most were cautiously in favour of doing something with it. I have my own thoughts on this one, but when it’s a bestseller, please remember that I was in at the very beginning.

7 responses to “What the neighbour wrote

  1. This is the request I most dread.

  2. I can see that, Mary. At least your excuse can be that you don’t publish books, and maybe you can say that your agent will kill you if you offer one more manuscript from someone else? Or tell them your hourly fee?

    How often does it happen?

  3. Bookwitch – you can send them to me because I run a consultancy which does this! (www.pen2publication.co.uk) At the mention of actually paying someone to give professional feedback and help, either the writer runs a mile or the writer leaps at the chance. The leaping at the chance ones are the ones who are serious about their craft, though I accept that not everyone can afford to pay. Thing is, I can’t afford to do it for nothing. Being paid for it has all sorts of benefits for both the writer and me and creates a very strong and professional relationship. It’s a good solution, I think, and I feel very happy to devote many hours and a great deal of care to someone who has valued my opinion enough to pay for it. Everyone wins.

  4. Yes, you are performing a wonderful service, Nicola. Just don’t know how you manage to do it, blog and still write your own books and buy shoes!

  5. Maybe it’s the shoes. With magic shoes, almost anything can be achieved.

  6. Thank you, Mary. But that reminds me – I haven’t bought shoes for AGES! Well, something had to give.

    Bookwitch – I think you have something there. Which is all the more reason to go and buy some more.

  7. Pingback: Notes from the editor | Bookwitch

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