One of the few “day jobs” that would be agreeable to many of us in the novel-writing business—in fact, in some ways a dream job—is being an acquisitions editor for a fiction publisher. However, sometimes, I confess, I wonder if I’m temperamentally, or even professionally, inadequately equipped for such a position.
Why would I think this?
1. When I tried “Agent for a Day” on Nathan Bransford’s blog, I picked only one of the actual published books, and passed on the query letters of at least two that had already become or were becoming best-sellers. I.e., my sense of what the market wants is apparently zilch. I’d have a hard time convincing editorial committee to gamble on the book of my choice, when I can’t seem to tune into what’s actually selling out there.
2. I’m a contrarian by nature. When the world loved Paul McCartney, I loved George Harrison. I have failed to be grabbed by Hogwarts, Middle Earth, or Narnia; during Seinfeld, I sat irritated while other people fell out of their chairs laughing. So apparently I’m missing that gene that enables me to enjoy and connect with “mass appeal.” I’d probably look right at a future best-seller, wrinkle my nose and toss it back over the transom.
3. The kinds of books I want to read contain no “F” bombs, no sex on the page, and no nihilistic or apocalyptic endings. I like light in the darkness, not more wallowing in same. That narrows the field of what I’d put out in the marketplace considerably. (See #1 for the consequences of this…er…attitude.) Added to this that I’m a conservative and a Catholic, and unapologetic about either—with reading tastes to match—and I can see many, many places in which the corporate culture and I simply wouldn’t mix.
4. I’m one of those old-fashioned souls who actually believes that good writing and a good story should trump everything else. Therefore, if it’s a choice between Deepak Chopra’s son’s tome about lessons he learned from his dog and a new book by an author with no track record, but a wonderful story…it’d be no contest. Nothing personal, Deepak. It’s business. And stories. Which should count more than New Age nonsense of spouting “wisdom” from a subservient creature, no matter whose celebrity name is attached to it. There’s smart marketing, and then there’s pandering. ‘nuff said.
5. If it comes down to push vs. shove, I’m an author advocate. Yes, I know. All editors portray themselves as author advocates when they’re speaking at conferences and encouraging submissions. Trouble is, I really mean it…which could end up being a thorn in your side if I saw a potential unfair rights-grab, a murky royalty setup, or a contractual overreach about to happen on my watch. My belief? If we ain’t got authors, we ain’t got product, and we ain’t got a house for long. If you really grasp that, then we’d both enjoy my colorful presence on site. But I’ve seen enough of the business end of this business to know that my “colorful” attitude can quicky become dismissed as “quirky” or feared as “dangerous” before very long.
So be it. ☺
I want to still believe, deep in that place where I dream of rainbows and unicorns, that there’s a publishing house out there where my curmudgeonly temperament and tastes would be right at home. Reading PW and the like, however, makes me increasingly believe otherwise. It’s a shame…but what is, is.
I guess I’ll have to resign myself to being a house’s best-selling author instead.
Stay tuned for the flip side of this post, coming next!