“I was thinking, ‘So I’m Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I’ll be able to make people read my books now.”–Robert Graves
When he put those words in the mouth of the unlikely Roman Emperor, Claudius, Graves was giving voice to a sentiment that undoubtedly arises in all of us sooner or later. If only people would read my books, the thought goes, they’d like them. Really! The “people” change–friends you impose on, agents you importune, publishers you beg and, if you’re lucky, readers you entice–but the notion remains: My stuff’s really good. Why is it so hard to get people to read it?
None of my friends or relatives has ever refused to read a manuscript, but I’ve learned to stop asking. They may find a fault here and there, but they’re never going to honestly criticize. A writer is much better off finding a reputable “editor,” hopefully at a reasonable price, who will tell him the truth. As for agents and publishers, we are all familiar with the oft-lamented (by them) demands on their time and resources, and publishing–like law and medicine–has become a business where the bottom line is all that matters. The rejection letter–often enclosed in a thin envelope stamped and addressed by the writer himself years before–is the industry’s equivalent of a death notice. Continue reading