A rejection letter

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Anna Mazzoldi

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Dec 13, 2002, 6:09:10 AM12/13/02
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This is an extract from Ursula Le Guin's site,
<www.ursulakleguin.com>. I think she's quite right, and it might
cheer up anybody who just received a rejection letter. Therefore
appropriate on this newsgroup!

(The rest of the site includes some rather interesting stuff too)

----<begin quote>----

A Rejection Letter
A copy of a rejection letter my agent received for the first book
of mine she handled. Because I am a very kind person, I have
omitted the name of the Editor and his publishing house. This is
included to cheer up anybody who just got a rejection letter.
Hang in there!

Dear Miss Kidd,

Ursula K. Le Guin writes extremely well, but I’m sorry to have to
say that on the basis of that one highly distinguishing quality
alone I cannot make you an offer for the novel. The book is so
endlessly complicated by details of reference and information,
the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their
relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to
become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually,
unreadable. The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace,
that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is
entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time,
to be extraneous material. My thanks nonetheless for having
thought of us. The manuscript of _The Left Hand of Darkness_ is
returned herewith. Yours sincerely,

The Editor

21 June, 1968

----<end quote>----

Ciao,
Anna

--
Anna Mazzoldi writing from Dublin, Ireland

"You look like Billie Holiday with a hibiscus flower
on her ear, except it's a purple orangutan." --Laurence

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

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Dec 13, 2002, 10:21:32 AM12/13/02
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Anna Mazzoldi <mazz...@hotmail.com> wrote:

> This is an extract from Ursula Le Guin's site,
> <www.ursulakleguin.com>. I think she's quite right, and it might
> cheer up anybody who just received a rejection letter. Therefore
> appropriate on this newsgroup!

After having mulled over this for the whole afternoon, I decided that I
do feel a lot happier for having read it.

(Can you say "chipper"? A lot chipper? Or is it a lot chippier?)
--
Anna Feruglio Dal Dan - ada...@despammed.com - this is a valid address
homepage: http://www.fantascienza.net/sfpeople/elethiomel
English blog: http://annafdd.blogspot.com/
Blog in italiano: http://fulminiesaette.blogspot.com

Dorothy J Heydt

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Dec 13, 2002, 10:33:32 AM12/13/02
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In article <1fn51dz.sirba31brz0yxN%ada...@spamcop.net>,

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@spamcop.net> wrote:
>Anna Mazzoldi <mazz...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>> This is an extract from Ursula Le Guin's site,
>> <www.ursulakleguin.com>. I think she's quite right, and it might
>> cheer up anybody who just received a rejection letter. Therefore
>> appropriate on this newsgroup!
>
>After having mulled over this for the whole afternoon, I decided that I
>do feel a lot happier for having read it.
>
>(Can you say "chipper"? A lot chipper? Or is it a lot chippier?)

A lot more chipper. "Chipper" is not a comparative in its base
form.

Dorothy J. Heydt
Albany, California
djh...@kithrup.com
http://www.kithrup.com/~djheydt

Svingen

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Dec 13, 2002, 11:12:32 AM12/13/02
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In article <cgfjvuo5estknkmc3...@4ax.com>,
mazz...@hotmail.com wrote:

<quoting LeGuin's rejection letter>

>
> Dear Miss Kidd,
>
> Ursula K. Le Guin writes extremely well, but I’m sorry to have to
> say that on the basis of that one highly distinguishing quality
> alone I cannot make you an offer for the novel. The book is so
> endlessly complicated by details of reference and information,
> the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their
> relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to
> become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually,
> unreadable. The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace,
> that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is
> entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time,
> to be extraneous material. My thanks nonetheless for having
> thought of us. The manuscript of _The Left Hand of Darkness_ is
> returned herewith. Yours sincerely,
>
> The Editor
>
> 21 June, 1968

Well, you made at least one writer's day by finding this and posting it here.
This letter's arguments greatly parallel a rejection note I received earlier
in the week. If things ended up working out for this LeGuin lady, they
might work out in the end for me, too. <tongue thoroughly impacted in cheek>

Joel

Beth Friedman

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Dec 13, 2002, 11:57:07 AM12/13/02
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I'm glad your tongue is firmly in cheek, since the logic of this is
rather like Hermia's in _Midsummer Night's Dream_, where Lysander says
the course of true love never did run smooth, and she says (more or
less) that since theirs isn't running smoothly, it must be true love.

Of course, it worked out for her in the end, but she had the author on
her side.

--
Beth Friedman
b...@wavefront.com

Message has been deleted

Brenda W. Clough

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Dec 13, 2002, 2:33:59 PM12/13/02
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Dorothy J Heydt wrote:

>In article <1fn51dz.sirba31brz0yxN%ada...@spamcop.net>,
>Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@spamcop.net> wrote:
>
>>Anna Mazzoldi <mazz...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>>
>>>This is an extract from Ursula Le Guin's site,
>>><www.ursulakleguin.com>. I think she's quite right, and it might
>>>cheer up anybody who just received a rejection letter. Therefore
>>>appropriate on this newsgroup!
>>>
>>After having mulled over this for the whole afternoon, I decided that I
>>do feel a lot happier for having read it.
>>
>>(Can you say "chipper"? A lot chipper? Or is it a lot chippier?)
>>
>
>A lot more chipper. "Chipper" is not a comparative in its base
>form.
>


I suggest 'cheery'.

This reminds me of Margaret Mitchell, who is said to have had a room
hung with framed rejection letters of GONE WITH THE WIND. Things like
"no market for long novels about the Civil War."

Brenda


--
---------
Brenda W. Clough
Read my novella "May Be Some Time"
Complete at http://www.analogsf.com/0202/maybesometime.html

My web page is at http://www.sff.net/people/Brenda/

do$feratu

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Dec 13, 2002, 3:45:48 PM12/13/02
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"Brenda W. Clough" <clo...@erols.com> wrote in message
news:3DFA3627...@erols.com...

> Dorothy J Heydt wrote:
>
> >In article <1fn51dz.sirba31brz0yxN%ada...@spamcop.net>,
> >Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@spamcop.net> wrote:
> >
> >>Anna Mazzoldi <mazz...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> >>
> >>>This is an extract from Ursula Le Guin's site,
> >>><www.ursulakleguin.com>. I think she's quite right, and it
might
> >>>cheer up anybody who just received a rejection letter.
Therefore
> >>>appropriate on this newsgroup!
> >>>
> >>After having mulled over this for the whole afternoon, I
decided that I
> >>do feel a lot happier for having read it.
> >>
> >>(Can you say "chipper"? A lot chipper? Or is it a lot
chippier?)
> >>
> >
> >A lot more chipper. "Chipper" is not a comparative in its base
> >form.
> >
>
>
> I suggest 'cheery'.
>
> This reminds me of Margaret Mitchell, who is said to have had a
room
> hung with framed rejection letters of GONE WITH THE WIND.
Things like
> "no market for long novels about the Civil War."

GWTW sold to the first editor who saw it.

http://www.literarytraveler.com/mitchell/margaretmitchell.htm


--
Pat Lundrigan
change $ to s to email


Sylvia Li

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Dec 13, 2002, 10:52:59 PM12/13/02
to
Beth Friedman wrote:
>
> I'm glad your tongue is firmly in cheek, since the logic of this is
> rather like Hermia's in _Midsummer Night's Dream_, where Lysander says
> the course of true love never did run smooth, and she says (more or
> less) that since theirs isn't running smoothly, it must be true love.
>
> Of course, it worked out for her in the end, but she had the author on
> her side.

Which invites the cheerful response: Well, who knows? Maybe I do, too.

--
Sylvia Li


Brenda W. Clough

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Dec 14, 2002, 12:54:11 AM12/14/02
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do$feratu wrote:


Hmm, maybe I'm thinking of A WRINKLE IN TIME.

Julian Flood

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Dec 14, 2002, 3:52:45 AM12/14/02
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"Brenda W. Clough"

> >>(Can you say "chipper"? A lot chipper? Or is it a lot chippier?)
> >>
> >
> >A lot more chipper. "Chipper" is not a comparative in its base
> >form.
> >
> I suggest 'cheery'.

Knowing as I do two phrases in Italian, it cheers me to see Anna conflate
two English words. This may be because I'm a chippy Englishman, but I felt
really chipper when I read her error.

JF


BrainsAkimbo

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Dec 14, 2002, 4:18:08 AM12/14/02
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Anna Mazzoldi <mazz...@hotmail.com> wrote in message news:<cgfjvuo5estknkmc3...@4ax.com>...
<snip>

> ----<begin quote>----
>
> A Rejection Letter
> A copy of a rejection letter my agent received for the first book
> of mine she handled. Because I am a very kind person, I have
> omitted the name of the Editor and his publishing house. This is
> included to cheer up anybody who just got a rejection letter.
> Hang in there!
>
<snip>

Well, I haven't read the book, so I cannot say if the editor
was right or not :-)

(The book is in my to-read list for when I am extra-cheerful.)

Not to be a contrarian, but this rejection letter didn't
seem *that* bad to me; at least the guy had gone through
the trouble of reading the whole book. Maybe the editor's
comments were correct for the kind of reader his publishing
house was targeting.

Just my $0.02

-- BA

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

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Dec 14, 2002, 6:36:44 AM12/14/02
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BrainsAkimbo <brains...@netscape.net> wrote:

> (The book is in my to-read list for when I am extra-cheerful.)

It's _not_ a particularly depressing book. Yes, there is intense
emotional content, but it's not particularly pessimistic, I'd say the
opposite, as a matter of fact.

> Not to be a contrarian, but this rejection letter didn't
> seem *that* bad to me; at least the guy had gone through
> the trouble of reading the whole book. Maybe the editor's
> comments were correct for the kind of reader his publishing
> house was targeting.

Well - it _is_ one of the greatest novels ever written, IMHO.

David Friedman

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Dec 14, 2002, 8:05:51 PM12/14/02
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This thread ties into a question I have been thinking about--just how
great the variation in tastes for books is.

I have written a novel--my first. Some of my friends and relations like
it, more don't. Should I be worried?

One way of looking at it is that a book that sells a million copies is
considered an extraordinary success--and is bought by about half of one
percent of the adult population. Of course, not all of the adult
population buys books, not all of the ones who do are interested in a
particular genre, and even of those many may never have looked at that
particular book.

So if you had a book that in fact was going to be successful, and you
sent copies to a hundred people who made it through the first two cuts
(book buyers interested in that genre), how many would end up finishing
the book with pleasure and wanting to know if there was a sequel?

Comments? Guesses?

I should add that I have so far received one rejection letter, and it
was a very nice one--basically saying that they didn't think they were
interested but that lots of books they had rejected had been published
by other publishers and proved successful, so I should keep trying.

--
www.daviddfriedman.com

steve miller

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Dec 14, 2002, 8:59:05 PM12/14/02
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On Sun, 15 Dec 2002 01:05:51 GMT, David Friedman
<dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:

>I have written a novel--my first. Some of my friends and relations like
>it, more don't. Should I be worried?

I think you need to stop "shopping it" to friends and relatives --
particularly to relatives -- unless they're part of the industry.

Your object, if you want your book published, is to sell an editor on
it. The editor will decide if a market exists.

Look, for example, at Dhalgren. Clearly one of the worst books in the
language. Or one of the best. Had I written it, my mother would have
been embarrassed, and my step-father would have wanted me arrested --
had I shared it with them. One of my brothers wouldn't have gotten
past page 1 and I doubt my only sister would have read past page 3....
another brother *might* have pushed himself for a hundred pages -- but
several of my cousins would have read it all (they have)....

See -- what would I you me they have learned? Surely Chip Delany made
money from the book. Surely he had an impact. The audience was --
first -- the editor.

Steve Miller

www.korval.com/srmcat1.htm Liaden Universe chapbooks
www.embiid.net -- Lee & Miller electronic editions
The Tomorrow Log on sale now at amazon.com & Embiid

mary_...@cix.compulink.co.uk

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Dec 14, 2002, 9:34:44 PM12/14/02
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In article <0onnvuou86oms3e8q...@4ax.com>,
che...@starswarmnews.com (steve miller) wrote:

> On Sun, 15 Dec 2002 01:05:51 GMT, David Friedman
> <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:
>
> >I have written a novel--my first. Some of my friends and relations
> like >it, more don't. Should I be worried?
>
> I think you need to stop "shopping it" to friends and relatives --
> particularly to relatives -- unless they're part of the industry.

[...]

Hear hear. Friends and relations may be right, may be wrong, but
ultimately don't have the final say. That would be the editor and the
buying public. In the same way that "my mum likes it!" cuts no ice, "my
mum hates it" is not relevant.

Besides, if it gets published, just think of how many family gatherings
you can wear an "I told you so" smirk at.

Mary

Brenda W. Clough

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Dec 14, 2002, 9:33:59 PM12/14/02
to
David Friedman wrote:

>
>So if you had a book that in fact was going to be successful, and you
>sent copies to a hundred people who made it through the first two cuts
>(book buyers interested in that genre), how many would end up finishing
>the book with pleasure and wanting to know if there was a sequel?
>


I'm with Steve on this one. It's a waste of energy quizzing your
friends and relatives, or trying to analyze them as if they were a
cross-section of the market. They cannot be representative anyway --
firstly, because they're all linked to you, and secondly, because they
are probably not all readers of the genre. Some fraction of them
almost certainly read the thing because they are interested in -you-,
not in science fiction.

David Friedman

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Dec 15, 2002, 12:00:23 AM12/15/02
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In article <0onnvuou86oms3e8q...@4ax.com>,
steve miller <che...@starswarmnews.com> wrote:

> On Sun, 15 Dec 2002 01:05:51 GMT, David Friedman
> <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:
>
> >I have written a novel--my first. Some of my friends and relations like
> >it, more don't. Should I be worried?

> I think you need to stop "shopping it" to friends and relatives --
> particularly to relatives -- unless they're part of the industry.

> Your object, if you want your book published, is to sell an editor on
> it. The editor will decide if a market exists.

That's true, but not very relevant to my question. So far as I can tell,
publishers who handle f/sf and related things and are willing to look at
submissions that come unrequested have a policy of not permitting an
author to simultaneously submit to several publishers. By my experience
so far, that means about three to six months per publisher. At this
point what I know is that one editor did not like it well enough to want
to publish it; it may be a while before I know more than that. Meanwhile
I am curious.

Presumably lots of other authors find themselves in a similar
situation--book written, trying to figure out whether the author's
satisfaction with it is pure bias or something more. Few of them are in
a position to get opinions from lots of multiple editors, but most of us
have friends and/or relatives. And, in my view, getting people to read a
book is sometimes informative, and information helps the author to
improve it.

A different version of my question would be how great the variation is
in editors' tastes. If one editor rejects a book, that doesn't guarantee
that the next will--but how much does it increase the odds? I wonder if
anyone has actually compiled statistics on the subject.

--
www.daviddfriedman.com

Dan Goodman

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Dec 15, 2002, 1:34:05 AM12/15/02
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David Friedman <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote in
news:ddfr-9BDB69.2...@sea-read.news.verio.net:

Are these people _who read that kind of book regularly_? If not, their
opinions aren't very valuable.

To me, it sounds like what you need is a writing group -- in person, or
electronic. This would require you to give critiques of other people's
novels in exchange for getting critiques of yours.

Electronic workshops can be found at http://www.critters.org
http://hollylisle.com
http://www.hatrack.com



> A different version of my question would be how great the variation is
> in editors' tastes.

A bit greater than the variation in policies between the Libertarian
Party and the Socialist Workers Party.

To find out what an editor's tastes are, you can read books they've
edited.

If one editor rejects a book, that doesn't
> guarantee that the next will--but how much does it increase the odds?
> I wonder if anyone has actually compiled statistics on the subject.
>

If it's _accepted_ by the first editor, that makes it quite unlikely that
the next editor will accept it -- because you won't be submitting it to
the second editor.

That aside, it depends somewhat on the kind of rejection. Is it a curt
note saying "We don't buy Star Trek stories"? A form letter which says
your manuscript is unsuitable for their needs? A form letter which
suggests you try again? A non-form letter?

BrainsAkimbo

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Dec 15, 2002, 2:26:41 AM12/15/02
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David Friedman <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote in message news:<ddfr-7A9928.1...@sea-read.news.verio.net>...

>
> I have written a novel--my first. Some of my friends and relations like
> it, more don't. Should I be worried?
>

To the rest of the excellent suggestions given so far,
I would add (and if I'm saying something you already
know, I'm sorry):

- You may want to show (parts of) your book on a writers workshop
for feedback. Critters.com accepts novel-lenght submissions.

- The rejection letters seem to be kind of a code message that
the publisher sends the author. Some mean "don't come back
again", some "close, but no cigar". Maybe some other rasfc
regular can give more info on this.

- There is some info on rejection letters at rejectioncollection.com,
but you will have to cut through all the rejected writer's
whining to get to the actual data.

Charlie Allery

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Dec 15, 2002, 6:09:27 AM12/15/02
to

Dan Goodman wrote in message ...

>>


>> Presumably lots of other authors find themselves in a similar
>> situation--book written, trying to figure out whether the author's
>> satisfaction with it is pure bias or something more. Few of them are
>> in a position to get opinions from lots of multiple editors, but most
>> of us have friends and/or relatives. And, in my view, getting people
>> to read a book is sometimes informative, and information helps the
>> author to improve it.
>
>Are these people _who read that kind of book regularly_? If not, their
>opinions aren't very valuable.
>
>To me, it sounds like what you need is a writing group -- in person, or
>electronic. This would require you to give critiques of other people's
>novels in exchange for getting critiques of yours.
>
>Electronic workshops can be found at http://www.critters.org
>http://hollylisle.com
>http://www.hatrack.com
>


I'll add my voice to Dan's here. I've found critiquing (I'm a current
critter) to be really useful to me in looking at my own work with fresh
eyes. We're not talking complex literary interpretation, just as a reader
why it did or didn't work for you. It might seem like a waste of time that
could be spent writing, but it will get you opinions by people who are in
the same business as you - trying to sell their writing. I can't talk for
the others groups, but critters handles a lot of short stories, so you won't
have to commit to reading other people's novels to get yours read.

Charlie


Charlie Stross

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Dec 15, 2002, 7:53:17 AM12/15/02
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Stoned koala bears drooled eucalyptus spittle in awe
as <clo...@erols.com> declared:

> I'm with Steve on this one. It's a waste of energy quizzing your
> friends and relatives, or trying to analyze them as if they were a
> cross-section of the market. They cannot be representative anyway --
> firstly, because they're all linked to you, and secondly, because they
> are probably not all readers of the genre. Some fraction of them
> almost certainly read the thing because they are interested in -you-,
> not in science fiction.

I'm going to (cautiously) argue the opposite case. I workshop my
fiction with a bunch of other writers. But I also have a bunch of
readers I send stuff to as well. Most of 'em are friends, but the
common characteristics they share is that (a) they're widely read
within the field, (b) they bring some specialist knowledge to bear,
(c) they're not afraid to say when they think a book or story is
crap, and (d) when they say it's crap, they're thoughtful enough
to also say _why_ they think it's crap. Of these, (c) and (d) are
the most important.

If you think members of your family can give you (c) and (d), then of
course you should let them read it. But you should consider them as
you would any other candidate reader, by asking a single question:
"is this person's opinion of a work of fiction going to provide any
useful critical insight?"

It's astonishing how many people can't read fiction with a critical eye.

-- Charlie

mary_...@cix.compulink.co.uk

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Dec 15, 2002, 9:28:53 AM12/15/02
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In article <ddfr-9BDB69.2...@sea-read.news.verio.net>,
dd...@daviddfriedman.com (David Friedman) wrote:

> In article <0onnvuou86oms3e8q...@4ax.com>,
> steve miller <che...@starswarmnews.com> wrote:
>
> > On Sun, 15 Dec 2002 01:05:51 GMT, David Friedman
> > <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:
> >
> > >I have written a novel--my first. Some of my friends and relations
> > like >it, more don't. Should I be worried?
>
> > I think you need to stop "shopping it" to friends and relatives --
> > particularly to relatives -- unless they're part of the industry.
>
> > Your object, if you want your book published, is to sell an editor on
> > it. The editor will decide if a market exists.
>
> That's true, but not very relevant to my question. So far as I can
> tell, publishers who handle f/sf and related things and are willing to
> look at submissions that come unrequested have a policy of not
> permitting an author to simultaneously submit to several publishers.

You're right: simultaneous submissions are a no-no.

You can, however, submit simultaneously to one publisher and one agent.

>By
> my experience so far, that means about three to six months per
> publisher. At this point what I know is that one editor did not like it
> well enough to want to publish it; it may be a while before I know more
> than that. Meanwhile I am curious.
>
> Presumably lots of other authors find themselves in a similar
> situation--book written, trying to figure out whether the author's
> satisfaction with it is pure bias or something more.

Oh, I'd say, about... everybody? <g>

In some definitions, an author is a person with the gall to say "I think
X-thousand people will like to read what I've written." If they don't, it
stays in the drawer.

>Few of them are in
> a position to get opinions from lots of multiple editors, but most of
> us have friends and/or relatives. And, in my view, getting people to
> read a book is sometimes informative, and information helps the author
> to improve it.

Yes, but not friends or relatives. Because they're your friends, and
they're your relatives. They're _going_ to be biassed, no matter how much
they try not to be -- that goes for adversely biassed, as well.

Many writers develop a system of beta-readers. Either a crit group, where
work gets swapped around during or after writing, or that rare
acquaintance who knows something about reading.

Even so, it's possible for an entire crit group to slate something that an
editor later loves and published. And vice versa.

>
> A different version of my question would be how great the variation is
> in editors' tastes. If one editor rejects a book, that doesn't
> guarantee that the next will--but how much does it increase the odds? I
> wonder if anyone has actually compiled statistics on the subject.

It doesn't increase the odds at all. WATERSHIP DOWN is the statistic I
remember -- 28 rejections before becoming a bestseller. Editors have
individual taste, and _nobody_ knows what the market really wants.

That's assuming the book meets the basic criteria of not being
ill-written, incomprehensible, turgid, confused, and incoherent... Which
is what both your own judgement and beta readers are for.

The reason I stress your own judgement is that when there's only you and
the page, that's what it comes down to. You can't change what you've
written by the reaction of every reader -- you end up with a bland mess.
You have to learn to trust yourself to know when you've screwed up and
when you've got it right. Which ain't easy...

Mary

Alma Hromic Deckert

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Dec 15, 2002, 9:28:43 AM12/15/02
to
On Sun, 15 Dec 2002 05:00:23 GMT, David Friedman
<dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:

what others have said is valuable - get yourself a crit group. one not
composed solely of your bosom buddies, either - one composed of people
who would presumably tell you the truth, as they saw it, and not worry
about sugar coating it so that they wouldn't hurt your feelings.

as for the non-sim-sub thing... that really is one of the hardest
things in the publishing world to accept as fair. yes, the editors
have a point - and yes, things take time - and yes, the author isn't
supposed to sit on his thumbs while he's waiting but should be working
on the next MS - but it would be a much fairer system if it was
weighted in the favour of authors and not the editors. people would
feel much better about submitting a book if they knew they didn't have
to wait six months to a year before they can submit it elsewhere.

>A different version of my question would be how great the variation is
>in editors' tastes. If one editor rejects a book, that doesn't guarantee
>that the next will--but how much does it increase the odds? I wonder if
>anyone has actually compiled statistics on the subject.

there are no odds, here. tastes differ. you have to have the right
story brought to the attention of the right person, that's all - THOSE
are the only odds that matter, the timing being right, not how much or
how little the previous recipient liked the work.

A.

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

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Dec 15, 2002, 10:52:01 AM12/15/02
to
<mary_...@cix.compulink.co.uk> wrote:

> It doesn't increase the odds at all. WATERSHIP DOWN is the statistic I
> remember -- 28 rejections before becoming a bestseller.

Yes, but good God, _are_ there 28 publishers in SF?

Brenda W. Clough

unread,
Dec 15, 2002, 12:29:03 PM12/15/02
to
Charlie Stross wrote:


True enough. Orson Scott Card describes his process of finding and
training a perfect reader -- it's in his HOW TO WRITE SCIENCE FICTION.
One really discerning reader is worth a dozen adoring and head-patting
family members.

Brenda W. Clough

unread,
Dec 15, 2002, 12:32:52 PM12/15/02
to
Alma Hromic Deckert wrote:

>what others have said is valuable - get yourself a crit group. one not
>composed solely of your bosom buddies, either - one composed of people
>who would presumably tell you the truth, as they saw it, and not worry
>about sugar coating it so that they wouldn't hurt your feelings.
>

I will add that it is worth getting yourself into a group of people who
work in your genre -- who are trying to do what you're doing. To hand
off your hard sf space opera to a crit group composed of aspiring
romance novelists is an exercise in frustration.


>as for the non-sim-sub thing... that really is one of the hardest
>things in the publishing world to accept as fair. yes, the editors
>have a point - and yes, things take time - and yes, the author isn't
>supposed to sit on his thumbs while he's waiting but should be working
>on the next MS - but it would be a much fairer system if it was
>weighted in the favour of authors and not the editors.
>


This will happen on the day that there are more slots for novels than
there are authors to fill them. In other words, ten minutes after the
heat-death of the universe.

David Friedman

unread,
Dec 15, 2002, 6:30:45 PM12/15/02
to
In article <p04pvu8c2jkjlcg4r...@4ax.com>,

Alma Hromic Deckert <ang...@earthlink.net> wrote:

> what others have said is valuable - get yourself a crit group. one not
> composed solely of your bosom buddies, either - one composed of people
> who would presumably tell you the truth, as they saw it, and not worry
> about sugar coating it so that they wouldn't hurt your feelings.

Oddly enough, my particular set of friends and relatives already meet
that requirement.

> as for the non-sim-sub thing... that really is one of the hardest
> things in the publishing world to accept as fair. yes, the editors
> have a point - and yes, things take time - and yes, the author isn't
> supposed to sit on his thumbs while he's waiting but should be working
> on the next MS - but it would be a much fairer system if it was
> weighted in the favour of authors and not the editors. people would
> feel much better about submitting a book if they knew they didn't have
> to wait six months to a year before they can submit it elsewhere.

It strikes me as a very odd arrangement. The most obvious explanation is
that the number of publishers involved in this particular market is
small enough so that they can maintain a successful implicit agreement
in their interest and against the interest of the authors. The reason
they would want to is to make sure that when they do find a book they
want to publish, they don't have to bid against another publisher for it.

So far as I can tell, the arrangement isn't routine in other markets. I
had two publishers competing for my most recently published book, for
instance. So it may depend on the small numbers involved. With larger
numbers, it would always pay a few publishers, perhaps small ones, to
pull out of the agreement in order that authors would submit to them
first.

> >A different version of my question would be how great the variation is
> >in editors' tastes. If one editor rejects a book, that doesn't guarantee
> >that the next will--but how much does it increase the odds? I wonder if
> >anyone has actually compiled statistics on the subject.

> there are no odds, here. tastes differ. you have to have the right
> story brought to the attention of the right person, that's all - THOSE
> are the only odds that matter, the timing being right, not how much or
> how little the previous recipient liked the work.

I disagree. The common factor across publishers is the book. The fact
that a particular publisher rejects a book is evidence, although
evidence far short of proof, that the book won't sell.

To put it differently, do you believe that all book manuscripts are
equally good? That editors have zero ability to recognize the quality of
a manuscript? If you believe neither of those, then the decision by one
editor is evidence of the quality of the manuscript, and the quality of
the manuscript affects the chance that the next editor will accept it.

What I am not sure about his how much ability editors have to recognize
quality, hence whether one rejection is very weak or fairly strong
evidence.

--
www.daviddfriedman.com

David Friedman

unread,
Dec 15, 2002, 6:32:58 PM12/15/02
to
In article <3DFCBCC4...@erols.com>,

"Brenda W. Clough" <clo...@erols.com> wrote:

> >as for the non-sim-sub thing... that really is one of the hardest
> >things in the publishing world to accept as fair. yes, the editors
> >have a point - and yes, things take time - and yes, the author isn't
> >supposed to sit on his thumbs while he's waiting but should be working
> >on the next MS - but it would be a much fairer system if it was
> >weighted in the favour of authors and not the editors.
> >
>
>
> This will happen on the day that there are more slots for novels than
> there are authors to fill them. In other words, ten minutes after the
> heat-death of the universe.

The problem with that argument is that it implicitly assumes that there
are more very good novels than slots. There aren't.

As far as I can tell, the standard arrangement elsewhere in the
publishing world--specifically, in the sort of non fiction book about
ideas that I have written in the past--permits multiple submission, and
results in publishers competing to publish a book.

--
www.daviddfriedman.com

David Friedman

unread,
Dec 15, 2002, 6:47:51 PM12/15/02
to
In article <slrnavoupt....@raq981.uk2net.com.antipope.org>,
Charlie Stross <cha...@antipope.org> wrote:

> If you think members of your family can give you (c) and (d), then of
> course you should let them read it. But you should consider them as
> you would any other candidate reader, by asking a single question:
> "is this person's opinion of a work of fiction going to provide any
> useful critical insight?"

I agree that those are relevant questions. I am less confident than some
here that other aspiring writers are particularly likely to be useful
critics.

But I don't think useful feedback is limited to critical insight. An
author can learn something from a reader even if the reader himself has
no idea what is wrong with the book.

In my book, for example, I try to feed the reader background information
in the context of the story, rather than as explanations by the author
or thinly disguised authorial comments put in the mouth of a character.
One thing I want to know is how well I have succeeded. At the beginning
of Chapter 4 does the reader understand enough about the situation to
make sense of what happens in Chapter 4? I can discover that, for a
particular reader, by discussing the book with him, even if he doesn't
know what is wrong. If the answer for one reader is "no," that isn't a
problem--no book will work for all readers. If the answer for most
readers is "no," it is a problem.

I should add that I made two changes to my manuscript in response to
such comments. One was to rewrite the final section to make it less
obvious that the good guys were going to win. The other was to go over
dialogs looking for places where it was unclear who was speaking. The
latter was in response to comments by two people--one of whom happens to
be a successful sf author, one not.

The friends and family who have read the book--or started it and not
liked it well enough to finish it--include at least seven adults and one
twelve year old who have read lots of things in related genres, one
adult who reads little fiction but is a very successful non-fiction
author.

--
www.daviddfriedman.com

Michael R N Dolbear

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Dec 16, 2002, 8:06:06 AM12/16/02
to

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@spamcop.net> wrote
> <mary_...@cix.compulink.co.uk> wrote:
>
> > It doesn't increase the odds at all. WATERSHIP DOWN is the
statistic I
> > remember -- 28 rejections before becoming a bestseller.
>
> Yes, but good God, _are_ there 28 publishers in SF?

I believe so :-

http://www.locusmag.com/index/a8.html

So how about Poolbeg? Hey they published one book in 1995!

One could make it a game, Call My Bluff style.

Is "Silver Griffin" a SF publisher ?

Is there really a "University of the South Bank" ?

--
Mike D


Alma Hromic Deckert

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 9:40:00 AM12/16/02
to
On Sun, 15 Dec 2002 23:30:45 GMT, David Friedman
<dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:

>In article <p04pvu8c2jkjlcg4r...@4ax.com>,
> Alma Hromic Deckert <ang...@earthlink.net> wrote:
>
>> what others have said is valuable - get yourself a crit group. one not
>> composed solely of your bosom buddies, either - one composed of people
>> who would presumably tell you the truth, as they saw it, and not worry
>> about sugar coating it so that they wouldn't hurt your feelings.
>Oddly enough, my particular set of friends and relatives already meet
>that requirement.

then you have a very, very unique and valuable set of friends and
relatives. well, relatives, anyway. in the case of most mortals you'll
have people who know and love you wincing at something you've written
and trying hard to be supportive of your dreams at the same time
resulting in "that's nice, dear". you need an informed and unbiased
and honest peer review group if you want to obtain judgment unclouded
by the sheer damned affection the people you care about have for you.

you may just be blessed with a particularly blunt and honest set of
relatives - but even that is not particularly valuable if they don't
particularly know anything about a genre you're writing in...

>> as for the non-sim-sub thing... that really is one of the hardest
>> things in the publishing world to accept as fair. yes, the editors
>> have a point - and yes, things take time - and yes, the author isn't
>> supposed to sit on his thumbs while he's waiting but should be working
>> on the next MS - but it would be a much fairer system if it was
>> weighted in the favour of authors and not the editors. people would
>> feel much better about submitting a book if they knew they didn't have
>> to wait six months to a year before they can submit it elsewhere.
>It strikes me as a very odd arrangement.

<shrug> that's the way the cookie crumbles. it may be an odd cookie
but it's the cookie that applies. you can call the system whatever you
like, and rail against it (we all do, at times) but it's the system.

>The most obvious explanation is
>that the number of publishers involved in this particular market is
>small enough so that they can maintain a successful implicit agreement
>in their interest and against the interest of the authors. The reason
>they would want to is to make sure that when they do find a book they
>want to publish, they don't have to bid against another publisher for it.

yes, and your point is?... of course the publishers wish to acquire
the material for the least possible financial outlay. yes, it's damned
unfair when it comes to being the author in question, but as someone
(brenda?...) pointed out, the publishers are deluged with novels
(mostly awful ones) and therefore there is no lack of materials - it's
a buyer's market, and so long as this is the case (i.e. until they
start picking ice floes out of the river Styx on the way to Hades) the
system is the system. your choices are few, at this point. join the
system, and do as your fellow writers to - submit and wait; publish it
yourself (and you can read all about THAT option in a different
thread, so i'm not going to rehash it here); or quit trying to publish
altogether.

in the meantime, you can continue to bitch about it as much as you
want, but only if you you're trying option #1.

>So far as I can tell, the arrangement isn't routine in other markets.

what other markets are those? non-fiction? i think you've already been
told that that's an entirely different animal.

> I had two publishers competing for my most recently published book, for
>instance.

we all wish we could say the same.

> So it may depend on the small numbers involved. With larger
>numbers, it would always pay a few publishers, perhaps small ones, to
>pull out of the agreement in order that authors would submit to them
>first.
>

er, i must be particularly dense this morning, but, what?

>> >A different version of my question would be how great the variation is
>> >in editors' tastes. If one editor rejects a book, that doesn't guarantee
>> >that the next will--but how much does it increase the odds? I wonder if
>> >anyone has actually compiled statistics on the subject.
>> there are no odds, here. tastes differ. you have to have the right
>> story brought to the attention of the right person, that's all - THOSE
>> are the only odds that matter, the timing being right, not how much or
>> how little the previous recipient liked the work.
>I disagree. The common factor across publishers is the book. The fact
>that a particular publisher rejects a book is evidence, although
>evidence far short of proof, that the book won't sell.

and how do you explain books that went through every publisher in the
Writer's Market collecting a rejection slip every time, and then send
it out again from the beginning, and getting it published and the book
in question becoming a classic? "Watership Down", "Jonathan Livingston
Seagull", the Thomas Covenant chronicles. there are books that have
collected 28, 40, 50 rejections. but the author persevered, believing
in the book, and finally found an editor who shared that opinion, and
the book was published and became successful.

you are welcome to disagree with what i have said but the fact of the
matter remains that there are as many tastes as there are human
beings, that one man's meat is another's poison (to re-coin a cliche)
and that being rejected by a single editor does NOT mean that every
other one out there is bearing anti-hex spells in case you MS darkens
their door.

>To put it differently, do you believe that all book manuscripts are
>equally good?

good god, no, and i don't believe i have EVER stated that anywhere.

>That editors have zero ability to recognize the quality of a manuscript?

er, how do you figure this from what i have repeatedly said, here and
elsewhere?

> If you believe neither of those, then the decision by one
>editor is evidence of the quality of the manuscript, and the quality of
>the manuscript affects the chance that the next editor will accept it.

you're reaching.

>What I am not sure about his how much ability editors have to recognize
>quality, hence whether one rejection is very weak or fairly strong
>evidence.

now i think you're just arguing for the sake of arguing. i'm not even
sure of what you're trying to say. all i can tell you is to reiterate,
from both personal experience and from stories i have heard from being
part of the industry for some time now, that one rejection by an
editor does not mean your book is a piece of unadulterated crap and
that it will never get published, any more than adulations from your
aunt and your second cousin and your best friend mean that it will.

if you want to carry on pursuing the bright star of publication in the
fiction field, i advise you to do three things.

find an honest and informed group of people with whom you can discuss
your stories (nd theirs) without fear or favor;

start thinking of people you submit your MS to as human beings, across
the board, be they editors or your mother, and while the former has
more clout to reject your precious novel it doesn't mean that his
single particular judgment is absolute gospel;

submit according to the rules of the system, and don't lose faith but
keep submitting - and in the meantime, don't sit on your hands waiting
for responses but start writing other things. publishers really like
evidence that a book they like is not a flash in the pan and that the
author could be relied on to keep producing publishable material.

A.

Brenda W. Clough

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Dec 16, 2002, 12:56:35 PM12/16/02
to
S Wittman wrote:

>On Sun, 15 Dec 2002 23:32:58 GMT, David Friedman
><dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:
>
>>In article <3DFCBCC4...@erols.com>,
>>"Brenda W. Clough" <clo...@erols.com> wrote:
>>
>>>>as for the non-sim-sub thing... that really is one of the hardest
>>>>things in the publishing world to accept as fair. yes, the editors
>>>>have a point - and yes, things take time - and yes, the author isn't
>>>>supposed to sit on his thumbs while he's waiting but should be working
>>>>

>>As far as I can tell, the standard arrangement elsewhere in the
>>publishing world--specifically, in the sort of non fiction book about
>>ideas that I have written in the past--permits multiple submission, and
>>results in publishers competing to publish a book.
>>
>

>This seems to be the arrangement when the author is well known and
>selling well. Frex, Bujold shopped around _Curse of Challion_ outside
>of Baen.
>


And if you or I were Lois Bujold we too would have this option. Until
we are, we have to do it different.

Beth Friedman

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 2:55:35 PM12/16/02
to
On Mon, 16 Dec 2002 10:20:00 -0500, S Wittman
<s_wi...@earthling.net>,
<lgorvu49jna3s0umc...@4ax.com>, wrote:

>This seems to be the arrangement when the author is well known and
>selling well. Frex, Bujold shopped around _Curse of Challion_ outside
>of Baen.

Well, yes, once your books are selling well enough that publishers are
willing to have an auction to get your books, you can do that.

And while it's a nitpick, I'm reasonably certain that it was in fact
her agent who did the shopping around.

--
Beth Friedman
b...@wavefront.com

David Friedman

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Dec 16, 2002, 3:05:00 PM12/16/02
to
In article <lgorvu49jna3s0umc...@4ax.com>,
S Wittman <s_wi...@earthling.net> wrote:

> On Sun, 15 Dec 2002 23:32:58 GMT, David Friedman
> <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:
> >In article <3DFCBCC4...@erols.com>,
> > "Brenda W. Clough" <clo...@erols.com> wrote:
> >> >as for the non-sim-sub thing... that really is one of the hardest
> >> >things in the publishing world to accept as fair. yes, the editors
> >> >have a point - and yes, things take time - and yes, the author isn't
> >> >supposed to sit on his thumbs while he's waiting but should be working

> >As far as I can tell, the standard arrangement elsewhere in the
> >publishing world--specifically, in the sort of non fiction book about
> >ideas that I have written in the past--permits multiple submission, and
> >results in publishers competing to publish a book.
>

> This seems to be the arrangement when the author is well known and
> selling well. Frex, Bujold shopped around _Curse of Challion_ outside
> of Baen.

It was the arrangement for the second (non-fiction) book I sold, a
textbook, at a point when I don't think I had any reputation worth
mentioning--my first book was almost certainly out of print at the time,
and not closely related. So it isn't limited to well known authors.

What I don't know is whether it is limited to sf or applies to fiction
more generally.

--
www.daviddfriedman.com

Alma Hromic Deckert

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 3:35:10 PM12/16/02
to

waitaminit. so was your second book non-fiction or sf?

for textbooks, with their focused subject matter and dedicated
audiences, things are very different from the fiction field - and in
the fiction field things tend to be very different, fair or not, for
those of us with already established reputations and those who are
still trying to build theirs.

A. (who's confused by those two paragraphs of yours)

Tim S

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 5:24:35 PM12/16/02
to

No, it does make sense. His starting point is the fact that the overwhelming
majority of novels that appear on an editor's desk are terrible and never
get published, and editors can generally judge a terrible book when they see
it. So for most books, being rejected by one publisher is just the first
step on the long hard road to the inevitable fate of never being published
at all.

I guess this makes it sound as though if somebody tells you they've written
a book, but you know nothing about it or them, it's a fairly safe bet that
it's terrible, so you should tell them not to submit it. What makes this bad
advice, I think, is not merely the fact that the fairly safe bet might be
wrong, but also the costs and benefits involved: if you're right, and the
book's terrible, they don't lose much by sending it off anyway; but if
you're wrong, and the book's potentially publishable, then they could lose a
lot by _not_ sending it off.

Of course, if you actually know anything at all about the book they've
written, then the whole situation's changed, as you may be able to give
specific advice. And even if you don't know anything, you can at least
advise them the sorts of things that might improve the book.

On the other hand, only a certain number of books can get published, no
matter how good they are...

Tim

Heather Jones

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Dec 16, 2002, 3:22:25 PM12/16/02
to
David Friedman wrote:

<re: no simultaneous submissions>

> It strikes me as a very odd arrangement. The most obvious explanation is
> that the number of publishers involved in this particular market is
> small enough so that they can maintain a successful implicit agreement
> in their interest and against the interest of the authors. The reason
> they would want to is to make sure that when they do find a book they
> want to publish, they don't have to bid against another publisher for it.

> So far as I can tell, the arrangement isn't routine in other markets. I
> had two publishers competing for my most recently published book, for
> instance. So it may depend on the small numbers involved. With larger
> numbers, it would always pay a few publishers, perhaps small ones, to
> pull out of the agreement in order that authors would submit to them
> first.

The unexamined factor here is that, in your non-fiction field,
you aren't a slush-writer. You're reasonably well-known,
established, and have an existing reputation and credentials. If
academic publishers chose their new book projects from the
submissions of unknown grad students with no pre-existing
publications or conference papers, then they'd be operating more
in the same realm as fiction publishers. Fiction writers who
have an established reputation and proven track record _can_ get
publishers competing for their next book.

>From an economic point of view, the fiction publisher has spent
an enormous investment in time going through unpublishable stuff
to find one good manuscript -- if, on finding that one good
manuscript, the author then says, "Gee, since you think it's
good, I'm going to use that as a selling point with this other
publisher" then the author has, in essence, treated the
publisher as a free reviewing service whose purpose is to make
the book more salable elsewhere. Why should the publisher
consider this an acceptable business proposition? Or, to put it
another way, supposing that I sent a manuscript for an economics
text to your non-fiction publisher. I would be astonished if
anyone even read the first page before sending me a polite note
declining the opportunity to publish my work. From that point of
view, academic publishing is much _more_ closed and restrictive
than fiction publishing.

Heather

--
*****
Heather Rose Jones
hrj...@socrates.berkeley.edu
*****

David Friedman

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 6:47:13 PM12/16/02
to
In article <3DFE3601...@socrates.berkeley.edu>,
Heather Jones <hrj...@socrates.berkeley.edu> wrote:

> The unexamined factor here is that, in your non-fiction field,
> you aren't a slush-writer. You're reasonably well-known,
> established, and have an existing reputation and credentials.

But when I submitted _Price Theory_--to multiple publishers, two of
which decided they wanted to publish it--I was an assistant professor at
UCLA, my first book was out of print, and my guess is that the people at
the publishers had never heard of me. So the only relevant credential
was being employed at a very reputable school. And the manuscript

...

> >From an economic point of view, the fiction publisher has spent
> an enormous investment in time going through unpublishable stuff
> to find one good manuscript -- if, on finding that one good
> manuscript, the author then says, "Gee, since you think it's
> good, I'm going to use that as a selling point with this other
> publisher" then the author has, in essence, treated the
> publisher as a free reviewing service whose purpose is to make
> the book more salable elsewhere. Why should the publisher
> consider this an acceptable business proposition?

As far as I can tell, publishers in other fields do. At that point, they
know the book is worth publishing, other publishers may or may not
decide it is--there seems to be a good deal of variation in what
different editors are looking for. So if it is an outstanding book they
have to compete with one or more other publisher for it, if it is
marginal the odds are pretty good that nobody else wants it.

> Or, to put it
> another way, supposing that I sent a manuscript for an economics
> text to your non-fiction publisher. I would be astonished if
> anyone even read the first page before sending me a polite note
> declining the opportunity to publish my work. From that point of
> view, academic publishing is much _more_ closed and restrictive
> than fiction publishing.

My guess is that you are wrong. My friend Jeff Hummel got his book on
the civil war published at a point at which he had not yet gotten a PhD
in history.

Incidentally, we observe a similar difference between law reviews and
essentially all other academic publications. If I submit an article to
the Journal of Political Economy, I am not free to simultaneously submit
it elsewhere. In law, on the other hand, the standard practice is to
mail off your article to ten or twenty journals at once. When one
journal accepts it, you call all the journals that are more prestigious
than that one to tell them they have to decide quickly--and it is widely
suspected that only at that point do the top journals actually read your
submission.

That example suports your argument, since what is different about law
reviews is that they are student edited, hence editors' time is of
low--arguably negative--value.

Does anyone here know whether the rule against simultaneous submission
applies to fiction in general? Of course, many fiction publishers don't
look at manuscripts unless they are requested or come through an
agent--but what about the ones that do?

--
www.daviddfriedman.com

Alma Hromic Deckert

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 7:01:25 PM12/16/02
to
On Mon, 16 Dec 2002 23:47:13 GMT, David Friedman
<dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:

>In article <3DFE3601...@socrates.berkeley.edu>,
> Heather Jones <hrj...@socrates.berkeley.edu> wrote:
>
>> The unexamined factor here is that, in your non-fiction field,
>> you aren't a slush-writer. You're reasonably well-known,
>> established, and have an existing reputation and credentials.
>
>But when I submitted _Price Theory_--to multiple publishers, two of
>which decided they wanted to publish it--I was an assistant professor at
>UCLA, my first book was out of print, and my guess is that the people at
>the publishers had never heard of me. So the only relevant credential
>was being employed at a very reputable school. And the manuscript
>

yes, but LISTEN to what you yourself are saying. you were a professor
at UCLA. you were "employed by a very reputable school". those are
credentials. you did not just waltz in off the street and present them
with a MS out of nowhere. if a reputable school chose to employ you in
a professional capacity, the publisher was probably entitled to assume
that you had a glancing acquaintance with what you were talking about
in your MS. the same thing simply does not apply in fiction.
>

>> Or, to put it
>> another way, supposing that I sent a manuscript for an economics
>> text to your non-fiction publisher. I would be astonished if
>> anyone even read the first page before sending me a polite note
>> declining the opportunity to publish my work. From that point of
>> view, academic publishing is much _more_ closed and restrictive
>> than fiction publishing.
>My guess is that you are wrong.

no, she is not.

> My friend Jeff Hummel got his book on
>the civil war published at a point at which he had not yet gotten a PhD
>in history.

history and economics are two very different things, IMHO. and even if
they were not you seem to be implying that your friend was already in
the field of aademic study of history when his book was published.
again, credentials.

>Incidentally, we observe a similar difference between law reviews and
>essentially all other academic publications. If I submit an article to
>the Journal of Political Economy, I am not free to simultaneously submit
>it elsewhere. In law, on the other hand, the standard practice is to
>mail off your article to ten or twenty journals at once. When one
>journal accepts it, you call all the journals that are more prestigious
>than that one to tell them they have to decide quickly--and it is widely
>suspected that only at that point do the top journals actually read your
>submission.

i wouldn't know about that, but i don't think the same thing applies
in the biological sciences (where my background originally lies). and
once again, we are talking about the difference between FICTION and
NON FICTION, and very specialised non fiction at that, you simply
cannot apply the same yardstick.

>Does anyone here know whether the rule against simultaneous submission
>applies to fiction in general?

yes. reputable publishers frown on the simsubs of complete MSS. you
are welcome, however, to submit a simultaneous QUERY to several
publishers. however, once one of them asks to see the whole MS that
one has dibs on it. until further notice.

that's just the way that things WORK...

A.

David Friedman

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 7:08:08 PM12/16/02
to
Alma Hromic Deckert <ang...@earthlink.net> wrote in message news:<tvnrvukc1p4ddug8r...@4ax.com>...

> On Sun, 15 Dec 2002 23:30:45 GMT, David Friedman
> <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:
>
> >In article <p04pvu8c2jkjlcg4r...@4ax.com>,
> > Alma Hromic Deckert <ang...@earthlink.net> wrote:

> >> what others have said is valuable - get yourself a crit group. one not
> >> composed solely of your bosom buddies, either - one composed of people
> >> who would presumably tell you the truth, as they saw it, and not worry
> >> about sugar coating it so that they wouldn't hurt your feelings.

> >Oddly enough, my particular set of friends and relatives already meet
> >that requirement.

> then you have a very, very unique and valuable set of friends and
> relatives. well, relatives, anyway.

Indeed I do.

> in the case of most mortals you'll
> have people who know and love you wincing at something you've written
> and trying hard to be supportive of your dreams at the same time
> resulting in "that's nice, dear".

My father's response when I told him I had written a novel was that I
shouldn't worry about whether it was good enough to publish, provided
I had done the best work I could. His response after reading the book
(and offering intelligent and useful comments) was that he was sorry
that economics would be losing me. My adult son made it clear that he
didn't like the book. So did two very old friends I sent it to. My
twelve year old daughter likes the book (which first existed as a
story told to her) and understands it; her nine year old brother
doesn't dislike it, but doesn't like it enough to finish it. The sf
writer friend I sent it to read the first few chapters, made a useful
suggestion, clearly didn't like it very much.

Not a single person has given me the equivalent of a "that's nice,
dear." Besides, if someone says he likes the book I discuss it with
him, so as to figure out what did or didn't work, and it would then
become obvious if he was faking to be nice. There are a few people who
gave no response--which I interpret as probably meaning "I didn't like
the book and don't want to be rude by saying so."

> you may just be blessed with a particularly blunt and honest set of
> relatives - but even that is not particularly valuable if they don't
> particularly know anything about a genre you're writing in...

One of them knows lots about writing, nothing about the genre. Most of
the rest are the other way around.

> >> as for the non-sim-sub thing...

...

> <shrug> that's the way the cookie crumbles. it may be an odd cookie
> but it's the cookie that applies. you can call the system whatever you
> like, and rail against it (we all do, at times) but it's the system.

I'm not railing about it. I'm a professional economist and when I see
market behavior I want to understand it. As a general rule, I am
suspicious of explanations that depend on maintaining a successful
conspiracy/implicit contract among competitors. This looks like a case
where such an explanation might be correct, so interesting.

> in the meantime, you can continue to bitch about it as much as you
> want, but only if you you're trying option #1.

I think if you read my earlier post a little more carefully, you will
observe that I wasn't bitching about it. I was raising the question of
why it existed.

> > So it may depend on the small numbers involved. With larger
> >numbers, it would always pay a few publishers, perhaps small ones, to
> >pull out of the agreement in order that authors would submit to them
> >first.

> er, i must be particularly dense this morning, but, what?

I don't understand your question. I was suggesting a possible
explanation of why the phenomenon exists in this particular market.

> >I disagree. The common factor across publishers is the book. The fact
> >that a particular publisher rejects a book is evidence, although
> >evidence far short of proof, that the book won't sell.

> and how do you explain books that went through every publisher in the
> Writer's Market collecting a rejection slip every time, and then send
> it out again from the beginning, and getting it published and the book
> in question becoming a classic?

How do you explain people who make lots of money playing in a casino?
Low probability events sometimes occur. That was the point of my
"evidence far short of proof." In this case the low probability event
was a book that was good in a way that a large number of editors were
blind to.

> you are welcome to disagree with what i have said but the fact of the
> matter remains that there are as many tastes as there are human
> beings, that one man's meat is another's poison (to re-coin a cliche)
> and that being rejected by a single editor does NOT mean that every
> other one out there is bearing anti-hex spells in case you MS darkens
> their door.

You seem to be arguing against a position I didn't argue for. If I
believed that a rejection by one editor guaranteed that nobody else
would accept the book, I would have given up on my novel after the
first rejection and webbed it. Instead I submitted it to a second
publisher. You appear unwilling to distinguish between the proposition
"one rejection is a reason to lower your estimate of the probability
that the next publisher will accept" and the proposition "one
rejection means the next editor won't accept it."

> >To put it differently, do you believe that all book manuscripts are
> >equally good?

> good god, no, and i don't believe i have EVER stated that anywhere.

> >That editors have zero ability to recognize the quality of a manuscript?

> er, how do you figure this from what i have repeatedly said, here and
> elsewhere?

Because, as I point out just below, if you believe neither of those
things then you should take one rejection as some evidence that the
next editor will reject. You vociferously reject the implication,
which requires you, if you want to be logically consistent, to adopt
one of the two beliefs, neither of which you actually are willing to
adopt.

> > If you believe neither of those, then the decision by one
> >editor is evidence of the quality of the manuscript, and the quality of
> >the manuscript affects the chance that the next editor will accept it.

> you're reaching.

No. I am merely pointing out the logical implications of beliefs that
both of us share.

> >What I am not sure about his how much ability editors have to recognize
> >quality, hence whether one rejection is very weak or fairly strong
> >evidence.

> now i think you're just arguing for the sake of arguing. i'm not even
> sure of what you're trying to say. all i can tell you is to reiterate,
> from both personal experience and from stories i have heard from being
> part of the industry for some time now, that one rejection by an
> editor does not mean your book is a piece of unadulterated crap and
> that it will never get published, any more than adulations from your
> aunt and your second cousin and your best friend mean that it will.

But since I never asserted that one rejection had that consequence, I
don't see the point of your rejecting that assertion.

> if you want to carry on pursuing the bright star of publication in the
> fiction field, i advise you to do three things.
>
> find an honest and informed group of people with whom you can discuss
> your stories (nd theirs) without fear or favor;
>
> start thinking of people you submit your MS to as human beings, across
> the board, be they editors or your mother, and while the former has
> more clout to reject your precious novel it doesn't mean that his
> single particular judgment is absolute gospel;

I do think of the people I submit my MS to as human beings. I am sorry
that you cannot distinguish between the concepts of "evidence" and of
"proof," but since I clearly distinguished the two I don't think your
failure is my fault.

mary_...@cix.compulink.co.uk

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 7:37:58 PM12/16/02
to
In article <ddfr-942A22.1...@sea-read.news.verio.net>,
dd...@daviddfriedman.com (David Friedman) wrote:

[...]

> Does anyone here know whether the rule against simultaneous submission
> applies to fiction in general?

Yes, it does.

If you want a quick overview, I think The Writers Guide are now online --
they're one of the two industry standard books for this in the UK,
Writers & Artists Year Book being the other.

Although they're UK-directed in some respects, the basics -- including no
simultaneous submissions -- are the same across the Western world.

Mary

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 7:59:36 PM12/16/02
to
David Friedman <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:

> My father's response when I told him I had written a novel was that I
> shouldn't worry about whether it was good enough to publish, provided
> I had done the best work I could.

My parents told me much the same thing. "Even if they don't chose your
book, you know it's good." Well yes. But I don't want the inner light of
knowing I've written a good book: I want _publication_. So I was
decidedly underwhelmed by this reassurance.

I gave it to my parents to read but mostly because they were curious. I
gave it to my friends and acquaintances who asked for it because I was
hoping for advice and reassurance, and I had both. Some of them told me
they liked it and some kept silent, but the fact that a goodish share of
those who did read it devoured everything from chapter three to the end
in about a day I considered a good sign beyond their stated opinion. So
I did consider the fact that one august personage who told me he would
try reading some twenty pages or so told me he wasn't impressed _but
read it to the end_.

This said - the opinion that counted was the line editor's. Who was not,
unfortunately, impressed.

David Friedman

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 8:09:52 PM12/16/02
to
In article <atlrl6$g0d$1...@thorium.cix.co.uk>,
mary_...@cix.compulink.co.uk wrote:

Sounds useful. Can you give a more complete title? There appear to be
quite a lot things that call themselves "The Writer's Guide."

--
www.daviddfriedman.com

Richard D. Latham

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 8:12:13 PM12/16/02
to
Charlie Stross <cha...@antipope.org> writes:

< snip >

>
> If you think members of your family can give you (c) and (d), then of
> course you should let them read it. But you should consider them as
> you would any other candidate reader, by asking a single question:
> "is this person's opinion of a work of fiction going to provide any
> useful critical insight?"
>
> It's astonishing how many people can't read fiction with a critical eye.
>

On the gripping hand, for those of you with novels sitting in the
drawer that you haven't sent to a potential editor, the good news is,
(judging merely by the sales figures, you understand) quite a few of
those folks with un-critical eyes hang around in the aisles of the
local Barnes and Noble :-)

--
#include <disclaimer.std> /* I don't speak for IBM ... */
/* Heck, I don't even speak for myself */
/* Don't believe me ? Ask my wife :-) */
Richard D. Latham lat...@us.ibm.com

Matthew F. Johnson

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 9:41:32 PM12/16/02
to
mary_...@cix.compulink.co.uk wrote in message
(snip)

> You're right: simultaneous submissions are a no-no.
>
> You can, however, submit simultaneously to one publisher and one agent.
>
I thought agents accepted simultaneous submissions unless stated
otherwise? And what about the publishers that say they accept
simultaneous subs? Have I been unknowingly dooming my book?

Waah!


(more snippage)

paull...@hotmail.com

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 10:06:07 PM12/16/02
to
In memory of a good friend and his wonderful burden. John F. Kennedy
Jr. was murdered because he was a good Prosecutor and an independent
Journalist. We cannot blame the weather again. Every single bad
Journalist and every single bad Prosecutor is partly responsible for
the murder of John F. Kennedy because these abusibve propagandists
[Rush Limbaugh in particular] are responsible for creating a world
where bullshit triumphs and the truth is routinely buried. God Bless
JFK Jr.

http://www.johnjohn.2ya.com

Please link to his homepage, to keep his vision alive !

Brenda W. Clough

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 11:00:08 PM12/16/02
to
David Friedman wrote:

>
>
>Does anyone here know whether the rule against simultaneous submission
>applies to fiction in general?
>


Yes, it does. You can submit a proposal to as many folks as you want,
however.

Brenda W. Clough

unread,
Dec 16, 2002, 11:04:02 PM12/16/02
to
Matthew F. Johnson wrote:


No, you're doing fine. What the individual agent or publisher says
always trumps what the conventional wisdom or Writers Guide or the SFWA
page says. If they say they want the ms formatted in Arial Bold 14
point, go ahead and format it in Arial Bold; if they want the story
engraved on the flanks of a late-model Nissan with a steel burin, go to
the hardware store and buy a burin.

Irina Rempt

unread,
Dec 17, 2002, 4:28:10 AM12/17/02
to
On Tuesday 17 December 2002 05:04 Brenda W. Clough wrote:

> If they say they want the ms formatted in Arial Bold 14
> point, go ahead and format it in Arial Bold; if they want the story
> engraved on the flanks of a late-model Nissan with a steel burin, go
> to the hardware store and buy a burin.

Yes... but I can't afford the Nissan.

Irina

--
Vesta veran, terna puran, farenin. http://www.valdyas.org/irina
Beghinnen can ick, volherden will' ick, volbringhen sal ick.

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

unread,
Dec 17, 2002, 4:58:20 AM12/17/02
to
Irina Rempt <ir...@valdyas.org> wrote:

> On Tuesday 17 December 2002 05:04 Brenda W. Clough wrote:
>
> > If they say they want the ms formatted in Arial Bold 14
> > point, go ahead and format it in Arial Bold; if they want the story
> > engraved on the flanks of a late-model Nissan with a steel burin, go
> > to the hardware store and buy a burin.
>
> Yes... but I can't afford the Nissan.

There are unfairier ways than banning simsubs to cut down on the number
of submissions...

Julian Flood

unread,
Dec 17, 2002, 5:50:24 AM12/17/02
to

A PUBLISHING OPPORTUNITY

We are a major publishing house looking for fresh suck... blood... authors
in the fields of fantasy, science fiction, horror, alien abduction, mystic
wisdom, romance, horror romance, alien romance, mystic romance, science
romance, science fantasy, romance fantasy, horror scienced fiction,
programming, horror programming, programming romance, abduction horror
romance, programming fiction, how-to romance, how-to program, how-to science
fiction, how-to horror romance...
We will pay 19c per word on acceptance, plus royalties of 10c per word per
copy sold of your work.

Manuscripts must be on one side of the paper and we will look at every
manuscript submitted. Can't type? No problem, just write in pencil! Any font
or font size is acceptable. If we decide to publish the work we will sort
out
the spelling and things like that.

Manuscripts must be submitted stuck carefully onto a new Jaguar XK8 using
water soluble glue or flour paste and must be accompanied by £5.00 inter--
national money order to pay for car wash facilities.

THIS IS YOUR CHANCE FOR THE BIG BREAKTHROUGH. DON'T
DELAY! SEND YOUR MANUSCRIPT TODAY TO:

MEGAMAMMOTH PUBLISHING CORP.
& CONEY WESTON USED CAR LTD
CONEY WESTON
ENGLAND

(unsuccessful applicants will be notified only if SAE is included.
Manuscripts will not be returned. Nor will accoutrements to the manuscript.)


Graham Woodland

unread,
Dec 17, 2002, 6:42:47 AM12/17/02
to
Julian Flood wrote
>
>A PUBLISHING OPPORTUNITY
>
<snip>

Out of the profits you will make from this admirable venture, I am sure
you will have no problem in remitting me payment for the keyboard you
now owe me!

[Wanders off, spluttering quietly...]


Cheers,

--
Gray

http://www.quilpole.demon.co.uk

"She does not get eaten by the sharks at this time."
- William Goldman, _The Princess Bride_.

mary_...@cix.compulink.co.uk

unread,
Dec 17, 2002, 6:52:58 AM12/17/02
to
In article <eb81c3f9.02121...@posting.google.com>,

Cease to waah! :)

If they say they accept simultaneous subs, no problem; your book is not
doomed.

As to agents -- I thought it was one at a time, but now you've made me
uncertain...

Ah! _The Writers Handbook_ is online, and you'll find it at
http://www.writersservices.com/WrHandbook/index.htm

This should have general stuff about submitting to agents, and well as
details of specific UK agencies.

Mary

Suzanne Palmer

unread,
Dec 17, 2002, 10:06:05 AM12/17/02
to
[snip lots of stuff]

Just a suggestion, but it seems to me as if you posted asking for
people's advice and/or knowledge on a bunch of subjects (which they've
happily provided), and then you've argued or debated the worth of what
they've told you, in what has come across as a rather arrogant,
condescending manner. You probably don't mean it that way, but I just
thought it might be useful to you to know that you're getting on
people's nerves, and they'll probably stop trying to be helpful soon.
And since this is a great bunch of people with an enormous amount of
experience, skill, and esoteric knowledge, you would be doing yourself
a favor to not accidentally alienate them from your resource pool.

Benignly,

-Suzanne

Zeborah

unread,
Dec 17, 2002, 10:12:00 AM12/17/02
to
David Friedman <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> wrote:

> Alma Hromic Deckert <ang...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
news:<tvnrvukc1p4ddug8r...@4ax.com>...

[simsubs, I think]


> > > So it may depend on the small numbers involved. With larger
> > >numbers, it would always pay a few publishers, perhaps small ones, to
> > >pull out of the agreement in order that authors would submit to them
> > >first.
>
> > er, i must be particularly dense this morning, but, what?
>
> I don't understand your question.

I think she meant "What?", IOW "What does that mean?"

Alma, I think he meant that because there's only a small number of sf
publishers they can afford to have this agreement among themselves that
there be no sim-subbing; I think he is further suggesting that if there
were more publishers then some smaller publishers could take the risk of
pulling out of this agreement against sim-subbing, and thus get authors
submitting to them first.

David, I _think_ you don't understand that the prohibition against
sim-subbing is not an agreement between publishers; it's a rule made for
pragmatic purposes. Namely that if you receive a book in the mail, read
it, pass it up the chain of readers, go to huge amounts of effort to
pitch the idea to those in the company who can actually offer the cheque
-- I'm leaving out many steps here; if you want to know what they are
I'll dredge up "The Editor's Day" -- and you finally make an offer,
after all this time, and then the author says, "Oh, sorry, I've already
sold it to ____... Well, then, you're going to be somewhat annoyed at
all the time, effort, and money in workhours you've wasted.

Zeborah
--
http://www.geocities.com/zeborahnz2000
Kangaroo story wordcount: 32609 words

mary_...@cix.compulink.co.uk

unread,
Dec 17, 2002, 11:13:46 AM12/17/02
to
In article <atmvjf$kp3$1...@news5.svr.pol.co.uk>,
j...@floodsclimbers.freeserve.co.uk (Julian Flood) wrote:

<snip>

> THIS IS YOUR CHANCE FOR THE BIG BREAKTHROUGH.

I don't suppose the esteemed editor would settle for a half a crown,
Scotch-taped to an extremely elderly Volvo?

Mary

Beth Friedman

unread,
Dec 17, 2002, 11:16:12 AM12/17/02
to

Was this meant to go as e-mail? It's not entirely clear whom it's
directed to, though I can make a reasonable guess.

--
Beth Friedman
b...@wavefront.com

Tim S

unread,
Dec 17, 2002, 11:35:22 AM12/17/02
to

To which I might add that if there were a lot of publishers chasing a few
novels, they wouldn't be in a position to dictate terms like this, but since
there are in fact a few publishers who receive many more submissions than
they can publish, they can easily get away with blacklisting a simsubbing
author and publishing another author instead. This is despite all the
unpublishable novels that they also receive, which contribute to making the
process of extracting publishable ones such a heavy burden.

i.e. it's not a cartel. A publisher who accepts simsubs significantly
increases the investment they need to make to actually put out a novel,
since they may have to drag several promising MSS through the review process
before being allowed to get one to market. But it doesn't signficantly
increase their revenue, because one unknown, unpublished novel is pretty
m