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Because of bad writers

Who can you blame for the way publishing works? Bad writers. No, that’s not enough. Bad writers with confidence in themselves. It’s the exact same problem employers face in screening employees. The world has too many people, first of all, and then too many of these too many people have too much confidence in themselves. So I can understand the publisher’s dilemma. He gets an e-mail from a would-be published author, to add to the pile of tens or possibly hundreds already lined up yet-to-read. Now given the limited time everyone seems to have these days, what’s the poor publisher to do? I would do the same thing in his place.

He takes a cursory glance at the letter in front of him. If he likes the few words he has patience to read – if he’s in a restive mood he’ll have patience for more words, if he’s in a particularly bad mood he might be put off too soon to have been fair – he’ll read further and glance at the synopsis the writer sent after reading the publisher’s submission guidelines on his website. After that if he likes what he sees it’s more likely to be smooth sailing than rough waters. But that happens to perhaps not even 1% of all submissions, and that’s not even considering all the great books that are never submitted for consideration.

The main sticking point is the entry through the door, the cover letter – the query letter as it’s known in the business. And why is that the sticking point? Because of bad writers with confidence. That’s the easiest place to weed them out, at the very first point of contact, the query letter. Unfortunately, several good writers are bound to end up collateral damage and get thrown out along with the bad, because the query letter isn’t the book that wants to get published. But because so many bad writers are clogging the pipelines, the publisher just doesn’t have time to read each book to decide which is good and which is great that he’d like to publish.

But now what’s the bad writer supposed to do? He doesn’t know how good (or bad) he is until the world sees his work. After all, some classics were almost buried before they got off the ground, so in his turn the bad writer is doing the only thing he knows. He keeps writing, both books and query letters, and keeps sending both out to every publisher editor agent he can find.

The pipelines are getting further clogged, the backlog of letters and novels to consider is growing by the day, the publisher is focused on his established writers at one end but also interested in finding new talent, but he’s having trouble doing everything – reading query letters, reading manuscripts, offering revisions and suggestions, negotiating contracts – in the span of one day every day.

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