Tag s | Editors

Criticism Is an Unhappy Part of the Business

Let me tell you about a rather interesting day. I spent an entire morning going through my unsolicited proposals in-box. I marked them all for my assistant to send fairly standard email rejection letters, since none were anything our agency could/would handle.

Very soon I received three separate responses via email:

(1) Criticized me for sending an impersonal note, saying they spent considerable time with the proposal and the least I could do was give a corresponding critique. Never mind that the writer failed to follow the guidelines on the site he claimed to have read.

(2) Wrote me to say, “I consider it a disgrace that any American would ignore this story, particularly a man with access to our Christian media outlets who calls himself my ‘brother in the Lord.’ You must not be a prayer warrior, Mr. Laube, because if you were, He’d have guided you as He has me in this decision. Therefore, I wouldn’t want you handling this book.”

(3) Wrote a one word, very personal, extremely vulgar adjective in reply to my rejection letter.

All in one afternoon. So you see, even the agent side of the business receives its share of criticism that is ill-founded, ignorant, and inappropriate.

Next time a critic gives you a negative book review or an editor sends you a sixteen-page, single-spaced, scourging of your manuscript. remember that everyone is entitled to their opinion. Your response will determine much about your success as a writer. One of our clients claims that the one thing a writer needs to develop, in order to survive this profession, is a thick skin.

How do you respond to critics?

 

[A previous version of this post ran in early March 2011.]

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Four Myths About Editors

Since even the most prolific authors’ experience with editors may be limited to one or two, editors can seem mythical. Let’s unwrap a few assumptions: 1)  Editors don’t have to worry about the market. Agents advise writers to consider the market when writing. This is because editors do have to …

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Brainstorming: How and With Whom?

Brainstorming is one of the fun parts in the development of a book. The key for the author is a willingness to hear other ideas. The second, and most critical key, is discovering those with whom you should brainstorm. Those people need to be willing to have their ideas rejected in the discussions and be willing to let an idea they created to be used by someone else. It takes a special person…many times a professional…to achieve that.

I’ve heard complaints from some authors who try this in a critique group only to be frustrated. Egos get in the way or the ideas generated are singularly unhelpful. Or the discussion doesn’t move the project forward, instead it gets sidetracked by numerous differing opinions on the direction of the piece.

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Promotion: Faithful or Self-full?

“What’s the difference between promotion and self-promotion? How do we promote ourselves/our books so that we honor God, respect others, and use common sense?”

The constant tension between marketing and ministry has plagued the Christian author, speaker, bookseller and publisher forever. Why? Because Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. Because we are commanded to die to self and to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord….

And yet, our society…our culture insists, even demands, that we market and promote our message.

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The Curse of the Writer

Speaking from an agent’s perspective…
I have more conversations with clients about their feelings of anxiety, apprehension or insecurity than almost any other topic. Almost every writer I have ever worked with as an editor or an agent severely doubts themselves at some point in the process.

Doubts occur in the midst of creation.
Doubts occur when the disappointing royalty statement arrives.
Doubts occur … just because…

It is the curse of the writer. Writing is an introspective process done in a cave…alone. It is natural to have the demons of insecurity whisper their lies. And, in a cave, the whispers echo and build into a cacophony of irrepressible noise.

Once I had an author with dozens of titles in print and over three million books sold turn to me and say with a somber voice, “Do I have anything left to say? Does anyone care?” I didn’t quite know how to reply so tentatively said, “Well, I like it!” The author responded with a grump, “But you are paid to like it.” After we laughed, we agreed that this lack of confidence would pass and ultimately was very normal.

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Writers Learn to Wait

Ours is a process industry. Good publishing takes time. Unfortunately time is another word for “waiting.” No one really likes to wait for anything. Our instant society (everything from Twitter to a drive-thru burger) is training us to want things to happen faster. Awhile ago I wrote about how long it takes to get published which gave an honest appraisal of the time involved. Below are some of the things for which a writer must learn to wait.

Waiting for the Agent

We try our best to reply to submissions within 6-8 weeks and are relatively good about that. But if your project passes the first review stage and we are now reviewing your entire manuscript remember that reading a full manuscript is much more demanding than reading a few short proposals.

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It Takes a Committee

One well-known and frustrating fact about seeing a book finally accepted is the looooooong process. Trust me, literary agents would like to see the process move faster, too. Believe it or not, the fact that at most large publishers, a proposal must go through several rounds of review before a …

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Why Not Take a Chance?


Often I receive queries and proposals in which the author will say his submission is out of the box. I’m not opposed to groundbreaking work, but I have to decide what will and what won’t work for me. I am the first to admit, this process is subjective. Our own Steve Laube is routinely teased by a couple of his successful author friends he turned down. If an agent as wise as Steve Laube misses a call, everyone does. But here are a few questions I’ll answer to show why it’s not easy to sell an out-of-the-box work:

Is the economy making you more selective? It’s not helping, but in any economic environment, we agents must choose the best of the best and most marketable submissions.

But you and the editors are all friends. Why not take a chance even on work you’re not sure about? I do take the occasional chance on out-of-the-box submissions that are so stellar I’m awestruck, but I’m not often awestruck. I must be mindful that I am putting my name and The Steve Laube Agency name on every submission I send. In addition, the submissions I get behind must compete with other submissions that have been vetted by other professional agents. I would venture that the quality of agented submissions is outstanding. So getting me on board is hard, but getting the publisher on board is harder.

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Attract Attention…(Part Four)

So we’ve considered three of the four BPs of attracting the attention of an agent or editor. BP number one was “Be Professional.” Number two was “Be Passionate.” The third BP was “Be Plugged In.  I’ve loved the discussion for each one, and look forward to reading what you think of this last BP. Especially since I think this is the hardest one for us. We writers are so focused on learning and growing, on doing what we’ve learned to do as we study the craft and market. We’re designed for doing. But this last BP is a reminder that sometimes, the only—and best–thing we can do, is…

BP#4: Be Patient

We know it’s hard on you, and we understand if you get frustrated. But the reality in today’s publishing climate is that things can take longer than ever before. Yes, we know how important timely responses are. But with all the shifts in the market, our focus has to rest more and more on those clients and authors we already have contracted. Which means reviewing proposals has had to take a backseat. We dislike that too, especially when we’ve got a huge backlog. And we’re doing all we can to get to the proposals and respond. But you can probably expect a few months minimum for evaluation from agents or editors (sometimes longer for editors). Even if you have a connection with the agent or editor, it may take that long for your editor to get to it. It doesn’t mean we don’t love you or your work. It just means we’re doing what we have to as things continue to shift.

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