Recognizing Greatness–or Not

A couple of months ago, someone asked if I thought I would have recognized something with as much potential as Harry Potter, had it come across my desk as a submission. (Read post here.) Of course, I said I would…but it’s not always clear cut.

I was browsing Nathan Bransford over the weekend and found his take on that. He said it better than I did. Go read it.

And while you’re there, bookmark his blog or pick up his feed. He has great info and he’s pretty funny too.

Recognizing Harry Potter

All the ado about Harry Potter reminded me of a submission story attributed to Rowling where says she was at a party and an editor came up to her and said he wished she’d submitted to him because he could have done a better job for her. Her reply was that she had, and he’d rejected her.

So I’m curious, do you think you’d recognize something that had the potential of a Harry Potter? And would you accept it?

Well, I certainly hope I’d recognize it. If I couldn’t, I should be doing something else, like selling shoes at the mall.

We have no way of knowing what shape her original manuscript was in nor how much work it needed to make it publishable. But let’s say it was 90% as good as the final published copy of book 1. Yes, I think I would have liked it. I think I would have thought it would be a good seller.

Would I have imagined that the series would have become the bombshell franchise that it has? No way. Nothing quite like this has ever happened before.

But recognizing a good story is not the same thing as being able to sell that story. Different people have different tastes. Markets go in and out of style. Companies have certain preferences and guidelines. There’s more to the decision making process than just how good the story is. If I don’t think I can sell it, I can’t accept it, regardless of how much I personally may like it.

But I will say this, if you have a manuscript that is as good as Rowling’s, I think you will eventually find a publisher. You may have to submit to a lot of companies and you may have to wait for your genre to become “hot” again, but if you keep at it (keep writing and submitting), you will find a publisher that is a good fit for you.

Phone, E-mail or Snail Mail

If you decide to publish a manuscript, do you email, snail mail, or call with an acceptance?

If you decide to reject it, is it always with a form letter?

Does it depend on the manuscript? Does every publisher do it differently?

I always call with an acceptance. If I can’t reach the author by phone, I will e-mail or snail mail, in that order.

Rejections are always with a form letter, although sometimes I will add commentary if I have the time and the inclination. If an author gives me their e-mail, that’s how I send the rejection. If not, then snail mail.

I do all manuscripts the same. I suppose some publishers will differ, but most of the ones I know call with acceptance. I don’t know anyone who has the time to call with rejections.