I came across another one of those lists that tell you about common errors that lead editors and publishers to reject manuscripts. But this post isn’t about those lists. This post
isn’t about manuscript tips. It’s about snark. Have you noticed these lists about what you shouldn’t do are sometimes devoid of gentle correction, kind suggestions and sweet-natured guidance? Sometimes some editors and agents strike a certain tone that suggests that somebody needs a vacation from reading the slush pile.
No wonder agents and publishers have such a hard time finding good manuscripts if they’re too eager to put manuscripts down. When I worked at Harlequin evaluating manuscripts, I had to read the whole book, write a summary and a full report. I wasn’t allowed to reject manuscripts with any of the caprice I was tempted to wield. But I was never snarky about it. Being impolite to the group that supplies the crux of the cash flow would have been considered unprofessional. As agents become ever more irrelevant, are some (I emphasize some!) agents becoming more cynical and even more rude? As Shrek said to Donkey, “You’re goin’ the right way for a smart bottom!”
Sometimes unsolicited submissions were irritating, but I never whipped myself into a froth and climbed up into active dislike of writers. Read some agent blogs and you’ll find a few who have become cynical, hate their jobs and seem to hate you. Reading manuscripts takes time and some agents have decided to blame you because bad manuscripts are a part of their job that sucks. As if we all don’t have something about our jobs we like least. For instance, it’s tax season and any day now my accountant will ask if I have readied a pile of paperwork I haven’t even begun to think about and I will threaten to claw out my eyes if she doesn’t leave me alone until I call her instead of the other way around.
Of course, times have changed in publishing. No editor is interested in developing your manuscript (as happened with Stephen King to some extent and to Harper Lee to a huge extent.) Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met nice people in publishing. Nice is the norm. Smart is the norm. It’s just that the nasty ones are so much louder and more memorable.
- The Failure of the Gatekeepers (teleread.com)
- Dusting Off the Old Manuscript and Revising (teacherwriter.net)
- Anatomy of Authonomy (adamarmour.wordpress.com)