Just on the train back after another fascinating visit from a guest speaker in one of our sessions — Francesca Main who’s a commissioning editor at Simon and Schuster — and a very successful one too as one of her books ‘The White Woman on the Green Bicycle’ by Monique Roffey has been shortlisted for this year’s Orange prize. I’ll blog at more length about some of the points she made when I’m not balancing a laptop on my knee going at a rate of knots through the countryside.
One interesting point seems to be, however, that the more insight we get into the processes of the publishing world then the more the simplest, most universal advice rings true: there are no silver bullets and, moreover, trying too hard to write something with the objective of being published as an end it itself is probably the most likely route to failure.
That’s because any agent or editor will only take on a piece of work that makes them passionate enough to champion it against all sorts of obstacles and adversity. The agent needs to have the belief that will sustain getting the novel into a marketable shape and then go through the process of selling it to editors. Then the editor needs to champion the novel within the publishing house — of which more later.
So paradoxically, what probably marks out a novel that’s worth publishing, at least from a new author, is the fact that the writer believes in it so much that he or she complete it as an end in itself — regardless of worrying about its commercial potential. Â If an obsessive, compulsive belief in the work itself shines out of the text then it’s that which will convince other people to believe in it and to invest their time and resources in its further development.
Probably the most daunting conclusion of all is that other people’s advice is very helpful but they can’t do the work — it’s all down to yourself.