The Swirl of Opinions
It’s an aspect of the business that writers seem to rarely remember: the subjective nature of the selection process. One editor loves a writer’s prose and another simply can’t see it and rejects the manuscript. I’ve simplified the submission process because even when an editor loves the writing, he has to build consensus within the publishing house and champion the project to the other departments. Eventually every area reads or listens to the discussion about a particular author and their writing. If the publishing group decides to move ahead and contract a particular book, then the contract is negotiated and signed. The author has a deadline to deliver the manuscript and the project moves through the publishing process.
The publishing team loves the book and made their decision. Yet will the public embrace the book, buy it, tell their friends about it and catch attention? With more than 190,000 new books published each year, some good books never find their place in the market. It’s the explicit risk that every publisher takes with any author. What will the bookstore owners think of the book? Will they read it? What do the reviewers think of the book when they read it? (yes, if they read it)
Last Saturday I came face to face with the subjective nature of the business. It wasn’t in the book area but in the area of movies which is another place where people reveal their opinions and make their choices whether to attend a particular film or not. Since I had been traveling, my wife was eager to attend a movie but is there something worth watching? We’ve been to some great movies and other times, the movie falls completely flat. Because I’ve been to some poor movies, I often read the newspaper movie reviews to see what someone else thinks about the movie. The PR firms have this slick method of showing the most engaging portions of the movie in their trailer but will the film hold up? My wife was determined to see the new release You, Me and Dupree since it looked like some mindless entertainment with some laughs.
The local newspaper reviewer gave You, Me and Dupree one and a half stars—out of a possible five stars. I began to wonder about the wisdom of going to this one. Here’s a small portion of the review: Bill Muller writes, “It’s hardly worth spending two hours on this obvious, disjointed story about a spacey, jobless dude (Owen Wilson) who moves in with his newly wed pal (Matt Dillon), disrupting the marriage by often failing to wear Jockey shorts...Although the movie offers a few chuckles here and there, it fails on almost every level.”
Now doesn’t that make you want to run right out and see it? Through experience, we’ve learned that our opinions about a particular film do not always line up with this newspaper movie reviewer. So despite his cautions, we went to the film. Yes, it has a bit of bathroom humor in it, which you can see from the promotional clips. In this case, the reviewer completely missed the message of the movie. It has several themes including the importance of lasting friendships, the value of marriage and the importance of having your priorities in order. A positive spin on these themes comes out strongly in the story of this movie. We loved the overall message of this film and felt like it was a good way to spend a few hours on a hot Saturday afternoon.
Finally I want to return to the subjective nature of books. There is a soon-to-be published novel which I’ve believed in for some time. Early on in the manuscript process, I sent this book to one of my much-read friends. She loved this book. I championed the book in an editorial meeting at my former publisher and it didn’t go anywhere. I was disappointed but I did not give up on it. When I got the opportunity, I championed the book again at Howard Books. The publication board agreed and I negotiated a contract with this lawyer turned author, Jerome Teel. This process happened months ago and The Election has been moving toward it’s September release.
While walking the floor at the International Christian Retail Show in Denver, I saw Lin Johnson, the managing editor of Church Libraries. She stopped me with one question, “Did you have anything to do with the acquisition of The Election?”
My face lit up with a smile and I said, “Absolutely. Have you read it?”
Lin told me that she loved it and couldn’t put it down. What an affirmation! Later in the week, I caught up with Lin and asked for a few more details. It turns out Lin was pre-screening the book to see if it was something she wanted to assign one of her book reviewers for Church Libraries. Attracted to these types of political thrillers, Lin read The Election. I asked her for a few words and she wrote, “I couldn’t put The Election down. The fast-paced plot and good writing kept me turning pages and robbed me of sleep. I’m already recommending it to everyone I know who likes mystery/suspense fiction. I can’t wait for Teel’s next book.”
OK, click the book link and pre-order your copy from Amazon because it will soon be released—and you want to be one of the first people to read this title from a first-time novelist. In my opinion, it’s a worthwhile way to spend a few hours.