Critics making suggestions in what changes are needed in your book

Got one of my books on Authonomy. com being looked at. It's a historical detective novel about an art thief. It's a detective with lots of action and a fair amount of World War One histroy thrown in. Here's the problem; it's the three thousand or so readers in the site who have the potential of reading the book and voting for it up or down. And many make suggestions on how to improve it. But for every ten people who say they love this or that inclusion of fact . . . or writing style . . . or description . . . there are five who say they absolutely hate the very same thing.

And I've come to the conclusion there are lots of readers in there who love to read. But there are quite a few in there who prefer to . . . what I call . . . nitpick. "This comma shouldn't be there," or "Change 'that' to 'which'. "

So who do you believe?

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John, when you get into the top few percent, with people who have some talent and know what they're doing, then luck and timing come into play. But I would guess that at least 90% of submissions are just crap.
+1 on the sex scenes, at least in my work. They're fun to write, and they can tell readers a LOT about your characters (and maybe about you, if you're not careful).

Still, it's true, all you can do is write the best book you can. You write the book you really, really want to read and can't find in any bookstore. Then you just keep sending it out.

This is the best advice ever. It's also worth noting that most of the writers I've talked to had a much harder time finding an agent than the agent had placing their book(s). None of the genre-specific agents I queried knew what to make of my first book--the very fine agent I'm working with now does mostly literary stuff, but was actively looking for new clients (had just started her own shop with a couple of partners) and was willing to take a chance on me--after asking for a major revision of book 1. That connection really was about luck, or timing, or lucky timing, maybe. If it hadn't happened, I might still be looking for an agent.
There are always exceptions, but I still think the vast majority of rejected novels simply aren't very good.
Sure, but the majority of novels that are good enough are also rejected. Only a small percentage of the 10% that are good enough actually get published.

You can see that with pretty much every novel you think is fantastic was rejected - often many times, before the timing or whatever, was right.

I don't mean to sound glum here, it's just that what keeps writers going, or at least what keeps me going, is the writing itself. I didn't expect to sell my novels, but I did want to work on them until they were exactly the way *I* wanted them. If I ever had a decision to make where I wanted to go in an odd direction that I thought would hurt my chances of selling the book, I went that way.

I wanted to at least have all my work end up with something I was damned proud of because that's the only part of the process I feel I have any real control over.
Sure, but the majority of novels that are good enough are also rejected. Only a small percentage of the 10% that are good enough actually get published.

That's the point I was trying to make. That's where luck and timing come into play--with the top few percent. Still, it's not like the manuscripts are thown into a tumbling basket and drawn out at random. They're selected because someone, or a team of someones, thinks they have a chance in the marketplace.
To be fair, the stories you hear about good novels being rejected over and over before finally being published probably stick in your mind because of that. Nobody ever talks about the novels that get accepted on the first go, because it doesn't make a very good story.

I think the sad and difficult truth is just as Jude says: 90% of what gets submitted just isn't good enough to publish. That's hard for us, as writers, to accept because it means that 90% of us are, well, not very good writers. There may be a 'yet' at the end of that sentence for some of us, and for some of us, it may not even matter (those of us who write for our own entertainment), but I think it's the truth that lurks in the back of all our minds: am I good enough? The answer is, unfortunately, some of us aren't. If my novel gets rejected over and over, at some point I have to face up to the fact that it's just not that good, no matter how much I love it, and move on to the next one. It's a crushing reality, to be sure, but I think that facing it ultimately improves our writing.

Well said, Minerva.
But Jude, think of all the books we all can agree, were published and are absolutely terrible to read. Wouldn't that mean that a good book was passed over for this bad book to get the nod for publication?
I think the book has to be in that top 10%. Without that, nothing else matters. Then you have to get lucky/have good timing/find the right niche/however you want to describe it.

As bad as some of the book in print are, they're still probably in that top 10% of everyting written and submitted.
As bad as some of the book in print are, they're still probably in that top 10% of everyting written and submitted.

You know, that's actually kind of frightening.
Dana, I'm not sure about that. About the idea that as bad as some book are that are published, they still are in the top 10% of books submitted. I think it is more likely the books were chosen because they easily fit into a recognizable genre. And because they fit a recognized label, they were picked. I believe a number of great books don't fit genre-labels; and therefore they are passed over regularly even though they are a superior book.


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