"Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Marky Lazer, Jun 2, 2006.

  1.  
    Marky Lazer

    Marky Lazer New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    2,879
    Well, I'm not going to ask you your favorite meal... (at least, not now, maybe later). I was just reading the thread called: "How books are chosen by UK publishers" and read the passage:

    This raised the question to me... How many books to you read in, say, a month?

    Even when I enjoy reading really much, there are days when I really can't finish a single page! I guess it's just like a 'normal' job for you, sometimes you just don't feel like going to work, but what do you do when you really have to push yourself reading a story?

    And, lastly, can you read a story without your editing eye? I mean, if you just read, for example, the new King and see something only editor's see, can you still really enjoy reading books?
  2.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2006
    Messages:
    1,175
    For work, well, I receive material from around thirty authors every week. However, many of them can be turned down after a few chapters, sadly. I don't push myself, because if I'm not enjoying the book, in personal and professional terms, it isn't special enough.


    I've always read for pleasure, both fiction and non-fiction. I guess it makes me very picky!
  3.  
    argenianpoet

    argenianpoet old as time and space

    Joined:
    May 25, 2006
    Messages:
    98
    John, is there any specifics here on what exactly makes a book special to you? I understand that you read a lot of different books, and each book is different within itself, but are there any recurring factors that make a book great, and which of these are vital?

    For me, if I'm not hooked by the first chapter I put it down and I'm talking about books that have been publsihed. I am picky too, and I am not going to waste my time with a book that doesn't appeal to me. I know this is a broad question and that there are many factors that go into that decision, but for me it is basically the story: what happens at the beginning and do I want to read more... Of course, I'm not a Literary Agent either.:D
  4.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2006
    Messages:
    1,175
    I certainly think the first chapter is extremely important. But the thing is, it is both subjective and emotional, as well as involving the part of my brain that weighed books up as a commercial publisher for fifteen years. I've turned down books I loved personally, when I didn't feel they were commercially viable. So basically, both sides of me have to feel something is special. Of course, it's about the writing, the story-telling, the characters. And about depth, sophistication, and terrific dialogue helps. Try to pin it down, it slips through your fingers...
  5.  
    argenianpoet

    argenianpoet old as time and space

    Joined:
    May 25, 2006
    Messages:
    98
    That's exactly what I thought; I knew it would be a tough question to answer, because there are so many factors to consider and each book is different in nature. The answer here is there is no one specific answer to this question; it just depends on the book in question and without you are analyzing it this question is undefined. I know that conflict, action, plot and characterization are the main ingredients, but much beyond that it's just how the author puts it all together.
  6.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2006
    Messages:
    1,175
    As a long-time commissioning editor and editorial director, one is always subconsciously weighing the commmerciality of a novel, whilst reading it and reacting to the writing. So it often becomes a 'pricking of your thumbs'...
  7.  
    scalem X

    scalem X I am, the scallywag

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Messages:
    1,385
    I could have though of the answer of turning down a lot of them by the first chapters and I would like to ask you if you could do the following
    how about guessing percentages:
    Books submitted 100%
    Books turned down XX%
    Turned down by the first two chapters AA%
    Turned down by the end BB%
    Turned down somewhere in the middle CC%

    and I'd like to add, how much of a change do you consider agreeable to recheck a book (if let's say the plot was extremely good, but the style was awful or all was good, but the ending was really weird...) ?
  8.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2006
    Messages:
    1,175
    99% of the books submitted directly by authors are totally unpublishable, and many are turned down after fewer than ten pages have been read. I really can't give percenatges about middle and end, though.

    Have a look at the 'How authors/books are chosen' thread and you'll get more idea of this.

    Never, NEVER re-send a book to an agent or publisher unless they have specifically asked you to do so. I did that half-a-dozen times in fifteen years in publishing, and I've only done it a couple of times since I set up the agency. And over all that time I've been seeing about thirty books every week. In almost every case, once you've said no, that's it. The author must move on. If a publisher says 'The characters are good, but I didn't think the end worked', that doesn't mean you should rewrite the end and send it back. Only do that if the publisher or agent says: 'I want to see this again if you...'.
  9.  
    scalem X

    scalem X I am, the scallywag

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Messages:
    1,385
    thanks it clarifies things (yes I ofcourse meant when the publisher asks to resend it and stuff, I've never submitted anything, but I would have never thought of resending a book by my own anyway:p )
  10.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2006
    Messages:
    1,175
    Cheers! It's something that does happen quite often, because authors are so keen and often fall upon any praise as a reason to re-send material. Thank you for giving me a reason to say this!
  11.  
    scalem X

    scalem X I am, the scallywag

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Messages:
    1,385
    Mmm and now for the harder questions:D :

    -Don't you live in constant fear that a book that has been rejected by you will become a huge hit published somewhere else:p ?

    (maybe this next question is also a part of your answer)

    -Should an author be careful on what publisher (s)he submits his/her work to?
    Or should a writer just think; the more submissions, the better the chance on getting published?
    -And finally; how is your view on a new novel by the same author from last year? Have you known many writers who succeed after a few years to surprise you and get published in the end, while their initial submissions where awful?
  12.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2006
    Messages:
    1,175
    It's pointless worrying about turning down future bestsellers! You have to trust your judgement. Everyone turns down winners sometimes, so the point is to get on with what you are doing. No regrets!

    I haven't known anyone whose first book was truly awful be successful later. But sometimes they can grow from an interesting start to future publication. Charles Stross is an example. He was submitting novels to everyone in London and New York from the late 80s, and has only been published in recent years. It's not just the talent, it's honing that talent and writing the right book.

    And it's worth checking that a publisher to whom you're submitting is publishing in the exact area you're writing. So, for example, if a publisher doesn't publish humorous fantasy and that is what you have written, look elsewhere. If they wanted to be involved in that area, they would be. Every author needs an editor and publisher who chime with their vision, so you will need to submit many, many times to many people, in all likelihood.
  13.  
    ZoeRat

    ZoeRat New Member

    Joined:
    May 31, 2006
    Messages:
    41
    What is the best way to go about preparing your book to be sent in? What I mean is, should you have someone else look over it so you can further edit it beyond your own changes before you send it in, or should you just trust your own judegment and send it in? I guess what I'm trying to ask essentially is, will you be taken seriously if you directly send in a manuscript, or should you look into finding an editor first?
  14.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2006
    Messages:
    1,175
    It depends entirely on the individual writer. One thing I would always say is don't submit your novel as soon as you've fiinshed it. Put it away for a couple of months, then look at it again, when you can be more objective. You'll almost certainly find problems you didn't see before, because you were too close. But do everything you can, totally professionally, and always contact the publishers before sending your material. Some want to see the full script, others just the early chapters and others don't take unsolicited scripts at all.

    Think very carefully before involving an outside editor, because it will cost you money, and you shouldn't spend that unless you are 100% happy to do so. An editor can make your book better and give you general and specific tips about your writing - and writing in general - but there is no guarantee that this will mean your book will be published.
  15.  
    ZoeRat

    ZoeRat New Member

    Joined:
    May 31, 2006
    Messages:
    41
    Ok, thanks for the good advice!
  16.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2006
    Messages:
    1,175
    You're welcome!
  17.  
    Wayne Blackhurst

    Wayne Blackhurst New Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    Messages:
    45
    Ooops. Oh well. I've learnt from my mistakes since then. We all slip up every now and then. The thing is to make sure it's not too often!
  18.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2006
    Messages:
    1,175
    As long as you never repeat the same mistake, you're heading in the right direction!
  19.  
    Brown Rat

    Brown Rat wandering & wondering

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2006
    Messages:
    953
    John, do you only take UK authors as clients? Or do you also take US authors?
  20.  
    dustinzgirl

    dustinzgirl Mod of Awesome

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2005
    Messages:
    3,699
    And, in regards to the question above, do you find that UK and US markets differ quite a bit in the sf/f world? I mean, UK fiction seems so, classic...but then again, that is probably because I have only been exposed to the classics in that way, and the language much more striking, where as US markets seem so technical and pointed but not always classy. Japanese writings seem to be the most beautiful, constantly conveying emotion without ever saying emotion....which is a large point of thier language.

    Anyways, I guess what I am really asking is: do different styles have a better chance in a different country market?

Share This Page