Howard Jacobson is always interesting when he goes off on one in The Guardian. This morning is no exception. I particularly like his opening story which goes like this.
He’s delivered a new book to the publisher. The publisher’s read it and said it ‘lacked redemption’. Jacobson’s delighted. He feels he’s finally written ‘a bad boys’ book’.
His agent, though, is more sanguine.
She looked at the carpet for what seemed like hours. ‘I think what they’re trying to say,’ she replied, when the silence could go on no longer, ‘is that they don’t like it.’
Yep. That’s publishing in a nutshell. No one ever says, ‘I don’t like it.’ They say it lacks redemption. Or doesn’t fit in with their current list. Or, worse, praise it to the heavens then decide it’s just too close to something they closed the contract on only a week before.
There may be rare occasions when these things are true. But don’t be fooled. If they really liked it they’d buy it. If they don’t, they don’t.