Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

I rejected a novel this evening …

by Rob - July 17th, 2006.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

… which is something I never enjoy doing. The author wanted me to make up my mind about a submission to Robert J. Sawyer Books, because he/she had interest from a PoD publisher, and a web site had expressed interest in serializing the book. And so I did make up my mind. Here’s what I had to say, since it might be helpful to others out there:

This is the second follow-up you’ve sent since submitting your novel less than three months ago.

I’ve read a good hunk of your book and like it on a stylistic level; I’m not 100% sure it’s fresh enough in terms of content for me, and have been trying to find the time to read more of it.

I will say this: very few traditional print publishers move really fast in making decisions. I’ve been moving way faster than, say, Tor or DAW, would have; there, it’s often over a year before anyone even opens your envelope, and usually at least two years after a first novel is bought before it’s on the bookstore shelves.

The reason online/POD places can reply so quickly is that they’re risking almost nothing; production and distribution costs on a book going into bookstores will run to tens of thousands of dollars, and so such decisions have to be made with care. If you want immediate short-term gratification, you’re in the wrong field.

I’ll also say this: repeatedly forcing an editor to focus his or her thoughts on your work by asking if a determination has been made yet may lead the editor to make decisions prematurely, and there’s only one safe decision to be made that way. Since you want a decision now, here it is: I’m going to pass on your book.

As you yourself have just pointed out to me, I’m having no trouble getting submissions from established, bankable names such as Matt Hughes and Phyllis Gotlieb (not to mention Karl Schroeder), and although I am proud to have already brought a couple of first novels to market, they are harder work for the editor, harder sells for the sales force, and earn less money for the publisher; I fight to make them possible in a very competitive marketplace, but I can’t do it without careful deliberation.

So, best of luck elsewhere. All that said, though, one writer to another, I think going the route of online serialization and POD are mistakes you will regret in the years to come. Online publishing and POD are a waste of time; you’ll have fewer than a hundred readers, I’m willing to wager, in either format. But it’s up to you.

All best wishes.


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