Geoff Nelder, over at the science42fiction blog, has heard from an agent who tells him “… we’re turning down lots of good work unless it ticks absolutely all the right boxes.”
What are the right boxes though? Here’s my take on it:
(a) I stayed up all night to finish it.
(b) It’s beautifully written, smooth and easy to read and didn’t make me want to scrawl all over it with my editing pen (or stab the writer with it).
(c) I immediately saw a very large easy-to-reach market for it and pound signs flashed before my eyes.
(d) The writer has submitted a detailed marketing plan with projected sales figures – not essential if a – c are ticked, but it’ll help, especially if c isn’t.
(e) The writer has had at least one book published previously and made a fortune.
(f) The writer is a celebrity – this overrides all the other boxes, obviously.
(g) Where humour is present it exactly matches my own sense of it and made me snort milk out my nose.
(h) Publishing this book will maintain or enhance my reputation, not harm it.
(i) The writer is a personal friend, or someone I’ve known for a significant length of time, whose opinion and expertise I trust, and I know I can rely on.
You don’t have to tick all the boxes, but they each contribute in some way to achieving the elusive ‘X factor’.
Leave a comment if you can add to this list. The world’s writers will be grateful. As will the publishers. Rather than telling us “We don’t know what we’re looking for but we’ll know it when we see it” they’ll now have a proper checklist to tell them what they’re looking for and when they’ve found it.