Monday, October 20, 2014

Publishing Perspective From Raymond Chandler

I've been reading an omnibus of Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe books lately.  The Long Goodbye is Chandler's penultimate Marlowe book, published in 1953.  In one scene, a guy who works for a publisher in New York asks to meet Marlowe in LA to discuss a writer who's having trouble finishing a book that could mean a lot of money for the company.  The publisher guy says he's carrying three manuscripts in his briefcase that he'll probably reject.

Marlowe asks, "How do you know you are going to reject them?"
"If they were any good, they wouldn't be dropped at my hotel by the writers in person.  Some New York agent would have them."
"Then why take them at all?"
"Partly not to hurt feelings.  Partly the thousand-to-one chance all publishers live for.  But mostly you're at a cocktail party and get introduced to all sorts of people, and some of them have novels written and you are just liquored up enough to be benevolent and full of love for the human race, so you say you'd love to see the script.  It is then dropped at your hotel with such sickening speed that you are forced to go through the motions of reading it."

This was back in 1953.  It's an even tougher business today.  But yeah this is the kind of stuff that happens with publishers.  It's good advice then not to get too excited about getting a full or partial reading.  The agent or editor might just be liquored up enough to think your sample pages look good.


  1. That that is in there is more amusing than I can say.

  2. I did get an editor from Tor to give one of my early books a full reading. He didn't respond and didn't respond until I finally caught up with him at World Fantasy. He told me the book wasn't ready but wouldn't tell me how to improve it. I guess that's a typical experience. I can look at the story now and see why he would have rejected it. However, my writing/storytelling skills have improved since then, and that's one fantasy series that will stay indie, even if it takes off big time.