Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Muse Review: 78 Reasons Why Your Book...

Been doing a ton of reading lately and I have a lot of reviews to catch up on posting here:

78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might by Pat Walsh; Penguin; (Paperback); 2005 ; 224 pages

This book was recommended by Lisa Cron of the Angela Rinaldi Agency at the Columbus Writers Conference last August, and it gives you another inside view of what editors/agents go through when getting endless manuscripts from readers and lists the reasons why the book won’t be published. Walsh’s sarcastic wit keeps the book light and entertaining while still managing to dish out some good information. You can feel the frustration and the disappointment that he, as one of the founding editors of MacAdam/Cage, went through every day when digging into the endless mountains of paper. Writers make stupid mistakes, and seem to make the same ones over and over again, and 78 Reasons, is Walsh’s attempt to tell the aspiring writers the cold hard truths of the publishing industry, but maybe we can’t HANDLE the truth such as Walsh’s reason number 38…

We do not like the truth because it is simple, we do not want the truth
because it is hard, and we do not trust the truth because it is free.
(pp. 86)

The book is an enjoyable, quick read filled with good information, but as you might imagine with 78 reasons to cover, none of them are covered in great detail. The book would definitely get a higher rating if it spent a little time discussing specific ways of fixing some of the problems by providing some writing exercises or resources, but it does not.

Here is one more enjoyable snippet from Walsh before I end this review:

Preaching stinks up the page like ripe fish and makes the editor’s and
agent’s job of rejecting a book quick and easy. Unlike most writing problems, it
cannot be fixed because the book is almost always built around the
problem. The book doesn’t make a point; the point is made into a book.

Although this book isn’t quite what I’d consider to be preachy, it teeters near the pulpit, and the 14 reasons don’t quite balance out the 78 that came before it. It is enjoyable, but not that memorable.

Rating: ** (Borrow It from the Library)

About Ratings: ***** -- Well Worth it at Full Retail Price; **** — Buy on Sale/Discounted; *** — Buy Used; ** — Borrow It from the Library; * — Waste of a Good Tree


pat walsh said...

Thanks to Google alerts, I was notified of your post. I want to say thanks for your kind and honest comments on my book, 78 Reasons. I appreciate and understand your criticisms. The book may well have been better with writing exercises, etc. but I was trying to write a book more about publishing than writing. And I admit that I was kind of talked into adding the 14 Reasons so the book didn't seem too pessimistic, which writers have enough of these days. Primarily, I wanted the book to be a diagnostic tool for writers, not a cure all that made promises it couldn't keep. Writing and submission problems, I've found, are quite common; Solutions, however, are very specific and detailed and no one book can meet everyone's needs. (Elements of Style comes close, though.) Anyway, back to the pulpit for me, and thanks again for your considerate attention.

Pat Walsh

Michael said...

After reading the author’s response to my review, I took another look at the book, and I have to admit, I was a bit hard on Mr. Walsh’s book. Yes, maybe it could have benefited from some writing exercises, but then again, there are plenty of other resources out there that would do the same thing, and the major point of Walsh’s book was to identify the flaws that he encountered day after day after day as an editor at MacAdam/Cage, and you have to wonder from that perspective, why do so many people make these mistakes? Has anyone else read the book before the author submitted it? Why did he waste postage submitting it to a publisher that was clearly not appropriate for it? And so on.

This book was born out of exasperation and in the hope that he could give some of these masses a clue on what the common problems were so the manuscripts that overflow his office and the offices of all agents and editors might be screened a bit more carefully before reaching them. The book is entertaining, and should be used as a checklist for anyone thinking of submitting a work for publication.

Revised Rating: *** (Buy Used)