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A tale of woe: the tribulations of the unpublished novelist


Many thanks to Bob Katz for his timely and precious tribute to his grandfather — and to those (like me) who must endure the lifelong sentence awaiting the unpublished novelist (“May every unpublished novel finally find a reader,” Ideas, Nov. 12). It is a club containing countless members with their worthy manuscripts gathering dust. Sadly, in today’s world of publishing, the fate of the unknown fiction writer may be worse than it has ever been. Indeed, publication borders on the impossible, and money-draining self-publishing ventures are largely futile.

There is a long list of practices responsible for this state of affairs, but the most infuriating culprits are the ongoing refusal of so many editors to read even a word of a submission without the pre-approval of an elite handful of favored agents; relentless penchants for writing by the previously published to the exclusion of new voices; and hopelessly dogmatic preferences for those in advanced positions in academia or for celebrities (whether they can write or not) and those whose only qualification is their status as a television personality. This is to say nothing about the endless hoops — some annoyingly fruitless or costly — that the unknown writer must jump through to even be considered.


Tom Mirabile