Most aspiring authors assume that editors and agents are constantly on the look out for new and exciting talent. But a fact worth bearing in mind is that editors and agents are ordinary human beings.
Here’s a sample of the sort of thing that might really be going through the mind of an agent or editor while your manuscript is sitting on the desk in front of them.
Oh god, how I wish I was still on holiday in Italy!
I could really murder a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.
Why has my car started making that weird noise every time I go over a bump?
I wonder if my partner still finds me attractive.
That mole on my left shoulder blade has started itching again.
What I really need is a new kitchen.
I'm not convinced my daughter is really happy at university.
Why am I always so tired?
You get the picture? They can be, and probably are, thinking of just about everything else except your manuscript. They’re at work, for god’s sake. Ok, so it’s a job they enjoy but it’s still a job, isn’t it?
Even published authors with long experience have little idea of what is really going on in the whole gigantic sausage machine that is publishing. If editors take a long time to get back to us, we start to think they don’t like the manuscript. Then we start to think they don’t like us. Then we start to think they might be right: we don’t like us either.
But really we are like someone trying to make their way round a room full of furniture in the dark with only a very small torch to aid us. All we can see is the bit of the room that the torch lights up; about the rest of the room we can only make assumptions.
The thing is that publishers don’t realise this either. They assume that the author must realise the reason for the delay with the book is that the art director has just announced that he's going freelance and the publishing director is off sick and the poor, harassed commissioning editor is trying to do about three jobs at once. Surely they can see that can't they?
That’s why so many editors think that authors are difficult or temperamental. Of course some authors are difficult and temperamental. But most of them are just blundering around in the dark with their pathetic little torch, stubbing their toes on something that could be a chest of drawers, or an upright piano, or even a stack of coffins.