7/23/07

Recognizing Harry Potter

All the ado about Harry Potter reminded me of a submission story attributed to Rowling where says she was at a party and an editor came up to her and said he wished she'd submitted to him because he could have done a better job for her. Her reply was that she had, and he'd rejected her.

So I'm curious, do you think you'd recognize something that had the potential of a Harry Potter? And would you accept it?

Well, I certainly hope I'd recognize it. If I couldn't, I should be doing something else, like selling shoes at the mall.

We have no way of knowing what shape her original manuscript was in nor how much work it needed to make it publishable. But let's say it was 90% as good as the final published copy of book 1. Yes, I think I would have liked it. I think I would have thought it would be a good seller.

Would I have imagined that the series would have become the bombshell franchise that it has? No way. Nothing quite like this has ever happened before.

But recognizing a good story is not the same thing as being able to sell that story. Different people have different tastes. Markets go in and out of style. Companies have certain preferences and guidelines. There's more to the decision making process than just how good the story is. If I don't think I can sell it, I can't accept it, regardless of how much I personally may like it.

But I will say this, if you have a manuscript that is as good as Rowling's, I think you will eventually find a publisher. You may have to submit to a lot of companies and you may have to wait for your genre to become "hot" again, but if you keep at it (keep writing and submitting), you will find a publisher that is a good fit for you.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Potter is good. But there was some advertising and marketing luck that propelled the story into an epic. The editor at Time magazine knew some kids who enjoyed the story. Not anymore than kids who liked other books, but these boys were hooked on the magical story and the editor decided to to a front page cover story in Time magazine on Harry the wizard. And of course, TV doesn't let a front page piece go without follow up, so Harry got a ton of freebies all over the TV-sphere. Then came critical articles, more magazine articles and the buzz was going stronger than any buzz in history. Knock over a few dominos with a great story and you end up with a pott-epic like this wizard of a blockbuster (not bombshell by the way Mrs. editor--don't bombshells usually bomb and blockbuster usually, well, blockbuster?). So you go Harry and hopefully some other deserving, creative author with a great story will live next door to the editor of, say, Newsweek. Good luck to all of you. May the mainstream media smile upon you and your book some day.

Josi said...

Definitely the combination of lots of marketing $$, national exposure, and a fun story came together. Think--the super hero movies, are they better than some other action flick? maybe, maybe not, but they create a buzz that propels them.

and bombshell works for me since it was an 'explosive' event for the book world.

Katie Parker said...

If the story hadn't been engaging, most of the media coverage wouldn't have happened and the rest of it wouldn't have made so much of an impact. However, there are plenty of other good stories out there that don't sell as well as Potter because they don't get the publicity that Potter does.

Still, I am thrilled that a series of books has reached so many people. I'd like to see it happen again.

Annette Lyon said...

I agree that marketing dollars had a lot to do with HP's success, but plenty of other books have had that and didn't duplicate the raging success Rowling has experienced.

What it boils down to, I think, is that the story crossed over beyond the YA market and spread like wildfire by word of mouth. She'd be nowhere w/out the crossover following, and I'm quite sure most adults didn't hear about HP in a book order. Instead, all of the adults I know who have read HP did so based on a trusted recommendation, not because of all the hype. And in some cases, the hype turns some people off until they decide to give it ago because so-and-so liked it. That was the case with me and with my husband. Both of us were skeptical but ended up hooked because we gave it a try based on word of mouth recommendations.

Anonymous said...

First off, this JK story may by nothing more than author lore invented by yet another frustrated writer who hates rejection and whose greatest desire is to make publisher uncomfortable if not down right paranoid. If it is true, then the publisher must be from the Sun Times. The Harry Potter ms was certainly a 90 percenter. I agree with anonymous. Bombshell sucks. Blockbuster sells. Edit your post or forever live with your word choice dilemma.

Patricia said...

Whether you like HP or not, it's given a boost to children's and YA publishing. Big sales for the HP series mean more opportunities for other authors.

LDS Publisher said...

While "blockbuster" is indeed the more elegant word, I was in a big hurry and "bombshell" is still technically correct (see usage #2):


bomb·shell (bŏm'shěl') n.

1. An explosive bomb.

2. One that is sensationally shocking, surprising, or amazing.

3. One who is very attractive.


The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.