f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Blink – What First Impressions Mean in Publishing

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Monday, February 21, 2005

Blink – What First Impressions Mean in Publishing

So I’m reading Malcolm “Tipping Point” Gladwell’s Blink, his latest compulsively readable foray into the world of social and human behavior. In The Tipping Point, Gladwell tried to get behind the mechanics of word-of-mouth phenomenon. Blink meanwhile is a look at how our gut reaction controls our decisions and behavior a lot more than we might expect…sometimes to our benefit and sometimes to our detriment.

Gladwell is no practicing psychology Ph.D.—he doesn’t bury you in proof. Instead, he finds people and events that illustrate his principles. It’s entertaining reading, though I always feel I’m only getting about 30% of the story from Malcolm. Plenty though, I suppose, for cocktail party chatter…or a blog post.

Over the next few days I’ll draw a few applications from the book as related to the publishing world.

The first the to remember is simply that first impressions are incredibly important. You’ve heard this elsewhere, but how you present yourself and your work, the professionalism of your proposal, how informed you are—these factors all play a part in an editor’s viewpoint of you. This is especially true if you meet an editor at convention.

To me, these things while important, are still secondary to the more major issues—Can you write a novel? Many of you have submitted ideas and you may find me a little less rigorous than other houses.

I don’t expect full market write-ups or elegantly printed writing resumes.
I don’t want glamorous head-shots or twenty-nine ways you’re going to market yourself.
I don’t want eighteen page plot synopses.
I do want bribes deposited in a numbered off-shore account, but none of you seem to fall for that.

Instead, I just want your book.

Maybe I’ve not been at this long enough. Maybe at some point I’ll get jaded enough to realize that I’m looking mostly for a “consumable product” not just a book. But for the moment, I’m happy to read your pages and base my decision on the heart and soul of the industry—your story.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about something that’s mentioned frequently around publishing houses. Namely, that editors can typically tell within two-to-three pages if they’re going to reject something. Is this true? How? Why?