Piggybacking on my grammar lament, I thought I’d share this rancid idea of “good enough” and how it looks from my perspective. I’m looking for the very best, and I have high expectations of what is acceptable. I don’t have the time to yank out my crystal ball and decide whether the person querying is undereducated or apathetic. I reject and move on.
But at the end of the day, I reflect on what I see as a downturn in the desire of doing one’s best. “Good enough” is an attitude that permeates everything we do, and I, as a publisher, have to consider the risks of working with someone who displays this attitude.
“You expect too much!”
I see “expectation” as the direct counterpunch to “good enough.” It’s the fulcrum between “good enough” and “excellence.” I’ve received blowback from angry authors who insisted I had unrealistic expectations. This implies they know more about my business than I do, which isn’t the best way to make friends and influence others. I only allow the beagle this indiscretion because she’s a great bartender.
Those who sing the weeping dirge of unfairness don’t have a firm understanding as to what is expected of them. For instance, I had a prof back in college who was incredibly tough. He demanded our very best from our written papers and was a bear of a grader. I’ll tell you what; thirty years later, I still remember the guy because I worked my lower forty off to meet my prof’s expectations. Excelling meant a higher GPA, which would benefit me in the long run. “Good enough” didn’t cut it with this guy. And you know what? That A I pulled off in his class felt pretty darned good because I’d worked harder than I’d ever worked before. Because I’d worked so hard, he asked me if I wanted to aid for him the following quarter. Oh heck yah.
Well guess what? So goes it for the publishing industry. If I see an author whose manuscript is sloppy, I have to ask myself if this is someone I want to work with. The only place in publishing where “good enough” is the high bar is vanity and POD presses. The talented authors who published with them exceeded the high bar. A pity in my book, but that’s a whole other post.
How Do You Present Yourself To Me?
If you have visions of bookstore placement and author events dancing in your head, then, just like my college professor, “good enough” also doesn’t cut it. And in order to know whether you’re good enough, you have to understand what is expected of you.
I worry about the “good enough” author because I have to consider his promotional efforts. Will he do a couple book signings and walk away? And what about editing? Will he balk at further rewrites and rebuff my editor, saying it’s “good enough,” or will he knuckle down and keep working to make it excellent?
Will the author learn along the way? Being published is a huge education, and the “good enough-ers” are all too happy to sit back and watch from the sidelines rather than jump in with both feet and arms and become part of the process.
These are just a few of the thoughts and concerns rolling through my mind when I consider an author. And those thoughts begin when I read and judge the quality of the manuscript. I need authors for whom the idea of “good enough” pertains only to parallel parking.
I urge authors to look in the mirror and decide whether the work they submit accurately represents who they are and what they’re capable of doing. If the grammar bites and the syntax is choppy, then authors must understand this will be exposed under the hot glare of the editor’s red pen.
Anyone who believes “good enough” will segue into a successful career, think again. As I’ve said in the past, the manner in which you present yourself will make or break your future. Make sure that the quality of your output matches the expectations of those you query.