Letting people down is the worst part of being a published author/freelance editor. I hate it. But it’s happened before and I’m sure it’ll happen again. It is, in fact, happening right now.
I’m not the sort of celebrity that gets authors’ proofs or advanced-review-copies and are quoted on the front of books to help shift copies. I think you need an agent for that, or at least have some cachet of name. So I don’t have to let people down by failing to read novels and give some soundbite by a specific deadline. But I know that if I was, every book I receive will be an agony of hope. I’d want to read them, and to say something nice, because I want to pay back what I’d like to happen to me. And I like making people happy.
But you can’t possibly read them all, can you? Judging by the few ‘bookmail’ or ‘the ARC pile’ pictures I’ve seen on author’s Twitter, it seems that the elite receive dozens of books a week. Surely they can’t get through that many? Not whilst you’re expected to do your own writing, and (in some cases) a day job and a family?
As I said, this doesn’t affect me yet. I’m neither on nor receiving those piles. But I do have my dues to pay. I’m a member of a manuscript critique group – small, select, and not very busy – and I have a few other friends who have read my works-in-progress and to whom I owe a debt. They have provided me wonderful, perspicacious feedback and I owe them my time in return for what they’ve given to me.
At the moment I have a 150,000 word novel to get through for said manuscript critique group. I have until the end of the month before we virtually meet to feed back. And I’m not going to get it done.
I have paying work that has a similar deadline and I can’t – or at least I don’t feel I can – get through both. And, at the end of the day, the commercial work takes priority.
But I feel horrible. I owe these people both for past opinions and future readings. And for friendship. I won’t let myself be someone who takes without ever giving back. Sometimes it seems like life is preventing the basics – being nice, being courteous, being human. We must fight against that constriction.
So it’s back to the Editorium I go, hoping to get something done on something.
In the meantime, I practice my excuses; doubtless they’ll stand me in good stead for the future.