Not Yes Yet

Though BiblioBuffet is temporarily closed to potential columnists, we are still accepting queries for our guest column, BibliOpinions. And we continue to receive a number of queries for it. I like that. I enjoy hearing from writers who are interested in contributing to our publication. Unfortunately, not all writers are up to our standard—“Writing Worth Reading”—and this is where it gets tough. The easy rejections are no problem. The easy acceptances are a joy. It’s the “almost” ones that are the most difficult.

The latter are submissions that have potential but need work. They are not all the same, but rather run along a continuum that looks basically like this:

  1. Well . . .  no, thanks.
  2. Probably not .          
  3. Maybe.                      
  4. Probably, with editing.
  5. Worth working with, at least to start.

Then there’s the fact that each of these five has sub-categories, but most are too subtle for me to elucidate even in my own mind. (That’s when I go on my gut feeling.) However, in number four—the “probably, with editing” category—there are five sub-levels that are sufficiently distinctive to warrant their own continuum:

  1. Do I even want to take this on?
  2. There’s a lot of work here.
  3. There is certainly something here, but is it worth my time?
  4. If I am willing to spend some serious time, I can probably make this work.
  5. I think I am willing to work with the writer on this.

It’s these that also sometimes cause me to break my promises to writers about a timely response. Often, because I see something that is there I want to help nurture it at least until it moves closer to the “yes” or “no” end of the continuum. And that takes time. Time I sometimes don’t have so I hold it beyond our preferred limit for answering. But I do that because I know what rejection feels like and because if there is something there I don’t want to miss it. I know that some writers need just that extra “oomph” to become publishable and that if I put in the time now we are going to get a fabulous columnist when we are ready to add more. But neither Nicki nor I want to use of increasingly scare editing time to work with someone who is likely to continue needing intensive editorial input. We just can’t do it. Regardless of how I feel I need to keep my eye on the bottom line both editorially and financially. I can’t spend what I don’t have. Neither can I make a mediocre writer an excellent one. I suspect as time goes on my editorial continuum may tighten up. Fewer categories will mean quicker decisions.

I tend to think that’s good. BiblioBuffet’s standard is just that. It means that readers will find what we think is “writing worth reading” here. It won’t change. It means that the increasingly common standard of Internet writing (“good enough”) will never be good enough for us—or for you, our readers. Right now I am working with two potential guest columnists. One tackled a common subject rather commonly but with one intriguing idea that might, depending on his writing ability, take this piece from lackluster to exciting. The second is already in the “worth working with” category at least for now. The latest edit will determine if hightails it to the “yes” or “no” end because either the writer has the ability to produce writing worth reading or she doesn’t.

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