That was my response to a question from an aspiring writer at my "From Manuscript to Cash Register" panel on Saturday at the VaBook Festival. As I explained to her, I in no way meant to demean her intelligence. However, like far too many wannabes, she was focusing on extraneous details rather than on what matters most: her writing. In her case, she was obsessing over cover art, illustrations and a marketing plan. Others--and you can see them in droves at Miss Snark's and Kristin Nelson's blogs, and elsewhere--waste countless bytes fretting over whether query letters should be in Times Roman or Courier, or if an agent will be put off by extra stamps on an envelope because postage rates went up. (I wish I was making this up!)
As I said to the 200-odd people in the audience--many of them studiously taking notes--whether you're a reviewer (as I am); or an agent, editor, publisher or bookseller, as were the panelists*, every time you crack open a galley or manuscript you want to be entranced by the writing; the rest is just gravy. Make us cry, make us laugh, thrill us, scare us--but make us fall in love with your writing.
*Simon Lipskar, Writers House agent; Starling Lawrence, editor-in-chief, WW Norton; Catharine Lynch, assoc. publisher, Putnam/Riverhead; and Robert Gray, Fresh Eyes Now.