Thursday, January 13, 2011

Huck Finn's Acceptance Letter

(With humble apologies to Mark Twain.)

Dear Mr. Clemens,

Thank you for your recent submission of Huckleberry Finn. We are delighted to offer you a publishing contract, should you be willing to make one or two small editorial changes to the manuscript. Details follow:

1. A quick once-over to remove racial slurs is of the utmost importance.

Your little story of a young boy who takes a trip down the river with an escaped slave contains over 200 uses of what we in the Publishing Industry call "the N-word." Though you may argue that this is the way people spoke in the 1880's, our marketing department assures us that the N-word won't fly in Alabama.

We suggest doing a global search-and-replace to change the word in question to the more PC "slave."

Likewise, we suggest renaming "Injun Joe" as "Chief Joseph."

2. Help us help Marketing.

Publishing, like the entertainment industry, is entirely ruled by fear. We're not concerned about literary merit so much as we are about things like buzz and viral marketing. Here's a thought: why not quote Snooki's novel and say that Jim "tasted like fresh gorilla?" We could build an entire marketing campaign around that.

We'd like to market this title to high school English teachers. We believe it would make a nice diversion from sparkling vampires and dystopian games. But we need to give marketing a little help.

From PosterText.

As it is, the manuscript is skewed heavily toward a male audience. But teenage girls are the largest reading demographic. Consider adding a female sidekick that joins in the grand adventure. (Perhaps a mermaid? Or a selkie? Both possibilities give our head of marketing heart palpitations.)

3. Clean up your dialogue.

You have a lovely voice. At times it borders on the poetic. However, successful authors know one should not "attempt to duplicate regional dialect." It only makes for difficult reading. And, really, we're all about making things easy for the reader, aren't we? If readers have to think too much, they'll just close the book and turn on the TV. Or, God forbid, give a bad online review. So you can see why we require that before publication all dialogue must be written in Real English Words.

4. Cut approximately 40,000 words.

The manuscript you submitted has over 110,000 words. But a young adult manuscript should have no more than 70,000 words. It can top out at 80,000 if it's science fiction or fantasy, but yours is neither. So, go ahead and pare things down. I'm sure you'll discover much that can be streamlined in your story.

For instance, you might consider axing all references to the main (underage) character smoking. The cross-dressing incident could be lost as well, as could the lengthy paragraphs. Think short and snappy. It's not as if American literature will ever miss the 40,000 words that currently stand between you and publication.

5. Consider renaming your main character.

Kids can be cruel and, let's face it, the name "Huck Finn" almost dares them to transpose the beginning letters in the two words.

In order to stem this sort of linguistic horseplay, we suggest steering clear of names (like "Dick" or "Harry," for example) that can be easily convoluted into questionable words. The last thing we want to do is encourage young consumers to get creative with language.

For obvious reasons, we'd advise against changing Huck's name to something like Milkweed. "Weed Finn" brings with it a host of marketing pitfalls. However, changing your main character's name to Strawberry ("Straw Finn"), Mako ("Shark Finn"), or Winn Dixie ("Winn Finn") would be doing the teachers who we hope choose this book for use in their classrooms an enormous favor.

We hope you agree with us that the changes required to get this manuscript published are both minor and necessary. We look forward to working with you and helping to guide you in your writing career.


The Gatekeepers


R.L. Naquin said...

That was genius. Thanks for making me laugh first thing in the morning.

- Rachel

Ami Hendrickson said...

Ah, there's nothing like having someone other than my mother call something I wrote "genius." In print.

Onward and upward!

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant! Thanks for sharing!