Q: I’m frustrated concerning a question on tense. I completed a serial-killer novel. It was edited by a professional freelancer. My use of the present tense was okay with her.
Charlie Spicer at S&S read it along with marketing. He had much praise for the manuscript, but marketing had too many similar works in the pipeline. Not a word on tense.
A friend of mine asked to read the book. She was in publishing for 20 years, and now has her own firm: editing, illustration, etc. She says I can’t use present tense in fiction; it’s been done successfully only a few times.
Could you give me your considered opinion? Thank you. -Gordon
A: When book doctors and acquisitions editors think in terms of marketability, we lean toward the highest percentages. Yes, you can write a novel in present tense, but only a low percentage of those manuscripts ever get published, and only a few of those become bestsellers. Don’t buck the odds or work against the system. If you want a higher chance of selling your novel, go with the numbers. Novels in past tense sell better, so seriously consider writing novels only in past tense.
Owner of Zebra Communications, a Literary Services Firm