Selected or Rejected? Assessing Aspiring Writers’ Attempts to Achieve Publication
Sammanfattning: In many markets for cultural goods, gatekeepers select the cultural goods, relatively few cultural goods are selected, and the criteria for selection are unclear to both artists and gatekeepers. Not knowing whether cultural goods are of the 'right' quality to be selected, artists and gatekeepers become preoccupied with handling quality uncertainty. This thesis studies such handling of quality uncertainty before, during, and after aspiring writers attempt to succeed in the publishing market.Drawing on eighty interviews with mainly aspiring writers and publishers in Sweden, three papers investigate three phases of handling quality uncertainty in the publishing market. First, in attempting to get published, writers handled uncertainty about how the quality of their work would be evaluated in the publishing market by using appraisal devices: trusted, knowledgeable appraisals of their work’s chances of success or failure on the publishing market. Second, publishers responded to uncertainty about the quality of manuscripts by learning to consider means before ends, such that certain qualities of their reading experience became the necessary means for realizing that the manuscript might be publishable. This realization moved the manuscript from the discovery phase to justification phase, in which publishers made a final decision to select or reject the manuscript. Third, for the rejected writer, the uncertainty of not knowing how the publisher had determined the quality of the manuscript made it possible to excuse the course of events. Writers gave reasons why their manuscript had been rejected based on how they imagined publishers had determined its quality. They accepted the occurrence of failure but dismissed the responsibility for having failed. Writers also engaged in justifications, refusals, and concessions of the perceived failure.These concepts for analyzing the publishing market are based on a perspective that takes into account subjectivity, temporality, and the condition of quality uncertainty. The perspective and concepts are useful for understanding other market situations in the cultural industries, wherein the successful hiring of cultural workers and the acquisition of cultural goods are rare relative to the number of aspirants, and wherein assessments are conditioned by quality uncertainty that needs to be handled.
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