Thank you for the opportunity to read your manuscript, The Bible. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you we are going to pass at this time.
We were all very impressed at the ambition of your writing, tackling the creation of the entire universe and the afterlife. Certainly a tall order! However, we had reservations about several aspects of the manuscript.
The God character seems inconsistent, particularly between the first and second halves of the book. Near the beginning he destroys entire towns and tells a father to sacrifice his son, but by the end he has become very peaceful and forgiving. That transformation may work, but right now it feels unmotivated. Perhaps you could alleviate this by focusing on a pivotal moment for God, such as the death of a parent, or the end of a romantic relationship.
Even for a work of this length, there are a tremendous number of characters. We counted 3,237 named characters, many of whom only appear once and never return. It can be challenging for readers to keep track of so many people. We would suggest eliminating the less important characters to whittle it down to a more manageable number, like ten.
The first half is very episodic, and again, there seems to be room to trim. Some of the stories are quite memorable, such as the flood and the boy who defeats the giant soldier. But at other times, the narrative devolves into lengthy lists of family trees and instructions on how to prepare meat.
The story really takes off in the second half with the introduction of the Jesus character. His story follows a much more conventional “hero’s journey” which will connect with modern readers. In fact, one of our recommendations, should you continue to develop this material, would be to focus exclusively on the Jesus story. The cryptic references to his possible return also leave open the possibility for a sequel, which is always appealing for a publisher.
As engaging as the Jesus story is, the narrative convention of telling it from four different points-of-view doesn’t entirely work. We understand you are going for a Rashomon-type effect here, but to us it felt more like repetition. By the time we got to John, we couldn’t help but think, “come on, we’ve read this already!”
The tone of the writing also poses some challenges. Many of the characters—especially God—speak so often in the second-person, telling readers “you” should do this and that. It starts to feel a tad preachy. While this approach can work in genres like self-help, in this kind of narrative it is likely to turn readers off.
We don’t often publish works written by multiple authors. As a publisher, we prefer to work with a single, authorial voice. Here, in addition to the sections credited to “Matthew," "Mark," "Luke," and "John” (no last names given), there are letters to and from various people and groups. In places, it was actually unclear to us who had authored which sections of the text.
The formatting of the manuscript is also very unconventional. Dividing even such a lengthy text by book, chapter, and verse has a certain old-fashioned charm, but will be out of place in today’s market. (There are many websites where you can find samples of recently published manuscripts to get a better idea of the current industry standards.)
Lastly, in the interests of full disclosure, we should also tell you that we are already publishing a similar title this spring.
Your passion and imagination are abundantly clear, and we wish you much success with The Bible and all your future writing.
Ben Godar is a writer and filmmaker. When nobody will give him money to do that, he tries to be funny on Twitter.
The Humor Section features a piece of original humor writing each week. To submit, send an email to Brian Boone.