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Selected or Rejected?: Assessing Aspiring Writers’ Attempts to Achieve Publication
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2017. , p. 86
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 135
Keywords [en]
acquisition of cultural goods, acquisition of manuscripts, artistic careers, artistic markets, aspiring artists, aspiring writers, creative industry, cultural industry, cultural production, fiction debut, literary careers, publishing industry, publishing market, quality uncertainty, sociology of success and failure, trade publishing
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-312277ISBN: 978-91-554-9790-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-312277DiVA, id: diva2:1063342
Public defence
2017-02-24, Geijersalen, Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
ERC 263699-CEV
Funder
EU, European Research Council, 263699-CEVAvailable from: 2017-02-01 Created: 2017-01-09 Last updated: 2017-02-02
List of papers
1. Aspiring Writers and Appraisal Devices under Market Uncertainty
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Aspiring Writers and Appraisal Devices under Market Uncertainty
2018 (English)In: Acta Sociologica, ISSN 0001-6993, E-ISSN 1502-3869Article in journal (Refereed) Accepted
Abstract [en]

Aspiring artists are uncertain about how their work’s quality will be evaluated by gatekeepers on artistic markets. Learning to evaluate the quality of one’s work and its prospects on the artistic market is central to artistic careers, yet often overlooked in research. An analysis of 47 interviews with aspiring writers in Sweden shows that they use what in this article is coined appraisal devices to deal with this market uncertainty. Appraisal devices offer trusted and knowledgeable appraisals of their work’s chances of success and failure on the artistic market. Appraisals from assessors become appraisal devices when assessors are trusted and seen as knowledgeable about how works are evaluated on the artistic market and are able to produce such evaluations. Appraisals from competitions become appraisal devices when the writer sees the evaluation as reflecting how the writer’s work will be evaluated on the artistic market. In contrast to judgment devices, which take the perspective of cultural consumption, appraisal devices take the perspective of cultural production. Aspiring artists use appraisal devices to deal with the uncertainty of their chances of success on the artistic market.

Keywords
Appraisal device, judgment device, quality uncertainty, aspiration, assessor, competition, literary career, cultural productionAppraisal device, judgment device, quality uncertainty, aspiration, assessor, competition, literary career, cultural production
National Category
Sociology Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-312274 (URN)10.1177/0001699317749285 (DOI)
Funder
EU, European Research Council, 263699-CEV
Available from: 2017-01-09 Created: 2017-01-09 Last updated: 2018-04-03
2. Making the Discovery: The Creativity of Selecting Fiction Manuscripts from the Slush Pile
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Making the Discovery: The Creativity of Selecting Fiction Manuscripts from the Slush Pile
2018 (English)In: Symbolic interaction, ISSN 0195-6086, E-ISSN 1533-8665Article in journal (Refereed) Accepted
Abstract [en]

Gatekeeping appears central to creative industries. To better understand gatekeeping, this article introduces a distinction between discovering and justifying the selection of cultural goods. Most research deals with legitimation and justifications for selecting cultural goods. This article draws on American pragmatism to elucidate gatekeepers' discovery of cultural goods under conditions of uncertainty and abundance. The article focuses on the discovery of publishable unsolicited manuscripts. Publishers learn to act upon particular kinds of experiences associated with publishable manuscripts. Gatekeepers learn to abandon preformed ideas of what to look for and instead use either an aesthetic or an efferent reading strategy. In aesthetic reading, a reading flow experience becomes the means to discover manuscripts. Through efferent reading, gatekeepers identify manuscripts as participating in a literary convention and view them either as exceptional within that convention or as adding something to the convention. The qualities of these experiences create the realization of a publishable manuscript; acting on this realization moves the process to the next phase, in which gatekeepers make justifications for selecting or rejecting the manuscript. Gatekeepers discover cultural goods when they have been professionalized and sensitized to produce the “right” type of experiences and creatively act on the qualities of these experiences.

National Category
Sociology Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-312276 (URN)10.1002/symb.360 (DOI)
Funder
EU, European Research Council, 263699-CEV
Available from: 2017-01-09 Created: 2017-01-09 Last updated: 2018-03-27
3. Handling Rejection as Failure: Aspiring Writers Getting the Rejection Slip
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Handling Rejection as Failure: Aspiring Writers Getting the Rejection Slip
2016 (English)In: Valuation Studies, ISSN 2001-5992, Vol. 4, no 2, p. 153-176Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Included in the definition of being an aspiring person is the risk of failure. Aspiring fiction writers are no exception. This article shows that the role of aspiring fiction writer involves managing three issues: the hope of being published, rejection by a publisher, and the perception of the rejection as a failure. Drawing on 47 interviews with fiction writers who have attempted to become first-time writers, the analysis shows that aspiring writers’ responses to rejection are related to accepting and dismissing responsibility for having failed and admitting or dismissing the rejection as a perceived failure. Based on these findings, the article presents procedures associated with four main approaches to dealing with failure: conceding, excusing, justifying, and refusing. This conceptual framework for understanding failure contributes to a theoretical understanding of evaluation and valuation processes and their consequences and to empirical studies of rejection as career failure; it also systematizes and extends Goffman's work on cooling out strategies.

Keywords
cooling out strategy, cultural worker, culture of success, evaluation and valuation, failure, rejection
National Category
Sociology Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology) Social Psychology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-311274 (URN)10.3384/VS.2001-5992.1642153 (DOI)
Funder
EU, European Research Council, 263699-CEV
Available from: 2016-12-22 Created: 2016-12-22 Last updated: 2017-01-10Bibliographically approved

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