One of the most common beefs among writers is that the industry is absotively glutted with bad books.
A common riff of encouragement in writing how-to books and blogs is that the unpublished author should take heart because all he has to do is open a
recent bestseller and claim the mantra, I
can write better than this! Of course, when said author remains unpublished, this thinking can eventually wind its way into grumpiness and discouragement: If this is the sort gunk being published, obviously good books like
mine stand no chance!
|Unpublished authors often complain that the publishing industry is glutted with bad books, but is this a true statement?|
“Bad” books are subjective.One man’s doorstop is another man’s all-time favorite book. We all have different tastes and expectations. I think Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series is the height of style and brilliance, but several people to whom I’ve recommended the books have loathed them. By the same token, I’ve had others recommend a book to me as being the all-time bomb only have it turn out, in my opinion, to be an all-time dud. Who’s right? Me, them? How about all of us—including the agents and editors who greenlit all these books in the first place. Agent Jessica Faust says the comment about “bad” books make her mad because it:
…implies that editors and agents, those of us in the business, have no taste and don’t know what makes good writing or a good book, and it implies that readers have no taste, because if we’re catering to them, obviously someone likes these so-called bad books.
Readers aren’t writers.That brings us to Point #2. Writers make up a specialized but very small part of the reading public. As specialists of the craft, we’re naturally hyper-aware of technical gaffes and structural problems. The average reader isn’t going to be anywhere near as likely to notice or care about all the little things that drive us (rightfully, if perhaps over-zealously) mad. They just care that they’re given a good story.
Sales are king.Tough to swallow as it may sometimes be, you can’t argue with sales. If a hundred gazillion people loved a book enough to buy it in hardback and write gushing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, then its technical “badness” just doesn’t matter. It may be shoddy, clichéd writing (or maybe not) with a decided focus on entertainment over quality storycraft (or maybe not), but the very fact that it’s selling means the news isn’t all bad—especially to the publisher, editor, agent, writer, and, yep, the readers. At the end of the day, it’s the readers who tell the publishing houses what’s good and what’s not—and it’s their money that does the talking. Agent Sarah LaPolla points out:
Big blockbuster novels are like big blockbuster movies…. In the publishing world, “good” doesn’t always mean “well-written.”… Well-written books are well-written books, but “good” books have a broader definition. In publishing terms, “good” means that a book connected with its intended audience, and maybe even crossed over to reach a wider audience.
Don’t much like these answers?
So what can you do about it? Well, to begin with, you can write the best book you’re capable of writing. Write a book you know you would be thrilled to read. And, while you’re doing that, it’s also probably worthwhile to consider some wise words from yet another agent, Rachelle Gardner:
If you’re just a reader, someone outside the community of people who produce books, you can complain and criticize all you want. But once you decide to join the club, I think it’s time to take the high road. I think the appropriate thing to do is to try our darnedest to lift other writers up, not put them down. I think it’s best to try and honor the process of other writers, even if we can’t admire their work. And we need to acknowledge that if a “bad book” is selling, there must be people who like it. [T]he truth is, when we put down other writers, it sounds like we’re saying “I can do better than this” and it’s unattractive, no matter how true. If you can do better, then do it.Tell me your opinion: Why do you think “bad” books get published?
Related Posts: How You Can Take Advantage of Art’s Subjectivity
Why No Writer Knows What He’s Doing
Why There’s No Such Thing as a Writing Expert—and Why That’s a Good Thing
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Story by K.M. Weiland