Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thoughts on the state of Publishing

Some time ago, I read on an agent's blog not to say in one's query letter that the reason you decided to write your own book is because of all the crap that is getting published. The agent is representing that "crap" that's been published.

On the one hand, it is pretty foolish to say something like that to an agent or editor of the crap that is getting published while shopping one's novel.

On the other hand, if it gets said enough times that an agent feels the need to write a blog post about it, then maybe it's time for the industry professionals to take a good hard look at what they are doing. Because from this book-buying reader's point of view, it's getting harder and harder to find a good book to read. It's gotten so difficult to find a really good fantasy book that I have given up looking for a new one and reread the old ones that I have.

Even my favorite authors are letting me down. And the fault for this lies firmly on the editors who are allowing successful authors to do things that they wouldn't accept from a new author. For example:

J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Half of this book is a major info-dump and another goodly portion is of the three main characters wandering around the country arguing and doing nothing. It was torture to read it the first time. The only reason that I did read all of it, was because I wanted to know how the story ended. But, seriously they could have cut out at least a quarter of the book and lost nothing. They didn't because the Harry Potter books are such a moneymaker that they allowed Rowling to do what she wanted in the seventh book. If the first book had been written like the last one, the series would never have gotten off the ground. And when her next book is published, I won't buy it.

I used to love reading Catherine Coulter's novels, but I've stopped buying them. Her dialogue has become rambling monologues with no dialogue tags or action mixed in. I can't keep track of who said what. And there are places where it seems like the character is standing still in the middle of the room going on a rambling disjointed rant. When she switched to her contemporary FBI series, it got better. Then she started doing it in those, as well. Why are they letting this get into print?

Then there is Clive Cussler. He's a new discovery for me. His early books are great. The ones that he has written recently are filled with pages describing what people are wearing and what they are eating. (If he's coauthor, then this doesn't happen so much.) Why is the editor letting him get away with this? It isn't anymore interesting to read because Clive Cussler wrote it, than if John Smith unknown author wrote it.

One of Nora Robert's characters clearly came from a popular TV series. (I tossed that book aside.) If an unpublished author submitted a story with a character like that in it, the agent or editor would reject it. Probably without a reason to go along with it.

And I can't count the number of books that I have tossed aside because the main character is an idiot.

I wish the editors of the big publishers would hold established authors to the same standards as they hold a new author.

Then there is the herd mentality in publishing. Fill in the Blank is really hot right now. We're only buying stories like fill in the blank. Meanwhile, those who aren't interested in reading whatever is hot right now are stuck trying to find a good book to read.

Then there is the ironic corollary, fill in the blank has been done to death, so we're not publishing that right now. If you want to read more of whatever has been done to death, well too bad.

If they published a wide variety of books, they would sell more books. But maybe that makes too much sense.

What's a reader to do? Personally, I've been rereading a lot of my old favorites. Fortunately, I like rereading books.

My hunt for new favorite authors continues, but it's getting harder and harder to find one.

So, yes, they are publishing a lot of crap, right now. Just don't say so, in your query letter. :)


  1. Great post! I read somewhere that right now it's really risky to publish an unpublished author, so they are just using the same old ones over and over again because they know that they'll sell books.

    Oh well, gotta keep on trying...

  2. They'd do better to ask their readers for feedback than assume they know what we want by what is selling. I can only buy what they sell.

    Sigh, I bought two new books last night. I'm not thrilled with either one. This never used to happen. I used to have to restrain myself from buying a new book in the middle of the week because I would stay up all night reading until I finished it. That doesn't happen anymore.