Jared Sandman’s Blogbuster Tour 2011 runs from July 1st through August 31st. His novels include Leviathan, The Wild Hunt and Dreamland, all of which are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. His latest book, The Shadow Wolves, has just been released. Follow him on Twitter (@JaredSandman) and be entered to win one of several $25 Amazon gift cards. See rules at www.jaredsandman.com for eligibility.
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I recently read a blog post from an established novelist who shall remain nameless. He argued that every book worth publishing gets published. If one writes a good book, it will find a publisher (though he conceded it may take awhile, especially in this economic environment).
I don’t agree with this assessment. Perhaps that was true in the era of Bennett Cerf or Maxwell Perkins, but I believe a lot has changed in the industry over the past generation, not much of it favorable toward writers.
Let me tweak his premise to make it a more accurate reflection of today. Every good book finds a publisher? No, every good book finds an audience.
Publishers are worried about one criterion alone: can they make money off a specific manuscript? If the answer’s no, they have to move on. How well-written it is, how emotionally engaging, how realistic the characters are -- these are moot points. I’m not convinced the writing itself is even a secondary or tertiary factor taken into consideration, more like an ancillary afterthought.
Readers have a separate measure by which to gauge a book’s value: whether or not it’s any good. The only thing that matters to them is the story. Admittedly, it may take some time for that audience to find its way to a good book. Great stories tend to have a gravitational pull of their own, and they draw readers to them through word of mouth. With the advent of social media, bookselling has become more Darwinian. Books that are worth reading will rise to the forefront, and the forgettable dreck will be rightly ignored. Writers who produce work of merit will be able to support themselves; those who don’t, won’t.
Because a book is well-written does not guarantee it will find a publisher. Plenty of solid books have been passed over because they weren’t marketable enough or didn’t have a high-concept enough hook. These overlooked manuscripts invariably became trunk novels, left to collect dust or molder in desk drawers.
The digital revolution will breathe new life into these stories. By bypassing the industry’s self-appointed gatekeepers, writers are able to appeal directly to readers. It’s the readers who will decide which books are remembered and which are forgotten.
Publishers are only interested in producing bestsellers. While the vast majority of these “second chance” books will not bring their authors bestseller money (I wager more than a few will), a lot of them should at least earn enough to allow some writers to make a living wage. More than that, competent writers who may have abandoned their literary passions will get back in the game.
Variety like that ultimately benefits readers and literature as a whole.