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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Is Good Enough?

Literary agent Kristin Nelson had a sobering post on her blog yesterday. She said she had to reject an author with a really good manuscript because she didn't think she could sell it.

Publishers have become so demanding that a good manuscript just isn't good enough in today's highly speculative market.

And another agent (I apologize because I can't remember who it was) said his agency only wants big books.

Well, duh. What agent doesn't want the next Twilight or Harry Potter? Big books come around maybe once a year. Everyone talks about them and it makes them seem even more important. But is it a good book or a highly commercial and sellable one?

Not that you can't have both commercial and good in the same book, but I can think of quite a few that missed the mark on being a really good read.

Interesting? Yes. Unique? Absolutely. But it's rarely been the kind of book I would call a keeper. Maybe that's why I see so many of them at garage sales.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of the new and big that we lose our sense of direction. We're mad to read the next blockbuster, just to be part of the "in" crowd. This way we can discuss the big book at the water cooler and talk about how great it is.

I call this the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome. Everyone else is reading it so it must be good.

I'm not much of a groupie. It took me well over a year to read the Da Vinci Code and that's only because someone gave me the book and insisted I had to read it. Even then I dawdled.

Sure, I want the publishers to make money so the authors can make money. But in limiting our choices and selling us the BIG books, are we losing touch with the good books--the books that remain on our keeper shelves?


Marianne Arkins said...

I still haven't read "The Da Vinci Code" (saw the movie... does that count?). I HATED "The Time Traveler's Wife" and found "The Historian" unbelievably boring, to the point I couldn't finish it.

All three were "big" books. Blech. I agree that it's a shame so many good books are passed over. Thank GOD for ePublishing. Truly.

Maria Zannini said...

I'm beginning to believe that NY pulled its own plug by passing on good books in lieu of a potential big book.

It's a choice. One that e publishers were quick to jump on. Why else has e publishing gotten so big, so quickly?

It filled a hole, a big hole that NY ignored.

Kaylie said...

I understand that agents have to stay in business. Too bad so many things have to be all about the money.

Maria Zannini said...

Kaylie: People have to eat and I don't begrudge anyone a paycheck.

Publishers too need to make money, but they seem to invest their money in a few high dollar proposals on the gamble that it might be the next big book.

As a reader, I don't want a water cooler commodity. I want a story with entertainment value.

Kaz Augustin said...

The post you refer to was rather sad, wasn't it? Maybe Nelson didn't get a turkey in time for Thanksgiving because she has another sobering one up today on Harlequin's self-pub venture. She asks whether we really need *more* books. I have to agree. Soon, I told J this morning, North America will resemble hordes of Amway representatives, each trying to sell their books to the other!

I get that it's a business, but there must be another way. Maybe small presses may end up saving us all? No answers here, just half-baked speculation.

Maria Zannini said...

Ref: Harlequin

I know. It's damn stupid and irresponsible.