1. huskies
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    huskies Member

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    How do bad books get published?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by huskies, Aug 19, 2014.

    I have been on this forum for a few years now, i wanted to have inspiration and talk to like minded people.

    However sometimes i do feel like this forum brings me down a little, as it seems like most posters will say unless you have the most amazing storey that is polished to the finest finish you haven't got a chance in hell of ever getting published.

    Now i get that this is excellent advise in the sense that you need to make your work the best that it can possible be. Yet there are many books that have been published that most on this forum will say is awful writing but they have been published.

    So how do bad books get published?? how do they slip through the net of all the people that have crafted their writing to be the finest yet they don't get published.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This is an exaggeration. I've come to realize over the years that it's actually easier to publish than a lot of people realize, especially given the wide variety of markets and options we writers now have.

    Publishing is a business, so publishers are looking for marketable products. As long as it makes them money, they're fine with some mistakes here and there. That being said, some publishers seem to have higher standards than others. Also, keep in mind that good and bad are subjective.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree with thirdwind. Good/bad are subjective. There had to have been something about the book that an agent and publisher (and typically that's a lot of people in on the decision) think will sell. Otherwise they wouldn't be willing to put time and money into the publishing.
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Opinion and taste are almost everything - and luck has a lot to do with it as well. Some people have higher/more pretentious/different standards to others. Does something like, I don't know, a novel by Tess Gerritsen deserve publication even if it's not terribly sophisticated? I once dated a girl who would only ever read those kitschy vampire novels, like Vampire Academy and other such twaddle. I do not understand at all the appeal of those things, but she obviously did. We have in the UK (and I'm sure - positive they'll have them in the US as well) in supermarkets shelves of escapist fiction and the newest best sellers. Usually for some reason there is also a shelf full of either biopics or novels (I've never cared to check) about child abuse. Why do those things get published and who is reading them?

    It's things like these are easily-read, largely disposable fiction, and as thirdwind said there is clearly a market for it. I've not really read a single one of those novels. I've read a few from the best seller shelves and most of the time have found them lacking in almost every respect. But then again I have very high standards when it comes to literature.

    Some people, like me, consider something that, for some reason, gets almost unanimous praise like Harry Potter utter garbage, while I love a very clever novel like The Catcher in the Rye, and I know a lot of people (even a lot of people on this site) consider it a silly book about a kid who needs a good slap. And no, I don't think Holden Caulfield is some counter-culture icon, I see him for what he is, without the hipster nonsense. If you don't see that Caulfield is a damaged young man, trying to come to terms with a serious trauma, and just want to tell him to grow up then I think you have missed the point of that novel. If you just want to read a book that just tells a ripping good yarn then it's all well and good, but some of us want to appreciate books on a more thoughtful and complex level. And there is a market for both, but for one the standards are higher.

    Which attitude to reading is better or more suited, and is it right to have a snobbery over a more indepth taste over a taste that just seeks enjoyment? Well, I'll be blunt for a second and say that I find the more thoughtful and careful attitude to reading fiction is infinitely better, because it reaches into the core of the human experience, and can show us very complex philosophical problems and let us use characters and stories as helpful ways to crystallize and work through these problems that are presented to us. Throughout the novel Holden Caulfeild begins to show himself slowly coming to terms with the fact that he is aging, and that he should maybe get some direct psychological help for his problems - both of these things are not exactly said but they are heavily implied. What does that mean for us, reflecting on our own adolescence? And for other people who have had experiences just as traumatic as Holden's? What does early trauma do to the psyche of a person if it is never addressed? Does Holden even bother to get help? These are questions that I think The Catcher in the Rye should leave you with, and they are important questions for us today to answer. If we do answer those questions, we might begin to find ways of making life on earth a little better. Compared to this attitude, the idea of having books as mere escapism just doesn't cut it: it's not even very interesting, in the end.
     
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  5. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    It's usually connections for the most part, that's the only reason Paolini got published.
     
  6. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Bud Light is the most popular beer in the United States. Does that make it the best beer?
     
  7. Mike Hill
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    Mike Hill Natural born citizen of republic of Finland.

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    Even badly written book might have a interesting story that publisher thinks will sell. Of course very uninteresting story might be so well written that it gets published.
     
  8. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well obviously to some it is the best beer out there. And even if it sucks, people like it more than (I'm 16 and never drank beer so I went downstairs to find some beer and pulled a name from the fridge so it could be horrible or amazing so sorry) Heineken, well if Heineken needs to be so good to continue to be produced, and the people judging it like Bud Light more, Heineken may not be produced anymore.

    If the people publishing books like Harry Potter more than Catcher in the Rye (say there is a book like Harry Potter being submitted and one like Catcher in the Rye, I guess), who's getting published? Harry Potter, even though Catcher in the Rye is much better. (That may have made no sense so forgive me)
     
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  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Some of those are crappy second (or later) books by writers with one successful novel.
     
  10. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    @Lemex. It seems to me you're really into more literary fiction v. commercial fiction. Or do you recognize a difference? Many would say the catcher in the rye was a bore fest forced on them in high school while at the same time telling you how AMAZING Harry Potter was.

    It is ALL subjective. You may say The Great Gatsby was the finest literary work ever written. I would tell you it made 16 year old me want to pull my eyes out. Some people write to explore the human condition, others write to tell a story, some do both. Beauty, it clearly seems, is in the eye of the beholder here.

    For many, they don't give a rats ass about deep literature. When they fork over the cash for that book they want one thing and one thing only: Entertainment.
     
  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    What I find strange about all these discussions about "good books" and "bad books", about "escapism" versus "deep meaning", is the idea that people only read one type of book. We seem to want to put readers into categories of intellect, high or low. Why do writers insist on doing this? Especially when most readers I know (and I've known a few over the past few decades) will read a variety of books - and those include "escapism" and "deep meaning". They even read nonfiction (GASP! OMG!).

    WARNING: Probable derail:

    Why is it that writers seem to insist on so many ways of making one thing "better" than another? Escapism versus deep meaning. Genre versus literary. Outline versus pantsing. On and on and on. Are we really such insecure animals that we have to make these ridiculous comparisons? Can we really not admit that there is room for all, and any distinctions are not mutually exclusive?
     
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  12. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    There actually isn't always a difference. Every book is escapism at first glance (fiction, at least) but you won't get the deep meaning until later, if there is one. At first glance Harry Potter is escapist, but when you look deeper you see traces of racism and hate and even attempts at genocide if I remember those books right. Some books (like what I write) is pure escapism, while others are escapist with deep meanings hidden. Both are good but people don't always understand that there are both.
     
  13. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I used to see a difference, but to be honest now that I'm better read I don't. Not really. Especially now that Murakami is on the scene, the lines between what is popular and what is 'caviar to the crowd' is now so thin I dare say it no longer exists.

    Taste is subjective, but is a novel's meaning subjective? I don't think so. Any degree of interpretation can be made about a novel like Gatsby, but they are interpretations backed up by the same features of the novel. I've never heard anyone suggest Gatsby is about Tzarist Russia, and the text itself could never support such an interpretation. I've heard many people give degrees of interpretation about the green light Gatsby looks at each night, but essentially it as a symbol seems understood by all.

    Is a 16 year old without tuition really of mature reading to fully come to terms with a novel as complex as even Gatsby. Is this not why it is taught in school? Yeah, teachers have a bad habit of making a jump from symbol to expecting students to recognize and understand a symbol, but the essential point is often not lost, that symbols are there, sometime conscious, sometimes not, and the point of more sopisticated reading is to work it a) what it means, and b) what bearing it may have on the plot.

    I know, that's why I wrote that whole last paragraph of my original post. o_O

    Who doesn't read nonfiction? Or a good variety of books? :confused: Most books are a form of excapism in some way or another.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2014
  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Precisely. Which is why I find these discussions about "bad books" and "good books" so often nonsensical. People read all kinds of books, and enjoy all kinds of books - so why does this disdain for any of it come out? Why is one sort of book supposedly "better" than another? A book is good if it fulfills the current needs of the reader.
     
  15. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Well from my own perspective. A good novel or novels that I honestly don't think is particularly meaningful, like the A Song of Fire and Ice series (at least it seems that way given what's written so far) is a pretty excellent fiction series. Just because it's not 'literary' doesn't mean it's not sophisticated, and it's plot complex, because the characters in A Song of Fire and Ice are from what I've seen very logical, intelligent people whose motivations are clear. That's a good thing. Something like Misery by Stephen King too, is a good novel. It's not literary fiction, but it's a good story, told well.

    The 'disdain' comes from books that lack quality. I think I'd hardly be controversial for saying Twilight is poorly written, but if people like it then Twilight must be good right? Well, I don't think I'd agree, I think quality is in some small part objective. I can say I think something is good, even if I don't care for it, like Frankenstein. I know Frankenstein is a good novel, it's a clever novel, and my mere opinion doesn't change that. I personally don't really care for it.

    Despite the impression I may give, I don't hate novels for not being literary fiction. Regardless of the genre, I hold the writing I read up to a standard - one I don't think I'd be able to put briefly into words, but I know it when I see it.
     
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  16. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Twilight, and a lot of YA fiction (The Fault in Our Stars seems to be very controversial here, Harry Potter seems to be a big nope, and I don't know how people feel about The Hunger Games here), seems to be what I call Zerg Fiction. It's kind of bland but appeals to people somehow and they suck it up. It's not necessarily great, but it's just good enough. They take it because there's a lot of it and everyone takes it. Another, non YA example of this would be 50 Shades of Grey.

    And A Song of Ice and Fire doesn't really have meaning, but George R.R. Martin actually wrote it in a way to counter J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
     
  17. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I actually think The Fault in Our Stars wasn't half bad. Besides, something like The Hobbit is a children's novel that also has a lot of intellectual depth to it, especially if you know about the Anglo-Saxon tradition Tolkien was an expert in. It doesn't have to be, but 'Zerg Fiction' isn't a bad expression actually. I like that. I might adopt it.

    Yeah, I read that. I wish I could remember where.
     
  18. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    The same way Twinkies get made - they'll sell. I'm from the 80's and I used to read ( and now collect ) a lot of ya series fiction. The 80's was filled with series - most of which featured gangs of girls in some school setting. There were about a 100. However not many got past seven books. They were either lousy or too good or just couldn't nab a following. Everyone was riding the coattails of Sweet Valley High's success and in the late 80's The Babysitter's Club success. The readers demanded more and the publishers kept up with the demand.

    The most popular wasn't always the most well written. And the better ones still had to live under the stigma of being under a series label. Never getting the same kudos as Judy Blume or Richard Peck. Sometimes books get bad reps just due to wrong category or stupid loopholes.

    So whose better? None really Francine Pascal will walk away with more bucks but then so will Blume whom I've always felt was a tad overrated. But in the 80's there were books for everyone and new styles of books - Choose Your own Adventures, Joke books, Encyclopedia Browns. Good, bad. All relatively subjective. ( I say relatively because I've read series in which they've forgotten the mc's age from book to book. )

    Publishing is hard. Think about it - in the 80's 100 series got accepted over the decade. Now just imagine beyond those numbers how many 1000s of series had to be turned down. As a writer I think our key to getting published is not just about having a great book - but in having the passion in that work to get a publisher to notice us in the stack.
     
  19. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I liked The Fault in Our Stars in a way (you can never love a book when you where forced to read it by friends but it was okay), and yeah I've heard about the depth of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Of course I've never read them so I have no idea whatsoever.

    He says it all the time. I think he said something about it at Comic Con a few weeks ago, and it's mentioned in like every other interview. He counters Tolkien's "black and white good and evil" with Tyrion Lannister not actually being as bad as everyone thinks and then Cersei's chapters, and the whole "good doesn't always win" thing which is pointed out too often in ASOIAF.
     
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  20. huskies
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    huskies Member

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    Thank you for all the replies.

    So i guess the general feeling is that anything can get published so everyone has hope.

    I think i wanted to hear more for myself than anything that there is a chance even if you think its not a brilliant read it may still get published so don't give up hope and just go with the best you can do.

    Of course it is always better to strive to better your self all the time but every writer has a chance of being published.
     
  21. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    That's right. And also it must be said publishers have a terrible history of rejecting popular and good novels. Harry Potter was famously rejected 20 odd times, as was I think Day of the Jackal.
     
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  22. huskies
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    huskies Member

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    Yes true so there really is no telling at all what has a chance and what doesn't.
     
  23. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    At all. From one British dog to another. Haha. :)
     
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  24. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    What age are you now? Try reading it again. I didn't read it until my late twenties and it instantly entered my top ten. It's a beautifully written and crafted novel and that to me was my entertainment. However, to coin a well worn cliche; to each, their own.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2014
  25. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Book publishing, whether traditional or SP, is basically a gamble. It's either the author taking that gamble or the publisher and depending how much the SP'er is willing to spend, the TP'er stands to lose more so they have to stop and think, will this sell? Will I at least make back what I spend on editing, making covers, production and marketing..

    @Lemex True life, or as you call them, stories of child abuse, sell because they are the real life version of rags to riches stories, the rags being the abuse part, the riches being the gains when that child survives and grows up to be a well mannered pillar of society.

    And obviously, it's an underdog story too where the abused always survives and wins in the end. Even the son of one of Peter Sutcliffe's (The Yorkshire Ripper (UK Serial Killer of Protitutes)) victims wrote a book about his life!
     

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