1. Phantom_Of3
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    Phantom_Of3 Member

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    What exactly makes a book publishable?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Phantom_Of3, Dec 28, 2011.

    I was thinking one day about books that have been published in recent time, and it seems that there is no standard that makes a book publishable. For instance, without naming any names, there are quite a few writers out there, even best-selling ones, who aren't that talented, and then there are some who are very talented. So what makes a book publishable? What are these standards? Furthermore, most people don't like writers who overdo descriptions, and yet there are many writers who write long books with good imagery and description--two that come to mind are Stephen King and Dean Koontz. As well as Suzanne Collins, Ray Bradbury, Christopher Paolini, Jodi Picoult, J. R. R. Tolkien...the list goes on and on. So, as a second part to my question, how much description is "allowed" to be in a best-selling novel? Is there, in your opinion, a limit?
     
  2. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Everybody has differing opinions on what makes a good book. Just like everybody has a differing opinion on what their favorite color is.

    The best you can do is write well and have an interesting story to tell.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    unfortunately, more 'luck' than anything else...

    there really aren't any, as witness the utter crap that's become bestsellers due to idiots' hype like oprah's for james redfield's grammar school reject quality writing and a melange of unoriginal content he stitched together to make his 'celestine prophecy' series...

    you answered your own question with the word 'good'... if it's good [as in well-written], anything can work with, no limits...
     
  4. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Basically, it all comes down to how saleable the book is. Publishing is an industry just like fast food or retail. They aim to make money, so even if something is literary garbage, if it has a hook, it'll be published. That said, I know there are a fair few indie publishing houses who actually have standards.

    BIGGEST COLOUR IS BEST COLOUR!
     
  5. Ross M Kitson
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    Ross M Kitson Member

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    It's a good question. For certain things there is a fashion, a zeitgeist if you like, that could increase the chances of your book being taken up. Take the Da Vinci code- great yarn, though written poorly. Within a year of it's global success there were hundreds of ancient relic/secret/revelation/society that will change history blah blah stories choking the shelves of the supermarket. Ditto when Twilight went stellar- hundreds of vampire/ werewolf/witch/occult-lyte everywhere you look. Of course the cynical trick is trying to spot the next fashion and write a decent book fitting into it so you can be at the top of a slushpule when it booms.
    Or you could just write something really decent, that you like and if it hits the right agent at the right time you might have a chance. In the interim you could write some shorts and get your profile out there.
     
  6. Phantom_Of3
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    Phantom_Of3 Member

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    I guess my point is that, with all the garbage best-sellers out there, I'm half-surprised that good books can sell well, too. Once people get used to garbage, don't they just want more garbage? Still,clearly good writers can sell, too. Also, to respond to Ross, you mentioned the Da Vinci Code. Wasn't that book's popularity mostly based off of its controversy? After all, they've written books just to contradict that book. Still, maybe its story was part of its popularity.
     
  7. Ross M Kitson
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    Ross M Kitson Member

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    I think the story was a good part of the popularity with the DaVinci Code and the way he weaved truth, partial truth and fantasy together (unfortunately by appearing to cut and paste Wikipedia in places...). My point was that the book led to a tirade of imitators (of varying quality) for years after. You could say the same with Harry Potter and, as I've said, Twilight. Personally it's not a route I'd choose- I write for fun and not for a career, and thus I write what I enjoy (and kind of hope others like it). But if I were planning a career in it then I could see the temptation to churn one out to get a foot in the door.
     
  8. Phantom_Of3
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    Yeah, I could definitely see that as a temptation. Of course, you never quite know when something you write could be the next fad. Although, it seems that many fads that exist now have been repeated from the past (vampires, for instance, are common fads).
     
  9. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I think you need either a great story idea or great writing. If you have one of those more than likely you can get published. However if you can have a great story written fabulously then you can really go somewhere.

    The truth is often times it's luck, knowing the right person or a ton of persistence and hard work. But the first thing you need is a finished novel. :)
     
  10. Darkmasker
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    Darkmasker New Member

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    The book is publishable if it can make money. That's the bottom line. It's very easy to publish anything nowadays due to self-publishing, but that usually requires a financial investment and sometimes more work.
     
  11. MichelleHall99
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    MichelleHall99 New Member

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    That's a pretty nice insight. I think there is no exact rule as long as the story of the book is good.
     
  12. BrianBrian
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    BrianBrian New Member

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    This is my exact thought on the subject. Publishers don't care if you spent years working on your book. They only care about the bottom line.
     
  13. miss sunhine
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    miss sunhine Member

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    Well,
    I think a lot of it is luck. I mean there are books out there that you wonder why they would publish it becaise it's that bad. If you write something that will sell you stand a higher chance. It could be a little subjective too. I'm drawn to good characters rather than plot. I think every Agent and Publisher has his/her ideas of what a 'good book' should be. As a writer i think it's your job to be insightful. But a lot is due to luck i guess.

    P.S I'm a new little person here so thought i'd say HI! x
     
  14. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    I want to add that I do feel that it's not only the book that gets published, but the author. Publishers probably want an author who will be consistant in his/her ability to turn out books that people want to read. And also, the ability to promote your own stuff is a plus. If you bring a lot of grassroots popularity to the table, then I think you are a very attractive prospect for the publisher.
     
  15. Phantom_Of3
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    Phantom_Of3 Member

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    @ miss sunshine: Hi to you too!

    Anyway, yes, I think you're right that a lot of it is chance, and that every agent and publisher has a different idea of what makes a novel good. But somehow, it seems like it ought to be more than just a luck situation. You would think there is a pattern to what kinds of novelists tend to be published. It really makes me wonder...


    @ Mercury: You, too, are correct. But of course, how do publishers know with a first-time writer whether or not he/she will be consistent? And how do they know if he/she is good at promoting? Sure, if their a celebrity, or if they already have a social media platform, but otherwise, it seems that it would be difficult to know.
     
  16. Slinkywizard
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    Slinkywizard Member

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    I agree with most of what's been said only not entirely with the notion that being published or not is 'random' or 'luck'.

    I know a lot of real-life editors; I am one. One thing you'll hear from them time and again in answer to the question 'How do I get published?' is the simple and logical answer 'Write a fantastic book'.

    If your book is hovering somewhere around average quality, then who you know and 'right place, right time' both play their part. If it's fantastic? You're going to be published irrespectively.
     
  17. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Of course writing a fantstic book and being able to write a fantastic query aren't always synoymous. So sometimes you end up shooting yourself in the foot because you don't know how to write a query letter or you don't know the right person who can help you write a fantastic query.
     
  18. miss sunhine
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    miss sunhine Member

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    Yeah, i guess it is a mix of everything really.
    We could debate this question for all eternity and still not come to an answer because there isn't one, there are many and many different opinions.
    Why are some Genres more popular than others?
    It's a nightmare trying to publish Horror in the UK and U.S seems more keen. I don't know why.
    Oh, Nightmare lol
    I'm so stupid i amaze myself haha
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but a lot of it is 'luck'...

    examples of why:

    you write a fantastically wonderful book... it's exquisitely written and sure to be a bestseller...

    but you query agents with a really terrible query, so no one takes it on and it never gets published...
    or
    you have a great query that's guaranteed to snag any agent with half a brain...
    but...
    the agents you send it to, as is true with most agents, have too much to do to spend time reading every query, so they have assistants who read them first and only pass on ones they think their bosses will be interested in...
    thus...
    thanks to your incredibly bad luck, those readers had the following reactions:
    3 hated the subject, so dumped it
    2 didn't like the title, so dumped it
    1 had a fight with her boyfriend, was in a bad mood and dumped it because you have the same first name
    5 had too many in their piles, so dumped most without even reading 'em...

    and it never gets published...

    also, of the agents your query actually did make it to:

    half weren't taking on any new clients
    the other half had too many clients in that genre already

    so it never gets published...
     
  20. Slinkywizard
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    Slinkywizard Member

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    That's not luck, that's the writer not doing his or her research, ergo caring enough to write a good query letter. No luck there, just a lack of care and effort, which in almost 100% of cases probably means the book sucks just as bad, which probably means they won't be published anyway.

    You make a creative point, but a slushpile reader puts stuff in front of the editor or agent they think the editor or agent is going to like; that's their job. Take it from an editor of many years; no matter how shitty my day, people's work does not go in the bin. It'd be like throwing away lottery tickets before the draw because the last three times the numbers didn't come up. They work for agents, they know what their agent likes and what they don't, but ding-dong, so does the submitter of the work. They've chosen this agent because their book is exactly the type of book this agent gets published. If they just sent it out to a random bunch of agents, more fool them; their fault; not luck.

    On a side note, as a point of absolute fact, no editor or agent dumps a manuscript without reading it because of its title. That's something readers do, not professionals. Ever. Call your novel Hitler's Just Great! and if it's good, it has as good a chance as any other book; sure, the title might have to change to 'Berlin Summer' but that takes exactly four seconds to do.

    It says these things on an agent's website. If a writer sends their work to them regardless, guess what? Their fault. Lady luck's sunning herself off on some distant beach because it's not her concern.

    I'm not trying to be argumentative, but none of these things are luck. I'm not saying luck doesn't play a part, only that if a book is fantastic and we send it to agents we know love the type of book we've written, there's very little luck involved. We will be published. And that's reassuring isn't it? It's something that can and should drive us all to do the very best work we can do; nothing half-arsed.

    That's part of being a good writer, part of being a professional, not some amateur who doesn't know his or her bum from his or her elbow: to leave as little to luck as is possible. Research. Fact-find, know our audience, our market, our platform, our reader and ultimately, our agent. The scenarios you describe above are resultant of an author who likes to leave everything to chance. If it's a crapshoot for him or her? They made it that way.
     
  21. Easy-Read
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    Easy-Read New Member

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    Self-publishing can be really cheap and very profitable especially with Kindle. If you haven't heard of Amanda Hocking then search for her on Google now. She had no luck trying to get a publisher to publish her books so she went on her own and produced Kindle books. She is now a multi-millionaire.

    She knew her audience (teens) and knew her books would sell. The publishers she went to see probably had little idea what these teens wanted.

    It is good to know that as a writer, you are no longer at the mercy of a publisher who may have rejected it without reading past the first paragraph.

    If you have a Word document formatted properly for kindle and a cover image then you can publish on Kindle for free. Same goes for the Nook (Barnes & Noble) and iBook (Apple/iTunes). They each like the Word document formatted in different ways but it is free.

    Publishing in paperback on Amazon.com through CreateSpace is free as well. There are no upfront publishing costs. The books are all printed using Print-On-Demand (printed as they are needed) and the cost of printing is taken off the cost of the book.

    Very professional looking covers can be outsourced very cheaply if you know where to look.

    I believe self-publishing does very well on Kindle. You have more say on how the books are marketed and you aren't giving somebody else a huge chunk to publish it. Publishers tend to be a bit stuck in their ways on how to market when it comes to Kindle and other ebooks.

    Amazon does so much of the marketing for you and if you know how to utilise the different ways Amazon market the Kindle books then you can go a long way. The title, book cover and description are very important to get right. You need to get other things right when you do your initial listing as well, such as tags, keywords, category choices and of course price. Lower prices don't necessarily mean more sale!

    for Kindle books if they are sold between $2.99 & $9.99 you get 70% of the cost as royalties.

    Small things such as uploading 'customer images' so people can see what the book looks like inside without downloading a sample can make the difference between somebody purchasing and going elsewhere. This may be strange but people have converted pdf files into Kindle format and the formatting looks awful. Quick and simple reassurance doesn't take much effort.

    Creating facebook pages to promote your book/books can also be of great benefit.

    You've spent a lot of time writing your book. Why not let the market decide if it is a good book instead of the publisher.

    Having a good/great book is important but so is getting it in front of the reader and it being what the reader wants to read.

    You need luck to have a successful book but it helps if you can stack the deck in your favour.

    I hope I haven't offended anyone but I also hope I have enlightened at least some of you.
     

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