1. Florent150
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    Florent150 Member

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    Why does it seem that so many "big sellers" went through so much rejection?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Florent150, Feb 3, 2011.

    Some of the biggest selling books/series' ever all seem to have stories of countless rejections when their authors were attempting to get the books published. It seems weird to me. J.K Rowling apparently had fantastic difficulty getting published, and the twilight books were passed around by quite a few agencies before they were accepted.

    Shouldn't these pros in the market be able to spot potential when they see it? It just seems weird to me that something like Harry Potter could get flat-out rejection by so many publishers when it was clearly good enough to become one of the most commercially successful series of all time.

    Kind of gives you hope as a writer I suppose, when you get your book turned down :p
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not that difficult only took her 14 months - in comparison to some people who take many years it isn't bad.

    Also speaking from experience it takes a few attempts to learn how to get the introductory packages right, then maybe rewrite the synopsis a few times etc.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Not every publisher is in the market for the same kinds of work. Julia Child had enormous difficulty getting her book published and now that book and the woman herself are iconic institutions.

    One of my favorite authors, David Gerrold, had difficulty getting his work published simply because he had the occasional bit of gay content or (heaven forbid) gay protagonist. The first of his War Against the Chtorr books was finally published but only after he was forced to hack it to bits and removed the "unacceptable" parts. Years later he moved to a different publication house that was more progressive and they republished his books in their original form.

    Lots of variables. Lots and lots.
     
  4. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Astrid Lindgren (Sweden most prominent children book author) had a really hard time to get Pippi Longsocking publish because it was to controversial, genderwise. A little girl with superhuman strength, living on her own, in a big house, with a horse and a monkey, doing whatever she felt like, braking all sort of social norms and conversions was just seen as to controversial in the 40s.

    I think most top sellers have a hard time to hit the market because of two reasons.

    1: All books have a hard time getting into the market. All books pretty much go trough a big bunch of rejections.

    2: Best sellers might in some cases have a black horse quality to them. In some way they are a bit different from whats the norm at the moment, making them an unsure bet. As in the Pippi Longstocking example. Who would have tough something so radical would have such a huge success?
     
  5. Contagion
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    Contagion Member

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    Everybody has to start somewhere - right? Every writer (without prior fame) starts off at the bottom, having to go through the whole process of find someone, somewhere to take a vague interest in their work.

    I view it the same as the music industry. Metallica et al started off writing and playing simple songs in a garage somewhere, then someone takes an interest and they get a gig somewhere, then they improve and someone higher takes an interest, they get a bigger audience and the process carries on until they become the superstars they are today.

    Most of the time, though, its just luck of the draw. There must be thousands upon thousands of talented bands/writers that never made it, simply for not being at the right place at the right time.

    But thats just my view.
     
  6. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    And even then, the first Harry Potter novel didn't become an immediate bestseller. It wasn't until after Scholastic won publishing rights that it really started to become popular.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Still only took her I think seven years from putting pen to paper to that point. Some people spend at least that long looking for the agent or publisher.

    I know how lucky I am that although I have been rejected, that under a year after putting pen to paper - I have had a couple of non standard replies, a phone call from a retiring agent and one publisher request to see more of the manuscript. (I went on to mess up the author questionairre having never seen one before lol)
     
  8. jaywriting
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    jaywriting Member

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    I find it quite encouraging that successful authors had to go through hell to get published.

    I mean, look at it the other way. If every successful author had an instant hit with their first attempt, what hope for those of us yet to publish a bestseller?
     
  9. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Do you really think the Twilight series succeeded because of superior writing? Do you think Harry Potter was the most sublime bit of juvenile literature that the publishers just couldn't recognize? Those books deserved to be rejected as much as any other. But at some point, some publisher decided to put their marketing machinery into action and create bestsellers out of them.

    Yes, it is the publishers who create bestsellers, not the reading public. Any book with an acceptable story and acceptable writing can be made into a bestseller through marketing. Or at least that's how it used to be. I have no idea how publishers are making a buck these days.

    I just read that the largest book distributor in Canada went belly up, and Borders is going belly up, and I'm sure Barnes and Noble won't be far behind. I used to know how books were sold. I don't anymore.
     
  10. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I like to blame Amazon with their print on demand books. They did get in trouble a few years ago for it. I remember it caused a huge stir. Don't know what became of it though. I got busy with other things in life. :(

    But even they couldn't be responsible for so many distributors going out of business. E-books are becoming more popular, as is self publishing. And then you have online distributors like Amazon, which only need a warehouse to ship things out, rather than a physical store.
     
  11. Argle
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    Argle Member

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    It's this. In January, Kindle E-book sales (I would assume excluding free books, though it didn't specify) outdid the paperback sales on amazon 115 to 100 according to (I think?) the Amazon blog. These numbers are a bit skewed since all the people who got kindles for the holidays would have been buying more ebooks than normal while there wouldn't be any reason to buy any more paperbacks than normal, but still.

    And this too. People are becoming much less likely to judge a book by its covers... or its blurbs. Don't get me wrong: they'll reject a book based on the cover, but the cover/blurbs aren't very important in causing someone to buy a book anymore. Most people care more about the customer reviews and instant, constantly updated sales rankings found online, and unfortunately for all the bookstores, nobody can compete with Amazon online.

    So, yeah, blame Amazon still. :p
     
  12. Heather Munn
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    Heather Munn Member

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    Another good example of this is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. She had several previously published novels, but they were all realistic fiction and A Wrinkle in Time was very weird mystical SF for kids, and publishers just kind of went, "who'll buy this?" The whole thing is, there's no precedent for the book so publishers are unsure about it. But once it's out there and people like it and it sells, it becomes much more acclaimed than other books because it's something really new.
     
  13. lost123
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    lost123 Senior Member

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    Because they didn't thought it's gonna be a bestseller:D .....
    Believe me it is a hard job
     
  14. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    When editors choose books, they try to find books that will sell. Okay, duh. But that means looking for a) authors whose previous books have found a decent audience which can be expected to grow over time, b) authors who are following a popular trend (apocalypse books, vampire books, paranormal romance) and c) authors who have a really great story.

    The issue, of course, is that c) isn't easy to tell. I mean, just because an editor likes a story doesn't mean the readers will, and they know this. Plus, they know that they have to pitch the story to the marketing department, and if they say "it's a good book, but it's a new author / author working in a new genre" sometimes the marketing department will punt it.

    Bestsellers are really hard to predict. You can say "This is a great story!" and sell millions, or you can have something be a great story and just ... not. I mean, The Name of the Wind and Lucifer's Hammer sold tons and tons of copies, but I'm of the opinion that Silverlock was equally amazing, and it hasn't sold nearly as well.

    When a new author comes along and their writing is flawed but the story's awesome, editors are even more likely to pass. (Observe: Harry Potter's first chapter is not nearly as exciting as the third chapter, or the seventh, or whatever. It could be cut and probably not weaken the book. Similarly, Twilight starts slowly, with a teenager moving to a new town and a new school.)

    But readers? We're a motley crew. Some of us hate slow beginnings, others have more patience. Some of us hate food porn, some of us love it. (I'm referring here to detailed descriptions of what the characters eat, something that I enjoyed in the Redwall books, in Harry Potter, and in the Dies the Fire series; some of my friends hate food descriptions with a flaming passion.) Some of us hate jerk-ish main characters, some of us have more tolerance. (Again, The Name of the Wind. Unreliable narrator much.)

    So the editors will pass and pass and pass. Their reasons are all over the map: "Slow beginning." "Awkward writing." "Too much description; needs to be edited for tightness."

    They can't know how many readers will overlook those flaws because the story is good.

    And sometimes, you get an "unexpected" bestseller and everyone oohs and ahhs over it. But really, this is just what happens sometimes. When an imperfect but good story is published, sometimes it'll strike a nerve, and suddenly you find yourself hearing about it from friends. (Or you're the one telling them about it and loaning out your copy, or buying copies as gifts.)

    For an extreme example, look at Amanda Hocking. She's a young writer, but has written numerous books at this point. Her stories were paranormal romance and a YA fairy tale with troll changelings. They kept getting passed over by publishers who had seen "too many vampire tales" recently. So she self-published.

    Last week, she sold 100,000 ebooks. No, that's not a typo. She's been selling them through Amazon, at prices ranging from $0.99 to $2.99, and they're incredibly popular; her sales numbers have been rising consistently since early last year.

    I bet you a fair number of editors are cursing over this right now. I mean, she got rejected at least ten times before deciding to self-publish through Amazon (and Sony and B&N and a bunch of other places, but you get my point). In fact, she acquired an agent by getting an offer from one who'd heard of how well her books were doing, and a couple months ago she turned down a deal from a major publisher because she's making so much money on her own, it would be silly to yank her books from the Web so a publisher could sell them in stores eighteen months later.

    In short, bestsellers are hard to predict. If readers decide they really like a story, its world and its characters, they can propel it up to bestsellerdom even though no editor thought it would do that well.

    You don't hear about the bestsellers who didn't get rejected a lot because it's not as newsworthy, of course, and that may bias perceptions as well. But honestly, a lot of it just has to do with the fact that readers are many, and varied, and no editor can predict everything perfectly, so sometimes there are surprises.

    Thank god. I'd hate to live in a world where only bestseller-type books were published. Think of how poor the selection would be, compared to what it is now...
     
  15. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are so right there. It isn't the book quality that makes the sales, it is the publisher that makes the sales. They find a way to 'make' people want the book, and eventually, everyone has to have it. If you have good marketing skills, you could sell used toilet paper to the Queen.

    Yes, it's a sad time for publishers, that's for sure. Books aren't sold anymore, they are given away for free on places like smashwords.
     
  16. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, book depository is beginning to become a very popular book store due to the free postage world wide and lower book prices.

    Self publishing is becoming increasingly popular with places like smashwords, as anyone can get a book together to put on there. Lulu is the one place that I'd personally like to see burn to the ground. It's the biggest place for scam artists to start up ezines and publishing houses, and publish through lulu, and get money out of people. These kinds of publishers give small press such a bad name.
     
  17. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    What actually killed publishers was the fact they couldn't market several books they paid huge advances for - there were several notable flops since Harry Potter. Its because you can't just market anything - it has to have something that captures and entrances the reader.

    Quality isn't just about the writing quality - its about the storytelling ability, the character building etc
     
  18. twopounder
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    twopounder Member

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    How exactly did they get into trouble for creating a side market?

    Truth is, traditional publishers are dying out at a rapid pace. As their budgets tighten, so will their requirements for novels. Though it already feels like a coin toss. Not certain how they are going to decide on literature in the next 5 years. Maybe stop taking new authors altogether?
     
  19. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, advances can pose a lot of problems with publishers. I think they'd be better off not paying them, so they can produce more books, but then big names tend to not go for places that don't pay advances. There was a big stink up over the publisher Don (from Leisure) went to as they don't pay advances. I think it's wise for them not to, because it gives them more security and in a way, prevents major debt so they don't end up falling into the same bottomless put Leisure fell into.

    That is very true. A lot of places won't be taking in new up and coming authors and are sticking with the big names, to be honest, the way the publishing industry is these days, I don't blame them. But at least we can count on the small presses to introduce us to new talent. I think the bigger publishing houses will be tougher to get into, but the small presses will continue to bring us the new rising talent that they seem to be doing. So long as they too, don't decide to stop taking in previously unpublished authors, I think the literature world will do alright. We just have to show support to the small houses to keep them going so that eventually the little guy has a chance at becoming one of the big guys.
     
  20. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    Publishers are impressively bad at what they do and, considering how hard it is to determine a book's success, it's not surprising that this happens.
     

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