Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Give gratitude for rejection!

JT asks why publishers so often seem to buy books with hooks and provocative openings... when the rest of the book fails to live up to that.

My sort of answer-- well, you know, quality is often not the primary consideration when it comes to publication of a book. :)

But... well, think about what makes YOU buy a book. I'm a blurb buyer, so hooks really work with me. I've trained myself to read a random page in the middle of the book to make sure I can stand the writing style (and that the mechanics pass muster), but by the time I get far enough to realize the plot doesn't fulfill the promise, well, I've already paid for the book. I don't doubt some publishers count on just that-- that the readers won't know there's a problem when they're ponying up the $7.95. Of course, disappointed readers tend not to buy another book by that author. But if short-term revenue is the most important consideration, the longterm reputation of the author (or the bad reviews, or bad word of mouth) doesn't matter all that much, does it? And how many of us have blamed the publisher? I have to say I've seldom thought, "Boy, I'm never going to buy another book published by --- House." Or "I'm going to find out who the editor was, so I can avoid all other books edited by him or her." Who do we blame? The one whose name is on the front cover.

So I guess the message to writers is: If YOU care about your longterm reputation, about whether readers are happy or disappointed with you, with what's being said about you and your book on the blogs and in the reviews... YOU are the one who has to make sure your book reflects your best ability as an author. You have to be the one who cares the most about that, and you have to be the one who makes sure that's true.

And if you have had the good fortune to encounter editors who reject your less-than-terrific-all-the-way-through stories, well, you should thank them profusely. :)

No, really, there are many reasons a story is rejected, and "the story doesn't live up to the first chapter" is only one of them. How can a writer know if that's the case, so he/she can improve it? What's great is if you know that's the problem, you can do something about it-- there's not a lot you can do about a lousy market or a dying line.
Alicia

5 comments:

JewelTones said...

Oh the dying line. sigh. Been there. Done that. Ouch. :( Nothing like trying to find a home for an orphan novel left abandoned by a now folded one. My fingers are still crossed that it has with the publisher its with right now. Eek!

I think, Alicia, that you totally summed it up in this part of your post (and thank you, btw, for answering my question):

But if short-term revenue is the most important consideration, the longterm reputation of the author (or the bad reviews, or bad word of mouth) doesn't matter all that much, does it? And how many of us have blamed the publisher? I have to say I've seldom thought, "Boy, I'm never going to buy another book published by --- House." Or "I'm going to find out who the editor was, so I can avoid all other books edited by him or her." Who do we blame? The one whose name is on the front cover.

You know what? That's so true! I never really thought about it from this perspective until the other blog entry about this subject. I generally just though oy, the author! avoid! avoid! And now I do have to wonder... is it a particular editor? A particular publisher? I'm going to have to start keeping track of that as an experiment. Excellent idea. :)

And I do think you're right. The author has to want to do and be better, and that means being open to criticism and not just the "Hey, this was really wonderful" comments (as much as we all love those! *G*) and also seeking out writing critique parterns who push us to be better. I love that about the partner I work with. She's always saying, "oh, I liked this. This, though, really bugged me because XYZ." It keeps me on my toes. LOL.

Thanks again.

JT

Laura K. Curtis said...

I have to say I've seldom thought, "Boy, I'm never going to buy another book published by --- House."

I have to say that I DO think that, but it tends to be with smaller houses (larger houses can get away with it more often just because they produce more quantity so the percentage of junk feels lower). I can think of three small presses off the top of my head that I'd never buy another book from. It's one of the reasons I think publishers will survive in the "new age" of publishing as long as they recognize the importance of their brands.

But it's definitely a tangled problem. *sigh*

Edittorrent said...

Laura, yeah, smaller houses probably do get a reputation ... but the big ones just publish too many books to get tarred with any one, probably.

garridon said...

I stopped buying hardbacks completely, even from authors I've read regularly because I've run into far too many occasions where the book disappointed me. There were two that I thought were doing pretty good with their series and coming out with good books. One has come out with not one but three disappointments; the other just came out with a disappointment.

A couple years ago, I picked up a paperback at a library sale that cost me .50. It was a well-published author, and my first read of her. The book's hook--Washington, DC--had drawn me to the book, and the writer botched the ending. It was a crime novel, we spent the whole book investigating the crime, and then it was "Oh, by the way, it was a random crime." I wonder why the author let it go through with that ending and why the publisher let it go through. Because of that book, I won't touch another book by this author. I think one of the important things for us writers to remember is that each book might be the first one the reader picks up. It's important to hook them not only with the book but with the writer!

Edittorrent said...

Gar-- I had that experience too with the umpty-umph book of a long series of mysteries. Then ending came out of nowhere, because there was a material fact about the murderer that we should have known and the author didn't tell us. In that case, I think, the expectation had been set up by the earlier stories in the series, which were good. I don't know what you do as an author when your "money shot" bores you after 15 books, but that's what the publisher insists on.

Well, I guess "always write your best no matter what" is the best guidance. Easier said than done!
Alicia