Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Hard truths about writing and selling books #1

 One question that gets asked all the time is, 'How does a piece of crap like <enter the name of a book you don't like> get published whereas my, ahem, masterpiece just gets rejection slips?' Well, there are a number of reasons:

i) Definitions of what's crap and what's good are pretty subjective - on TV I can't stand soap operas, reality shows or football matches (that's soccer if you're reading this from the USA), yet these genres are among the most watched in the country. So just because I think something stinks, it doesn't mean I'm right. Numbers count, particularly when people are paying: remember, the classifications in the media are called Best Seller Lists, not Best Writer Lists. Moral of the story? There's no accounting for taste.

ii) Your book isn't as good as you think it is. Go back, re-read it, get someone else to proof read it, have it professionally edited. Just because your mum, girlfriend, wife, cat, budgie, significant other etc say it's good, doesn't mean it is.

iii) Getting an agent and then your agent finding you a publisher both involve a huge slice of luck. Talent helps, but even agents and publishers can't forecast reliably what's going to sell. The Harry Potter series, Fifty Shades, Twilight etc were books that took the industry completely by surprise. All dealt with themes that had been done before, but they all had that 'something' that made them best sellers. By the way, I know what it is, but I'm not telling...

iV) Finally, don't ever say, "How did this POS get published?" to your agent. I did once and my agent got very cross, so I had to pretend I didn't mean it. Since then I've fired my agent, but that's private stuff and not for this blog.

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