Saturday, August 27, 2011

Who's Really to Blame? Does it Matter?

For a long time, I thought editors were to blame for books that weren't very well-written. After all, wasn't it up to them to clean up unecessary words, sentences, and phrases that didn't move the story along?

But the more I've talked with, researched, and read blogs from people on the editing/publishing side the more it seems they know what they're doing. Their job is to figure out how to tighten up plot points, sentence structure and word choice so the books they represent are more likely to sell. And most of them seem really good at this.

So how, then, do sub-quality books get on the market? If agents and editors are doing their job, then who isn't?

A better question might be, "Who is reading all these sub-standard books?" As long as a book has a market, it will sell. A question floated on this blog a few weeks ago as to why popular authors, once they've achieved success, don't seem to produce the same quality of material. A possible answer might be that people see an author they like, and buy their books on name recognition, and take them home. Regardless of the quality, the author and the publishing house still make money.

Some might say our society is dictated by money rather than quality of work. Owners of tabloid newspapers aren't concerned about producing good pieces of writing. They're concerned about putting headlines on grocery store racks so people will be intrigued enough to buy them.

Owners of publishing houses also seem concerned about profit margins. This is probably why they're more likely to take chances on well-known authors rather than a new ones. (Though feedback I'm getting from librarians seems to dispute this--they say publishers are doing a good job of finding the best new authors out there.)

As for the authors themselves? What else motivates their art besides a paycheck? Those who remember Alanis Morisette know the quality of her music went down considerably after she found success. Was it because she no longer had the angsty tone that made her a commodity? Or were there other reasons that affected her ability to produce good work?

I'm not sure answering any of these questions will get us any further ahead, or make us feel any better. My solution is this: no matter the condition of things, do what you love. Write what you love. Read what you love (when you can find it). The rest can fade into white noise.

-The Writer Librarian

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Corrections, Delays and More on Why Authors Produce Drivel

Many apologies for the delay. New job, new house, moving to a new state, and other life events forced my writing to the backseat, which I always hate. Now that things are settled, I'll be posting more frequently.

I'd like to place a correction to my Twilight reference from the previous post. Stephenie Meyer did not live anywhere near New York, nor did she have many networked connections in the writing world before she was published. Her story is one of having the right book for the right market at the right time.

So maybe that's half the battle after all. Perhaps your masterpiece sitting in a drawer collecting dust hasn't found it's market yet--maybe it's a fantasy novel trying to make it in a world of Dystopias, led by the immensely popular Hunger Games (Note: Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins is an example of previous connections paying off--she was a screenwriter for Clarissa Explains It All before someone suggested she try her hand at novels.). Or, maybe, like Stephenie Meyer, you can defy the odds and be an exception to the rule.

After the last post, a kind commenter also pointed out that popular authors, once established, don't seem to put in the same amount of effort when they write subsequent books. She cited Fannie Flag and Jaqueline Mitchard as examples. I have not yet read these authors, but I'm familiar with the phenomenon. (See: Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Mitch Albom, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Julie Powell.) My theory is this: once successful, authors are restricted to deadlines, and their creativity is more forced--which produces less desirable results.

Because who, unless they have superhuman talent, can write on demand? I sure can't, particularly when my husband nudges me into putting poetic greetings in our holiday cards (even though I don't work well under pressure and, with the exception of Emily Dickinson, despise poetry). I did write said poem, but the process wasn't fun and the content reeked.

But, that's just one theory. I'm open to other suggestions as to why writing quality is being sacrificed for other things. So, for those of you still out there, I'm interested in your thoughts.

-The Writer Librarian