Over the past year I made it a point to read a debut or two a month. I wanted to see what's selling; what publishers like; what readers want. Sadly, I didn't finish many of them. If you know me, you know I rarely put a book down; I keep plowing through it, trusting that it will pick up at some point in time like the now famous, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson and it did about 50% of the way through. I focused on debut novels critiqued in "Book Page," "Publisher's Weekly," several publishers I follow online, etc. Granted some of the critiques were selfish promotion, but I figured if the big people thought enough to publish it and/or give a little space to a write-up, it had to have a little credence. I was wrong.
There's several ways to look at my experience: (1) I don't have a clue what a good book is, (2) I should give up writing because I'll never be published, (3) I don't understand the "new" market, (4) My choices were poor, (5) Make up your own to fill in here. I refuse to accept any of those as too many best sellers have been loved by me and millions of others, and I read upwards of five books a week (yes, that is right) so I have a huge database of reading from which to choose. I'm partial to historical fiction, but I also read piles of graphic mysteries, cozy mysteries, action/thrillers, biographies, religious nonfiction, literary masterpieces I missed somewhere in my education, and a smidge of paranormal and sci-fi. I'm as qualified as the next woman - maybe more - to pass judgment on a book, and I'm telling you a lot of debut novels in the past two years aren't worth the paper they're printed on.
I may not be writing masterpieces, but I am not giving up. I do not believe that readers are looking for just any old thing to read (well, maybe if you're stuck in the doctor's office for several hours and bored out of your gourd, you might turn to whatever's at hand.) I've read several self-published books in this same time period, and with the exception of some editing and proofing issues I had with a few of them, they were good reads. Maybe writers are learning important lessons with the changes in our industry. I see in my non-biased but not double-blind study that small publishing houses (more cottages) have figured it out. Hopefully, the big ones will too.
I got this off Jane Friedman's post on Facebook this morning and it reflects some of what I'm saying.
If I can’t get a deal soon, I’m self-publishing.
I just want to get my book published.
Quality is subjective, and I don’t need a professional editor.
I just need someone to really pay attention.
[x] isn’t relevant any more.
Jane Friedman, Editorial Director for Writers Digest
Here's a salute to succinct, well-thought-out written material that hooks our interest, makes us laugh, and scares us silly.