We hear readers lament continually, “Why can’t we find a decent book to read?” Quite honestly, we have to agree with this somewhat. If it weren’t for my clients, I would have very little in the way of reading material to choose from. Right now I am reading a book, on the suggestion of an editor, by a world-famous, popular author who writes sort-of thrillers (okay, I’m guessing here, because I can’t really tell what it is supposed to be). This writer does everything that every how-to-write book, editor, and agent says not to do, and yet this person earns scads of money off readers for producing what I consider, after reading this book, complete garbage. I am sure that everyone who reads this can name at least three or four books by famous writers that were disappointments, to put it kindly.
So, why can’t good books get published?
Well, actually, we do believe that good books get published. We also believe that many of them come from our clients, but that is blatant bias, as it should be if you are an agent. Seriously, there are good books out there, but not as many as there should be or could be. I have to be candid here and tell you that there have been days when, after chatting with an editor and seeing what he/she has turned down and accepted, I thought to myself, “I can’t find books bad enough to suit you!”
It is personal preference? Publishing house preference? Reader preference? Marketing preference? There are published writers who shouldn’t be writing, and there are unpublished writers who should be published. This is a given in the industry and has been historically true as well. But why might this be so?
For some very interesting information as to why literary agents are sometimes unsuccessful in getting good books published (and we are assuming that we know how to pick good books), check out this article from the New York Times and you might get a clearer understanding.