How do terrible books get published?

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How do terrible books get published?

Postby SuCue » 01 Dec 2010, 09:26

Over last summer I picked up an airport paperback for reading on a long vacation trip. I won't name the author, but the genre was female-oriented thriller, and the name was famous.

I have to say that this book was not redeemable in any way. I mean, I do not expect F. Scott Fitzgerald-quality writing for an airport genre novel, but this particular book was "written" so poorly that I was amazed. Simply amazed. The POV switched back and forth from first person to third, willy nilly, amongst several different characters, with no transitions. The characters talked to themselves and there were no quotes around their inner thoughts. The characters were cardboard and disposable. The "plot" was threadbare and ridiculous. I finished reading it simply so I could categorize all of its faults; there were a lot of them.

When you read sites like Query Shark, literary agents and publishers seem to have very high writing standards, or at least say they do, but what about books like the above? Is it just the author's name that does the selling, with no thought to the actual quality of the book? I don't recall that Agatha Christie, for instance, ever put out books this poorly written, even after she had become world-famous.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby Margo » 01 Dec 2010, 09:41

Somebody liked it, plain and simple. An agent happened to fall in love with it for some reason - voice, style, story, because it reminded him or her of something of personal sentiment - and happened to think of an editor who would (and did) feel the same way. Some readers probably agreed.

There are bestsellers I can't read. I can't abide the style or the voice or the characters. Others LOVE it, when I can't find a single redeeming quality.

It's a good thing if you think about it this way. None of us will ever write something that everyone loves. If all it took was a few hundred or a few thousand people to say it's crap, none of us would ever get published.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby Fenris » 01 Dec 2010, 10:01

Margo's right; books aren't really put up for popular vote when being published. Even if the only people who like it are the ones publishing it, well, they're the ones that count to get in published.

Look at the Twilight saga. Loads of people have griped about how poorly written it is, but it still became a bestseller. No matter how many things Stephanie Meyer may have been doing wrong, she was most definitely doing something right to counterbalance it.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby Margo » 01 Dec 2010, 10:06

Fenris wrote:Look at the Twilight saga.


I will tell you the same thing I tell polymath. Get out of my head or pay rent.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby polymath » 01 Dec 2010, 10:12

I've encountered selected tastes, sentiments, stylistics, and mechanical standards which any given group or consensus posit as absolutes, but within the group there are wide, sometimes subtle but distinguisable variations and deviations. One oversimplified example is how serial commas are used. A, B, and C or A, B and C or A and B and C.

I've only read one novel in my life that was so poorly constructed it must have been an intentional farce or the author had a personal relationship with the publisher or both. Clumsy mixed metaphors and awkward, overworn, trite phrases were the least of the concerns I had about the novel. The mechanical style was first rate, but the overall sense I got was campy in a tortuous way. I chuckled anyway, not out of humor, because I was amused by the implications.

Several of the novels I've read enjoy wide critical acclaim, but suffer mass culture spurning and often outright condemnation. They are novels that are frequently assigned reading. The concern I have is they are out of context for their assigned readers. Old reader surrogates with older life crises unique to older persons don't connect with many younger readers. The same is often true of the opposite.

A question I ask of a novel, why was it published? Sometimes the answer isn't immediately so clearcut. I've asked and answered to my satisfaction why James Joyce's Ulysses enjoys critical acclaim. It's not to everyone's liking, but understanding Joyce's intent goes a long way toward appreciating if not liking the novel.

The best answer I can come up with from what's given about the airport novel is very few limitations were placed on it by anyone. It fit its marketplace like a cardboard cutout picture of a gourmet delicacy and tasted about the same. Maybe it's a package marketing concept experiment. Just based on the package presentation will consumers buy it? Then the actual content is merely a lorem ipsum, or placeholder text. Where better to test than an airport book rack, where consumers are a captive audience. Caveat emptor.
Last edited by polymath on 01 Dec 2010, 10:48, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby steve » 01 Dec 2010, 10:25

SuCue wrote:The POV switched back and forth from first person to third, willy nilly, amongst several different characters, with no transitions. The characters talked to themselves and there were no quotes around their inner thoughts. The characters were cardboard and disposable. The "plot" was threadbare and ridiculous.

Sounds like avant-garde literature.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby androidblues » 01 Dec 2010, 11:45

Entertainment Value is different from Literary Value. Twilight might suck but it entertains people, just like dancing monkey videos. Now to my English teacher, well she might have given it an F if it were a school project. Just goes to shows that people prefer entertainment over anything else. Only in this world can movie stars and best selling authors make more than doctors, electricians, and plumbers. Want > Need
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby Down the well » 01 Dec 2010, 11:54

Why do they sell those fried pork rinds at the store? Or brussel sprouts? Or tofu? Somebody must like them because they keep turning up in the grocery store aisles, even though I give them the evil eye every week.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby Margo » 01 Dec 2010, 12:06

Down the well wrote:Why do they sell those fried pork rinds at the store? Or brussel sprouts? Or tofu? Somebody must like them because they keep turning up in the grocery store aisles, even though I give them the evil eye every week.


Broccoli totally never gets the hint that it's unwanted. I order dinner, and just when I'm ready to enjoy it, BAM there it is taking up space that could go to a pleasant, sociable foodstuff.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby Cookie » 01 Dec 2010, 12:19

Poor misunderstood broccoli. Lol.
I know what you mean though. I sometimes feel that an author gets lazy. I recently read a book like that by a well known author. While the story was vaguely entertaining, it was just set up weird.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby polymath » 01 Dec 2010, 12:31

Once in fifty years I've had brussel sprouts that were prepared just right by someone else, blanched, trimmed to perfection, par poached, stir fried in seasoned oil, and braised in a Gruyère cheese and nutmeg sauce.

Pork rinds are candy to me. They suit my carbohydrate budget and fulfill my crunch craves.

Broccoli, candy too.

Escargot, yum, when prepared just right. Marsala wine is a key ingredient in escargot and similar butter and garlic sauces.

Liverworst, poorman's paté.

Brussel sprouts are one delicacy I tend to avoid preparing or eating though. I won't name any other delicacies I eat or don't eat or don't prepare out of concern I might offend.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby Margo » 01 Dec 2010, 12:41

polymath wrote:Once in fifty years I've had brussel sprouts that were prepared just right by someone else, blanched, trimmed to perfection, par poached, stir fried in seasoned oil, and braised in a Gruyère cheese and nutmeg sauce.


Since I like brussel sprouts, even when substandard, this made me hungry.

polymath wrote:Pork rinds are candy to me. They suit my carbohydrate budget and fulfill my crunch craves.


Yep, guilty. For now anyway. I'm in the process of giving up all processed food.

polymath wrote:Broccoli, candy too.


[speechless] 0_o [/speechless]

polymath wrote:Escargot, yum, when prepared just right. Marsala wine is a key ingredient in escargot and similar butter and garlic sauces.


Not sure I can try this one. Then again, I survived octopus. Didn't like it, but survived it.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby Down the well » 01 Dec 2010, 12:44

polymath wrote:Pork rinds are candy to me. They suit my carbohydrate budget and fulfill my crunch craves.


Say it aint so. I fear for you. Next you'll tell me you've tried the turducken.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby Margo » 01 Dec 2010, 12:56

Down the well wrote:Say it aint so. I fear for you. Next you'll tell me you've tried the turducken.


No...the turbaconepic...
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Postby polymath » 01 Dec 2010, 13:01

Tried turducken? No, dearly love, especially cold hickory smoked first and then deep fried in peanut oil.

I'm a true omnivore. About the only things that've ever been eaten by humankind I haven't tried are long pig and extinct species.

I'm a reading omnivore too.

Margo, Pork tenderloin provençal, pear butter toast points, and rutabaga, turnip, and potato mashers to go with those brussel sprouts?
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