I have moved the whole blog to a new address. Please join me over there as no new posts are being added here and I have removed key info from this old version ...


When you get there, PLEASE rejoin as a "follower" - changing addresses means I lose my 230 lovely friends!

NB also - all comments are intact on the new version.

Saturday, 14 March 2009


Why do people crochet pink toilet-roll covers? Why do manufacturers produce orange psychadelic wallpaper? Why does anyone bother to grow broad beans? Or make mint-flavoured white chocolate? Or offer holidays on cruise ships with karaoke every evening?

Because there's no accounting for folks and some people actually like that stuff.

Same with books. Publishers produce what they think people will buy and generally-speaking they're right. (Apart from the dolt who paid a fortune for unappealing UK footballer Wayne Rooney's FIVE VOLUME autobiography when the guy was only about 17. Must have been very big print. And probably a load of pictures to help him along, but still ...)

You'll have noticed that the biggest best-sellers can often arguably be categorised as utter drivel. And you may rightly surmise that a lot of people like reading drivel, otherwise they wouldn't have bought it.

And don't go all politically-correct and hit me with, "Who're you to say it's drivel?" Drivel is in the eye of the beholder and in this case the beholder is me. If the reader of Katie Price's autobiog wants to say that Madame Bovary / The Blind Assassin / Atonement / Life of Pi /The Moth Diaries / Silas Marner / The Little White Horse are rubbish, fine. They're wrong, but what do they know? And it's not the point: the point is to answer the question, "Why is crap published?"

It's published because it sells. Blame the readers. Publishers have to make money and all readers are different and are entitled to enjoy and choose whatever rubbish they want and like or dislike it for whatever reason they want.

A much more important question is "Why does great stuff NOT get published?" In other words, why has the genuinely beautiful and wonderful work which I am sure many of you produce not been snapped up?

I've gone a long way to answering aspects of that in other posts, but it boils down to one or more of these reasons:
  • although it's genuinely beautiful in many ways and you are a talented writer, you have not yet crafted a book which is good enough to be in the "great book" category but it is way too great to be read by readers of the crap category
  • it doesn't have an adequate "hook" - a snappy "high-concept" tag that will make sales and marketing people drool. (See Acquisitions meetings.)
  • it's otherwise goodish but falls down in eg voice or structure and the editor isn't sure that you'll be able to improve it enough
  • you haven't written the right book at the right time or sent it to the right publisher at the right time ...
  • ... and in the right way - the submission must be right, especially the covering letter
  • an agent / editor admires it but hasn't fallen in love with it - see the Behler Blog here - possibly because it's neither brilliant nor drivel, but middly
  • for one reason or another, it's simply not sellable in enough quantities, although your mother absolutely loves it (which, as you should know by now, means nothing - unless your mother happens to be accidentally right)
For rubbish to sell, it has to be seriously good rubbish. Your average kind-of-OK book just won't cut the mustard, especially if it's a book which looks as though it could actually be quite good with a bit of work done on it.

Unfortunately, seriously good drivel is what many large publishing houses now need to survive. See - you're just all too good and surely I'm doing you a great disservice in writing a blog designed to make you better. I should be teaching you how to write really bad stuff. Trouble is, I've never quite worked out how to do that myself. I like to think.

Because, of course, rubbish is other people's success.