RARA-AVIS: Re: Are unpublished novels best left unpublished? YES!

From: Con Lehane ( con@conlehane.com)
Date: 17 May 2007

As usual in these discussions, Kevin Burton Smith has the philiosophical high ground with his question "How can it be unpublished if it was published?" Kevin's right that a lot of what is rejected is crap. But I think he throws the baby out with the bath water when he argues, in his usual understated way,

   The clarion call of "unfairness" is just a balm to soothe untalented,
 frustrated writers looking to blame someone -- anyone -- for their
 lack of literary of success. Anyone but themselves.
 Talk about pathetic. Boo hoo hoo.

Dave Z's point I think is closer to the truth:

 Most large publishers are looking for what they think will be commercially successful books, not necessarily good books. Also editors today probably have less say than they've had in the past as to which books get bought, with more of the influence coming from the sales and marketing boards. It's becoming more and more about the package as opposed to the book.

I can do a little boo hooing myself when I find that Eddie Muller (the Distance), Reed Coleman (The James Deans) Scott Phillips (Ice Harvest) get dropped by their publishers. James Ellroy broke out with something like his fifth book; Ross Macdonal took longer than that. Publishers won't stay with a writer who needs time to build an audience anymore. Then you read some of the stuff that is published--and does or doesn't sell well--and it's clear that an equally valid question is: Are many published novels best left unpublished?

And Kevin, when you look over this in time and reply, which I'm sure you will, be kind.

Best, Con Lehane

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, Kevin Burton Smith <kvnsmith@...> wrote:
> On May 16, 2007, at 9:22 AM, George the Librarian wrote:
> > Is it true that a good book will always find a publisher?
> No.
> > If it is
> > true, are unpublished novels best left unpublished, like for example
> > Jim Thompson's The Rip-Off? I liked this posthumously-published novel.
> > It had the quirkiness of The Golden Gizmo, but a tighter, stronger
> > plot.
> How can it be unpublished if it was published? Was it rejected in his
> lifetime?
> > I am a believer that the literary marketplace is not that fair, but I
> > am curious how others feel.
> What's "fair"?
> Everyone -- regardless of talent or commercial viability -- gets
> published?
> Is it "fair" that libraries don't stock every book in the world?
> Publishers are in business to sell books -- and always were. If they
> think they can't sell a book, should they publish it anyway?
> It's their money, after all.
> Yes, a few good books don't find a publisher, or otherwise slip
> through the cracks. That's nothing new. And the oft-repeated stories
> of this "masterpiece" or that "classic" that almost wasn't published
> will be -- predictably -- trotted out again and again and again in
> this thread.
> Yada yada yada.
> But those exceptions are few and far between (which is why the same
> old examples get trotted out again and again and again). It may be a
> poor business decision or a glaring lack of judgement on the
> publisher's part, but it's not "unfair."
> For every alleged "classic" that finally makes it to print, there are
> thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of books that sink without a
> trace. Usually with good reason.
> And, coincidentally, hundreds of great books -- real classics -- that
> do make it to print. Chandler, Hammett, Cain, Leonard, Block,
> Westlake, Bruen, Pelecanos, Mosley, Parker, Macdonald, MacDonald,
> etc., etc. They all survived and thrived in the literary marketplace.
> Is that fair?
> Having worked as an editor in the tiny corner of the literary
> marketplace that is THRILLING DETECTIVE, and having read a slew of
> self-published books for reviews over the last nine years, as well as
> hearing horror stories from other editors and slush pile readers,
> I've come to the conclusion that must books are rejected by
> traditional presses for one simple reason, and one simple reason alone.
> They're not very good.
> They may be preposterous or inept, hackneyed or incomprehensible
> gibberish, clumsy or poorly structured or any of a multitude of other
> sins, but most rejected works share one thing in common. They're not
> what the publisher is looking for, or not good enough to put in the
> editorial time to make better.
> There's no big conspiracy.
> The clarion call of "unfairness" is just a balm to soothe untalented,
> frustrated writers looking to blame someone -- anyone -- for their
> lack of literary of success. Anyone but themselves.
> Talk about pathetic. Boo hoo hoo.
> If you think the literary marketplace is unfair, put your own money
> where your mouth is. Publish your own damn novel. There's no law
> against it. The vanity presses are waiting for you, licking their chops.
> But the literary marketplace is unfair?
> To who?
> When was the last time you went out to buy -- with your own money --
> a book you knew would be poorly written? Is it "fair" that you only
> buy books you think you will like?
> One final point: the rise of relatively cheap POD vanity presses has,
> for the first time in history, given us a clear look at what
> traditional publishers have rejected. As a reviewer, I've probably
> read at least a hundred of these things over the years. The picture
> is not pretty. There are a lot of people out there who think they're
> writers.
> They're not. They're typists.
> And often not even very good ones.
> Grrrrrr....
> Kevin

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