RARA-AVIS: Unpublished Books and Fairness

From: Bill Crider ( macavityabc@gmail.com)
Date: 18 May 2007

Con Lehane said, "Most large publishers are looking for what they think will be commercially successful books, not necessarily good books."

And of course many large publishers don't have a clue as to what will be successful. One example is Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, the latest book of which landed on the NYTBR best-seller list around #6. I can remember when Charlaine was trying to sell the first book. No one, and I mean no one, would touch it. Finally some small press offered to take it if she'd revise it heavily and accept no advance. Charlaine believed in the book and in herself as a writer and turned down the offer. Much later she convinced her agent to try it again with Ace Books. Now she has a bestseller and an upcoming TV series, all thanks to a book that nobody but Charlaine believed in. If publishers knew what was going to succeed, the book would have been snapped up in a heartbeat.

Anyway, I believe there are some good books that have never been published. I believe that there are a few writers who, unlike Charlaine, give up and self-publish or take no advance from a small press. We can all think of examples of self-published books that have gone on to be huge commercial successes after being turned down by a lot of publishers (ERAGON, or A TIME TO KILL, to name a couple). It's not a matter of fairness, though, or I don't think it is. As Kevin says, it involves a lot of luck. Most writers I know will admit that. Perseverance and talent don't hurt, either.

Bill Crider

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