How do bad books get published?
Because people don’t agree on what constitutes a bad book.
In a technical sense, The Da Vinci Code was a bad book; it sold like crazy anyway.
Lots of people thought it was badly written and downright stupid, but hundreds of thousands of other readers disagreed.
Same with Twilight, and various other bestsellers.
When a book is published by a traditional publisher, it doesn’t mean anyone at the publishing house thought it was great literature; it means an editor (and usually someone higher up, as well; most acquiring editors don’t have carte blanche to buy anything they want) thought it would make money.
(Almost always; see below for exceptions.
) The fact that bad books have sometimes become bestsellers means that being well written isn’t essential, and what’s considered interesting will vary with readers’ tastes.
Acquiring editors guess wrong a lot.
If they guess wrong too often, they get fired.
If they make a couple of spectacular right guesses, though, that can make so much money for the company that they’re pretty much set for life there.
I’ve decided I shouldn’t name names on this one, but an editor I knew many years ago asked my opinion of a book he’d bought that had famously been rejected by more than twenty other editors before he bought it.
It then became a runaway bestseller.
After I hesitated and he insisted I be honest, I said I thought it was crap.
He happily agreed, and smilingly told me that he knew it was a terrible novel, but he also knew it would exactly fit a particular under-served market niche and sell like crazy.
He was right.
He explained in detail why this lousy book had been so successful, and I could follow his reasoning, but he and I both still thought it was crap.
So lots of bad books get published because someone thought they would make money.
Sometimes those people are right and the book becomes a bestseller, and sometimes they’re horribly wrong and the book only sells a dozen copies.
It’s a chance they take.
Okay, there are some exceptions to the “will make money” rule.
A publisher will sometimes buy a book knowing it won’t make money if it serves some other important purpose, such as generating prestige for the company, or keeping a valuable author happy when he’s done something different that didn’t work — for example, if J.
Rowling were to write an absolutely boring history of tea cozies under another name, her publishers would probably be willing to take a loss on publishing it just to stay on her good side.
(Not that I think Rowling would do that.
As for generating prestige, some books get great reviews and impress the hell out of critics and win awards, but don’t sell, and everyone knows going in that they probably won’t sell, but they get published anyway because then the publisher can point to them and say, “Look at these critically-praised, award-winning books we published!” Which means the publisher is taken more seriously by critics, and by people looking for a publisher.
There may be other reasons, as well.
But at least 90% of the time, the book got published because someone thought it would make money.
I think, if I may, you might be making an invalid assumption in this question, in that your premise is that books are either bad or good, interesting or boring, well-written or poorly-written.
I think the truth is that a single book may be bad, good, interesting, boring, well- or poorly-written all at once, and depending on who is reading it.
Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr wrote mysteries with brilliant plots but often two-dimensional characters and lifeless prose, for example.
We might say the same for Isaac Asimov, in the SF genre.
Dan Brown and EL James are regularly pilloried as a terrible writers, but their books must have some kind of quality, some kind of enjoyment to be had, or people wouldn’t keep buying them.
(If Fifty Shades of Grey had been a straightforwardly bad book, surely we’d have seen a massive drop-off in sales for Fifty Shades Darker? But not really.
The way publishing works, in fact, is that you need a wide variety of books.
Not everyone likes the same sort of thing, and not everyone values the same qualities in books.
It’s like running a hedge fund, I suppose, except not nearly as lucrative; you need a wide portfolio that will cover your losses if some bet doesn’t work out.
I don’t mean to suggest that bad books don’t exist and don’t get published.
Of course they do.
But during the process of publication people weren’t thinking, ‘this is a terrible book that will do badly’; they were thinking ‘this book has an audience who will enjoy it, and I’m publishing for them’.
Frontlist books fulfill demand in a niche.
They often tap into a need or demand that other books in print are not addressing.
Others crowd a hot subject at the right time that readers are flocking around it, like vampire fiction or home organizing.
The idea that “well written” books are what is sought is a misnomer born of MFA writing programs that convince authors that well-developed narratives and characters are what is sought by the market.
This is false and perpetuating this myth isn’t helpful to anyone.
Instead, publishers seek books that tap into the widest niches that they can find with the biggest demand.
Believe it or not, many of these remain even as other genres get completely saturated.
Additionally, genre fiction literally relies on a predictable plot and writing formula.
This is probably one of the widest publishing categories and I’m sure many people would consider these to be “bad books.
But even after a book is determined to fill a wide, vacant niche, problems can arise.
The author can be obstinate and a trained reader and see where the author and editor are at war in the text revisions.
The author may not be able to write as well as they did in the accepted sample.
The premise of the book may not be fulfilled accurately by its execution in a way that the marketing copy and book development does not match the content.
There are long advance windows for publication and things move slowly.
The book is often sold in before it is written, which can create inconsistency and confuse the reader how the jacket copy can be so inaccurate.
When we look at submissions for publication, this is what we consider:
1) How does this title teach self-empowerment? Does it fit our mission?
2) Will this title consistently exceed minimum sales benchmarks over more than five years? (1,000 copies in first year, halving for each consecutive year)
3) How is this title notably different from existing work on the same shelf?
4) Do we expect this title to turn a profit for Microcosm?
5) Is this work of particular merit? Why?
6) Is there an identifiable and reachable audience of at least 5,000 people who will buy at least 3,000 books?
7) Does this book challenge popular narratives about the subject?
8) Will the author be cooperative and hardworking towards mutual goals?
9) Have the competitive titles sold at least 3,000 copies in Bookscan?
10) Does the market allow U.
based printing and production costs at competitive pricing to the comps?
11) Does this book fit our core competencies? Does it fit on a shelf where we have existing recent work and are a known entity?
So as you can see, at no point are we looking for “good writing” and many things can go wrong.
Sometimes we will cancel a contract if things are falling apart in the process but again, a publisher’s goal is to invest in books that the market wants.
Some publishers aren’t great at making that determination.
Most authors start writing when they start believing in their stories and think that they can do justice to them.
It is like movies where the script can go wrong in execution.
It can happen with anyone.
In case of books written by established author or a famous personality; by the time anyone realises it’s a bad book, everyone including publisher, editor and writer would have put so much efforts and money into it, that it becomes a sunk cost to the publisher and he stands to lose a lot more by not publishing it.
Publishing houses are in it for money just like Banks.
If banks can have 1–3% of their assets as non performing assets, there is no reason why publishing houses can’t.
If the publisher of Harry Potter would have listened to other publishers who called it nonsense, he would not have raked in the bucks.
Finally, the reason why most bad books especially adult material gets published , is because those shops on the railway plateform can’t afford to have empty bookshelves.
People have diversified tastes.
If you’re a book publisher, let’s say you’re going to publish three books this year.
One of them is written by a popular family that has a reality show on cable.
One of them is written by an author like me who nobody knows exists and really has no platform to speak of.
But the content of that book is good and you want to publish it anyway because that’s why you got into the book business.
The last book is written by someone with a large platform that has already pre-sold a few thousand books.
Even though the book is total shit, you know it’s going to print money for you because of who the author is.
If you’re a publisher, you don’t put your eggs in one basket.
You hedge your bets.
If the book from the second author comes out and bombs, then at least you gave it a shot.
The money you lost from that book is more than made up from the other two books.
Especially that third one where so many copies had already been pre-sold.
Between the first and third books, you have made enough money to try again with another author next year that nobody knows about.
Maybe this time they’ll succeed and you’ll have a breakout hit.
So bad books get published to support good books by authors like me that you don’t know exist, but have something unique to say that publishers want to support.
Bad books get published because publishing is a business like anything else, and those bad books make money.
If we ignore the question of grammar for a moment, how do you know whether a book is well written? What decides whether it’s interesting? Trends change, and though it is possible with some skill (and mayhap an amount of luck) to guess the flow of trends, it only looks impressive if the prediction comes true.
If not, you’ve got a poorly written book without much of an audience.
The other factor is publicity.
The ability to convey a book to the masses will affect whether it becomes a hit or not.
It can be a strike of genius yet go by unnoticed, or be something that uses proper media exposure to sell itself despite its flaws (including at times of the grammatical variety).
There have been books that haven’t caught any attention for over a decade after its initial release, only to blow up and swiftly become a classic.
There have been books that reaped immeasurable attention upon their release, yet that become all but forgotten within a decade.
Who knows the mind of the masses? I certainly don’t.
I hope this helps.
How do bad books get published?
Because bad is subjective.
I'm not a fan of teen/tween romance.
I'm perfectly fine if a book contains romance, but I generally don't want that to be the point of the book.
A few years ago my little sister, who was in probably 6th grade, was reading a tween romance.
I read the back cover, immediately figured out what the ending would be, and read just enough of the end to confirm my suspicion.
That was a terrible book for me.
But for my sister it was a perfect book.
The characters were her age, the plot was simple enough for her to understand, and it targeted many of the same feelings she was going through at the time (ie crushes on boys).
So there are a lot of terrible books because they're not written for you, they're written for someone else.
Books are commercial items and interestingly what increasingly sells books – and why it is becoming more difficult for writers to get published – is that the author has to be known for something else.
Hence the celebrity books – which all appear around Christmas – ghost-written (nothing wrong with that) but with very little actual content or interest.
If you are known in some other field, then you will be offered a publishing contract, as a certain amount of sales will ge almost guaranteed.
This does squeeze out books that may be of a higher value or better – in anyone’s definition.
Q: How do bad books get published?
A: What someone considers a bad book is really about a matter of taste.
We all read books differently.
It like any other kind of artwork.
Is a simple case of another one’s trash is another one’s treasure.
As for publishers: they go by what they think will sell.
There are a lot of books that are considered trash from the literary point — but people buy, love and read these books.
An the other hand, you have great literature that people don’t enjoy reading.
In fact, there are books that we now consider classics that were regarded as trash in their time.
There are publishers who will publish whatever you want for a fee.
Their business model is to charge the author and not worry about how many copies are sold.
Other times, someone at a publishing company may like a book that isn’t good, or dislike one that is great (just look at how many classics had to go through more than 10 rejections before being accepted).
Also, from a statistical standpoint, publishing has a long tail.
One winner makes up for a lot of losers.
Our best seller sells more copies than the bottom half of our books combined.
I think that’s typical for most publishers.
Obviously we want everything we spend time on to be a best seller, but we are also willing to take a chance on someone who shows promise in the hope that they will be the next Stephen King.