Posts tagged books
Posts tagged books
Quick! What publishing industry minutiae do you want to read about?!
How utterly embarrassing.
Rebloggable by request.
If you just read through all of the Query Quagmire archives, then you are both dedicated and possessed of superb taste. You may stay.
I love these questions! It’s sometimes difficult to separate my Evil Editor persona from my Bookworm persona, but sometimes that’s to my advantage, especially when buying books. I actually rarely buy books based on just happening upon them in the bookstore. But that has a lot to do with the fact that I have a “to read” list that’s longer than “War and Peace” and am therefore pretty focused in my bookstore forays.That said, I do very often pick up books at the bookstore or library to find out more about them, and occasionally buy them. It’s much easier to identify these books than the “meh” books because, well… I usually don’t even notice the “meh” books. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to answer your question by explaining what doesn’t earn an insta-“meh.”
When I’m at a bookstore, I kind of leave myself at the mercies of the bookseller’s marketing decisions. What I mean by that is that I will absolutely pick up and look at a book that is cover-out, rather than one that is spine-out, or one that is in a display or end cap rather than shelved with the rest of its genre. Those books aren’t displayed prominently by happenstance. It was a very deliberate decision on the part of the bookstore and the publisher.
I notice and pick up books usually based on cover design, title, and where they’re located in the store. One book I picked up recently based on its title was “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. It was a bright orange and yellow cover, and the title immediately triggered something in my brain that went “VIDEO GAMES CHILDHOOD NERDINESS YES.” Another book I picked up and bought randomly was Cherie Priest’s “Boneshaker.” I liked the cover design and the font (yes, the font) so much that I had to find out what it was about. Then it was all STEAMPUNK and ALTERNATIVE HISTORY OF THE CIVIL WAR and 19TH CENTURY SEATTLE and STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST and HOLY FUCK THE INTERIOR FONT IS BROWN THAT IS A BOLD MOTHERFUCKING DESIGN DECISION. So I bought it, and have bought three other books by Priest since then.
Books that I’ve put down and walked away from despite great titles and covers usually happen when I read the description and it begins something like “Clarice thought she was just a normal girl until something extraordinary happens and she discovers her secret destiny…” or “Eustace feels drawn to the strange new girl who just moved in across the street and this is the story of their intense romance at the age of sixteen…” or “Special Agent Grant McBarden is up against his most dangerous challenge yet…” or “This is the quietly desperate story of a middle class white family falling apart even as they learn to be together…” or some other hackneyed piece of terrible catalog copy. If it sounds like something I’ve heard of before, then I just don’t bother.
I’m drawn to the original, or to what triggers happy memories I guess. And I tend to trust the marketing decisions of the publisher. That has led me astray less often than the recommendations of friends (“The Name of the Wind” destroyed any trust I had in the reading tastes of casual acquaintances).
Hope that helps!
“Spell It Out” by David Crystal should be up your alley if you haven’t already read it. It’s basically “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” for spelling. I’m reading it right now—it’s really interesting and I’m learning a lot!
All excellent recommendations, minions. Well done. The Rejectibeasts should be suitably sated on these offerings. Nevertheless, the beatings will continue until morale improves!
“Never Let Me Go” is one of my favorites, and “Ready Player One” is the book I recommend to everyone. :)
The Rejectibeasts are hungry. They subsist only on high-quality literature and the souls of broken authors. Recommend some good books for me to feed them. All genres accepted.
You will be harshly judged upon the merits of your recommendations, though, so tread cautiously. QQ out.
eternalrulerofthesunrise said: How do things like 50Shades managed to get published in the first place? I’ve read a lot of shitty literature but that one really takes the cake…And no one takes my cake damn it.
It’s very simple, actually.
As I’ve said on this blog many, many times: there’s something for everyone.
Don’t like “Fifty Shades of Grey”? That’s ok. You don’t have to. Somebody else does. About 65 million somebodies.
Don’t like “Twilight”? That is also just dandy. But there are people out there who literally love it enough to get Twilight-themed tattoos, and there must be a reason.
Can’t stand “Eat, Pray, Love”? Me neither. But millions of books sold and Julia Roberts in a goofy hat can’t be wrong.
What I’m saying is that humanity as a vast and terrible force does not have unified taste. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and all that jazz. And editors try to keep that variegated taste in mind when acquiring books. It’s like feeding a very fickle Hydra. Every head likes to eat a different thing and you have to keep all of the heads happy if you hope to survive. If you think you’ll make your life easier by starving one head of the Hydra, it’ll just come back… only now it’ll be two heads, neither of which has the same taste as the others, and both of which are mad at you for starving it.
Absurd analogy over. In other words: if people can’t find books they like to read, then they won’t read at all. So we have to keep publishing books across a variety of subjects in order to keep people reading and buying books. Because if people don’t read and buy books, then I don’t have a job and no one, regardless of their taste in books, has new books to read.
And so we placate the Snooki fans of the world by following up “A Shore Thing” with another two-book contract, despite nearly everyone in the world going “What kind of brainless lunatic gives two shits about what an overly made-up basketball has to say?”
Now, to what many aspiring writers see as the real problem. And it’s a big one, one that I hear a lot as an Evil Publishing Overlord:
If X can get published, why will no one publish MY book?
I’ve explained why terrible books get published, but this explanation probably leaves most aspiring authors unsatisfied. Because if there’s something for everyone, up to and including the point where “Fifty Shades of Grey” becomes an international literary phenomenon, then it naturally follows that there simply must be an audience for your book, right?
Because your book isn’t ready yet. Or you haven’t found the right editor yet. Or you approached the right editor at the wrong time. Or maybe your query letter sucks. Or maybe there are too many books like yours out there just now and you need to wait a little while before there will be a place in the market for yours. Maybe your title sucks. Maybe the intern misfiled your query. Maybe the structural integrity of your plot has been compromised by the appearance of rogue space mermaids who took your finely-crafted historical fiction at the eleventh hour and transformed it into a sci-fi epic and you didn’t bother re-working the first 9/10ths of the story before shopping the manuscript around. Take your pick.
There are hundreds of reasons why your manuscript is not yet under contract, most of which lie squarely with you, the author. Almost none of them has anything to do with the frightening existence of awful and/or offensive erotica. Editors are not publishing the likes of “Fifty Shades of Grey” INSTEAD of a debut novelist’s heartbreaking work of staggering genius. They are publishing “Fifty Shades of Grey” IN ADDITION TO the first-time novelist’s undoubtedly brilliant work. But you’ve never heard of “The Submission,” have you?
Don’t be discouraged because other people (people who make no earthly sense to you or I) actually liked “Fifty Shades of Grey.” That’s their thing. It’s not yours. Instead remember that other people liked “Harry Potter” and “House of Leaves” and made “The Hunger Games” a huge fucking deal. Remember that good books get published all the time, books that are good in your estimation, and which coexist quite peacefully with the purple prose of teen paranormal romances.
You are not competing with “Fifty Shades of Grey,” so don’t act like you are. The editor who acquired “Fifty Shades of Grey” (is currently taking their $5,000 bonus on a vacation to Maui, but that’s beside the point) has no interest in your book and never will (unless of course you’re writing wildly problematic BDSM fiction). But another editor does.
Keep working. Keep trying to reach that editor. And don’t fucking quit just because you’re discouraged that we live in a world where “Fifty Shades” is a book club top pick right after “The Poisonwood Bible.”
Of course! QQ minions, consider this my official endorsement of the 5 in 5 Challenge. I think this is a fantastic way of encouraging readers to read more and to read outside of their usual comfort zone.
Seeing as how it’s the first day of a brand new year, this is the perfect time to set goals for yourself as a reader. The 5 in 5 Challenge looks like a fun and realistic way to set those goals in a social environment. Now I’m making it sound lame. But seriously people, at the very least add the 5 in 5 Challenge to your repertoire of Literary Tumblrs.
The Salon article 5in5challenge referred to was actually quite controversial when it came out, partially because of its title: “Better yet, DON’T write that novel.” At its core though, it was a rallying cry for readers to, y’know… read. The book industry is nothing without avid readers, people who enjoy reading, who choose to read of their own free will, who read often, and who tell the people around them about the books they’re reading. Seriously, without that we have no purpose. I know a lot of my followers are writers who probably have very ambitious writing goals for the new year. But do yourself and all of us a huge favor and add reading goals to your New Year’s Resolution.
Go forth, check out the 5 in 5 Challenge, and READ, MY PRETTIES, READ!
I think this picture sums up my thoughts on the matter:
Just like that.
If you’re having trouble explaining your book in a query letter, then just explain it as you would to a friend. From there you can tweak your explanation to be tailored to a particular agent or editor.
I’m sorry I don’t have more detailed advice than that. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about genre-bending, or books that don’t quite fit into a genre recently, and I kind of feel like all of you are fretting about this way too much. Having a unique story is a good thing, no matter how hard it is to explain to an agent or editor.
Write the book that you intended to write. Consider changing the title, or at the very least bring up a title change with your agent. Avoid reading the similar novel until after you’re finished with yours. Chances are yours will still be completely different and unique despite the basic similarities. That’s fine and it happens all the time.
For example: Battle Royale and The Hunger Games sound like the same story on paper. In reality, they are quite different and both very successful in their own right.
Historical fiction =/= Anthropology or archaeology
Script =/= Novel
Based on true events =/= Autobiography, memoir, or even nonfiction of any kind
200,000 words =/= Good
Based on author’s own experiences =/= Of interest to anyone else
Includes a female character who carries a weapon =/= Feminist narrative
Includes a romance =/= Of interest to women
Includes war/spies/explosions/interrogations/expensive military equipment =/= Of interest to men
Includes sex =/= A romance novel
About vampires =/= Marketable
Literary fiction =/= Well-written
Joseph Campbell’s Heroic Journey motif =/= A good story
Written after reading 3 nonfiction books at the city library =/= Scholarship
Featuring original characters =/= Original
Written over the course of 10 years =/= Worth publishing
Good question. :)
I personally love endings that aren’t… tidy. If the two romantic leads don’t come to any sort of resolution about their relationship, if they don’t kiss, or if one decides they aren’t ready to commit to the other, that intrigues me. If the hero makes an unpopular decision in the penultimate chapter and goes down in the annals of history as a terrible person, even though they intended to do the right thing, that is interesting to me. But I think I’m slightly jaded from reading so many stock endings at this point. You could definitely try an untidy ending, but don’t do it just because I say so.
Really though, there is a definite answer to this question, especially when it comes to fantasy or YA fiction. And that answer is to change everything completely.
Change the rules. Change the stakes. Have the outcome of your story be that your protagonist’s world has been turned upside down and is completely unrecognizable when compared to page one. Once your protagonist completes their journey, they should not have made a circle and ended up right back where they started. They should be leagues away from home (metaphorically or literally speaking), in a place so different from where they started that they can’t possibly be the same person they were when they began.
An example of a successful use of the Change Everything Ending: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV show, not book, but bear with me. Also, SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH). In the final episode Buffy and Willow completely change the rules in a way that will fundamentally flip the balance of power in their favor. They don’t just defeat the First Evil, they make it so that if evil ever raises its ugly head again, they will have an overwhelming advantage. Oh, and they destroy their hometown. It’s an ending that changes everything: The rules of the fictional world (instead of there being one Slayer in every generation, now there are hundreds), the setting (Sunnydale is reduced to a smoldering crater), the characters (people die, forever changing the group dynamic). It’s an incredibly successful and powerful ending.
A story that could have benefited from the Change Everything Ending (Look! I just coined a term!) is Harry Potter (SPOILERS AHEAD). Instead of changing everything, J.K. Rowling just reset the clock. She went back to the beginning, back to the way things are supposed to be. Sure, Voldemort is defeated, but the prejudice against Muggles continues. The students of Hogwarts are still divided into Houses, thus encouraging the sort of division and competition that led to one quarter of the students siding with the genocidal Death Eaters simply by virtue of being Slytherins. The Wizarding world is still indelibly separated from the Muggle world, and the cycle continues. Things have gone “back to normal,” which is a pretty boring change and leaves all of the complex social issues of the Harry Potter books unresolved.
A good ending should not necessarily leave your readers feeling satisfied or comfortable. Good luck!
Considering I can think of three off the top of my head, I’d say they’re fairly common. Juliet Marillier’s “Sevenwaters Trilogy” has a different narrator for each book, George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” switches third person limited POVs by the chapter, and K.A. Applegate’s “Animorphs” books (CHILDHOOD FLASHBACK!) switched between five different narrators for every book.
However, I don’t know of any significant difference in sales for these multi-narrator book series as compared to series that are all narrated by the same character. My guess it probably wouldn’t negatively affect sales potential if you do it well.
Ray Bradbury was one of those authors who changed people. I still remember to this day the very moment when Something Wicked This Way Comes shook me to my core. I was 12 years old. It was study hall in seventh grade. And the Illustrated Man was displaying the faces of two boys tattooed into his palms.
Anything meaningful that I could’ve said to commemorate one of the most influential science fiction writers of all time pales in comparison to these two tributes:
Now it’s time to take my dinosaurs and leave the room.