Getting published has always been the dream of 80% of humanity, and has just as always been a less than 1% chance for most of them. This is a good thing.
As I read the truly great novelists, look at the bookshelves where hundreds of books await me, and know that these are just a small percentage of what I’d really do well to read, it occurs to me that maybe publishers should be publishing less stuff. After all, as the years pile up so do the books–good and bad–to read. Will we ever give up Faulkner? No reason to. So as we add to the great books that become classics, and try to keep up with the few truly great new ones so that we can discuss them at cocktail parties and sound quite literary and know-it-all, why bother publishing the crap?
I understand that publishers want to make money and I’m all for that for them, though they’ve made millionaires out of some pretty lousy writers and this doesn’t exactly raise the standards for the average reader. But I wish they’d really take a chance sometime to find someone who can beat out Danielle Steel ’cause that shouldn’t be all that hard to do if we’re talking literary value. Then again, I suppose the truth is that they are indeed looking for the next Danielle Steel.
Let’s say for simplicity’s sake the well-read consumer reads a book a week for fifty years. That’s 2500 books in his lifetime. I’m sure that there are well over 2500 excellent novels that have been written up to this point. I’m suggesting that publishers be in fact even more picky than they are being about what they select to publish. If they need to cut costs, this is surely one way of doing it.
Me, I’m doing my part. As reader, I’m reading only what promises to be the best (for whatever reason, and not tied to any bestsellers list because we all know what that could mean) in old and new. I’ve been approached this past week by a major publishing house to be a reviewer, and by a publisher of a novel written by an author whose previous work I’ve previously reviewed here. The novel I read was mediocre at best. Don’t know why everyone is willing to pour more money into her work, but okay, what do I know? But no, I’m not going to bother reading it and so I politely declined on both offers.
As a writer, I’ll also do my part to stand by my conviction. I’ll not send in any more submissions until I honestly in my heart of hearts and not my writer’s ego believe that what I’ve written needs to be read. Otherwise, I’ll not take up anybody’s time so that the really good stuff does get read and published and out there to be seen.