Agent Rachelle Gardner has a great post up today that was sparked by her reading Steve Jobs’ biography and his line “When the sales guys run the company, the product guys don’t matter so much, and a lot of them just turn off.” and how it relates to the publishing industry.
I’ve felt the same as Rachelle for the past few years. I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I see so many readers clamoring for more urban fantasy books and so many amazing writers complaining that their urban fantasy series was either not picked up or it was canceled. I’ve heard time and time again that the UF market is tight and that demand is on a decline. Well, maybe demand from publishing houses is on the decline, but that’s not true for readers. When shows like Lost Girl, Supernatural, and Grimm are so popular, how can anyone say there’s a decline in interest in urban fantasy?
What readers don’t want is to pay $8 for a book that is as poorly written, error-riddled, and cliched as the self-published book they paid $.99 for. Not that I’m saying all self-pubbed books are like that. I know some self-pubbed authors who go above and beyond to put out the best book they possibly can. What I am saying is that readers buy books published by a big name publishing house because they’ve come to expect certain standards from those houses. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a sharp decline in the quality of books coming out of those houses. It’s gotten to the point where I won’t pick up a new urban fantasy author until I’ve heard some pretty glowing reviews from people and places I trust (especially now that Amazon has stopped offering their 4-for-3 mass market paperback deal)
The biggest issue, IMO, is that as soon as the genre hit big, publishing houses scrambled to sign as many urban fantasy writers as they could, regardless of how good their story was, in order to make as much money from the trend as possible. When those poorly written, badly edited stories came out, readers reared back in disgust and refused to partake of the dreck they’d been served. Now, the publishing houses, seeing how poorly those titles have sold, are saying that the market is in decline. Ummm… no. It only looks that way because you guys fouled the well.
And, it’s not only urban fantasy this happens to. Every genre that experiences a surge in popularity goes through this same cycle. You would think that the publishers would realize the pattern by now, but no. Or, maybe they do. maybe this is all a deliberate marketing strategy. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I keep hearing agents, writers, and editors all saying that the industry is driven by everyone’s passion for good books and not money. If that’s the case, then why are there so many atrocious books on the market? And I’m not just talking story-wise since that’s so subjective. I’m talking about books with plot holes as big as a house, books that have copy-editing errors on every other page, books that switch POV within the same freaking paragraph. If the industry is driven by a passion for good books, then PUT OUT good books. Otherwise I call shenanigans.