A JACKPOT OF BAD MOVES
This is my week to bitch.
Doesn’t it just burn you up when you find a published book that is written like crap? Here you are, struggling to get a foot in the door. You send out manuscript after manuscript, get turned down over and over again, usually for no explanation at all. However, once in a while, you get lucky and the agent, editor or publisher graces you with a critique. You find that all the “advice” your fellow authors have been doling out, or that you’ve been reading about is dead-on. It’s like hearing (or reading) a tape recording of what they’ve been telling you since you started scribbling words on paper (or bits in a computer). Then, you’re slapped in the face to see some schmuck published by a big house (or a subsidiary) that doesn’t appear to know the first thing about writing.
It happened again.
Right now, I’m in the middle of reading a particular series by an author that, at first, pissed me off with his crass view of authors that e-publish. As I was looking through his titles in the bookstore, I noticed a line of novels nearby from another author I like. It’s a series where I’ve read every one. I had no idea that he wrote three earlier novels. For several trips to the store, I forgot to do further research. Finally the other day, I remembered to seek out those earlier titles on Amazon.
I was floored. The reviews of these three, loosely-related stories were awful. Each had an average of twenty reviews and the total average was two stars. Ouch! The majority of them were one-star reviews with one five-star each from an obvious fan with a smattering of three three-star reviews between two of the second and third.
This had to be good! I read every one-star review, which took some time because most were detailed and not just “This book sucks”, but it was worth it. Only one guy was a glutton for punishment and read all three. The rest were from different people. The thing that nailed the issue was that almost all of them said the same things.
The first one was panned for being little more than soft porn. The author spent too much time focusing on body parts, which had nothing to do with the story. All of them, which is something I’ve talked about in structuring chapters, had a problem with the chapters not ending well. They concluded with no cliffhanger, no place to go, no incentive for the reader to keep on reading.
Then there were the convoluted plots including unresolved threads. Characters introduced early in the story, popped up unexpectedly and resolved loose threads with no reason to be there.
Reviewers universally panned the writing as cheesy and amateurish without specifying so I can’t tell you exactly what anyone meant by that. Let’s just say, the people that bought these books probably missed out when the author finally got his chops and started his other series. The later series is written well enough that I’ve enjoyed every one despite some glaring flaws. I’ve had some issues, but nothing to stop me from buying the next one. For instance, the author tends to describe things ad-nauseum, he starts the earlier books very slow, he’s very prone to lists and his hero is able to gallivant around the world without any appreciable income.
What bothers me is with such universal loathing for this guy’s work first three novels, why did the publisher go ahead and still give the go-ahead for a new series? Turns out it was a big gamble that paid off, but do you think we’d be so lucky?
Sometimes I just can’t figure out this game, and probably never will. It seems luck and timing has a lot more to do with it than skill or talent. Not saying I have either, but I’m just sayin’…
I know some super authors that deserve a lot better shot than this guy got (and I’m not talking about myself), yet they can’t even get the time of day from an agent.
As you look at your next rejection slip, don’t feel so bad. Luck will either strike or it won’t. Write because you love it.