Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Popularity vs Greatness

On my trip, I read a book that I remember sold to the publisher to much acclaim.  The advance was supposedly nice and big, and the anticipation for the book began almost a year before it even came out. The book was okay.  Full of action but lacking substance.  It's the kind of book I probably wouldn't have finished if I hadn't been a captive audience on a plane with nothing else to read.  It was the white bread and bologna of books.  You'd eat it if there was nothing else.

I also read a post by Nathan Bransford that wondered if publishing was too obsessed with good writing.  You can read it here.

The gist though is that he wonders whether the general public gives a crap about well written stories.  He points to Fifty Shades of Grey as an example of a book that's not the best written book but has still sold a ton of copies.

He might have a point that people generally care more about stories than writing, but that doesn't mean we should be throwing in the towel.  JK Rowling is proof that great writing and great stories can co-exist.  Even if Harry Potter isn't your cup of tea, I suspect that her books will be around long after people have forgotten Fifty Shades of Grey.

But what I don't understand is why publishers are throwing six figures at crap books and not throwing millions at the great ones that are out there.  Why are people buying up millions of copies of poorly written, badly plotted books when there are brilliant books out there waiting to be discovered.

I should be able to walk into airports and Targets and find Andrew Smith's book, not some crap churned out by a literary hack who faked his own biography and then tried to create the publishing equivalent of a literary sweatshop.

People love comfort food.  And to a degree, I understand that bookstores and publishing companies need to feed the demand.  But at the same time, people won't know that there are better books out there unless we give them to them.  Sure, they can eat a pepperoni pizza from Dominos or they can eat a gourmet goat cheese and roasted pepper pizza.

I'm afraid I got off topic.  I guess I'm just a little confused at why so many popular books are terrible and why so many great books aren't popular.  There's a small intersection of great books that are also popular, but shouldn't that intersection be bigger?

Anyway, have you seen the cover of Andrew's new book WINGER?  It's freaking AMAZING.


  1. I have nothing to add. Just hearty applause.

  2. Shaun, there is a very simple answer to this: most people are mouth breathing morons with no taste. It's why Pit Bull and Little Wayne rule the radio waves. It's why True Blood is still a wildly popular TV show, even though the writers haven't even been trying since season two. It's why McDonald's is the biggest restaurant chain in the world, and Wal-Mart the largest retailer.

    Is it sad? Hell yes, but I'm afraid it's only going to get worse the more we breed.


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.