Even those of us in the business will say it’s all about the writing, but the truth is, it’s not. Publishing is a business and the decision to publish a book is a business decision. That means it is based on far more than just fantastic writing.
The marketability of the book has to be as important as the writing. It’s how publishers sell a book and, frankly, it’s how readers buy. A lot of authors over the years have tried to argue this with me. They’ll point to great classics and criticize publishing because those books wouldn’t stand a chance today. I disagree.
Great classics are more than just great writing. In fact, most of them are often just as marketable as the books we’re publishing today.
Look at Pride and Prejudice. This isn’t a most loved book because of the writing. Readers and fans continue to return to Pride and Prejudice because it’s a great concept and an incredible romance. You can describe that book in one or two sentences. That hook, that marketability, still stands up today.
Moby Dick? Who wouldn’t be interested in requesting a book about a captain’s obsessive quest for a great whale? Place The Scarlett Letter in modern times and you’ve got a book about shame, probably social media shaming at that. I’d take a look.
Little Women, The House of Mirth, A Christmas Carol…we keep reading these incredible stories not just for the writing, but because of the concept, the hook which, at one point, is what made them marketable.
Read and enjoy, embrace these wonderful stories, but remember that in some ways publishing hasn’t changed all that much in hundreds of years. Embracing the need for marketability is as important as embracing the writing.