Saturday, November 28, 2009

What Makes a Book Marketable? #2

A few years ago I read a novel by a favorite well-known author whose stories had always drawn me in. This particular book, however, proved to be such a disappointment that I have never bought or read another piece by this writer. Was the story memorable? Apparently not because I don’t recall what it was about—and I do remember several of the same author’s earlier books. So what was the problem?

Poor editing turned me off. I couldn’t read the book for pleasure because my mind kept trying to fix the awkward prose and ineffective dialogue. What happened to the quality I’d learned to expect from this writer? I have no clue. But she—and her publisher—lost a reader who bought books.

Does a lesson for us wend its way out of this experience? Absolutely! No matter how “big” we get—no matter how well-known we are—we need the fine hand of a competent editor who works in our genre and who is a great “fit” for our personalities and our writing styles. The day we think we know more or better than that editor is the day we may join the author referred to above. It is often said that we never get a second chance to make a first impression. This holds true in our writing. We may be witty, charming, and absolutely delightful company, but our readers don’t know that. They judge us by what we share with them—our written words. Have they been professionally polished to perfection?

Interestingly, the writer above published through a major house, and the book came out some years before the current “recession.” We might conclude, then, that the economic downturn had nothing to do with its poor quality. However, the publishing industry, like so many others, is in flux. Large houses no longer edit and market as they once did. But none of this excuses the publishing of any book that fails to qualify as a “great read.”

In tough economic times, we all have to cut corners. Writers—especially those who self- or independently publish—must economize like everyone else. Regardless of this or any other excuse, the editing corner is not the one to cut. The goal of almost every author is sales, sales, sales. Bottom line: A marketable book means dollars in the bank. And a marketable book is a well-edited book. What else is it? “What Makes a Book Marketable? #3” has the answer.

Linda Lane and her editing team offer streamline edits to fit almost every writer's needs. She has authored two novels and is planning a sequel to the second one, Treacherous Tango.


  1. I had a similar experience with an author back in the 1990s. Her first book was awesome, her second was good, third so-so, and fourth downright awful. I stopped reading after that. Part of the problem might have been less rigorous editing on the later books. (The constant repetition of words and phrases was a clue to that.) More than that, the first book must have been a labor of love, while it seemed like she was just grinding out the later ones because she had to. It was like the author stopped caring about the story. As a reader, so did I. It was sad, because her first book especially showed how much potential the she had.

  2. I've had this complaint about multiple books in a series. The word count gets too long. Harry Potter went from being a manageable book for young people to a long and winding couple of books that looked as if the editor was afraid to cut a single word. Didn't affect her sales-but I wasn't thrilled with the length and pithy prose.

    I hear time and time again from other writers that we are expected to be far more polished BEFORE we publish. I think it is because we must be able to edit well due to the changes in the publishing industry. I don't know. I have at 3 CPs, I continue to study my craft on-line at on my own, and I'm building a beta reader group for my future novels.

    None of my efforts will guarantee publishing success. But I'd like to believe they make achieving that goal more attainable.

  3. I totally agree! It seems an author's earlier books have the most heart and intuition. Once they are the churn-out-a-few-books-a-year-writers their plots become unbelievable and their characters stale. Since I have limited time to read, I choose to read authors' earlier works and save myself the agony of experiencing their downfall.

  4. I agree. Editing is not the place to cut corners. I can't stand a poorly edited book. Why read it, when there are better ones out there?

    Morgan Mandel

  5. I get that economics influencee how much one can spend on editing (and promoting and and and) a book, but the worst place, wrong place to cut corners and save pennies is in the editing process.

    The final product has to be god - and a good editor helps to achieve this. The coolest cover, the best PR, brilliant use of social networking and book signings galore will not (ultimately) translate into dollars if teh product is weak... maybe initially, but readers aren't dumb, reviewers aren't dumb, librarians aren't dumb. Word will get out if the story is dull, if the characters are flat, if the dialogue like you know, sucks...

    And people may forgive one or two typos, but poorly constructed sentences, incorrect spelling, absent punctuation marks and the like will turn off readers and it will be very difficult to win them back.

    Cheers, Jill
    "Blood and Groom" is now in stores!


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