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On Booker Prize

The winner of Booker Prize 2015, Marlon James, has revealed that he briefly abandoned writing after his debut novel, John Crow’s Devil, was rejected nearly 80 times, before it was eventually published in 2005. Despite the success of his latest novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, James thought the publishing industry had not changed much since his first book was repeatedly turned down.

Which brings me to the point: how do publishers know what readers want to read? “There was a time I actually thought I was writing the kind of stories people didn’t want to read.” Marlon James said. But I think publishers, especially American publishers, are too panicky and fearful to go out of their comfort zone in picking what is to be published. We see a lot of formulaic thrillers like Gone Girl because publishers think books that are like Gone Girl will sell. In other words, sometimes it’s not all about the quality of the writing but the market. As readers we are being deprived of the opportunity to read refreshing new voices. Instead of a diversity of books, all you see at the bookstores is a table full of “If You like Gone Girl, you might also like . . . ” kind of books.

2 Responses

  1. A big part of it’s who(m) you know, I hate to say. If you can get big names to blurb you, you’re in. Otherwise, it’s the proverbial crap shoot. The only other route in is hoping an editor picks you from the slush pile of thousands, because one thing caught his or her eye. Connections get you everywhere; you have to fight to get yourself noticed, via other, smaller publication, rubbing elbows and social media. It’s tough out there.

  2. I’m sure publishers are always looking for that next big book but let’s talk about the readers a bit. I think it’s true, that most people tend to stick to what’s popular. Is it popular because the publisher chose to market it a certain way? Or is it popular because of how it’s written? Look at 50 Shades. Horrible writing!!! But suddenly a group of stay at home moms talk about it in the pick-up line and then suddenly everyone is reading it. So, the publishers cash in on that and come out with MORE crappy books to appease the masses. I think it’s a little bit of both. The publishers trying to mimic a hit and readers dumbing themselves down but reading what everyone is reading.

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