The golden age of publishing: when was it?

April 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

Unpublished writers, who attempt to be published, are quickly put in their place.  Publishers must tire of having to repeat the same things. Manuscripts are rejected because they do not reach the ever-increasing high standards:  the bar is always being raised.

Judges of writing competitions must be worn out too repeating that the entrants for a particular competition were of an unusually high standard and therefore many of the entrants have not made the longlist.  Such a pity that those unpublished writers do not enter the year the competing novels are of an unusually low standard.

And literary agents have their share of repetitions too to endure. Literary agents have to thrill with excitement when they read your manuscript; they only seek to have novels published that they love, that set them afire with enthusiasm, that they are (that much overused word) passionate about. We are unfortunate. Our manuscripts thrill no one.

Are unpublished writers to infer that there was once a time, a golden age, when the public were so hungry for novels that publishers did not have to concern themselves overmuch with quality? Were notices placed in the windows of publishing houses saying: Manuscripts in any condition urgently needed?

In my local library, there is a book sale. Books for adults fetch 40p, and books for children fetch 10p. Presumably these books are not being borrowed, and the library must purge its shelves of them to make way for more attractive novels. Were these discarded books once manuscripts that sent thrills through literary agents? Were these books once the subject of editorial conferences? Did the writers wrangle with the publishers about the kind of book jacket they wanted?  And after all these baptisms of fire they are now cast aside.

What of the public who go out and buy the books? What say do they have? Should the publishing industry have sneak previews of books so the ultimate readers can tell them where they are going wrong before they print thousands of copies? (Like sneak previews in the film industry.)

By the time the reader comes into the picture, it is too late. Despite the high standards of the publishing industry, a book club member told me last Saturday that sometimes the only discussion a book can provoke is the one entitled: How did this book get published?



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