All Those Awful Books

An anonymous commenter on my blog Friday wrote: “I hear the data about how few authors get published. But then I read so many published books that are simply awful.” Many other blog readers have shared this perspective in the past, including a few of yesterday’s commenters.

You know what? Sometimes I turn on the TV and I’m flabbergasted at how many truly awful shows are on.

Most of the time I walk into the video store and can’t believe how many movies are in there that I would never rent.

In the music section of Borders, it’s stunning to me how much “music” they carry that just gives me a headache.

I love Nordstrom, but they have so many clothes that are completely unattractive. And they don’t even fit me.

Sometimes, I even walk into a museum and see works of art that a third-grader could have done.

What does all this mean? Absolutely nothing, except to underscore the subjectivity of every single artistic endeavor. What is pleasing to one is dreck to another.

Bottom line, my advice is to stop worrying about all those “awful books” being published. People love them and are buying them, or they wouldn’t continue to be published. Keep writing what you write, and keep trying to find your audience. Make your book the best it can be. Keep trying to find that agent who loves your work. The more you stress about other people’s awful books getting published, the less energy you’ll have to write your own books. Plus, you’ll be nurturing a negative and resentful attitude about the very publishing industry that you’re trying to break into. How smart is that?

Let’s try and keep a positive attitude. Because amidst all those bad programs on TV and all that bad music in Borders, I always manage to find something I like. There’s something for everyone. Your “something” just might be right for someone.

And don’t forget: Even when you’re published… somebody is bound to think your book is “simply awful.” Might as well get over it right now.

To each his own. Now write your own!

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Tina M. Russo on September 2, 2009 at 7:52 PM

    >A little late to the game but frankly I am stunned at those, who are actually suggesting book censoring. Not the words used but that certainly is the innuendo. I'm trying to think who is qualified for such a task.

  2. The Hahn Hunting Lodge on August 30, 2009 at 1:21 AM

    >Good point. Stay focused. Stay positive.

  3. Sarah on August 27, 2009 at 7:38 PM

    >Rachelle, this is such good advice. Thanks for the reminder. I don't think publishing is a zero sum game, anyway: the fact that another writer's book is published has no bearing on whether mine will be. My chances relate to the quality of my work and my fortitude in pursuing writing as a business.

  4. momishome2 on August 27, 2009 at 2:07 PM

    >Thanks for the reminders. It is all too easy to waste so much energy focusing on the negative stuff that there's not enough energy left to focus on the good stuff. That's just a mini sermon to myself 🙂 based on your post.

  5. Rachelle on August 26, 2009 at 7:30 AM

    >Kimberlee – Thank heavens somebody finaly brought that up. I was waiting all day and it took 74 comments to get there! I don't cover every aspect of a topic in the short span of a blog post and always hope my readers will add depth and breadth to it.

    I didn't even address the qualitative aspect of art in my post. You're right, there are standards that determine if a work has "quality" or not. Otherwise, what would be the point of seriously studying literature, music, sculpture, or any other art?

    I had this discussion on Twitter yesterday. A couple of my tweets were:

    "Every artistic discipline has objective standards for "quality." Whether a piece is pleasing to you or me? Subjective."

    "Example: I love my new headshots which weren't professionally done. But my friend the pro photographer says they stink."

    My point is obviously exactly the same as yours. There are objective standards, and someone who is a student of that particular art or craft is aware of them, and judges according to them.

    But the mass media arts will always be far more subject to public opinion than any objective qualitative standard. It comes with the territory of being MASS media. If we are writing for public consumption, we are a part of the mass media whether we like it or not.

    The business of publishing is full of people who care deeply about the qualitative aspects of a book; many of us try hard to walk a line wherein we choose books of quality that will also appeal to many readers.

    I do not think of myself as a gatekeeper, but I DO take my responsibility seriously: to bring high quality books to the public.

  6. Kimberlee Conway Ireton on August 26, 2009 at 1:27 AM

    >Rachelle, While I agree with you that there's not much point in worrying about how books that are awful got published, I don't think the answer is to claim it's all a matter of personal preference and shrug it off.

    Saying that one man's trash is another man's treasure is a cop out. Just because I like a book doesn't make it good, and just because I don't like a book doesn't make it bad. There is a qualitative difference between, say, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and, oh say, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, and to deny this difference simply perpetuates the "if you like it, it can't be that bad" lie.

    I'm not saying we should fixate on the bad writing that's out there, but merciful heavens, we should do all in our power not to add to it, and the only we can do that is to admit it exists and avoid it, and we can't avoid what we can't recognize.

  7. christa on August 25, 2009 at 11:25 PM

    >Anon said: "…instead of stepping up to our responsibilities as gatekeepers of our cultural identity. It is not merely the fault of the public that we are a mindless reality-TV-gorged society. The public has been led there by a trail of poisoned bread crumbs left by people making a living off of taking the low road."

    Just a thought…who appointed agents as gatekeepers of cultural identity? Should "cultural identity" have/need a gatekeeper? If so, whose identity is it really?

    If the public's been led by poison bread crumbs, then it's hungry for something. Clearly, people are not in a frenzy to visit art museums. There is an "off" button on the remote. Just because the poisoned bread crumbs exist doesn't mean they have to be consumed.

    And, maybe all those "awful books" are being read by "awful readers."

  8. Janet Kay Jensen on August 25, 2009 at 11:22 PM

    >Excellent points all around. Thanks for the forum!

    When I think about books I value and books that don't appeal to me, I think about TV: Reality shows are cheap to produce. They must make very good money. Sadly, some wonderful actors who have worked very hard on their craft don't get work as easily because of the rash of reality shows. That's everybody's loss, IMO . . .

    But – – – – we can always (usually) grab the remote and find a station that's showing "good stuff."

    My point is that we can choose to read AND write books of quality and hopefully find our audience.

  9. Rebekah on August 25, 2009 at 10:21 PM

    >Very true. However, I love to critique books. So I will continue to love and not love books that I find. That makes the hunt that much better. When you find one you love you share it with everyone!

  10. Anonymous on August 25, 2009 at 9:28 PM


    If that comment was disrespectful, then please stop telling would-be authors that it's a tough business and they need a thick skin. Sheesh.


    I agree with anon 7:11. I disagree with you. Respectfully.

  11. Rachelle on August 25, 2009 at 9:12 PM

    >Anon 8:00 whose comment I deleted: Feel free to try again to express your opinion, but please do it respectfully. Thanks.

  12. Anonymous on August 25, 2009 at 8:11 PM

    >I haven't read the comments so I apologize if I'm rehashing something.

    As someone who works within the publishing industry, and successfully, I strongly disagree with you Rachelle. It's disturbing to me just how many people in publishing hold to this sort of thinking. As a representative of art it ought to be an agent's responsibility to ensure that what art is furthered in our society is that which is deserving of praise and honor.

    This is a mission that the opportunistic entertainment industry has failed at spectacularly and it's a trend that will not correct itself until agents and editors and marketing directors and everyone else stops pointing fingers and saying 'don't worry' and playing the 'whatever sells must have some worth" game. It's a lie, a lie that is propagated because it allows us to take the easy road and make a living off of it instead of stepping up to our responsibilities as gatekeepers of our cultural identity. It is not merely the fault of the public that we are a mindless reality-TV-gorged society. The public has been led there by a trail of poisoned bread crumbs left by people making a living off of taking the low road.

    I expect you'll delete this comment but I do hope it will provide you some food for thought. I tend to think that you are, in fact, doing your part to ensure the work you represent has worth beyond its bottom line and I thank you for that, but I could name a long list of agents who are otherwise. My rant is against the industry as a whole and the 'live and let live' attitude, not against you.

  13. Bonn on August 25, 2009 at 7:52 PM

    >I just have to say that experiencing NaNoWriMo for the first time really changed my perspective on 'awful' books. Even 'awful' books take a lot of work to write, and I can respect the effort if not the product.

  14. Kristi Holl on August 25, 2009 at 7:49 PM

    >Terrific post, Rachelle. What a waste of time and energy to worry about something you can't do a thing about. The variety of stuff available does show one good thing: there's probably an editor out there who will like *your* book too, if you're persistent.
    Kristi Holl
    Writer's First Aid blog

  15. Richard Lewis on August 25, 2009 at 7:17 PM

    >I've been through the review wringer–what one critic loves, another hates.

    My chime: it might do well for us to ponder the possibility that the published book might not be as bad as we think it is, and that our novel isn't as good as we're certain it is. Just a thought.

    One of the lessons I learned when I was starting to write seriously, for publication, was from a published writer — don't make fun of any published novel. It's a waste of emotion, a no-win thing — the wise writer studies said novel to see why it was published and thereby learns a positive lesson.

    Well, okay, that advice can only strictly be followed by saints. I'm only human and have had to bite my tongue from commenting on some famous titles

  16. Heather Sunseri on August 25, 2009 at 5:33 PM

    >I'll give this post a simple, "Amen!" Love it!

  17. familysaga on August 25, 2009 at 2:46 PM

    This is a wonderful post, and I certainly agree. If we fret over something we cannot change it will only hinder us from doing what we can change. I never cease to be amazed at the content in much of what is being accepted in the literary market today. Could fill the page here, but time would not suffice. I began a blog page recently, and still so much to do there, a newbie on twitter and still learning all the buttons there.
    I spent years on a literary fiction novel that does not contain violence, murder or sexual themes. Instead, it is free of all that. A clean thrilling adventure with unforgettable characters that are so real you can almost hear them speak. One of which is the cornerstone of the family who prays and studies his bible by the oil lamp late at night. Jessie plays a big part in carrying the family through the surprising events. If it were a movie it would be rated G for general audiences of all ages.
    I am a born again Christian, and it is my belief that God inspired me as I wrote and I do believe that it will be on the shelves someday according to Isaiah 55:11.
    Truly, if I wanted to see or hear of something awful I would turn on the evening news in which I don't. If it is really something I need to know my mom always calls and broadcasts it anyway.
    Again, this is a wonderful post and may God bless you.

  18. Doug Spurling on August 25, 2009 at 2:04 PM

    >Well said. Amen. Gotta go write now.

  19. T. Anne on August 25, 2009 at 1:52 PM

    >I agree whole heartedly! I'm glad there is a great variety and I know what to stay away from and what I like.

  20. Rose McCauley on August 25, 2009 at 1:28 PM

    >Thanks again for this jumstart, rachelle! rose, off to write her own book!

  21. Totally Desperate Mom on August 25, 2009 at 1:12 PM

    >So true. Dee Wallace Stone played my Mom on a television show ("The New Lassie"). She told me about what she thought was going to be the end of her career. Starring in a movie that she t hought no one would like. It was going to bomb. That movie? "E.T." Probably the most successful film of her career. You just never know…
    You don't even know if your book is any good. Do what you can to get your book out there and then let the audience decide.

  22. R. K. Mortenson on August 25, 2009 at 12:54 PM

    >Good point, Janet Kay. Writing is an art form and a craft. But publishing is a business. Most readers are not writers. From a business standpoint, they're consumers, and books are products. Cold hard reality. Didn't Stephen King even say he was basically serving up Big Macs and not filet mignon? A lot more people eat Big Macs. (I think King's a good writer, btw.)

  23. Ghost Girl on August 25, 2009 at 12:02 PM

    >Thanks for this, Rachelle. We can waste a lot of time complaining about what's out there and bemoaning our own struggles, but the bottom line is, write because you love to write and never stop nurturing your craft.

  24. StephB on August 25, 2009 at 11:55 AM

    >Rachelle, let me say I enjoy visiting your blog. I love your advice here. Not everyone is going to think your book is great. It's what makes us individuals. If you don't try, you'll never know. Thanks for being positive and upbeat!

  25. Janet Kay Jensen on August 25, 2009 at 11:54 AM

    >Many of these less-than-stellar writers have huge followings and their books continue to sell. The authors know their target audience and so does their publisher.

    So – — in these situations, who cares about all the "dos and don'ts of good writing" that we learn in workshops? About all the feedback we get from peer critiques, and all the rewrites we do? About use of language and metaphor and character development, etc.?

    The fact is, many readers don't care about the craft we work so hard to improve in our own writing. They weren't English majors. They won't recognize "bad writing habits," as they want a good story, an escape, a page-turner, whatever. All of which are sound reasons for picking up a book. By no means am I putting this audience down, and many writers exist to meet their reading needs.

    I have to remind myself of all of that when I get frustrated with a book I've chosen to read – –

    Publishing is a $$ business.

  26. Alice on August 25, 2009 at 11:50 AM

    >AHHH, today I am suffering from writer's block and also wondering 'will my book be good enough' … and then, like you say, wondering who (because it will happen) will give me a crappy review when it comes out. HOWEVER – like you say – there is an audience out there for everyone's work and it's best to just write the best we can. So, thank you for geeing me up a bit!

  27. Rachelle on August 25, 2009 at 11:43 AM

    >Cassandra, the Zinsser quote is awesome, I'm going to tweet it today! Thanks for sharing the wisdom.

  28. Cassandra Frear on August 25, 2009 at 11:36 AM

    >from Writing About Your Life by william Zinsser:

    "Keep separating yourself from any project that's not up to your highest standards of what's right for you — and for the broader community where you can affect the quality of life . . . separate yourself from cynics and from peddlers of despair."

    There is a place for being aware of what's happening in the industry. But we must not let it overwhelm us. At some point, in order to create our best work, we have to stop worrying about the publishers, the editors, the market, and the readers of books. It's a privilege to write — to be caught up in something larger than ourselves, to create, and so to touch the hand that created all things.

  29. Mariana on August 25, 2009 at 11:26 AM

    >I love how you bring perspective into things.

    Another great post!

  30. Arabella on August 25, 2009 at 11:26 AM

    >Pulp fiction sells well in a bad economy. Pulp fiction is not necessarily bad literature, either! When I was younger I thought I was a great writer; now I'm not so sure, so I'm working all the harder to get there.
    There are all kinds of books that I don't like, but you're right–somebody else likes them.

  31. Heart2Heart on August 25, 2009 at 11:25 AM


    Another well said blog. It seems even to us, as we grow older, even our tastes change from what we eat, to what we wear, what we watch and what we listen to. Thank goodness there is something out there to suit everyone's tastes!

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  32. yarnbuck on August 25, 2009 at 11:16 AM

    >True Story. Last fall, a Mediocre football team lost to an inferior team. The Mediocre loosing coach found 5 perfect plays on the game film. He played and preached those 5 plays over and over. His objective was for his players to be self defined by those 5 plays – not the dozens of failures. The following week, the Mediocre team faced a superior team. Won. The team they beat really was superior – according to their otherwise undefeated, National Championship year.

  33. Gracie Bea Winterton on August 25, 2009 at 11:14 AM

    >I sympathize wholeheartedly. I actually started writing fiction because I ran out of Melody Carlson books to read and there was "nothing else good out there," so I decided to write the good books myself. Since then I've discovered some fantastic authors to satisfy my craving for a good book. But I do allow myself to grumble every once in a while about all the romance novels. My blog post on the subject.

  34. RM on August 25, 2009 at 11:13 AM

    >You write:

    "What does all this mean? Absolutely nothing, except to underscore the subjectivity of every single artistic endeavor. What is pleasing to one is dreck to another."

    I think the better conclusion to draw is that good art, whatever the medium/endeavor, is hard, and great art is really, really hard. No doubt that people differ widely on what they find pleasing, but I'd like to think that at least some people are flat wrong. They're not wrong in there preferences — prefer what you like (to coin a tautology) — but wrong in thinking that mere preference determines quality.

    Besides, if it was all a matter of subjectivity, why write for another?

  35. Rachel Starr Thomson on August 25, 2009 at 11:00 AM

    >Living in dread of the day my "simply awful" review is published. But then, such a review being published will mean that my book is also published, so all in all, dread is overrated :).

    I really don't stress over all the bad books. They give me hope. If that author broke in, surely I can if I can keep working at it.

  36. isabeljoelyblack on August 25, 2009 at 10:49 AM

    >Yes, exactly. Thank you!

    And enjoy the praise, rather than worrying about the vitriol. A friend of mine commented that one of her favourite authors declared that she would no longer write because she received one negative review of a book.

    That's worrying. If you want to be in the public eye, you have to get used to people having an opinion of your work.

  37. Dara on August 25, 2009 at 10:46 AM

    >"Sometimes, I even walk into a museum and see works of art that a third-grader could have done."

    Oh wow, I feel the same way! Seems like "art" has become something that is just paint thrown on a canvas with an angsty title to it 😛

    Again to each his own…

  38. R. K. Mortenson on August 25, 2009 at 10:31 AM

    >"It's amazing how great the view is when you change perspective! Thanks for the insight."

    Jill said that. And that is a worthy quote for a quote-worthy post. Thanks Rachelle and Jill! (And you can quote me on that.)

    "It's amazing how great the view is when you change perspective!"

  39. DebraLSchubert on August 25, 2009 at 10:28 AM

    >Rachelle, I love you. You're a genius. Thank you so much for this post. Staying positive is 99.9% of the game. So is working hard. I know the math doesn't add up, but I think you get my point. I really love this post.;-)

  40. Timothy Fish on August 25, 2009 at 10:04 AM

    >Hey, some third graders are great artists.

    Anonymous 12:41 said, “the awful books don’t worry me. They annoy me.” I agree. If a publisher wants to lose money on half the books they publish, that’s none of my business and I really don’t care. Now if I purchase a book and it puts me to sleep, that is annoying. If I try reading the book and I would rather listen to fingers on a chalkboard than to turn the page, that is annoying. And while we might say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, the reason I will keep complaining about awful books is that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and I hope that publishers will eventually get the message and start publishing more stuff that I think is good.

  41. Roxane B. Salonen on August 25, 2009 at 9:50 AM

    >Well said, Rachelle. An economy of words for truth.


  42. lynnrush on August 25, 2009 at 9:49 AM

    >Right on!!

  43. A Musing Mom on August 25, 2009 at 9:47 AM

    >So very well put, everything you said here. And instead of letting it get me down or jealous to see published books that seem not so great to me, I've been trying to take the positive attitude you suggest. If I think I could write as well or better than stuff that's out there, then I must be in the right line of work. It becomes a motivator instead of a de-motivator that way.

    And the part about someone thinking our "baby" is awful – it's true and it hurts. So we'd better start practicing gentleness and grace toward other people's "babies" before ours is out there for scrutiny. Like you say, it's all a matter of "to each his own".

    Thanks again for the reality check.

  44. Julie Surface Johnson on August 25, 2009 at 9:46 AM

    >Excellent perspective. Thank you, Rachelle.

  45. Laura in Texas on August 25, 2009 at 9:40 AM

    >Such a good post, and timely. Thank you for telling the truth.

  46. raballard on August 25, 2009 at 9:40 AM

    >I loved the blog. Where do I sign up to become one of those awful published books. I dream for the day the Sy-Fy channel makes a dreadful movie about my second-rate work of literature. I can just imagine the look on the dozens of faithful fans as they wait outside of their nearest Bed-Bath and Beyond waiting patiently in line for me to sign a book. (any book, it doesn't need to be mne)
    OK, you got me. I haven't written an awful book; yet. But, the day is young, give me an hour, and I'll be back with a query letter and 100K manuscript.

  47. Jennifer on August 25, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    >That's great advice. I get where authors are coming from, though. We are on the "aspiring" side of things and are constantly reading these agent and editor blogs that stress "PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT!" Our manuscripts need to be edited and polished and rewritten to absolute PERFECTION or no one will even consider us. But the hard part is that even when we do break our butts aiming for perfection we know we will still be rejected. So when someone picks up the latest greatest bestseller-soon-to-be-major-motion-picture and sees typos and redundant descriptives and dangling participles it just makes us want to tear our hair out! How did that totally un-polish, un-perfected thing get agented and published if ours cant?

    But, in the end, it is just as you say. It doesn't really matter how or why they got published. The most important part is our own positivity and hard work.

  48. Cheryl Barker on August 25, 2009 at 9:25 AM

    >"Even when you're published… somebody is bound to think your book is "simply awful." Might as well get over it right now."

    Loved this reality check, Rachelle. Couldn't help but smile 🙂

  49. Michelle Witte on August 25, 2009 at 9:12 AM

    >Excellent post, and a great reminder to all of us about judging.

  50. Kristen Torres-Toro @ Write in the Way on August 25, 2009 at 9:11 AM

    >Hey, Rachelle! Thanks for this reminder on one of the most important things about Art: how it moves each of us individually. I love that it is subjective. Hopefully that means many people will love my work one day–and not the other way around!

  51. Love Is Dope on August 25, 2009 at 8:59 AM

    >Great post! I try to use those "awful" books as motivation to get moving on my novel. It is a complete waste of energy to complain about published books I don't like. Even if I don't like a particular book, I am still trying to get where that author is, namely on a book store's shelf. If that person can hustle and get an "awful" book published, surely I can get my Great American Novel published. 😉

  52. CKHB on August 25, 2009 at 8:47 AM

    >Even when you're published… somebody is bound to think your book is "simply awful."


    Some people hate broccoli, yet the supermarket sells it and restaurants serve it every day. Should that make the farmers who grow cauliflower resentful of the success of other vegetables?

    Richard, that's fabulous! I may have to quote you on that…

  53. Anonymous on August 25, 2009 at 8:36 AM

    >If I lose myself in a story, and quit mentally rewriting or editing it, then I know the author has done their job. Occupational hazard!
    ps/Lynda, life is too short to put up with lousy bosses or books.

  54. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on August 25, 2009 at 8:33 AM

    >Good morning, Rachelle!

    You went straight to the heart of the issue with this post; attitude is everything.

    I learned this lesson from the worst boss I ever had. He had me so angry and so insecure so much of the time that I came close to quitting. Fortunately, just at the time I was able to hear it, God sent a person who told me that the boss was not the problem, my attitude was. I learned that the only thing over which I have total control is my attitude. I can give control of my emotional life over to someone or some thing else or I can be the one who decides how to respond to outside conditions. Once I learned how to do that, my horrible boss could no longer ruin my day. I was free, even though my circumstances did not change.

    That is the "get over it" part that allows me to "write my own" with pleasure.

    Thanks, Rachelle for reminding me of that lesson.

    Be blessed!


  55. Billy Coffey on August 25, 2009 at 8:21 AM

    >I have to say I'm in awe of every book I read, if only because I know the sweat and tears that went into everything from writing it to getting it onto the shelf. You're right, so much of writing is subjective. The only people we should compare ourselves to are the people we were yesterday.

  56. Teri D. Smith on August 25, 2009 at 8:20 AM

    >So true. Wouldn't it be the same with the attitude that the bar is low in the CBA?

    There's some real page turners out there.

  57. Marybeth Poppins on August 25, 2009 at 8:12 AM

    >Great Post. I was thinking the exact same thing as I read their comment.

    Take me and my husband for example. We REFUSE to read any of the same books. And some are best sellers. It all just depends on a persons taste.

    Awful is in the eye of the beholder…as is beauty! Thanks for pointing that out 🙂

  58. Marla Taviano on August 25, 2009 at 7:47 AM

    >GREAT post! Thank you!!

  59. Amber Lynae on August 25, 2009 at 7:41 AM

    >Rachelle, I agree completely with what you say, and enjoyed the comparisons displaying how every person has different likes and dislikes.

    I also find it interesting that some comment still have to point out their frustration without even giving merit to the perspective you have given.

  60. Gwen Stewart--Singer-Scribe on August 25, 2009 at 7:38 AM

    >Plus, you'll be nurturing a negative and resentful attitude about the very publishing industry that you're trying to break into. How smart is that?

    Not very smart at all, it seems to me.

    If a writer has such a low opinion of the industry, why would he or she want to break in? It would be like a singer with a killer voice trying to break into opera, though she hates opera. What's the point? At some level, bitterness and resentment is going to waft through, stifling the voice–stifling the creativity.

    Additionally, I think art should be for everyone, not just those who are educated or experienced. It should move them…and no one can dictate what should and should not move people. It's not only subjective, it's very personal. I think we should not just tolerate, but respect that people have different tastes.

    Great post as always, Rachelle.

  61. Jessica on August 25, 2009 at 7:35 AM

    >Woohoo! Say it girl! I get so tired of people complaining about 'bad' books. Grrrrr…. as if our opinion is the only "right" way. Harumph.
    Love this post!

  62. Richard Mabry on August 25, 2009 at 7:13 AM

    >Sound advice–which is what anyone who follows this blog should have expected. Some people hate broccoli, yet the supermarket sells it and restaurants serve it every day. Should that make the farmers who grow cauliflower resentful of the success of other vegetables?
    And taste in books is just as individual. I have a number of author friends who write in genres that I don't enjoy. They know it and aren't offended that I don't read their books, because there are plenty of others who do. Why should I expect them to read mine?
    Some of the best advice I've ever received came from a self-help tape I heard twenty years ago. "There's no way you're ever going to be universally loved and respected. Get over it."

  63. Karin on August 25, 2009 at 7:09 AM

    >That's a great perspective – I'd never thought of it that way.

    It does frustrate me to read a book where the author is head-hopping, or the action suddenly stops for a long segment of telling. But then I think, "If someone can get published with this still in their book, then I probably stand a chance if I can get it all out of mine". 🙂

  64. Krista Phillips on August 25, 2009 at 7:07 AM

    >Great perspective!! Thanks for sharing!

  65. quackingalone on August 25, 2009 at 7:07 AM

    >I agree with you completely that awful is in the eye of the beholder.

    This was brought home, really home, to me recently. My hubby, designs my romance novel covers and is a talented graphic artist. However, he is not a reader of the genre. My book was his first – and I believe last – forray into the wonderful world of romance novels.

    From now on, hubby will stick to his sci-fi and nonfiction and I won't press him to read my work. He thinks my stuff would be good, if he had any desire to read "moonlight and roses" descriptions of an activity he'd rather view in a magazine or on CERTAIN websites.

    Having such a variety of books from which to choose is a gift. The present I like might be the one you return.

  66. God and Ponytails on August 25, 2009 at 6:31 AM

    >You're funny… 🙂

  67. Jim Marr on August 25, 2009 at 6:15 AM

    >With this "subjectivity topic" in mind, I'll make my book the best it can be and trust God with the outcome. My recent decision to custom publish my memoir means I'll never feel I can answer "yes" to the question "are you published". The answer will always require a qualification–but that's ok. As I've learned from Rachelle and all of you over the past year and a half, we must be realistic about our goals and what God has placed on our heart. For me, I only have this one story, this one book–yet to keep open the possibilities, I will produce a high quality book. Even the friends and family deserve that!

    God Bless,

  68. Buffy Andrews on August 25, 2009 at 6:14 AM

    >Thoughtful post and to the point. I think what's difficult is finding the right agent, the right music in the store if you will, that helps you dance with the readers. For me, that's been the challenge. It's hard to dance with no music to help.

  69. Tabitha Bird on August 25, 2009 at 5:10 AM

    >Too true Rachele, too true. I don't really care to argue over who is and is not getting published. When my time comes, if my time comes, my book will not be for every reader either. How boring the world would be if only books I liked got published.
    Thanks for the clear perspective:)

  70. Jill on August 25, 2009 at 4:56 AM

    >It's amazing how great the view is when you change perspective! Thanks for the insight.

  71. Heather Long on August 25, 2009 at 4:47 AM

    >Oh, well said. Different strokes for different folks. My sister-in-law recently apologized that she wouldn't read my ebook because the genre just wasn't her thing and I said "Okay." She was amazed that I wasn't insulted or upset and I told her the same thing "Different strokes for different folks" — I for one am glad that the variety is there that lets me cater to my tastes and maybe even discover something new!

  72. christinebongers on August 25, 2009 at 4:19 AM

    >I LOVE this post. I write, am grateful to be published, and never ever compare myself to anyone. There will always be better writers, worse writers, and a market for good stories, told well. Forget about what others are doing, it takes time and energy to be resentful. Focus instead on your writing and your story for the first draft and on your reader for your last.

  73. vicariousrising on August 25, 2009 at 2:54 AM

    >I've been thinking about this with the novel that I've been having critiqued by an eclectic group of writers. The majority really like my novel, and the critiques have been largely constructive and positive. But then there are a small handful of people who have read it, and I swear they have read a completely different novel than the other folks. They just don't get it. The things that charm all the others, these people can't stand.

    At first it really upset me, but then I realized these people liked a completely different kind of book. I've read their own writing, and I can see how vastly different it is from my own.

    Thanks for highlighting this in your post. It reinforces that I'm not (completely) crazy.

  74. wellreadrabbit on August 25, 2009 at 2:24 AM

    >I love this post! It often bothers me, the negativity and resentment I feel from those talking about 'all the awful books out there'.

    I've honestly never felt this way. I'm often disappointed with a book, and can talk about why I didn't connect with it, but would never question why it was published. The person who wrote it has just as valid a dream / goal as anyone reading this blog. And they had a publisher believe in their work enough to put it out there. And I know it's most likely it just wasn't my thing – that someone else will love it.

    Anyway, I'll get off my soap-box now 🙂


  75. Iain Broome | Write for Your Life on August 25, 2009 at 2:23 AM

    >I think it's easy to get irritated and envious when seemingly inferior work is getting published and you're not. In fact, it's easy to feel envious when stuff you like is published too, and that includes books by friends/colleagues.

    At the end of the day though, it really doesn't matter what's on the shelves now, it's about doing everything you possibly can to find your own way there too.

  76. K.C. Collins on August 25, 2009 at 2:11 AM

    >There isn't one author out there that thinks his/her book isn't better than a bunch of other books.

    Like any art form, timing is everything. Bottom line: If an agent doesn't think a book will sell, why on earth would they take a chance on it?

    Is there crap out there? Abso-freaking-lutely.

    You may think you're sitting on the next "Of Mice and Men" and can't understand why nobody will take it. If you've sent it to 1,000 agents, and nobody wants it, time to throw it in a drawer.

    There is a post on this very blog about the "break-in" novel — one of Rachelle's most insightful and helpful posts. It talks about writing the novel you can jam in the door before they slam it.

    Some people write two, three, four, twelve books before they get that one. After that's there, your Next Great American Novel will get a better look.

    Stephen King used to put all of his rejection letters on a nail on the wall in his bedroom. There got to be so many that he had to switch from a nail to a spike.

    Anybody can throw in the towel. Crack your knuckles and prove those jerks that rejected you wrong.

  77. writer jim on August 25, 2009 at 2:10 AM

    That is the best and most mature bunch of advice I ever recall reading on your blog. And really, it's just all common sense. And it can apply to many aspects of life.
    I would hope that many of your readers are trying to SERVE and HONOR God with their writing; and are also willing to PLEASE God by trusting Him to use their writing as HE chooses. GOD can cause anyone's work to succeed…and He can also allow all the bad things to appear successful: until judgment day.

  78. Anonymous on August 25, 2009 at 1:41 AM


    This was a good effort to comfort the afflicted. But the awful books don’t worry me. They annoy me.

    I’ve written manuscripts that kill these books that are on CBA’s bestseller list. I’ve spent years on my work. I’ve cut 25,000 words out of one, and after 10 revisions, scrapping scenes and characters, and sweating over countless turns of phrase, I look on CBA’s list and read flat, clichéd prose with glaring holes in the first few grafs and marvel that I must endure tips from industry insiders on the necessity of a query/proposal process that has been successfully navigated by inferior writers.

    I think the Christian publishing bar is low and I keep tripping on it.

    Then there is the haunting thought that you poor agents are sifting through mounds of awful queries to find what might sell, while otherwise artful works suffocate. I suspect an agent will labor on behalf of a marginal book he thinks will sell, but send the form rejection to a gem that doesn’t have a market. It’s enough to drive one to drinking up Literary Rejections on Display.

    Two cents from a journo.

  79. Anonymous on August 25, 2009 at 1:31 AM

    >As a former freelance reviewer for a major city newspaper, I live in fear of criticism if/when my novel ever gets published. Still, they only published my positive reviews and not my only negative one. But you have to forge ahead and not worry about all those naysayers–it's paralyzing. Good luck!