Wednesday, August 25, 2010


At the same time that I celebrate my own hard-won publishing contract, I feel bad for the many, many excellent writers I know who are struggling to get published traditionally, as I did for eight long years. And I'm at a loss as to why good writers have such a hard time.

Is it that agents don't recognize good writing? I'm sure that's a possibility. After all, there are no credentials needed for becoming an agent; all you have to do is say you're an agent and put up a webpage. How do you tell an agent is even qualified?

More likely than not recognizing good writing, it that the agents don't have good enough contacts and are at a loss as to how to sell good books. I've heard over and over that agents only have narrow, specific contacts and only know how to sell certain types of books. I wonder why that is and why the contacts can't be expanded, but that's a field I know nothing about, obviously. Lots of bestsellers don't fit neatly into slots, in spite of agents and editors seeming to prefer that.

Maybe the editors at the publishing houses are to blame for not recognizing what they can sell. I KNOW they can all sell mysteries if they want to. When I tell people I'm a writer and they ask what I write, and I tell them "Mysteries," I have never once--never once!--not gotten the response, "I love to read mysteries." They often go on to lament that there aren't more being published.

There's been a lot written lately about the financial trouble that major, traditional, old-fashioned publishing houses are in, due to their failure to change their business model and keep up with the times. It's not my purpose to discuss that, but I'm sure things will only continue to change rapidly.

On a recent visit to Barnes and Noble, I found they had reduced the mystery section to one shelf, and shoved it off to the side! Other mystery readers were milling about the one shelf, lamenting with me that Barnes and Noble is no longer interested in selling mysteries. I have no idea what this is a sign of. Barnes and Noble being out of touch with mystery fans? There seem to be no lack of them. Is everyone out of touch with the readers?

Which brings me, at long last, to my topic:


What keeps all the good, as yet unpublished, writers motivated to keep writing, to keep seeking publication, against enormous odds? Is it the example of the few who are tapped by the major houses? Is it the encouragement of new business models taking off and succeeding? Does every writer have inspirational quotes taped to the monitor, tacked on the bulletin board, scattered on the desk, like I do?

What keeps you going?


  1. Well, for me, part of it is that it makes me happy to write. To create intriguing characters and then follow them around and write down what they do. And I miss it when I am not writing.

    Part of it is the small successes,like getting a short story accepted to an annual anthology from which I had been rejected five years in a row (after getting a story into their inaugural issue).

    And part of it is the dream that I WILL get a book into publication before I die. Hopefully many.

    Edith Maxwell

  2. I agree, getting a short story accepted is a huge boost. I ran around the house screaming when I got my first one accepted. And broke out in a squeal for days afterwards whenever I thought about it!

  3. I do think that being out-of-touch with what the mainstream readers want is true to a point. But I think most agents are looking for the sleeper book that will make a killing...usually those books are the surprising memoirs(Running with Scissors) or the unpopular, popular star (Sarah Palin).

    Onward we trudge hoping to get mysteries out of the shadows and into the mainstream eye.

  4. I agree, Carole. I think many agents are just looking for that one book that will "make" them. Meanwhile, they're passing up a lot of good stuff! As to why so many think mysteries aren't a good sell--that one stumps me.

  5. Kaye,

    I was astounded by your comment that Barnes and Noble only has one bookshelf devoted to mysteries. I've heard that Barnes and Noble is considering selling the company. Do you think that's a factor?

  6. According to some people, the purchase could be a good thing. The guy that wants to buy it has deep pockets and, if he has the good of the chain in mind, that wouldn't be bad.

    But I have no idea. I just think thrillers are the thing right now.

    Anyone writing and mystery and trying to get it published, maybe we should call them thrillers.