Soapbox

Rabbit - angryOk. I’ve warned you. Soapbox time.

I often get frustrated when writers complain about all the ‘crap’ that gets published. Especially when they go on to say that their ‘masterpiece’ has been rejected by agents and publishers. Then there are those who detail how hard they’ve slaved over their unpublished novel, feeling personally affronted that this supposed ‘dreck’ gets pumped out by publishers. (Note: I don’t think I’ve ever been in a conversation like this – I usually read such things in the comment thread of other blogs)

I can honestly say I’ve never thought this way. Taste is very subjective – what I loathe in books, I know others pronounce as genius. I’d never question why a book has been published. Behind every book there is a writer who, just like me, had a dream to get published: who lost sleep over producing this book, who worked with publishers to make it the best it could be and who worried about what others would think of it.

There. I’ve said it. Now I’ll step down, ducking the rotten tomatoes, and refer you to someone who said it better. Go visit Rachelle Gardner, an American literary agent with WordServe Literary, who blogged about All Those Awful Books.

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8 Responses to “Soapbox”


  1. 1 Sheryl Gwyther August 25, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Very compassionately said, Kath! :)

  2. 2 Karen August 25, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    You really made me stop and think, Katherine. I must admit that although I am generally very supportive of other writers and their ambition and success, there are times when I have rolled my eyes and wondered who on earth gave the big ‘yes’ to a particular book. I suppose I don’t question that someone else might find the book fantastic but I’m just puzzled that I can’t see for the life of me why they would. Then I remind myself that I have no credentials to speak of and not exactly a long string of publishing hits, so who am I to judge??

    I think I have mainly had issues with ‘corporate machine’ publications that often don’t even bear an author’s name. They are connected with a plethora of other products such as cartoons and action figures and to me seem to be all about the brand as opposed to the story.

    But I do humbly confess that I have pondered the wildly successful ‘Maisie’ books and wondered why they are so popular, even with my own kids. The point of view character changes throughout the text and I find the transition from voice-over narrated cartoon to written text awkward. But heck, if I were Lucy Cousins I’d be delighted!

    Another series that is enduring in our family is the Berenstein Bears books. I loved them as a kid and read them now to my own kids, but there is no punctuation to speak of, the rhyming scheme is terrible and the constant switch between viewpoint characters breaks every rule in the book! And yet, 30 years on they are still being sold… Guess that shows that in the end it’s the kids who are the best critics of all and that breaking some (or all) of the rules sometimes does pay off.

    Thanks for making me stop and think and next time I am tempted to pass judgement, I will remember there is an author just like me trying to get a break.

  3. 3 chrisbongers August 25, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Great post, Kath, and thanks for the link. Writers shouldn’t worry about what else is being published. I try to write the first draft for myself and the last for my readers. It keeps me honest and has worked so far.

  4. 4 Katherine Battersby August 25, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks, Sheryl :)

    Karen, I often don’t connect with books, or find myself wondering how they became so popular – I wasn’t meaning to say there was anything wrong with that! And I think 10 or 20 years ago there were different styles of writing that were published, and they remain successful now because they have an ‘old school charm’ to them that keeps people buying them. Also, our generation will happily buy for our kids the stories we grew up with because of a fondness for them – rather than them necessarily being what would now be classified ‘publishable’. And then corporate publications are probably something else again!

    I only feel sad and a little frustrated when unpublished writers become jaded and cynical – and when they take it out on the people who were once in their position (and are probably the only ones who truly understand what they’re going through!)

    Chris, I really like the way you think about the different drafts.

  5. 5 Kathleen Noud August 25, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    This is a favourite rant of mine too. It seems easier for alot of unpublished authors to bitch and whinge about what’s out there compared to their ‘masterpiece’. It’s the tortured artist stereotype coming to life. I think bitterness has well and truly set in when these ‘writers’ think it’s a great idea to whinge on agent and publisher blogs though.

  6. 6 Katherine Battersby August 27, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Unfortunately, Kathleen, that’s where I see all the comments: on agent and editor blogs! Sad, isn’t it?

    I’m glad to be surrounded by other positive people like yourself, though, and all the lovely people who comment on this blog :)

  7. 7 Lynn Priestley August 28, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Since I have started to take writing seriously and now realise all the blood, sweat and tears that go into the writing of a book, I know I can’t look at authors nor their books the same way anymore. Books will never be just things on a shelf. Authors will never be just some mysterious force, names on a cover that produce the thing on the shelf.

    Being a writer has helped me appreciate writing and reading and books and the wonderful hard working people who labour to turn up to the page every day in order to bring their story to us. And it also makes me appreciate all the hard working people behind the scenes who help authors birth their babies into this world. A beautiful thing, indeed. And whether I think the new born is pretty or not is irrelevant. It is miraculous, by virtue of being here.

  8. 8 Katherine Battersby August 30, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Beautifully put, as always Lynn. This exact perspective is what makes me marvel every time I walk into a bookshop: I find myself turning full circle, in awe of all the book babies out there and all the people who pursued their dream through to fruition. A miraculous thing indeed.


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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

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