Marc Cabot on why ‘crap’ sells

It turns out that having a book well-edited and written according to particular stylistic requirements wasn’t necessary to get it to sell well: it was necessary to get it published. And since books which aren’t published rarely sell well, editing and stylistic accomplishment were second-order requirements. Now that a book can be published without meeting them, lo and behold, books which aren’t edited and written in a particular style can sell well.

That isn’t to say that ceteris paribus a book which is well-edited and stylistically proper won’t do as well or better than a book which isn’t. It almost certainly will. But a book which isn’t and has a good story and good characters will do better than a book which is and doesn’t.

—Marc Cabot, in a comment on The Passive Voice


  1. A lot of books are published nowadays without particularly high standards. Plenty of workman-like prose out there, though perhaps not so much goshawful stuff.

  2. Stephen J. says

    Fascinating. The first time I read that quote I couldn’t understand it at all. Now I read it again and it was perfectly clear to me.

    The challenge to selling well in the future will be finding your audience without the convenient sorting algorithms of genre publishing and physical bookshelves.

    • I get that a lot. I’m *deep*, man, *deep*. 🙂

      “Everybody understands Mickey Mouse. Few understand Hermann Hesse. Only a handful understood Albert Einstein. And nobody understood Emperor Norton.”

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