We have started an interesting discussion on our blog (www.ladykillers.typepad.com) about publishers making blanket decisions on what sells and what doesn't. It all started because one of our blog members was told "opera doesn't sell." Tell that the Pavarotti next time he's headed for Central Park!
My feeling is that by coming up with these statements, based on maybe one bad experience or one unexpected success, a lot of potentially good books never get written.
What's the answer?

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you hear that kind of thing all the time, but i think a more accurate statement would be
that they don't know how to market it. Or that it would take some skilled marketing to find an audience for (fill in the blank). maybe that's where publishing could really take a step forward, because it seems that marketing doesn't figure out how to sell a good book -- they decide if a book looks like, tastes like, smells like a recent hit. if not, they don't waste time on it.
I think they sometimes give these blanket statements as a way to turn down a book they just don't want. The question is why they don't want it? We know it could be just like Anne said, for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the book.

I had a publisher tell me 10 years ago, when they rejected my option book, that romantic suspense doesn't sell (which is even more of a blanket statement than opera doesn't sell.) At the time, yes, romantic suspense was on the downturn. (I think back then it was also called WomJep or Women in Jeopardy.) Turns out Romantic Suspense started selling real well. So, was it that romantic suspense didn't sell then, or that I didn't write the right book (surely it didn't suck ;-) or, horror of horrors, that it did suck, or maybe a combination of both? A great book will get published. But sometimes it is getting the right book in front of the right editor at the right time that makes all the difference in the world.
Well as that NY Times article last week indicated there is very little market research being done, certainly based on the standards of other industries. So how can publishers be anything but reactionary now that they are all corporate-owned and must worry more than ever about the bottom line?

Not that better data would help. All those English lit majors trying to make sense of predictive analytics? I don't think so. :)

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