Usually when I read a book that I don't think is very good, I feel sad. Authors don't set out to write bad books. We all think we've created something wonderful. We're like parents so in love with our children that we can't see their faults. Someone loved that bad book. Someone sent it out into the world hoping it would have a wonderful life, find love, etc. etc.
A very few times I've read a book that was so bad that I became angry. I can't remember why that happened the earlier times, but this past week when I was reading a book that was stunningly awful, I suddenly thought, "Hey, it took more than one person to make a book this bad. An editor and a publisher had a hand in this, too." That's what got me going.
I'm sure many readers are shaking their heads and thinking, "But, Gail, editors don't edit these days." I've been hearing that for quite some time now. Though it hasn't been my experience, personally, I have to admit that some of the books I've read the last couple of years have led me to believe it may be true.
But even if editors aren't editing, they are still acquiring books. They're still reading manuscripts and deciding what to buy. And if other publishing houses are like mine, those editors are passing those manuscripts around to a few other people, possibly the publishers above them, before making an offer.
Which leads me to a question: If editors and their publishers know their house does minimal if any editing before publication, why do they buy manuscripts that require a great deal of work?
Before the book I read this week was purchased by its publisher, a few people read it in manuscript form. No one noticed that on the fourth page a first-person narrator suddenly appeared even though the preceding material appeared to have been written in the third-person, complete with the earlier characters' thoughts? No one noticed that there were quite a few characters who did very little? No one noticed that characters were always pulling conclusions out of thin air? No one noticed that two of the three storylines had antagonists who just sort of disappear? That the third storyline was a pointless cliche?
No one noticed that this pseudo-thriller had no climax?
At least some of these problems are major flaws and not just Gail being a judgmental witch. (I know you're thinking it. I also know you're not thinking "witch.") The book editors I've worked with would certainly have suggested correcting most of them.
But if it's true that there are publishers who don't have their editors do much in the way of editing, what does that mean? Do they accept absolutely anything? Does absolutely anything go?
Of course, that would be a bad situation for readers. But it would be a far, far worse situation for writers.