So this is what I've realized about publishing...good books don't always sell. I mean REALLY good books. I've read books that I felt were better than mine and they haven't sold. Believe me, I'm an editor and I read voraciously, I'm a pretty good judge of these things. This is not a case of sub-par books getting passed over for stellar ones (though that DOES happen). This is a case of AWESOME books not selling.
Why is this happening? Shouldn't good books just be snatched up? Well, OBVIOUSLY, they should, but the reality is, they aren't. Because of timing, because of other books that are on a publisher's list that are too close in, because an editor has too full a schedule, because they don't fit in a good category, because they're too niche, because they skew too old or too young, because teen boys don't read as much as teen girls, because... because... because.
And yes, I'd like to think if one editor doesn't snatch up a GOOD book, then another one will. But trust me, AWESOME books have been passed on by lots of editors. And maybe every single one of them has a different reason, but the point is, GOOD BOOKS don't always sell.
Editors have limited time, limited money, and frankly, in my head, they're only allowed to take so many risks a year. I work for a small independent romance publisher who has never once put any kind of pressure on me to acquire BEST SELLERS. In fact, my company prides themselves on taking risks. And still, I imagine if I bought every book by a debut author I thought was a risk, it wouldn't be too long before I went a little batty obsessing about whether all my risks were paying off. I DO take risks, but I don't take every risk that crosses my inbox. I just can't.
Every debut that publishers take on is a risk so sometimes, awesome writing isn't enough. Sometimes having a rockstar agent isn't enough. Sometimes having a HELL of a premise isn't enough. We're losing readers to other media and we're losing brick & mortar book stores to...well, Amazon. These things don't make for an ideal book sale scenario.
So then why wouldn't authors of unsold good books just give up? Or why wouldn't they skip traditional publishing and self-publish? Some do, but that is a whole different can of worms of which others have spoken much more eloquently than I. This is NOT that blog post.
To answer the question of what do we do about these good books that aren't selling in the traditional publishing world: I actually would like to believe that these books WILL sell eventually. In my head, when you don't sell your book, you write another book and try to sell that. And if that doesn't sell, write another one. And THEN, when your book finally gets to the right editor at the right time under the right circumstances and sells, you can say, "Fantastic, I have two or three or five other books ready for you to buy after this one." (I'm maybe being an idealist. But that's where I am in the process).
Bottom Line: Keep writing. Keep trying. Don't let everything hang on acceptance and rejection. Write for fun. Write because you love it. And remember, sometimes GOOD books don't sell.
P.S. I didn't include in this post WHY I think TRAINWRECK sold. I'm incredibly grateful it did. This book has many champions behind it. But it certainly also had a LOT of things going against it when it went out on submission. I can speculate as to why it was the right book for the right editor in the right circumstances, but honestly, it's speculation so I'm refraining from doing so. Those of you who know all the behind the scenes of this book can speculate too, but really, who the heck knows for sure?