“Not every book should be published.” It’s a line I’ve heard a few times. It comes up often around NaNoWriMo, when hundreds of thousands of people across the globe embark on the challenge of becoming an author, working to complete that first novel, chasing a dream. Not every book should be published, sure, but I think they all have the right to.
Otherwise, how do we decide who can or can’t? Where do we draw the line? And who sits on that board? Agents and editors are incapable of allowing all the quality books through, if for no other reason than they’re too busy. All it takes is the death of one great manuscript for this to be true. Seeing how close CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES came, I think it’s safe to assume that there were casualties out there. This flaw in the system remains hidden because the corpses are rarely unearthed.
I think it helps those who are gravely concerned with the torrent of published works to consider that these books do not get in the way of anyone’s reading or anyone’s discoverability. Hundreds of thousands of books are completely invisible to the shopper (alas, those who are hidden might say). But at least they are there. All it takes is one cousin or best friend to relent to familial pressure and give the work a chance, find that work riveting, and tell a few others. The system isn’t perfect, but no system is. The only worse chances of discoverability are to go unpublished. Some people complain that the slushpile is now open to the public. I lament that it ever wasn’t.
Let’s also keep in mind that these are early years. The tools and methods for publishing, reading, and discovering great books should only improve with time. Look at the Napster days and compare that to iTunes and Spotify. I believe the industry will continue to mature, and readers and writers will be better off for it.