This is a re-post of my answer in Quora.
When I crack open the books my kids read and even re-read, I’m appalled. These are books that are published, and sell. They’re full of too many characters and everyone “smiles happily” or “grins.” All the time.
Is there more to it than dumping endless barrels of money into marketing?
I have a circle of book-loving friends who are never able to recommend books to one another. Most people find this strange until I ask this question:
What matters to you in a book?
- The plot.
- The characters.
- The writing.
Each and every single person in my circle answers this question differently, and I suspect it is also the reason why these “poorly written” books have become “so popular” (I put these adjectives in quotes as they are quite subjective, which warrant a separate question).
Once while reading a popular YA novel I had to stop because of a page where the author couldn’t seem to decide whether she was writing from a first or third person point of view.
I thought, Doesn’t this author know what she’s trying to say? What kind of editor lets a book like this get published?!
For reference, I’m a writing >> characters > plot type.
I asked a friend how she managed to survive reading the same book, and her answer was she was too engrossed in the story to notice the tiny stuff like I did.
She’s a plot > characters >>> writing type.
These popular books probably have plots or characters that appeal to a large audience—the kind that thinks good writing is “the tiny stuff”.
So in a way yes, it is marketing. There’s a market out there for readers who don’t mind good writing as much, and publishing houses are selling for that market.