The publishing business is exceedingly shallow. Agents only want a few paragraphs about the novel in a query letter. Few agents want to see the book. And they read hundreds of queries every week. Many claim that if the query is no good they can nearly guarantee that they would not like the book anyway.
An experienced author and reviewer, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, agrees that the publishing business is shallow. She says that the title of a book must sell the book to the publishing company. She says it twice. The title. Staggering.
Today I posted to an agent's blog in response to another comment by Ms. Lichtenberg. I said that modern publishing evaluates gemstones with a cursory glance, instead of with a jeweler's loupe. The stone must dazzle at a glance. Keep it going for a query letter and you are in the door. I had wondered why it was so hard to buy good books. Rhinestones with good titles proliferate.
Without question the best titled book I have picked up in years is The Book of Fate. The Book of Fate is also an unmitigated disaster of a read. Maybe extraterrestrials would be blind to the obvious logical errors in the first couple of chapters (as far as I got), but I cannot see Earthlings being able to continue to read, rather than fling the book across the room. But I loved the title and loved the cover. I checked the audiobook out from the library, so I did not give the author a strong incentive to write a sequel.
Ms. Lichtenberg's other comment was reported in Pub Rants. She said that the author should write the blurb for the back cover before writing the book. I agree.
George R. R. Martin's blockbuster fantasy series would never have sold, based on the blurb. Martin's complex characters, subplots, and superlative writing (not to mention his deep knowledge of medieval society) make the series a modern classic. In Martin's story, the old king is murdered and a squabble erupts over the kingdom. Add in the reemergence of magic and the fact that a multi-year winter will bring evil creepies from the north and you have the kind of blurb that you could read on a new book every month.
Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game has kid geniuses training and destroying the threat of alien bugs from outer space. Not quite a unique blurb.
But Wicked--The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as told by the Wicked Witch of the West, spawns a great blurb. I have no idea if Wicked is any good, but its blurb is as good as The Book of Fate's title.
I am an economist, so I spend much more time working with the industry as it is than ranting about it on my blog. For this rant, I blame Kristin, of Pub Rants fame.